Milwaukee Router Review,
Fixed Base Router Features & Specs
A Milwaukee router is a good, solid choice for a woodworking router. Every currently available model (as of 4-2013) has much better than average owner ratings, and very few people have anything other than praise for them.
There are eight different models to choose from, including six fixed base routers and two plunge routers. The plunge routers are actually combo kits that come with fixed bases also, which really increases their versatility. This page will be about the fixed base routers, and I have a separate page about the Milwaukee plunge router combo kits.
Milwaukee Tools was founded in 1924, and from the beginning their focus has been on providing heavy duty electric power tools for the professional. The current crop of Milwaukee routers fits that bill pretty well. They are solidly built, reliable, accurate tools that are priced in line with other pro-quality woodworking routers from Porter Cable and Bosch.
The big advantage that the Milwaukee router models have is their BodyGrip feature. BodyGrip is a rubber grip that is wrapped around the router's base, and comes with an adjustable hand strap that allows you to grip the tool with one hand. The base also has conventional handles so you can hold it normally, or use the BodyGrip with one hand and the conventional handle with the other hand.
Users say this feature gives you better control for more precise work, and is very comfortable to use for long periods of time. When using a handheld wood router, comfort is one of the most important factors. By far, the BodyGrip is the most praised feature of the Milwaukee router lineup. Woodworkers love it!
When you start looking closely at the Milwaukee fixed base routers, you will find that there are three basic models, with different options available.
First up are the 1-3/4 HP models. Each of these has a 24,000 RPM no load speed, and they come with both 1/4" and 1/2" collets and two collet wrenches. They have a highly-praised linear dept adjustment system that allows both coarse and fine adjustments, and an above-the-table depth adjustment mechanism for convenience when the tool is mounted in a router table.
The Milwaukee 5615-20 is the basic model with the BodyGrip base. The Milwaukee 5615-21 is the same tool with a unique carrying case. The case allows you to store the router without removing the bit, and also has an integral RouterStation. The Routerstation is basically the bottom section of the case, which can be removed and screwed down to a workbench or shelf so you have a convenient, safe place to set the router between uses with the bit installed.
The Milwaukee 5619-20 is basically the same as the 5615-20 above, but with a D-handle base instead of the BodyGrip. It has a trigger switch with a lock button, and still has the "normal" style second handle. It is not available with a case.
The 1-3/4 HP Milwaukee router reviews are good overall. The 5615-20 gets 4.2 stars out of 5 on Amazon.com, with 16 reviews available at this time, and it has a 5-star review at Tyler Tool (click to view). The Milwaukee 5615-21 (the one with the case) gets 4.6 stars at Amazon with 37 total reviews. There are also three 5-star reviews at Northern Tool, and it averages 4.7 stars with 3 reviews at Home Depot. The D-handle version (5619-20) rates a terrific 4.9 stars on Amazon, with 14 total reviews. And the only reviewer that didn't give it a 5-star rating doesn't even own it - he bought a different brand because he wanted a variable speed router!
That brings up one of the common "complaints" about the 1-3/4 HP Milwaukee router - it only has one speed. I hate to call that a complaint though, because if you want a variable speed router you can just step up to the 2-1/4 HP version (covered below). Several owners also wish the 1-3/4 HP wood routers had a soft start feature like the 2-1/4 HP versions. One other note is that the base plate that comes with the Milwaukee fixed base routers will not accept the common 1-3/16" template guides, but an optional base plate is available separately that will accept the template guides.
On the woodworking forums, I found nothing but praise for the Milwaukee 1-3/4 HP fixed base routers. Several owners commented that they own more than one brand of wood router, and the Milwaukee is the one they find themselves picking up most often for handheld use. They say it is built like a tank, they love the BodyGrip design, and the forged collet wrenches are a cut above what you get with most other tools.
Next up we have the 2-1/4 HP fixed base routers. The Milwaukee 5616-20 is similar to the 1-3/4 HP 5615-20, but adds variable speed capability (10,000 - 24,000 RPM), a soft start feature, and electronic feedback circuitry that maintains speed and power under load. The Milwaukee 5616-21 is the same tool, but it comes with the RouterStation case. There is not a 2-1/4 HP Milwaukee router with a D-handle available.
