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Stumac Precision Router Base Review


Woodenspoke
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I bought my Stumac Precision Dremel base a few years ago. As far as useful tools tools go this is now an indispensable tool in my shop.

http://img.villagephotos.com/p/2006-11/122...SF-IMG_1050.JPG

Positives: Inexpensive in comparison to the few Luthier products available. Holds the dremel securely. Easy to attach. Creates a useful small router for routing binding channels, routing inlay holes, cutting solid wood rosette's, routing rosette channels, routing saddle slots and cleaning up fret slots (never tried this). I am sure there are a few other uses I have not though of. Attachments are available to extend its functionally such as a connection for an air pump to clear chips and an edge guide for routing binding channels. Also a rosette attachment is available. I have the edge guide and rosette attachment but have not yet tried the air connection.

Negatives: It cannot plunge. It is all aluminum and not steel. The height adjustment is not easy to set, requires the adjustment of 4 finger tight knurled knobs (see picture), 2 of which are under spring pressure. You can cock the router if this adjustment is not done properly, which can be a pain if you have to change bits frequently. The base was not flat. The edge guide is not included with the base, however you can buy it separately or as part of the full $100+ kit. You need the SM router bit to properly use the edge guide(I have not seen any replacement bit that will work). The Rosette guide is only sold separately.

I was in the process of figuring out a setup for slotting a saddle when I noticed some glue spots on the underside of the Precision Router Base. I took a flat file and wiped off the spots only to see that the base was concave with high spots where the posts were attached. Looks like the base was stamped out and not cut out. I am usually on top of these issues but I missed this one from the start. It is not a major issue even if I did not fix it since it has been working fine.

I took the base over to my small precision granite plate and ran it across some 400 git paper. You can see the edges are bright and the center is dark where the base did not touch the sand paper.

Concave base

I had to switch to 180 grit because the Base needed to come down further and 400 grit was not cutting it fast enough. Notice the dull unsanded area is now much smaller.

180 Grit for 2 minutes

I switched back to 400 grit and finished off flattening the back. Then switched to 600 grit and some metal polish to finish it up. I did not get every scratch out but it is still better than when I started. I have been thinking about putting a plastic sheet on the base (self stick lamination sheets sold at the local Office supply store) so I didnt need to go crazy sanding. I did not come close to sanding down to the recessed screws for the posts, this was a good thing. But I did touch up the edges just in case I had sharpened something.

Flat at 600 grit

Final surface

Well thats my review. Disclamer I have no connection to SM nor am I promoting this product.

I will do further reviews if people want me to. If you have any thing to add such as mods, Jigs or Dremel supplies for this tool this would be a great time to show or tell us about it.

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Interesting. I have the LMI router base - it's made out of thick lexan sheeting (or something similar) about a 1/2". Appears perfectly flat on my measurements, and the plastic is damn sturdy. I haven't been able to scratch mine either. I'd imagine you could buff out scratches that effect the clarity with a little elbow grease, if those occur though.

It functions on linear bearings, and it plunges, with a depth stop. If you don't feel like holding it down (the springs it plunges against are quite tough) there are screws to lock it - mine has small nylon screws, the current description makes it sound like there are thumbscrews. That would be nice as the nylon allen-head screws are a pain to adjust. The depth stop adjustment on mine also looks slightly different on the model pictured. I know LMI has changed a few of their tools (like their fret slotting system) recently, so perhaps some changes were made to this unit.

It's clear, which makes it a bit easier to see what you're doing, and allows the base to be somewhat larger and encircle the bit. This worked well for inlay.

Mine came with a circle cutter attachment, which adjust very easily and accurately. I suppose you easily find a way to attach the little blower like the stewmac unit can, but the way the base full encloses the unit may make this difficult to be useful.

The only issue I had with it when I purchased it was that the Dremel 400XPR (the unit I had at the time) wouldn't thread completely into it - the button to lock the rotation of the tool when inserting bits was proud enough that it would hit the top of rather wide linear bearings as it went into the base, preventing it from threading all the way in. I simply used my battery operated Dremel, which went in fine. One of these days I'll pick up another Dremel or modify one of the other to fit.

I've been pretty happy with the unit. Certainly better than the dremel router base I had picked up at home depot. The rectangular shape of the base also made it very convenient to make straight-edged templates for the hollow-square inlays I was doing, which I think is why I chose this unit over the Stew Mac one.

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Never mind, I did a search for the part number (SPPMR) at LMI, and it appears the unit I have is discontinued, so my comparision is of little consequence! This was the page that carried it - they still sell a replacement base (for what seems like as much as I payed for the whole unit?) and there's a picture and a description there.

