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Cheaper Plunge Routers


jay5
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Are the cheaper plunge routers from places like harbor freight and the like worth a damn? I am going to be starting my first guitar and am looking for a router. I realize that you get what you pay for but I was curious. Does anyone have any experience with these? What router do you own?

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I own the best kind of routers, a free one!!

It's a 25 year old Black & Decker router I got from a friend. He told me the motor wasn't that fast so I would have to do multiple passes for really deep cavities. Never had a problem with it. He's got three other ones that are much faster, better, tougher ect...

The point is, the cheaper routers will work, it might not be as smooth as top of the line equipment but will do the job all right. If you can't afford the expensive stuff or don't plan on ever using it again after you're done with your work, then why not?

p.s. my drill must be about 40 years old, it was my wife's father's drill. It's casing is made of metal, it's only got one speed and and you see blue flames coming out of the motor when you work with it, but hey! It does drill holes!! and these two items are the only electric tools i've got in the house and I was still able to build my bass :D

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It looks like Wes owns one. I've been told that Harbor Freight sells tools with names like Chicago (the one Wes has), Pittsburgh, and other industrial US city names to help market them. I think it's a good idea but if the tool isn't any good it won't matter in the long run.

So Wes may be able to tell you what he thinks of his. From looking at the work he's been doing with it (see the pinned neck-through thread) it looks like a good one to me. I personally own a Porter Cable plunge router. I like it but have had some trouble with things breaking (the shield and the knob for the depth stop have broken in less than 2 yrs).

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I will add this:

I have 3 routers, a big honkin' Makita that will never break, but I primarily use Ryobi's for my everyday stuff.

I would take a higher horsepower model with no plunge capacity rather than have a plunge and a lesser HP, all other things being equal.

If you got the $$$, get the plunge and the HP, I recommend a 1 3/4 HO over a 1 1/2 plunge, if you follow.

I don't see why folks get so worked up over the plunge. It IS nice to have, but it's not a necessity, I get by just fine without the plunge which I did for a year or two.

My point is I can go either way easily, plunge or no plunge, but the higher HP really is an aid (to me anyway...)

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Thanks for the info guys. I figure Im not going to be using it for anything other than guitars and since Im not going to be turning out but a couple in a year that a cheaper one would fit the bill. Wes, where did you get yours?

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that chicago electric 3hp model isn't exactly the holly grail of routers :D i mean it's a fairly good deal, but i see now why it's priced so low, simply put, it's just not that sturdy, when plunging the router will kinda rock around on the 2 poles, even when locked down (the lock is only on one shaft) the router will kinda giggle around on the other post that it slides up and down on, maybe it's just cause i'm used to working with a fixed base router? but i wasn't too happy when i discovered these small movements.

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[ i wasn't too happy when i discovered these small movements. ]

hmmm.......I was just looking that one online. I suppose for $80 i could just fork over a few more $$$ and get somthing better. Any suggestions? Do higer quality routers lock on both posts? Thanks agiani for all the help by the way.

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My porter cable locks on one post but does not wobble at all. 3 HP seems like a huge amount of power for guitar building though. The bigger the HP, the heavier the thing is. That's one reason why a lot of wood workers have multiple routers - one for heavy duty work and one for finer work (which is what I would classify guitar building as).

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My porter cable locks on one post but does not wobble at all. 3 HP seems like a huge amount of power for guitar building though. The bigger the HP, the heavier the thing is. That's one reason why a lot of wood workers have multiple routers - one for heavy duty work and one for finer work (which is what I would classify guitar building as).

Yeah, I got a Craftsman 3.5HP that weighs 13LBS. I'm gonna get a Porter Cable 2.25HP plunge/fixed base for handheld stuff, like pup/neck cavities, and keep the biggie in my router table for trimming bodies and stuff like that.

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Man, my Ryobi that I love is plunge, 1 3/4 HP, very comfortable grips, it's 'just right', and was under $100.00 at Home Depot.

I can't see saving $30.00 for something of far inferior quality.

