Over the last five years or so, we at Pioneer Builders have steadily been marching towards a cordless jobsite. Up until recently, the last remaining tools that we still roll out a cord for have been beam saws and the routers we use to cut the sheathing out of all our window and door openings and along the top of rake walls. To get closer to our battery-powered goal, last year we added DeWalt’s DCW600B 20V MAX cordless router and then Milwaukee’s 2723-20 M18 FUEL router to our tool inventory.

I first made the switch from using a saw to cut out door and window openings to using a big 3 ¼-HP router back in 2001, after seeing another framing crew using this method on their jobsite and noting how efficient it was. The openings were perfectly trimmed, and the work went more quickly and safely. With a flush cutting bit chucked in the router, there was virtually zero measuring or marking, and the cutouts were also perfectly straight, making it easier to use them elsewhere. What’s not to like?

DeWalt DCW600B 20v Max. This unit has a soft-start brushless motor controlled by a variable speed dial that spins router bits with ¼-inch diameter shafts from 16,000-25,500 rpm. When it’s time to stop, there is an electronic brake that works very well. I also like the depth adjustment ring, which is easy to use, and the dual LEDs, which light up the work surface.

DeWalt's DCW600B 20V MAX compact router has a 1/4-inch collet and weighs 3.4 pounds.

While the router runs great on a 20v battery, I prefer to use it with a Flexvolt battery. To cut 7/16-inch ZIP sheathing, I used a ¼-inch diameter spiral cutting bit, which does such an outstanding job, I don’t miss our old 3 ¼-HP workhorse at all. You can watch the DeWalt in action in this video from one of my Instagram posts.

For $180 tool only, this is a no brainer in my view. Dewalt.com.

Milwaukee 2723-20 M18 Cordless Router. This compact router also has a brushless motor that spins 1/4-inch diameter collet from 10,000-31,000 rpms (Milwaukee says the router has the power of a corded 1 ¼-HP router). For precise adjustments there is a “micro-adjustment dial” and to simplify bit changes, the spindle lock is tool-free. The bit stops almost instantly, and the LEDs work well to light up the work surface.

Milwaukee's M18 compact router is compatible with offset and plunge bases, which are sold separately.

I had no trouble powering this router with a 5.0ah M18 Fuel battery, but - like the DeWalt - I prefer to use bigger 9ah batteries. And even though the compact router felt like a toy pulling it out of the box, it had no trouble at all cutting through 7/16-inch thick ZIP sheathing. Check out the Milwaukee in action in this video below.

The Milwaukee unit is $180. Milwaukeetool.com.

Can I Go Cordless? Absolutely! After using both routers for several months, not once have I wished I had a larger corded router on our framing sites. They are lightweight and easy to handle, yet have all the power I need. When I first got the DeWalt router and posted about it on Instagram last year, a few people voiced concern about the risk of burning up its motor. Well, I haven’t burned one up yet, and a production framer from Ontario emailed me last week saying they’ve run the DeWalt hard for a year now, and it is still going strong.

My suggestion is to find a good ¼-inch diameter spiral shank flush cutting bit. We use a Whiteside bit, and get about 3 houses out of one bit, which includes routing the top plates on our rakewalls. To see which of the routers cuts faster, we’ve done some informal ‘racing’ of the two machines, and while the Milwaukee might have a slight edge over the DeWalt thanks to its 31,000 RPM motor, I can’t really say one is better than the other.

Photos by Tim Uhler.