It wouldn't be an incredibly difficult unit to make, however. The bearings are available from a number of online sources, and while 1/2" thick lexan is a little more difficult to find than other thicknesses, it's not a very exotic material, and the small sizes might be available for little or no cost as offcuts from commercial businesses. Springs, screws and steel rod are pretty straight forward. If anyone was interested in that route, I could always post more pictures.

I certainly like being able to plunge the unit when needed rather than the adjustment of the Stewmac one.

Woodenspoke - always great to see reviews of things!

(Also, I didn't realize at first that some of those underlined words are links to pictures - handy!)

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I appreciate the review as well. (and I know Woodenspoke has 1 billion dollars worth of tools. LOL !) Always good to see ahead of time what little tweaks one will have to do when they buy a tool.

I'm still using a stock Dremel router base with a replacement "floor" which is a 4" x 4" square of clear lexan with about a 3/4" hole in the middle for the bit area. Most of the time I use it like a mini router table clamped upside-down in a vise.

And I must be the laziest guy in the world, 'cause I've had the giant thread tap and drill bit to make threads for the Dremel nose (like for making a home-made router base, etc) for years and never make anything with it.

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I only have $999,000 worth of tools. Ha. Actually if I wanted the very best this is the one.

link Bishop Cochran Dremel Base

His XP 400 version for More than $150. However it does not do rosettes nor does it have an edge guide for binding, But it is sweet none the less.

Dremel-400.jpg

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 3 weeks later...

Hi all. I just bought this base, but I have a less positive review.

Concave-base issues notwithstanding, I found the physical construction to be solid. The tool screws firmly into the crossbar and I had little worry about slop there.

Unfortunately, the entire assembly will begin to rattle itself apart within seconds of starting the tool, even when the various adjustments are tightened with pliers. After several minutes of use, even the base was wobbling. The result is that the depth and bit angle are continually changing.

Much of the depth-adjustment range is pointless, far above the base and well out of reach of any bit. By the time you crank it down to where the bit actually protrudes below the base, the lower spring on the support pillar is crushed down almost to its limit. And, as mentioned above, nothing ensures that the bit remains perpendicular to the base.

In use, I didn't find the edge guide to work very well. Because it has only one point of contact with the edge, nothing ensures that it remains perpendicular to a tangent as you follow a contour. Also, the maximum distance from the edge is very limited. I don't know if there are better designs out there, but this one doesn't seem precise to me.

If nothing else, I thought I might keep the base to mount upside-down in homemade mini router table like this: http://www.projectguitar.com/tut/microrouter.htm but with the way the thing rattles apart, I don't see the point. And with this base and edge guide coming in at almost $100, I think I'll return them and get a laminate trimmer. I welcome any suggestions for what to look for in those. I don't build guitars (yet, anyway), but most of my needs are similar.

Gavin

Edited by Stokestack
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Hi all. I just bought this base, but I have a less positive review.

Concave-base issues notwithstanding, I found the physical construction to be solid. The tool screws firmly into the crossbar and I had little worry about slop there.

Unfortunately, the entire assembly will begin to rattle itself apart within seconds of starting the tool, even when the various adjustments are tightened with pliers. After several minutes of use, even the base was wobbling. The result is that the depth and bit angle are continually changing.

Much of the depth-adjustment range is pointless, far above the base and well out of reach of any bit. By the time you crank it down to where the bit actually protrudes below the base, the lower spring on the support pillar is crushed down almost to its limit. And, as mentioned above, nothing ensures that the bit remains perpendicular to the base.

In use, I didn't find the edge guide to work very well. Because it has only one point of contact with the edge, nothing ensures that it remains perpendicular to a tangent as you follow a contour. Also, the maximum distance from the edge is very limited. I don't know if there are better designs out there, but this one doesn't seem precise to me.

If nothing else, I thought I might keep the base to mount upside-down in homemade mini router table like this: http://www.projectguitar.com/tut/microrouter.htm but with the way the thing rattles apart, I don't see the point. And with this base and edge guide coming in at almost $100, I think I'll return them and get a laminate trimmer. I welcome any suggestions for what to look for in those. I don't build guitars (yet, anyway), but most of my needs are similar.

Gavin

I found a good deal on a used stewmac one and everyone says it's better than the dremel one it seems really good but I haven't tried it yet. I got it just to rout for inlays with dental burrs. I see no use beyond that and maybe soundhole rosettes but a real router is probably better fprthat. The link below is a good deal on a laminate trimmer, I've been considering buying it since mine broke but I can get by with my router. If your building guitars a good plunge/fixed base router set and a dremel and base for inlays is all you will probably ever need.

http://www.homedepot.com/webapp/wcs/stores...3+5144+10401007

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Yes, the Dremel one gets bad reviews and looks predictably sloppy and cheap.