I haven't tried those ones you guys are talking about, but I'll tell you this:

If you're using a top template to route your bodies out, and your router has ANY 'wobble', you are buying yourself a lot of frustration and agony. The slightest 'wobble' on a router with a bit that's 1 1/2" or 1 3/4" long will turn a tiny wobble into a pretty deep gash by the time the 'wobble' is magnified by the time it gets to the bottom of the bit. The top might barely move, but transfer that tiny movement down the length of the bit, and you've bought yourself some serious sanding/smoothing/fixing time on that body.

I love my router, and it was under $100.00, what's to ask?

PS, another point I almost forgot. When you're using these long router bits, especially against the side of a body, they will put a lot of 'sideways' strain on the router bearings, and a super cheap router won't hold up very long, the bearing will go bloooey on you and the router is toast. :D

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My $0.02

I have two routers, a Ryobi multi-speed plunge router and Bosch fixed-speed non-lunge router. Even in dealing with simple woods like ash, the Ryobi just can not do the job. I like to save money like anybody else, but at some point spending less is wasting money because eventually you are going to have to get the better tool anyway.

The only thing that I really like about the plunge router is that I can get to depths that the Bosch can't reach.

Guitar Ed

Advice worth what you paid for it. Nothing.

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Even in dealing with simple woods like ash, the Ryobi just can not do the job

Well, I've used 1 1/2 HP and 1 3/4 HP, plunge and no plunge Ryobi's, and they all cut anything I threw at them for years and years, Coco-Bolo, Ash, Maple, anything, so I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on that count.

But the 1 3/4 HP was a much better choice, I can really feel a difference between it and the 1 1/2 HP. More guts, but the same size, so the versatility is even greater, the plunge 1 3/4 HP Ryobi is just the absolute perfect balance for me. It's like my favorite hunting knife, it's always very close by and it gets used day in and day out, it spends very little time tucked away.

1) Great price.

2) Not too big and heavy, nimble enough to do any top-routing w/ control.

3) Powerful enough for 95% of the tasks I require of it.

I also have a big strapping Makita that is very powerful, but it's too heavy and awkward for a lot of operations. Yes, it cuts thru much better than the Ryobi, but the Ryobi smokes it for versatility. I use the Ryobi 95% of the time, by choice. B)

hmm...strange...my 1hp cheapo had no problem routing maple...

Yes, I'm sure it does work fine Wes, but use it for, say 1 solid year, day in and day out, routing hundreds of cuts, dozens of bodies, neck pockets, pkp cavities, control cavities...then we'll see how she's hangin' :D

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let me elaborate on the "wobble" a bit more,

i only noticed it when i was using the plung router upside down when it was mounted for table use, every time i would push the motor up then lock it and relese my hand, it would sink down and bit, and it was cause only one of the poles has a lock on it, and the other shaft has some give in the collar that slides up and down it.

There wasn't any actually wobble when routing, the unit it's self would just slope to one side once i let go of the motor with my hand.... i don't think it does the same thing when you're using it hand held... so like i said, still a nice router, i just had to take the "personality" of the router into account when setting it up for a certain height in the router table.

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hmm...strange...my 1hp cheapo had no problem routing maple...

Yes, I'm sure it does work fine Wes, but use it for, say 1 solid year, day in and day out, routing hundreds of cuts, dozens of bodies, neck pockets, pkp cavities, control cavities...then we'll see how she's hangin' :D

ya, i've also heard that the bearings are the first thing to go in cheap routers,..... i have a shop vac that has shot bearings.... the thing sounds like B2 propeler bomber plane....

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Well, believe it or not my Dad just broke out a Craftsman router that he had hiding. It isnt plunge but I figure that If I drill out a hole to start form I could do OK. Here's a question. Its only 1.5 HP and a constant speed of 25000 RPM's. Is this gonna cut it or not?

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..Craftsman router.....Its only 1.5 HP and a constant speed of 25000 RPM's. Is this gonna cut it or not?

i used an even lower powered model then that for almost a year... sharp bits and shallow passes :D

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I think mine is just above 1HP and I have never had any problems at all with needing more than that. I have routed hard maple bodies, purple heart, ebony, ... I'll check tonight and make sure I am remembering correctly. I would think that a 3HP router would be great for heavy duty work or maybe throwing it under a router table but for routing a body/neck - a 1.5HP should be just fine.

As derek said, no matter how much HP you have, you should try to take off small amounts at a time. This will help prevent chipping and kick-back. A sharp bit is very important also.

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