This post is sponsored by The Home Depot. If you’ve been following Home Fixated for any time now, you’ve seen us cover various offerings from Makita’s 18V LXT Lithium-Ion line-up, which has grown to epic proportions (over 125 tools!); there’s little they’ve yet to adorn with their trademarked teal. Home Depot sent us the new Makita XTR01Z 18V, brushless, compact router to evaluate. I’m ready to pick this thing apart and let you know what I think. Makita has been doing pretty well so far, so let’s see what the surprisingly powerful XTR01Z compact router is all about!
Makita XTR01Z – A Bare Tool With Some Accessories
Cordless tools are nothing new. But boy is it nice not being tethered to an AC outlet. Power cords get caught on things, causing loss of tool control. They’re bumbling menaces that constantly threaten to cross paths with the sharp parts. It’s something I’m always hyper-conscious of; and it’s annoying. There are enough hazards when using power tools; an energized death leash shouldn’t be one of them.
The Makita XTR01Z compact router is sold as a “bare tool”; you supply your own battery and charger. Years ago, I kind of felt slighted by the new bare tools model some brands were adopting. But after amassing 4 of the same charger and battery for tools I use one at a time – and only on occasion – I began to see that I was paying for expensive extras I didn’t need.
With the bare tools model, your money goes towards better tools rather than extra chargers and batteries you may never use. Yes, an extra battery or two is nice. But with 125+ tools in the line-up, it’s easy to see how things can get out of hand rather quickly. How many of the same battery and charger do you really need?
What the Makita XTR01Z package does include, however, is an aluminum-housed brushless router motor, a fixed base (adjustable depth), an edge/circle cutting guide, a pair of collet wrenches, a dust collection shroud, 2 collets (1/4” and 3/8”) and a template routing bushing. According to the instructions – and what I’ve found online – the template bushing and 3/8” collet are optional accessories. But mine were included, so it appears they’ve decided to make them part of the package after all.
Makita 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Line-Up – One Battery, 125+ Tools
OK, there actually is more than one battery in the 18V LXT Lithium-Ion series: 2.0Ah, 3.0Ah, 4.0Ah, 5.0Ah… But all Makita 18V Li-ion packs with the yellow slide-on connector and/or Makita’s “Star” logo will work with any tool in the series.
Makita BL Brushless Motor – An Electronically Controlled Powerhouse
Makita’s LXT electronically-controlled, “BL” brushless motor actively maintains optimal balance between run time and performance. When first powered on, the soft start feature ramps up speed and torque, rather than kicking into full gear in one sudden burst. The result is a safer startup that won’t twist out of your hand, even when set to maximum speed (30,000 RPM).
Press the lock/unlock button to activate the LEDs and put the XTR01Z compact router into standby mode. If the power button is pressed within 10 seconds, the unit powers on. If not, it will revert to full off (locked mode). While the motor is running, either button will toggle it back into standby; again, on a 10-second timer. Or you can manually switch it fully off with another press of the lock button.
The Better To Light My Way – Makita XTR01Z
The two white LEDs glow whenever the tool is unlocked (standby mode). For the record, the light is actually a lot whiter to the naked eye than it appears in the photos.
I’ve snidely remarked in the past that manufacturers gratuitously hitch the white LED bandwagon to virtually every tool they make these days, even when their presence is useless. In this case, however, the router base (and your hands) blocks most of the ambient light, so it was immediately obvious to me that the XTR01Z’s built-in illumination is a huge bonus. Or, I should say, a must-have feature.
Bit Installation – Makita XTR01Z
The product information I’ve gleaned online seems to suggest the router comes only with a 1/4” collet. But mine included the 3/8” collet as well.
You can use the shaft lock and one wrench to cinch the bit in place. But – unless you’ve got a Herculean grip – you will need both wrenches to fully secure the bit. You can probably guess how I discovered this.
Straight Guide – Get Your Groove On
The Makita XTR01Z comes with a straight guide for use when routing grooves parallel to an edge. It takes a little getting used to, especially when starting at the end of a board. The guide is adjustable up to about 3-3/8”, depending on bit size.
For larger offsets, a straight board can be clamped to the workpiece and act as a guide.
But What About Performance?
There’s more to talk about, but you’re probably anxious to hear how the Makita XTR01Z performs. In two words: amazingly well! At first glance, you may be tempted to call the XTR01Z a “trim router”. Yes, it’s compact. And yes, it will trim laminates with absolutely no problem at all; what router can’t?
One would never describe a high end sports car as “a vehicle that rolls faster than I can walk”. Nor should one describe the XTR01Z compact router as a “trim router”. Counter-top laminate trimming is what the XTR01Z does while it’s asleep. Trims routers aren’t known for their torque, but this handheld delight has torque to spare.
Makita XTR01Z Put To The Test
Rather than waste time with the easy stuff, I went right for the jugular. I want to know if the XTR01Z can handle “real” routing tasks. So I installed a 3/4” straight bit, set the base to a depth of 5/16” and cranked it up to maximum speed.
NOTE: Makita recommends cutting no deeper than 1/8” per pass when routing grooves. For one, it may present a safety hazard if the bit were to grab. Secondly, the energy required for deeper cuts – especially wide ones – drains the battery a lot faster. Plus, abusing the tool may cause it and/or the battery to overheat, triggering protection mode until things cool down (and possibly causing damage). And of course, abuse is not covered under warranty.