Thanks for the link. I don't know much about laminate trimmers. Do people mount them under tables like a router sometimes? I'd like to use roundover bits and whatnot, so is that best done with a table setup or can you hand-hold the thing for edge work like that?

Also, do most laminate trimmers accept template guides, and is there a "standard" for template guides (are they interchangeable between brands)?

Edited by Stokestack
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Yes, the Dremel one gets bad reviews and looks predictably sloppy and cheap.

Thanks for the link. I don't know much about laminate trimmers. Do people mount them under tables like a router sometimes? I'd like to use roundover bits and whatnot, so is that best done with a table setup or can you hand-hold the thing for edge work like that?

Also, do most laminate trimmers accept template guides, and is there a "standard" for template guides (are they interchangeable between brands)?

Laminate trimmers are small low powered routers that are usually if not always used by hand. Most template guides are different between routers. It sounds like for what you need a regular router is more useful, you can do everything with them and if you can get one with 2 bases you can keep the fixed base mounted under a table. Router will do everything laminate trimmers will do but the trimmers just easier to move around sometimes when you don't need the extra power or 1/2" bits.

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Unfortunately, the entire assembly will begin to rattle itself apart within seconds of starting the tool, even when the various adjustments are tightened with pliers.

I don't have this issue, are you sure its not a bad dremel or badly balanced bits rather than the base? Maybe if you add some rubber washers this would stop the untightling of the base. I have absolutely no vibration issues like you describe.

Much of the depth-adjustment range is pointless, far above the base and well out of reach of any bit. By the time you crank it down to where the bit actually protrudes below the base, the lower spring on the support pillar is crushed down almost to its limit. And, as mentioned above, nothing ensures that the bit remains perpendicular to the base.

I am not sure I get this one. I don't remember having the dremel that far down to cut. If you are using a dremel to route out pockets this may be your problem, that is a job for a router.

In use, I didn't find the edge guide to work very well. Because it has only one point of contact with the edge, nothing ensures that it remains perpendicular to a tangent as you follow a contour.

The edge guide is stabilized by the base not the guide???

If nothing else, I thought I might keep the base to mount upside-down in homemade mini router table

If it doesn't work by hand why does in work as a router table, seems like conflicting information about the tool.

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I cannot recall where the information or tutorial is, maybe even on the main site here, I'll have to look, but there is a tutorial to rid your dremel of any sloppiness or vibration. Basically, you remove any gap between the tool and its cover and it really can make a good bit of difference especially if you do have vibration. I followed the tutorial and it make a good bit of difference for me, you basically wrap a bit of material around the bearing so when you close up the case it fits very snug. I think they used some heatshrink tubing, but I was out and make a similar piece from electrical tape I believe, had to be very precise so it was a pain I would have rather used the heatshrink, but it worked out fine and this fix made the tool much easier to use.

I need to get a better dremel base. I have the actual dremel base and its nothing special. I've already broken the screw that lets you adjust depth of cut. Its on a spring and one of the handles turns to tighten it to a certain height and the handle just busted off so I cannot tighten or loosen it anymore. I just found my extractor set so I'll remove the busted bolt and buy a new one, but all in all its nothing special. It definitely works, but its so big that it becomes difficult to see what you're doing. I used it for my last inlay set and they were very small and tough little shapes and I was able to do a good job on the routes, so I can't complain too much, but I think having something smaller like the stewmac base would be a large improvement when cutting inlays.

Anyhow, again the tutorial to decrease sloppiness and vibration in the dremel helps. It will improve its functions for handheld use or when in use with a router base because the fix is inside the case. If vibration is a problem, I'd definitely try to find this tutorial and try it, well as long as you're confident in fixing tools, its pretty easy really and it'll likely rid you of any problems like the ones your having with the screws loosening during use. Adding some o rings wouldn't hurt either though, between the two you should haven't any issues with that and both are quick easy fixes. Best of luck. If I find the tut, I'll link it unless someone links it first. J

Edited by jmrentis
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I don't have this issue, are you sure its not a bad dremel or badly balanced bits rather than the base? Maybe if you add some rubber washers this would stop the untightling of the base.

The tool itself has never exhibited any vibration problems. It spins smoothly at all speeds with no noticeable slop anywhere. There's going to be vibration as you're cutting material, in any case.

>Much of the depth-adjustment range is pointless, far above the base and well out of reach of any bit. By the time you crank it down to where the bit actually protrudes below the base, the lower spring on the support pillar is crushed down almost to its limit. And, as mentioned above, nothing ensures that the bit remains perpendicular to the base.

