Carpentry is Going to the
Within the last year, manufacturers have come up with several
new and different routers. I checked out three very different
designs, and each has at least one innovation that makes it a
potential problem solver.
Bosch 1619EVS Plunge Router
Most carpenters who buy 15-amp plunge routers plan to use them
in and out of a router table. The problem is most plunge
routers are better suited for one task than they are for the
other. The Bosch 1619EVS, however, works equally well in and
out of a table. Its most unique feature is a mechanism that
allows you to override the lift springs and plunge lock. This
makes it easier to use in a table because it means you
don’t have to lift against the springs.
As with any table-mounted router, the bit is raised and lowered
by turning a depth-control knob. The knob is attached to a
threaded rod that connects to the base of the router. With most
tools, big changes are time consuming because you have to turn
the knob a lot of times. Bosch got around this problem by
running the rod through a quick-release mechanism that allows
you to make coarse adjustments fast and easy.
A depth-control knob usually makes it harder to work in plunge
mode because you have to back it off to slide the motor up and
down. But it’s not a problem with the Bosch router
because the threaded rod can be disengaged from the base. Once
it’s free, the router can move up and down, and the rod
functions as a depth stop. A rack-and-pinion mechanism is used
for big adjustments, and a fine adjustment knob is used for
small ones. The indicator ring on the knob is graduated in
64ths of an inch, but if you split the marks, you can make
changes half that size.
The 1619EVS draws 15 amps and is rated at 3 1/4 horsepower.
It’s as powerful as any plunge router I’ve ever
used. On one occasion I used it to drive a 1 1/4-inch
pattern-cutting bit through 3/4-inch melamine, and the motor
didn’t bog down.
This router has soft-start and a variable speed range between
8,000 and 21,000 rpm. Control circuitry maintains a constant
speed by raising and lowering power input in response to the
cutting load. You can’t see it, but you can hear and feel
The tool has padded grips with an integral trigger switch. The
plunge lock is spring loaded, so you can’t forget to set
it. At 13 1/2 pounds, it’s one of the heavier —
though by no means the heaviest — plunge routers around.
The base opening is 3 3/4 inches across, and maximum depth of
plunge is just over 2 1/2 inches. The router retails for around
$325 and comes with a bushing adapter, 1/4- and 1/2-inch
collets, a wrench, a dust extraction hood, and an extension
handle. If I were in the market for a big plunge router, the
1619EVS would be at or near the top of my list.
If you disengage the plunge lever, the
Bosch 1619EVS allows you to make quick, coarse depth
adjustments. Fine adjustments can be dialed to 64ths of an
Milwaukee BodyGrip Router
For as long as I can remember, standard-base routers were
frozen in time. New models always seemed to have plunge action.
But in the last year or so, manufacturers have introduced a
number of greatly improved standard-base models.
Milwaukee’s BodyGrip router is certainly the most
In addition to standard side-mount knobs, it has a molded grip
and velcro-type strap that fastens the tool to your hand, like
a camcorder does. The grip allows you to operate the tool one
handed, which is the way a lot of us use routers. You can do
this with other models, but it’s easier when the tool is
strapped to your hand. And it’s safer because
there’s no way you’re going to drop the
Like that of most standard-base routers, the BodyGrip’s
switch is high on the motor housing. But with the strap on, I
could reach it with my thumb without losing my grip. The strap
can be adjusted for left-hand use, but you won’t be able
to reach the switch.
Another cool feature is the linear height-adjustment mechanism.
It’s calibrated in 32nds of an inch, but you can easily
adjust it in 64ths. You operate it by releasing a lock lever
and turning a knob that’s attached to a threaded rod.
This leaves one hand free so you can measure the height of the
The BodyGrip works well in a table. A release button lets you
pop the motor out of the base for bit changes. The router comes
with a wrench that fits through the base to adjust bit height
from above the table.
This router is a solid, powerful tool that’s rated at 1
3/4 horsepower and 11 amps. The single-speed motor spins at
24,000 rpm. It comes with 1/4- and 1/2-inch collets and a pair
of wrenches for changing bits.
The standard sub-base accommodates bits up to 2 1/2 inches
across, but you need to get an accessory base to use bushings.
I tested the kit version of this tool, which comes in a plastic
case and retails for around $175. Milwaukee also makes a
Milwaukee’s BodyGrip fixed-base
router makes one-handed operation safer and easier (left). The
depth adjustment on the BodyGrip is graduated by 32nds of an
inch (right). Once the lock is released, depth is adjusted by
turning the knob. You can use your other hand for measuring the
Porter-Cable 9290 Cordless
Porter-Cable advertises its model 9290 as the world’s
first cordless router. In reality, that distinction belongs to
the 7.2-volt laminate trimmer that Makita sold in the 1980s.