The 2-1/4 HP Milwaukee 5616-20 has the same average rating as the 1-3/4 HP 5615-20 on Amazon.com: 4.2 stars with 19 reviews, and gets 5.0 stars with
8 reviews at Tyler Tool. The 2-1/4 HP 5616-20 (no case) also gets 4.8 out of 5 stars with five reviews at Home Depot. The Milwaukee 5616-21 (with the case) averages 3.6 stars with 9 total reviews on Amazon at the time of this writing. The rating is brought down by two customers that had reliability problems, and one that may be demanding too much of the 2-1/4 HP motor. It gets much better ratings at Tyler Tool, with
4.8 stars and 6 reviews.
Owners of the 2-1/4 HP versions on the woodworking forums again have good things to say about the Milwaukee fixed base router. Pretty much the same comments as with the 1-3/4 HP models - they love the BodyGrip, the height adjustment works well, and the router is built very sturdy. Several people commented that the 2-1/4 HP models have plenty of power.
Sidenote: There are a number of great router books available. A good book can help you understand the tool's capabilities and learn new techniques, and each one of the books has something a little bit different to offer. The router books that are recommended most often on the woodworking forums are:
The New Router Handbook by Patrick Spielman
The Router Book: A Complete Guide to the Machine and its Accessories by Pat Warner.
Now for the "big dog" of the Milwaukee router lineup, the 3-1/2 HP Milwaukee 5625-20. This one does not have the BodyGrip feature, but it does have variable speed control (10,000 - 22,000 RPM), soft start, and the electronic feedback circuitry to maintain speed under load. The Milwaukee 5625-20 has handles, but is primarily designed for mounting under a table. It also has the linear height adjustment system that is accessed from above the table and eliminates the need for an auxiliary router lift. The Milwaukee 5625-20 comes with a 1/2" collet only, but will accept a 1/4" collet (available separately).
This is a popular woodworking router, with over 90 reviews on Amazon.com, averaging 4.4 stars. It gets 4.8 stars with 5 reviews available at Northern Tool, and 4.7 stars with 3 reviews at Home Depot. Tyler Tool shows
4.7 stars with 9 reviews.
Most owners mount it in a router table, and several owners commented that the Milwaukee 5625-20 is too big and heavy for handheld use anyway. Over and over again, people rave about the power this Milwaukee router has. A few people had different reliability issues, with the most common one being a failed switch due to dust accumulation inside it.
There are several complaints about plastic parts in the lift mechanism, but a couple of owners defended the big Milwaukee router on this issue. It seems that if dust and debris are allowed to build up on the lift mechanism parts, the lift will get jammed up and fail.
One owner commented that when the lift starts getting sticky, all he has to do is blow it out and clean it up, then it works great. Another owner said he prevents the problem by pushing the depth release button, lifting the router higher than needed, and then using the micro-adjust to move it down to where he needs it. And he also cleans out the sawdust occasionally. It seems that many of the problems with the lift mechanism in the Milwaukee 5625-20 may be traced to a lack of tool maintenance.
Owners on the woodworking forums love the big Milwaukee router. They say it is a beast that will cut anything you want without bogging down. "Built like a tank", "...best router I own", "...endlessly impressed by its quality and performance", and "...one of the best and easiest to use tools in my shop" are some of the comments. No mention of the plastic parts on the forums I looked at - maybe the forum users are a little more diligent about keeping their tools clean!
Overall, most owners are very happy with their fixed base Milwaukee router, whatever the model may be. The BodyGrip on the smaller versions is by far the most-praised feature, and many folks are impressed with the way the height adjustment works. If you are in the market for a fixed base woodworking router, the lineup from Milwaukee Tools deserves a look. You can get detailed specs on all of the Milwaukee routers at MilwaukeeTool.com. If you are more interested in a plunge router, take a look at our page on Milwaukee router combo kits here.
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