I am not sure I get this one. I don't remember having the dremel that far down to cut. If you are using a dremel to route out pockets this may be your problem, that is a job for a router.

The pillars on which the tool travels up and down are about 3" high. But the chuck and bit only total maybe an inch in height. And some of the bit has to be below the baseplate, so most of the pillar height is pointless. The bar into which the tool screws never needs to be more than an inch from the baseplate, and probably less. Take a look at your picture; in that shot, the crossbar is already pretty low, and it's way higher than it would be in actual use.

>In use, I didn't find the edge guide to work very well. Because it has only one point of contact with the edge, nothing ensures that it remains perpendicular to a tangent as you follow a contour.

The edge guide is stabilized by the base not the guide???

I'm not talking about keeping the tool vertically perpendicular to the material's surface. I'm talking about keeping the bit a uniform distance from the edge, which the single contact point of the edge guide can't do. The tool can still rotate about the rolling pin of the edge guide (as if swinging like a pendulum), moving it toward and away from the edge.

>If nothing else, I thought I might keep the base to mount upside-down in homemade mini router table

If it doesn't work by hand why does in work as a router table, seems like conflicting information about the tool.

Because you cut off the rest of my sentence: "...but with the way the thing rattles apart, I don't see the point."

Thanks for the info about the Dremel adjustment and base, jm.

Edited by Stokestack
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Again i don't have the problems you mention.

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I'm not talking about keeping the tool vertically perpendicular to the material's surface. I'm talking about keeping the bit a uniform distance from the edge, which the single contact point of the edge guide can't do. The tool can still rotate about the rolling pin of the edge guide (as if swinging like a pendulum), moving it toward and away from the edge.

I think the edge guide was designed primarily with binding channels in mind. (Which I think is something that dremel tools are poorly suited for - I have so many fewer problems with tearout using a larger diameter bit, something you can only do in a router.) I've also seen it used in conjunction with a cutter for removing acoustic guitar tops. With the cutter so close to blade, the amount of variation able to be induced is apt to be mininimal.

Regardless, while the cutter can swing in an arc in relation to the guide bearing, the position of the guide bearing sets the maximum depth from the edge that the cut can go. (Unless it vibrates apart on you, of course!) In the case of a binding channel, this is fine; if the cutter does not maintain an equal distance from the edge of the guitar, you have a shallow binding channel - another pass will remedy this. I think in this case, the advantages of a smaller contact point (being able to navigate smaller curves) is helpful.

Now, if you were cutting a groove inside from the perimeter of the instrument and attempting to keep the groove equi-distanct from the perimeter of the instrument, then you could have a problem. But a larger edge guide would also prove problematic if you were trying to make that groove, as well.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Follow up:

I changed my SM precison router base to accomondate a Foredom hand tool. Because I was having problems with seeing my inlay routing work and the Dremel tool was just too big.

Well after taking off the upper half and installig my modified Foredom holder I noticed that the base was more stable. One of the real issues was the slot on the left had side which made the router rack sideways when you adjust it. I am also not sure what all the springs are really for.

Cant think of a mod to remove the play in the slot at the moment. But probably some CA glue (instant) and wood would work to eliminate some of the racking issues.

Just a thought

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Well,nothing is going to make a dremel perfect..at last not that I have found...the tool itself is kind of sloppy for the fine work it is most suited for(in size)...what with the cheap plastic housing and all.

Am I crazy or are there not better rotary tools than the dremel?I have not done enough inlay work to really research it much...

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I had some other issues where the bit would vibrate too much when doing inlay channels but I attributed that to chatter. There is a known problem with older dremel tools where the lower bearing is loose in the housing. You crack open the case and either shim the outside of the bearing (shrink tubing)or use some silicon caulk to stop it from moving around.

That said my problem was mostly visual when routing inlay. I haven't given up the dremel for other tasks using this base.

My Foredom modification (smaller #28 hand-piece) using a bandsaw a drill press a belt sander and a 1/2 x 1" x 4" piece of aluminum scrap. The lower spacers were made from Delrin but could have been wood dowels. I could have also flipped the height adjustment screws around and not used spacers but I want the ability to reinstall the dremel without effort. I also added some plastic washers which you cant see to keep the aluminum from being gouged up by the brass screws and to help lock down the assembly. The big set screw makes it easy to adjust the rough height quickly rather than rely on the Router base screws, plus I can remove the tool to change the bit easily.

IMG_0741.jpg

If any one is interested I coud do a post on this mod let me know.

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