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Most of you'll know that I've falled afoul of the recent unemployment avalanche thanks to the rabid zombie flu. It is what it is. I'm also mid-move from this place to our new home, so guitar builds are off the table....but planning a new space to work is. Part of that is to get around to building a proper router table and improving work capability in general. Buying a new home comes with a lot of expense, and certainly, having your own tools and capability to do the work yourself from raw materials makes tools pay for themselves. Things like door frames, skirting boards, picture rails, coving, architrave, door thresholds, etc. So I introduced @ScottR to my spirit animal, who also happens to be a Japanese guy. His router table isn't anything particularly innovative or original, but certainly very well-built and organised. I need a bit of that in my life, especially since I'm built like the 70s and deeply disorganised.
----==---- Part 1 - Product Rundown Part 2 - Technical Teardown Part 3 - The Router In Use Part 4 - Modifications/Upgrades Part 5 - Review Discussion ----==---- AK: Alright, now that Carl has gone and shown the guts of this little beast, I'll do a little real-world demo. As I said in part one, my main usage of this router is within jigs and templates that I've designed around the use of a guide bushing. For this demonstration, I'll use the wee Makita with a pair of templates: one for a truss rod rout, another for a pair of channels for carbon fiber reinforcements. What better test than real life? CM: Totally. It all looks good on paper and under the hood, but putting the rubber to the road is a world of difference. AK: Before we get going, let's take a look at some of the exterior features. Here, you can see the power switch, variable speed potentiometer, brush replacement port, and height adjustment for the fixed base. AK: On the underside, a removable plastic (Bakelite) plate. The recess that accepts standard Porter-Cable template guides is clearly visible. CM: I'm going to have to get some of those myself....I think they're only available in Imperial sizes though.... AK: The height adjustment mechanism is a nicely made rack-and-pinion setup. It's reasonably precise and very easy to use, but lacks a truly helpful depth marking system. More on that later. CM: I'd go as far as to calling it a useless adjustment system myself. Then again, anything more complex than this would make it heavier and less compact. At least it's simple to adjust like you say. It just takes a bit of patience to dial it in perfectly. AK: With the base removed so we can install a bit, the manual spindle lock is visible. I wouldn't trust it to ensure proper tightness for operation, but I do use it to get the bit initially secured in place before reaching for the wrenches for final tightening. CM: The larger 8mm Metric collet cones don't seem to want to retain the bit at finger tightness off the spindle lock. I also had to grind my 13mm (~1/2") spanner to fit the narrow shaft recess. The spindle lock cannot and should not be relied upon for final tightening. Even with a spanner on the collet nut. Whether that's because of the larger collet cone, I'm not sure. Still, two spanners is the only way to be sure. AK: Now that the short tour is over, let's get to work! For this demo, I'll use the Makita with a 3/8"OD template bit, paired with a 1/4" downspiral and 1/8" straight bit. AK: First, inserting the 1/8" bit. As I mentioned above, the manual lock is used only to get the bit held in place, then I do the real tightening with the wrenches. CM: As a safety note, this method of "squeezing" two spanners for tightening or loosening is the safest method. If Andrew weren't holding the camera for the photo, his other hand would be on the router body itself. Needless to say, ensuring that it isn't plugged in during bit changes is vital. AK: Now that the router is ready to go, it's time to break out the wood and templates. I'm using Yucatan rosewood for this neck. As a true rosewood, it's fairly hard and will be a good representative of the typical woods you'd expect this router to cut through. AK: For the first set of channels, I need to get to a total depth of 0.325". Since I'm using a very small bit, this needs to be done in 4 passes to minimize the chance of bit breakage. At this stage, we come to a significant downside of the Makita: lack of a useful depth indication system. Honestly, they may as well have not even etched any markings for all the good they do. To combat this, I've had to make a simple setup block. I have marked the depths of each pass I need to make and attached an unused template of the same thickness as the one I'm using at this time. Before each pass, I simply set the bit to match the appropriate line on the block. Maybe a bit crude, but it works well in this case. CM: Same problem here too. I have a Trend Depth Gauge to check bit depths on hand and table routers. Totally worth it! AK: And now for the first set of passes. Each channel gets 4 passes, ending up at a depth of 0.325". As you can see, the router has no trouble with this task, leaving clean and accurate channels. AK: Now for the truss rod channel. Templates are swapped and the 1/4" downspiral is fitted. AK: Again, we end up with a clean, accurate channel with no undue strain on the router's part. AK: If I were asked to name any complaints, I only have two. The depth adjustment markings are pretty well useless due to the lack of a definitive reference point. The scale itself is easy to read, but without another line or arrow or something on the base to measure changes with, it's not very useful. Additionally, the tiny footprint of this tool leads to a definite 'tippy' feel. This issue is just the nature of this type of router and is something Carl and I will address later on. CM: It totally is unbalanced on the edges of cuts. For things like this it's perfect though. A really nice workhorse, so the Porter-Cable bushing set is definitely in my near future, Imperial-sized or not. Even though the depth adjustment is useless (to the point of questioning why it was included in the first place), I think that few (if any) compact units have a usable system. The plunge base accessory is a different game though. We'll look at that in Part 4. AK: Overall, the Makita excels at small tasks like this. It cuts well and never feels out of its depth (no pun intended) as long as you understand that it's not meant for heavy material removal. ----==---- Go to Part 4 - Modifications/Upgrades
