First off, it’s True Confession time – I am definitely NOT a master woodworker. My first job out of high school was as a framing carpenter, and that is still my strong suit. Need some new walls, a floor, a roof, a porch? Gotcha covered! Looking for some fine custom finished cabinetry, or a beautiful hand-made bookcase or table? What’s that? Can’t hear ya, you’re breaking up… Much as I’d LOVE to be able to do that kind of work, so far I just haven’t had time to acquire the skill. Recently, though, my motivation level was ratcheted up several notches, when the Dewalt DWP611PK Compact Router and plunge base kit arrived at HomeFixated HQ for evaluation.
Included in the package: The DWP611 compact router, a fixed base, the Dewalt DNP612 plunge base, a collet wrench and manual, and a yellow and black (naturally!) canvas carry bag. The kit packs a LOT of features; the Dewalt website has ‘em all, but some of the key ones include:
- Durable 1.25HP motor delivers the power to meet the toughest applications
- Electronic speed control maintains speed under load, soft start to reduce startup twisting, and variable speed to prevent burning
- Depth adjustment ring for intuitive depth setting
- Quick release tabs for quick and simple base release
- Adjustable clamp for smooth and secure actuation
- Dual LED lights for superior illumination and visibility
- Clear sub-bases improves visibility and durability
- Plunge Base – DNP612
- Depth scale and marker for simple depth setting and micro-rod allows for fine tuning
- Release-to-lock lever has a coil spring that maintains depth setting
- Plunge mechanism delivers smooth stroke for enhanced control
- Five-step adjustment turret stop enables stepped plunge cuts
- Lightweight design provides excellent mobility and control
I opened the box and pulled out the router body, bases and wrench. It’s a nice looking tool, has a good heft to it, and just feels solid and well made.
Since I’m not a member of the Frequent Router club, I decided to give the manual a quick once-over before leaping into action. It’s actually pretty straightforward and simple, and after setting it up once, you’ve pretty much got the hang of it. I inserted a carbide tip bit, dropped the unit into the plunge base, adjusted the plunge depth, snapped the clamp shut, and was ready to rip, all in less than two minutes!
The bag has enough room in it for the router, both bases, the wrench, and an assortment of bits. Some reviewers said they would prefer a plastic case, for better protection and organization. I think that for tools like this, where you often have a bunch of bits, extra collets, and so forth that you want to schlep along, the canvas bag offers a little more flexibility for jamming stuff in, but it does leave everything in a bit of a jumble. A good-sized zippered pouch or two on the outside, to hold the wrench and some frequently-used bits, would be a nice improvement.
Using The Dewalt DWP611PK – Show Me A Sign!
My first project with the Dewalt DWP611PK was to make a sign, using Rockler’s Interlock State Park sign kit (we have a separate review on the sign kit coming very soon, definitely stay tuned). This router is ideal for that, or any similar application, as its smaller size and weight make it easier to control and maneuver than a full-size router. The sign-making kit came with a guide bushing, which fit perfectly into the base of the router. I already had the special carbide-tipped sign making router bit installed, and the router was clamped into the plunge base. After setting up the sign templates and taping them down, I was ready to plunge in.
The router has a flexible, rubbery switch cover to keep dust out. Some users don’t like it, but I had no trouble at all turning it off and on, and if it keeps dust and crap out of the switch, and keeps me from having to change it out, I’m all for it. I set the guide bit into the first letter, fired up the Dewalt, and let ‘er rip.
The gripping handles on the sides are comfortable to hold, and give good control over the movement of the router. To get the router to plunge, you press the lever near the top, and hold it down until the bit has reached its full depth. Release the lever, and the bit stays at that depth. Finished routing? Just tap the lever, and the router body pops back up. Throughout the project, the router stayed solidly at the preset depth. The base is reversible, so you can have the lever by your left or right hand, whichever feels more comfortable. I’m right-handed, and found I preferred having it on my left. In any case, the router rode up and down very smoothly.
The router moved easily through the various letters on the template, not bogging down at all while making the roughly 3/16” deep channels. The LED lights were helpful in finding the next template to go into, but once the routing started, it was mainly illuminating mounds of sawdust. A vacuum attachment (available separately) would be a handy accessory for jobs like this.
After routing out the letters, I inserted on ogee bit and added a little decorative profile to the edges of the sign.
The sign was made out of a leftover piece of 1X6” ash (an old piece of baseboard I had ripped out and saved). The setup and routing portion took only about 30 minutes; later sanding and painting added about another 30. It’s kind of fun and could easily be addicting!
