Lots of experienced woodworkers name the router as one of most versatile power tools. Workers using a router can shape decorative edges, form raised panels, cut grooves and slots, carve signs, make moldings, rout intricate inlays, trim plastic laminate and veneers, and mill dozens of woodworking joints, including rabbets, dovetails and mortises. And while the best router is handheld for most operations, it can also be mounted in a router table, creating a small stationary shaper.
If you're new to using a router, start off with a small fixed-base router or trim router, something in the 1-hp to 1-1/2-hp range. As users become more confident and comfortable using a router, move up to a larger fixed-base or plunge router in the 1¾- to 3½-hp range. Look for one with these five features in the best router: soft-start motor, smooth-operating depth-adjustment mechanism, comfortable handles or grip, push-button arbor lock for one-wrench bit changes, and a flexible power cord that's at least eight feet long.