----==---- Part 1 - Product Rundown Part 2 - Technical Teardown Part 3 - The Router In Use Part 4 - Modifications/Upgrades Part 5 - Review Discussion ----==---- CM: Okay, let's do this. A bit of a teardown. Right off the bat you can see on the motor that Makita haven't tried to cut every corner possible, unlike some manufacturers where this is now commonplace. Material codes are visible on a lot of the parts which makes the assessment of suitability easier. The flyout is invaluable reference material.... (click to embiggen) The two halves of the top shell (1, 13) are a reinforced polymer; polyamide/nylon 6 with 30% glass fibre (PA6-GF30); a tough high quality temp resistant composite which takes a beating. This is a good "standard choice". I've seen routers where the plastics gets cheaped out on, which is a big mistake since they house the top spindle bearing. They could have gone one better with PA66 or something really crazy and overspecified, but we just wouldn't see the difference in anything but the ticket price. By the temps that PA6 starts to turn to spaghetti, you've got bigger problems than spindle runout from a wobbly bearing. This all checks out. Inside the casing, there's a setup very typical of simple modern electronically-controlled routers. All of the components are compactly seated in an intricately-designed enclosure where everything has its place. An unexpected observation is that the cable strain relief (5) is also PA6-GF30! The "black box" contains the electronic brain of the router potted into a small plastic box. This manages the soft start, speed control and houses the spindle speed sensor also. The white box is a line noise suppression capacitor to prevent the harshness of a brush commutated motor pushing electromagnetic dirt back up into your local mains supply. Absolutely nothing unexpected here. Everything was assembled well until I ran in, screwdrivers blazing.... The power switch is a little cheesy, however it's not expected to be a heavy duty cycle trigger switch or anything like that. Interestingly, the contact rating is being run pretty much on the mark if the tool amperage rating (3.1A@240VAC) is anything to go by. I don't think this is a specific symptom of cutting any corners, but it seems run pretty close to its rating. Not a concern in real terms, especially since these can be swapped out on the dollar. That and the maximum consumption of a tool this size will only ever be at startup or stall. The electronic management will no doubt prevent the tool from getting too greedy on the amps at any one point. This IS interesting! The end of the router spindle hiding under that blue nub in the centre is probably keyed and fitted with a magnet. As that spins (up to 30,000RPM!) that magnet will induce a current in the small copper coil. These "variable reluctance sensors" aren't a million miles from how a guitar pickup does its thing. The electronics will be monitoring the frequency of this signal in order to know how fast the spindle is moving at any given time. Primarily this will be for the "constant speed electronics"; if the spindle bogs down mid-cut and isn't spinning as fast as the router is set to run, the electronics will push the spindle harder until it reaches the required speed. The electronics can then back off on the juice. Variable reluctance sensors are an interesting alternative to Hall effect sensors, however they do the same thing. Just one for the electronics geeks. Easing up the sleeve from the main housing reveals the rotor. All of the commutator bars and field windings are epoxied up, plus that magnet at the top of the spindle is revealed. The work that goes into the details of a rotor are usually very telling as to how well the machine will last over time. Cheap out here and everything else sucks also. The main bearings top and bottom are NSK rubber-sealed bearings. Very standard components with known performance in applications such as this. The armature is ground both fore and aft, similar to how weights are added to car wheels for balance to eliminate vibration at high speeds. Clean good-looking work. The spindle-mounted fan pulls air through the body of the router. Given the large open porting in the base however, I can see this not preventing debris from entering the motor. Definitely a good reason not to use this router inverted, and let's face it....that would be a bit of a high expectation for a palm router! The bearings are easily replaceable should they get a bit worn and noisy from the constant side-load that routers subject them to. Most Makita spares dealers carry these items, however being standard NSK bearings, any good bearing dealer will have them or direct equivalents such as SKF, etc. If the motor gets a bit noisy, this is good place to look and often the culprit; the nature of ball bearings rather than a product issue. The area were you really need to be seeing quality is in the rotor and its mounts. These seem adequate enough for a router at this price point, and the router runs smoothly in testament. It sounds fantastic....saying that sounds