June 8, 2011

Porter-Cable Compact Router Fixed/Plunge Base Kit 450PK - Review

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The release of the Bosch Colt a few years back seemed to be the official kick-off of the 1+ horsepower laminate trimmer/router. We don't know if it was the first or not, but it was certainly the first that made a real beachhead on the construction site. We got one right when it came out and since then, we've hardly used our full-sized router at all. Now, most brands have these little workhorses and last year, DeWalt upped the game with their own version complete with a plunge base. Porter-Cable has followed suit (not surprisingly, now that they have the same parent company as DeWalt) and released their fixed/plunge base model (that looks eerily similar to the DeWalt, minus the variable speed). They sent us one to check out and we found some good and some, well, not so good...

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First, a bit about the tool. The PC comes with a 1-1/4 peak HP motor, a soft-start, and onboard electronics that regulate the tool to maintain speed even through dense hardwoods. The PC has a nice depth adjustment (on the fixed base) that is centered around a plastic collar that locks the base to the tool. The collar can be dialed up or down the body, thus raising or lowering the base. The collar can also be disengaged from the base, allowing the user to slide the base right off, which helps with bit changes.

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The plunge base is nice. We've never used the DeWalt mini-router, so this was our first experience with the smaller plunge set-up. It's pretty strange too. We're used to plunging the large big-handled jobbies, so this little guy took a little getting used to. The standard controls and settings are all there, just smaller.

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The Porter-Cable is a nice router and we found it could do everything we threw at it. Almost. For the shelving project, we needed to make a bullnose so we reached for the 3/8" round over bit only to find that it doesn't fit through the foot plate of the router. Huh? Seems to us that things like 3/8" round overs are the reason to own these little 1+ hp routers. We searched the web to see if PC has separate foot plate available that would fit the bit (we couldn't find one) and found that Jay over at CopTool noticed the same thing. Seems strange to us to not have thought that one through.

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As far as ergonomics go, we liked the Bosch much better (but it doesn't have the plunge option). The Bosch Colt has a rubberized handle that really fits the hand very well. The PC grip area is lower on the tool, which we liked for control, but that's really all it gives you. There's not a lot of comfort to it.

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Our other issue with the router is one that Jay also ran across and it's the carrying case. Porter-Cable has opted to supply this tool with a duffel bag. It's plenty big enough for everything, but we don't like the idea of putting a delicate router in a duffel and tossing it in the back of the truck. Just doesn't seem right. Seeing the fantastic case that they're shipping out with their new oscillating tool, it's a bit strange that the more precise router gets a souped up gym bag.

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The router with the fixed base is going for $129 and the kit with the plunge base is $189. It seems a little pricey to us, seeing as the basic Bosch Colt kit can be had for about $100. Actually, we just checked Amazon and it looks like the basic kit is retailing there four $99. Not sure if it's a special, or if that's going to be the street price of the tool.

So all in all, this is a nice tool. It's certainly powerful enough and the plunge base is a good option to have up the sleeve. But there were a couple things that we thought were a little off.

Porter Cable Plunge/Fixed Kit at Amazon.com

Basic kit at Amazon.com

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Posted by Doug Mahoney at June 8, 2011 5:06 AM

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