Trial #2—The Dewalt DWP611PK To The Rescue
At the moment, we’re in the midst of a total renovation of our mixed-heritage farmhouse (part of it is at least 150 years old, part is roughly 60 years old. All of it needs some love). There is a little framing to do, as we change up the floor plan a bit, but there will be quite a bit of finish work to be done, too. New countertops a-coming, new trim on all the windows and doors, and the lady of the (farm)house wants a bit of customization. Since my credo is Happy wife, Happy life (hey – sign idea!), I suspect I’d better figure out how to do that customization. I’m thinking a good portion of it will be a bit easier, with the help of the Dewalt DWP611PK compact router kit.
In fact, I’ve already used it at our farm, although not in Beautiful Customization mode. We’re putting hardwood flooring in the entire place, and the last couple of rows of flooring are always a bear to get installed, because there isn’t enough room to use the flooring nailer. The second-to-last row in one of the bedrooms had been put in with a finish nailer through the tongue. Unfortunately, there were several places where the nail didn’t go in at a steep enough angle to be fully buried, and the nail was holding out the next piece under the tongue. This was no big deal, just a little bit of a pain in the ass; the bottom lip of the next piece had to be notched to go around the protruding nails.
My original plan was to use my oscillating multi-tool to notch it out, and if I had remembered to bring it along, that’s exactly what I would have done. When I opened the bag to get it out, however, I discovered that SOMEONE had failed to put it in the bag after the previous job. (Since I had done the previous job alone, I decided not to pursue the matter). I muttered a few of my special construction phrases, then thought “hey—I have the little Dewalt compact router along…yeehah!”
I installed a side-cutter bit, adjusted the depth of cut with the ring, and locked it in place with the clamp. All this took about a minute. I then proceeded to chew out the areas that lined up with where the nails were. It was definitely NOT fine finish work, but it did the job, and the notches were on the underside of the flooring anyway. The router saved me a whole lot of time over what it would have taken me to use a small hand saw to notch out the flooring. In fact, it was probably faster than using the multitool would have been!
Some users recommended the use of hearing protection, saying the Dewalt router is a screamer. As a child of the 60’s, who has attended more than his share of over-amplified concerts, I’m all for protecting whatever hearing I have left. I must say, though, that when I first used it, on relatively soft wood with the plunge base, I didn’t think the Dewalt was all that loud, compared to other tools I use regularly. Of course, that could be because my hearing’s already shot. Hearing protection update: When this thing is cutting through hardwood, the noise reaches a whole new level; BRING YOUR EARPLUGS!
Other observations: the dual LED lights were a HUGE help. The room I was working in was not very well lit, and the lights did a great job of not only illuminating the area I was working on, but helping me find the next marked-off area to rout. The transparent bases are a great idea, too; they make it a lot easier to see what you’re about to rout. And if you’re making a deep cut, there are stops built into the base in ¼” increments, to speed up the process.
There is a wide assortment of accessories available for the DWP611PK compact router. As you would expect, it’s able to handle pretty much any ¼” shank bit, and there are different base plates available for it, dust collection adapters, circle-cutting jigs, and other implements of destruction to help you get maximum usage from your little yellow friend. One accessory I bought was the DEWALT DNP618 Edge Guide. It was only $10 from Amazon, and it should help my future edge routing look a tad better than the freehand gouges I took out of the flooring. Hey, that sucker spins fast! Although it is sold as an accessory for the fixed base, it attaches to the plunge base as well. It’s solid, all metal, and fits the router bases perfectly and securely.
Should You Take The Plunge?
I do own a couple of full-size routers, and I actually use them from time to time. I made the trim for our 125-year-old home’s addition to match the existing trim using a router for the edges, and the table saw with a cutter-head blade to cut fluting on the face. It came out looking fine, but it’s a far cry from the precision joinery put out by a master craftsman. And in between those projects, I don’t feel any compulsion to find something to do with them. With the Dewalt DWP611PK, though, I find myself wondering “hmmm…what ELSE could I do with it?” There’s a definite fun factor there.
So does the Dewalt DWP611PK deserve a spot in YOUR tool crib? If you work in a production shop, cutting profiles on hardwood baseboard all day, this is not the router you’ll be using. However, if you’re a sign maker, someone who trims laminate on a lot of countertops, does trim work on furniture, or loves doing woodworking projects around the shop or home, this could very easily become your go-to router. It’s solidly made, simple to set up and use, and its 1 ¼-HP, 7-amp motor has plenty of power to tackle a wide range of tasks. There are over 100 reviews on Amazon and Rockler’s websites, and they are overwhelmingly favorable. After using it, I agree – the Dewalt DWP611PK has the look and feel of a tool that will be around cranking out custom trim and signs for a long time beyond its three-year warranty.
Where to Buy the Dewalt Compact Router
Get your DEWALT DWP611PK Variable Speed Compact Router Combo Kit from Amazon for just under for $170:
Got a favorite project you’ve made with a plunge router? Tell us about it!