But it is fair to say that the 9290 is the first
practical cordless router. If this tool looks familiar,
it’s because it’s a cordless version of
Porter-Cable’s venerable model 690. The motor-battery
unit for this router is compatible with existing accessories
such as Porter-Cable’s D-handle and plunging bases.
Using the 9290 is more or less the same as using a corded
model. The single-speed motor runs at 23,000 rpm, which puts it
in the same ballpark as corded models from Porter-Cable and
Milwaukee. The motor is smooth and so quiet I could use it
without ear protection, something I never do with other
According to the manufacturer, you can put a 1/2-inch roundover
on 100 feet of hardwood or 200 feet of softwood on a single
charge. I wasn’t able to test this because a 1/2-inch
roundover would not fit through the 1 3/16-inch hole in the
base. The manufacturer does make a sub-base with a larger hole.
But after using this tool with a number of smaller bits,
Porter-Cable’s claim seems about right. The 9290 is
powerful enough to perform common job-site tasks such as
forming edges and cutting rabbets and dados. With a
not-so-sharp bit in the collet, it managed to cut 1/4 x
3/4-inch dados in pine. But that seemed to be the limit of the
At 7 3/4 pounds, the 9290 weighs about the same as similar
corded models. The on/off switch is designed to be somewhat
hard to activate so you don’t accidentally turn it on
while changing bits.
Although it’s very convenient to rout without a cord, I
wouldn’t buy this tool unless I was already invested in
Porter-Cable’s 19.2-volt system. Even then, the $289
price tag would be a major stumbling block unless I was totally
committed to working cordless.
The 9290 comes in a plastic case with a charger, 19.2-volt
battery, wrench, and 1/4-inch collet. It will accept an
optional 1/2-inch collet and sub-base with a 2 1/2-inch
Porter-Cable’s 9290 cordless router
is based on the venerable 690 and has enough power to roundover
200 feet of pine on a charge.
David Franeis a finish
carpenter and a contributing editor to The Journal of Light
Carpentry Is Going
to the Dawgsby Patrick McCombe
Builders can get pretty creative when they have to work alone.
Bruce Cameron needed a better way to take long vertical
measurements by himself, so he invented the Dawg Stick (Camco
Tool Inc., Manchester, Maine; 800/764-9499,
http://camcotoolinc.com), a telescopic
measuring stick with two sets of leveling vials. The vials give
the tool its unusual versatility. The tool’s length can
be adjusted to take inside measurements, or it makes a long and
sturdy level. Bruce says his tool helps builders take accurate
vertical measurements up to 10 feet, single handedly. The best
part is that the measurements can be read at eye level, and
because the device does double duty as a plumb stick,
measurements are more accurate.
The Dawg Stick makes it easy to get
accurate measurements without using a stepladder or a helper.
Two sets of vertical and horizontal levels help maintain
The Dawg Stick is constructed of two sections of rectangular
aluminum tubing. One tube slides easily inside the other,
without binding, and the tolerances are very tight; the
appropriate length is held with a nylon thumbscrew. Two sets of
break-resistant acrylic vials ensure that users get an accurate
measurement and permit the Dawg Stick to be used for leveling,
as well. The Dawg extends to 10 feet, creating a level that can
really go the distance for gable walls and ganged windows.
Because the measurements on the sides of the extrusion are on
an applied tape, I was a little skeptical of their long-term
durability. Bruce says that because of aluminum ridges on the
measuring tape’s sides and a 1-mil clear overlay
protecting them, the graduations should be readable for a long
The flexible length (5 feet 8 inches to 10 feet) allows the
user to plumb doors and tall walls with the same tool. Leveling
tasks like sills on wide or ganged windows and deck ledgers are
easier with such a long level. I used it for installing wall
angle for a drop ceiling and to get stud lengths for partitions
in a remodeling project with more than a little rustic charm.
The tool’s length allowed me to make reference marks
easily for placing my wall angle, without constantly moving it.
The floor’s undulations and the high ceilings normally
would have meant the frustrating task of tape holding and
reading. I simply extended the tool between my top and bottom
plates and got a measurement I could read right at eye level,
without a stepladder or helper.
This is the kind of tool that you find more uses for the more
you use it. Measuring stud lengths for gable walls would be an
ideal application, as would taking measurements for wood posts
or steel lally columns. The tool makes an excellent
grade-measuring rod, and because of the leveling vials, your
helper probably won’t hold it at a 15-degree angle while
you shoot an elevation. When completely collapsed, it makes a
great straightedge for cutting panels or doing layout work. The
Dawg Stick’s substantial length would help in keeping
long cabinet runs straight and true.
The Dawg Stick comes in a nice nylon case and fit easily in
the 6-foot bed of my truck. It weighs about 7 1/2 pounds; the
T-5 aluminum alloy tube measures 1x2 inches. A Dawg Stick with
a nylon case runs about $150.