We stopped at Marden’s (“I should’ve bought it when I saw it at Marden’s”) (don’t click that link unless you want to hear their jingle!) in Gray on the way to Casco on New Year’s day. Someone was talking to his kid (or more likely grandkid) about routers, because there were three big boxes, each with a Black and Decker plunge router, there on the bottom shelf, at $59.99. That sounded like an awfully reasonable price — though I have a Craftsman router that I’ve owned since we lived in Watertown. On the other hand … of course I wouldn’t be posting about it if I hadn’t got it.
My first impression, though I haven’t done anything except one trial cut with it, is that it’s wonderful. First, the plunge feature makes it much better suited to use with the lettering template than the old one. “Plunge” means you can set a depth stop, rather than setting the bit to a fixed position below the baseplate, so you position the template bushing in the lettering template, then turn it on and push the bit down into the work, rather than getting the bushing into the template while it’s running. That makes it lots less likely that you’ll ruin the template before cutting with it. Second, it has a gradual startup. The old one goes from 0 to whatever, 3500 rpm, in a split second when you turn it on. The startup torque makes it try to jerk out of your hands — especially troublesome if you’re going to try to get that bushing into the lettering template, but I have marred lots of workpieces because of that. This one doesn’t have that starting jerk, so it stays where you’re trying to hold it. Maybe best of all, this one has a port that takes a vacuum cleaner hose to remove shavings. A router is about the most productive source of sawdust, shavings, and chips of any tool I’ve ever used. They build up around the bit very quickly, making it impossible to see what you’re doing. That’s especially a problem for lettering freehand. I haven’t tried this with the shop-vac, but it it halfway works it should be a big big advantage. One more thing, this has a turret for depth stops that allows you to set three depths of cut at once. In hard wood or for deep cuts, you need to make more than one cut at different depths to get the job done. If you have to move some sort of edge guide to make different cuts (say you need a guide for each joint on the side of a bookcase, and you need to cut at two depths) you are constantly readjusting depth of cut for first pass, finish pass, move the guide, first pass, finish pass, etc. With this one, you can set the turret depth stops for first pass depth, finish depth, and just click to the next depth for the next cut.
So, OK, the old router works perfectly well and has stood me in good stead for decades, but the modern features make me wish I had the new one long ago.
Oh, I found the same model on the internet for $74, and then there would be shipping. So it was a good price at that.