The router is one of the most versatile tools in a luthier's arsenal. It can also represent a decent chunk of your tool budget, so making a good choice is critical. Having sampled a few different routers over the last several years, I've gotten a fair idea of what works well and what doesn't. From the Festool OF1400EQ (unibody with perpendicular handle - amazing quality, ridiculously expensive) to the Bosch 1617EVSPK (removable motor with fixed and plunge bases - middling quality and price, miserable plunge depth stop), there is no shortage of candidates out there. While researching possible purchases, I settled on three criteria that I deemed absolutely essential:
- Precise depth adjustment with no slop
- Ease of adjustments
- Enough power to tackle typical lutherie tasks
After much deliberation, I selected the Triton MOF001. The Triton is a unibody plunge router, so the motor is affixed to the plunge base with no option for swapping bases. This might seem like a disadvantage for those who want the ability to remove the motor for table use, but the Triton is in fact designed to act as its own router lift, complete with above-table adjustment capability. Another feature that intrigued me was the rack-and-pinion depth adjustment system. I've always felt that simply sliding a plunge mechanism lacked a certain air of precision, so I was happy to find a router that will let me dial in exactly what I want with minimal fuss. Finally, at 2HP, the Triton definitely has enough power to spin any bit I'm likely to use.
On paper, it handily meets everything on my checklist. How does it stack up in real life? Let's find out!
It comes in a box with words in many languages, for your international reading pleasure.
So what's in the box? The router, a multifunctional fence attachment, above-table height adjuster, 1/4" collet, collet wrench, standard 1/2" straight bit, and the all-important manual.
Let's take a look at the router itself, then I'll go over each feature individually. Note that the clear guards cover a large portion of both sides.
First up: the power switch. It's easily accessible from the left hand grip and covered by a little spring-loaded door to prevent unintentional switchery.
The right hand grip offers two different methods of depth adjustment. With this button engaged, the router will freely plunge like any other plunge router. The action is smooth and has a nice level of resistance.
If you're like me and want something better than a standard plunge router, it's time to step up to rack-and-pinion depth adjustment. At your fingertips is a collar that can be pulled. While holding the collar, the grip rotates and adjusts the bit height in a smooth and precise manner.
This knob on top turns for extra fine adjustment.
Plunge lock, in easy thumb range.
The plunge spring is removable to allow for easier height adjustment when table-mounted.
The depth stop system is a spring-loaded tube and a turret with a solid reference and two adjustable stops, each with a scale. If you lower the router until the bit touches the surface to be routed, the tube sits solidly on the turret reference. Now you can lock the tube and set the stops directly in reference to that first point. It's simple and works well.
When it's time to change bits, simply flip the router over and lower the base as far as it'll go. This automatically locks the collet, allowing for a single-wrench bit change.
In this position, the little sliding power switch cover is also locked so you can't accidentally blend your hand.
While we're upside down, let me point out the above-table height adjustment knob. As long as you drill the appropriate hole in your table or router plate, you can use the tool for fine height adjustments without fiddling around under the table.
Alright, time for a little demo. I'll use the included bit to rout a channel in a block of padauk, which is a good representative of the typical sort of hardwoods we'd encounter in this line of work (or play!)
Note that the power switch lights up when the router is plugged in. This router has a soft-start feature to prevent sudden torque-induced loss of grip.
And yes indeed, I was very easily able to cut a channel in my big block of scrap. I went straight for a 1/4" deep rout and the Triton showed zero hesitation or signs of struggle. The bit maintained a smooth constant velocity thanks to the integrated electronic speed control system.
I will say that I'd prefer a wider base to offset the slightly high grip position. I didn't feel as though the router is excessively top-heavy or tippy, but extra stability is never a bad thing! This is easily remedied by sourcing an aftermarket base, just like any other router out there.
As a side note, Triton does offer a burly 3.25HP router that offers all of these same features in a slightly bigger chassis. Given that I'm not likely to spin anything bigger than a 1/2" roundover bit, I feel that the reduced weight and cost of the 2HP model more than makes up for the apparent power deficit.
So with all that being said, should you buy a Triton? If you already have a router that you like and are comfortable with, you'd probably be better off spending this money elsewhere. However, if you're in need of a router and ready to buy, I'd heartily recommend this one.
PROS - Great height adjustment system with no unwanted play, easy to use, many safety and convenience features.
CONS - Power switch cover is a little fiddly to use, but will likely improve with a bit of practice.
VERDICT - A solid choice at a great price.
Triton MOF001 1400W Plunge Router by Andrew Knight is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
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