I exceeded the recommended cut depth by an extra 1-1/2 times to see how easily the XTR01Z would bog down. I routed a 3/4” wide, 5/16” deep groove – approx. 3-1/2 feet long – down the middle of a 2×4, in one single pass. At first, I was cautious with the feed rate. The motor didn’t seem to mind at all.
I increased my feed rate until – for the final 18” – I was moving the router as quickly as I normally move a mid-sized corded router. The motor slowed down a tiny bit, but the LXI brushless motor drive adjusted in real time to provide the torque needed to get the job done. And the motor and battery barely even got warm during this test. Granted, this was a short run; but it forced the Makita XTR01Z to put up or shut up. Well, she passed with flying colors!
Most of the compact – and a few mid-sized – routers I’ve used would have seriously bogged down or completely stalled under this kind of load. So I was rather impressed that the Makita was able to hog through with very little hesitation. Can the XTR01Z do “real” routing? You bet it can!
It’s All About That Base, ‘Bout That Base, No Trouble – Well, A Little Bit
For the most part, the base is OK: it’s nice and solid and the lever lock holds it firmly in place. But there is an issue in that the little pinion gear floats loosely, back and forth on its shaft. So it doesn’t always line up when you go to insert the motor body. Once the base is on the motor, however, it’s perfectly fine.
I found that if I stand the base on my workbench and insert the motor into it, the gear almost always centers itself just fine. It’s usually only when the base is being held at an angle in one hand – and the motor in the other – that the pinion gear doesn’t align with the corresponding teeth on the motor housing. A few times it took 4-5 tries to get it in place.
The linear gear teeth on the motor housing should have been a little wider. Or, as a retro-fix, a wave spring could have been installed on each side of the pinion gear to keep it centered. It isn’t the end of the world, but it is a design flaw that should not have been overlooked. I noticed it the very first time I tried to attach the base, when it took me several attempts.
Some Optional Accessories For The Makita XTR01Z – Sold Separately
The XTR01Z package comes with some of the basics, but there are several extra accessories that can give the router enhanced versatility. If you already own any of these accessories for the corded version of this tool, they are fully compatible with this cordless version as well. So the transition won’t be nearly as painful at the checkout counter.
Optional accessories include:
* Trimmer guide assembly – Allows for consistent trimming and edge routing with non-bearing-guided bits. Also helps increase stability to prevent tipping when edge routing.
* Plunge base – Safely plunge and retract the bit anywhere on your workpiece.
* Tilt base – Rout at an angle for different profiles from the same bit.
* Offset base – Rout as close as 3/4″ to tight, hard-to-reach corners.
Dust In The Wind – Makita XTR01Z Dust Nozzle
The dust nozzle is made of tough polycarbonate plastic and is sized to fit a 1-1/2” shop vac hose. I used a smaller hose that fits inside – rather than outside – because that’s what I had on hand. Providing you have a decent shop vac or dust collector that moves a lot of air (and the proper size hose fitting), the dust shroud works about as well as could be expected. That is, pretty good when routing grooves and other “inside” cuts, and not quite as well when edge routing. Then again, router dust collection always is a challenge.
Template Routing Bushing
The Makita XTR01Z compact router comes with a stamped steel template guide bushing. It works, but has a tiny bit of lateral play when mounted into the base. Luckily, the base also accepts industry standard “Porter Cable-style” 2-piece guide bushings, which seat rock solidly.
Circle Cutting With The Makita XTR01Z
I want to make a quick observation about the included straight edge guide. The instructions say that it can be used as a circle cutting jig; and it can. But it also says to use a nail as a pivot. In my opinion, however, the hole is way too large for that. I used a wood screw (the kind with an unthreaded section below the head), which works the same as a nail: poorly. It would have been nice if the pivot hole was appropriately sized. I found I could get much better results with a 1/4” dowel instead.
The problem with the hole being so large (a gaping 1/4”) is that you’re forced to maintain a constant outward pressure; and that’s not always easy to do when following an arc or dealing with wood grain. Otherwise, you won’t get a very round circle. If you happen to be working with plywood or solid wood having prominent grain, there’s a good chance things are going to move around in the sloppy pivot hole and make you sad. Or outright mad.
Personally, I’d either use a 1/4” pivot (such as a dowel) or – for a better solution – drill a smaller hole in the circle guide the actual diameter of an actual nail. Though adding an extra hole may or may not compromise your warranty; so what’cha gonna do?
Makita XTR01Z – Final Analysis
Setting aside the minor beefs and looking at the XTR01Z compact router for what it is, I am genuinely impressed with its performance. Its ability to maintain torque where many similarly-sized routers would choke and wheeze really did surprise me. It felt like I was using a mid-sized router, but without the bulk or power cord. It’s exactly what I want from a tool like this.
When you need a compact router that’s going to perform on the go and not tell you no, the Makita XTR01Z is a solid choice that won’t let you down. And with the optional accessories, there is a tremendous variety of woodworking tasks this tool can handle. Finally, the icing on the cake: Makita backs the XTR01Z with a 3 year limited warranty.
The Makita XTR01Z 18V LXT compact router package can be purchased for $129.00 from our sponsor, Home Depot.
I acknowledge that The Home Depot is partnering with Home Fixated in sponsored content. As a part of the sponsorship, Home Fixated is receiving compensation for the purpose of promoting The Home Depot. All expressed opinions and experiences are our own words. This post complies with the Word Of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) Ethics Code and applicable Federal Trade Commission guidelines.
* Featured image photo credit: MakitaTools.com