Milwaukee routers overall get great reviews online, both on Amazon and on the various woodworking forums. They are solid and reliable tools that are designed with the professional in mind. Milwaukee faces stiff competition from Bosch and Porter Cable, but some folks that own two or all three of these brands of wood routers say they prefer the Milwaukee for certain tasks.
Milwaukee currently offers eight different wood routers; six with fixed bases, and two combo kits that include a fixed base and a plunge router base. Here we will take a look at the combo kits with both bases. For information on the fixed base models, visit our other Milwaukee Router page.
The Milwaukee combo kit is almost like having two routers, which really adds to the value and versatility of the tool. The router can be quickly and easily converted from a fixed base router to a plunge router for different tasks. You can also leave the fixed base mounted in a table if you want, and use the plunge base for handheld work.
The Milwaukee 5615-24 comes with a 1-3/4 HP, 24,000 RPM motor and has a linear depth adjustment system that allows both coarse and fine adjustments. Additionally, you can conveniently adjust the depth from above if you have the base mounted in a table.
The Milwaukee 5616-24 comes with a 2-1/4 HP, variable speed (10,000-24,000 RPM) motor with electronic feedback circuitry to maintain constant speed and power under load. It also has the same depth adjustment features as the 1-3/4 HP model.
Both of these Milwaukee routers come with a number of accessories. You get two collet wrenches, both 1/4" and 1/2" collets, a concentricity gauge, and two clear sub-bases. One of the included sub-bases is designed to accept an industry-standard 1-3/16" template guide. You also get a molded plastic carrying case to hold it all. The case includes space for a bunch of extra bits and accessories.
The most popular feature of the fixed bases is the BodyGrip. The BodyGrip is a rubber grip that is molded into the fixed base, with an adjustable hand strap that allows you to use it with one hand if you like. The fixed base also has two conventional handles so you can grip it normally, or you can use the BodyGrip with one hand and still hold the conventional handle with your other hand. Users say the BodyGrip is exceptionally comfortable, which is very important when doing big projects that require you to be holding the router for long periods of time.
The plunge base on the Milwaukee routers come with a four-point bushing design, and has constant spring tension throughout the 2-7/8" plunge stroke. A six-position metal turret stop gives you repeatable results.
The Milwaukee router combo kits get great reviews online. The 5615-24 (1-3/4 HP) gets 4.8 stars at Amazon with 51 reviews at the moment. That is phenomenal compared to most woodworking tools. It also has a 5-star rating at Northern Tool with 3 reviews posted.
The Milwaukee 5616-24 (2-1/4 HP) gets 4.5 stars at Amazon, with 45 reviews at the moment, and a 5 star rating at Northern Tool with 3 reviews posted. Home Depot also has 11 reviews averaging 4.8 stars.
Owners say the Milwaukee routers have plenty of power, especially the 2-1/4 HP model. It was repeatedly noted that the Milwaukee runs smooth and quiet compared to other wood routers. People really love the BodyGrip, saying it is very comfortable and has great ergonomics. Purchasers were pleased that it already comes with the extra sub-base that accepts a 1-3/16" template guide.
There is one review of the Milwaukee 5616-24 on the LumberJocks forum, and he gave it 5 stars. Several other owners commented on that review that they own one of the above models and are happy with them. Some of the comments I found online are:
"... I have the Milwaukee and it is a quality tool. I especially like the strap on the fixed base since it makes it easy to control with one hand..."
Also, "... a very well built router. I've owned two. It's smooth and very strong for its amp rating. The plunge mechanism is excellent, and the BodyGrip feature is great."
That being said, the Milwaukee plunge router combo kits are not perfect. The biggest complaint by far, believe it or not, is the size of the case! The case is huge, and takes up way too much space. But you know the tool must perform well when the most common gripe is the size of the case that it comes in!
Other gripes were that the Milwaukee routers require two wrenches (included) for bit changes, and that the plunge action is a little too stiff (although some said it gets better with use). A few owners had problems from dust getting in the switch, and there were some negative comments about the plastic height adjustment parts. Some folks that purchased the single speed model wished they had the variable speed of the Milwaukee 5616-24.
Fine Woodworking magazine included the Milwaukee 5616-24 in a comparison test in their 2011 Tool Guide. They found the plunge mechanism to be sloppy, but I did not see that complaint on any of the other reviews. They agreed with some others that the plunge router mechanism was too stiff, and also noted that the case is enormous.
The bottom line is that the overwhelming majority of people that own either of these Milwaukee routers are very pleased with the performance and features. The BodyGrip on the fixed base gets rave reviews, and very few people had reliability issues. You can get detailed specs on all of the Milwaukee router models at Milwaukee's website.
If you are thinking about purchasing a plunge router, the Milwaukee combo kit gives you the added bonus of an ultra-comfortable fixed base, plus the extra sub-base for use with template guides. You really can't go wrong with either of these Milwaukee routers. At the time of this writing, I found Northern Tool + Equipment to have the best pricing on Milwaukee plunge router kits, with free shipping to the lower 48 states. Before deciding on one, you may also want to read our review of the Hitachi routers. If your projects don't require a plunge router and you need a solid, reliable fixed base model, take a look at our fixed-base Milwaukee Routers review.
Sidenote: If you are purchasing your first router, or even if you have been using a router for years, a good router book can help you understand the tool's capabilities and learn new techniques. There are a number of great router books available, 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: