Outside The Cubicle | DeWalt 20v Max Cordless Router

After purchasing my core set of DeWalt 20v MAX cordless tools and selling off the previous platform I used, I “needed” to replace some of those capabilities. One such tool is a router. In fairness, I had a rotary tool I was using as a router. Although it did the job fairly well, it lacked a proper base. This DeWalt cordless router is a proper router with a nice sized base and therefore a substantial upgrade.

Bottom Line Up Front: For the projects I do, this is a necessary tool. The depth of cut adjustment system along with the speed selection dial and the concentration of thought in engineering the grips is not lost on me. I don’t know that I have my money’s worth out of it yet but I have certainly been able to fabri-cobble the things together as I have imagined because of this. I would call this a luxury tool, I could probably find another way to router corners, not as nicely, but it is certainly possible. I also have not a bit of buyers remorse for this purchase. I do keep it fairly busy.

Unboxing

I purchased, the bare tool, on eBay at a bit lower than retail, because, I am pretty cheap. I didn’t open it up right away because I didn’t have an immediate job for it but I did have in the queue. I do appreciate how they packaged this. Simply done and well protected.

This box included, router, basic fixed base, collet, wrench and a very nice manual. This includes all the basic features, component definitions and obligatory warnings.

If this is your first time using a router and you are unfamiliar with its operation, this is a good manual to dig into. There really isn’t much. The key features of this are the power switch, speed adjustment, depth adjustment, and so forth.

Tool Use

The main purpose for the purchase of this tool is to router the edges of things when I am building furniture, stairs, railing, Lego tables, etc. This is not one of those “must have” tools for getting tasks done, this is more of a “last 10%” type of a tool. Is it necessary I router the edges of my Lego Table or hand railing? No, but it really makes a difference as to the quality of the final product. With the recent bit of shelving I built, I didn’t need it but the hand railing on some stairs I put together, very much necessary.

The argument for going corded vs cordless is the added battery weight. The battery does add some weight to the top of the tool but since the industry move to Lithium Ion chemistry the weight is a non-issue. I am using the larger 10 cell batteries but you could very easily use a smaller 2 Ah, 5 cell battery pack or the somewhere-in-between, 3 Ah, 5 cell pack.

For the simple radius edges I have put on the various things, it has never been clumsy to handle and not having a power cord get in my way to maneuver around has been a significant benefit. The more I use cordless tools, especially those from DeWalt only further inspires my desire to grow the collection of compatible cordless tools.

Battery Life

There is a valid argument for why not just get the corded variety and you don’t have to worry about battery life. That is a good argument if you only work in the confines of a shop or garage. The nature of much of the work I do with hand tools is often outside of the confines of a shop and often away from an outlet. More often than not I am working out of the back of my truck with the tailgate as my workbench. That said, I haven’t actually used up a 4 Ah battery for any given project, every time the battery was moved to another tool with a lot of life left on it. I should also not, using my tools as often as I do, a 4 or 5 Ah battery will typically last me hours for most tasks.

What I Like

For starters, the size of this is router is perfect for the tasks I do. It is just the right diameter to comfortably hold and guide along the edge of a project. Also, it very easily fits nice and neatly into my tool bag along with my jig saw, circular saw and reciprocating saw.

The fit and finish of this router feels great. It is the right mass which gives the impression it is well built. Adjusting the depth of cut is a smooth action which further feeds into the impression of a highly refined, quality product.

The speed control dial and switch are conveniently at the top of the tool by the battery, away from your fingers as you grip the router, so accidentally adjusting the speed or shutting it off while in use is not very likely. The component choices for the switch and dial were well made. It will be interesting to see how they hold up long term but for the time being they feel and function exceptionally well.

Lastly, and most importantly, the fact the router is cordless is my favorite feature. I am quite pleased with the freedom from wires when maneuvering this router. Not having a crisscross of extension cords to trip over is worth the extra expense of the battery powered model.

What I Don’t Like

I don’t like that I don’t have the larger plunge base with the two knobby handles. Although everything I have made so far can be done with the more compact base, the larger base would make it easier and more secure to handle, especially when additional control is needed. This can very easily be purchased and will likely be an upgrade at a later time. Outside of having two hands to control the path of the router, the ability to plunge and retract the cutter has great benefits.

Plunge Base for Compact Router

I realize, there isn’t an actual criticism for the router itself. I truly do not have one. It’s a fantastic piece of kit.

Final Thoughts

Although I am quite happy with this tool, I am not sure I have used it enough to say it was worth the $160 expense. At the same time, there are a number of things I have done that would not have been possible otherwise so I am not at all unhappy with the purchase. The router feels and operates like a well built machine.

At some point, I need to purchase the plunge base. There have been a few instances where the additional control would have made my life easier but this is a further luxury for an already luxury tool. I could also use more router bits for this router. I have one bit that I have used for everything. It is time to add to this collection and get some kind of variety pack.

I don’t recommend that everyone needs a router in their toolkit. However, if you have any inclination to do more detailed wood working, build table tops and the like, this a very welcome tool to have.

References

DeWalt 20v Max XR Brushless Cordless Compact Router
DeWalt 20v Max XR Brushless Cordless Compact Router Manual
DeWalt compact plung base

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