weird, but it does. The aluminium casing is cast from high quality Chinesium which seems to be moulded a sintered powder alloy. The castings are machined nicely at the point where components mate (motor housing to the inside of bases, for example). I wouldn't expect any casting to survive heavy abuse (being thrown onto concrete?) and certainly this seems a better quality of casting than most. The metal parts only seem to have been made down to a price where its appropriate, rather than to make them as cheap as feasible. That's definitely the theme around this router. ----==---- The overall impression one gets from the teardown is that this is not overbuilt, but certainly hasn't had corners cut here and there simply to provide better return for the shareholders. Everything seems to be as good as it needs to be in order to provide reliable performance, but nothing more. This wasn't a throwaway product designed by committee to bang into a product lineup niche. The fit and finish is precise, and is what you would expect from a tool representing the good side of the Makita brand. In good hands with occasional maintenance, this should go a good distance. The only significant negatives I could support are that airflow through the well-packed upper housing into the motor casing may be a little restrictive. Heat may be an issue with constant use, and like most tools heat is the killer. The other being the light-duty power switch and speed control. Time will tell as to whether those crap out or simply do the job as expected. ----==---- Go to Part 3 - The Router In Use
The Makita RT0700C (recently updated to RT701C) occupies a nice position in the router market alongside its most visible competitors from Bosch and DeWalt. Originally, compact routers such as these were exclusively designed for trimming and shaping the borders of laminates such as kitchen worktops. More recently, the accessories and design of these tools have made them viable alternatives to larger-format hand routers, plus they are a common feature as the spindle in homebrew CNC routers. For guitar work, compact routers are light and nimble enough to work around headstocks and powerful enough to do all but the heaviest shaping around a solidbody. ----==---- Part 1 - Product Rundown Part 2 - Technical Teardown Part 3 - The Router In Use Part 4 - Modifications/Upgrades Part 5 - Review Discussion ----==---- The motor is available in a number of different packages. The smallest comes with the motor, a fixed base, light edge guide and edge trimmer guide. The fuller kit forms consist of a variety of bases, accessories and storage solutions. Many of these have parts that can be interchanged to suit the task at hand resulting in a smart and flexible package. Purchasers can either pick up a very complete kit at a good price, or buy the minimal kit and supplement it only with the parts they need potentially making a small saving. Underneath the hood, the Makita has soft start to reduce torque spin when powering up the router and constant speed electronics to maintain cutter speed even when labouring in heavier cuts. Speed adjustment from 10k-30k allows cutters to be run only as fast as the jobs requires them to. Capacity-wise, the Makita can be supplemented with a range of collets from 1/4" and 3/8" Imperial, or 6mm and 8mm Metric. The motor is rated as 710W giving it a fair amount of go in a very compact unit compared to the Bosch Colt at 600W but falling a little short of the heavier DeWalt at 900W. On paper the Makita hits the target points that some routers miss by a mile. How much rubber does the Makita really put to the road and how far can we take it? Example of a RT070xCX3 kit ----==---- Gear Rundown CM: I opted for a barebones RT0700C motor body which came supplied with a 1/4" collet cone, the fixed base and trimming edge guide. I added the plunge base, dust collection connectors and an 8mm collet cone to suit my personal needs. Short of the guide bushings this seems like the best combination for me. I guess you snagged a full kit, Andrew? AK: Actually, my kit was pretty barebones as well. In my box was the motor with 1/4" collet, fixed base, and a straight edge guide. I wish mine had come with the edge trimming attachment, that looks like a genuinely nice piece to have. For my own usage habits, I haven't felt the need to pick up any additional bases. I will end up buying the dust collection accessories at some point later, likely when I can set up my own dedicated work space with good collection. CM: Oh right....well to be fair a lot of the things are a bit pointless for our needs really so that makes sense. I'd see if you can pick up that edge trimming guide if you can....you'll see why when I reveal the mod I did to it! You've had a lot more hands-on time with this router that I have, whereas I went for it because of the modification potential. I think I spend more time making/modifying tools and jigs than I do making guitars....then again, that's the name of the game.... AK: I agree, this router definitely has great potential for modification and use in various jigs and fixtures. Actually, one of the main reasons I picked this model was the compatibility with standard Porter-Cable style guide bushings. This is a huge boon for me personally, as I like to use guide bushings for a variety of tasks. CM: I decided not to pull the trigger on the standard Makita bushings too. I know a bunch of people like yourself use third-party bushings, so I definitely think a good set of them is in my future. I guess that being Porter-Cable style, then the Whiteside router inlay bushing set would be compatible too....definitely useful for things like flush-fit control plates. Okay, well let's get this on the road....firstly, I'll void my warranty for the greater good! ----==---- Go to Part 2 - Technical Teardown