Router Selection – How Much HP is Enough?

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Whether you are applying a simple 1/2" round-over to a tabletop or making cathedral style raised-panel doors, having the right router for the right job is a must. With so many routers available, sometimes it’s difficult to select the one that’s right for you. By reviewing Horsepower classifications, our hope is to provide the information needed to make your decision a little easier. We believe the selection process should be application based, so the first thing you’ll have to ask yourself is: what do I want to do with my router?

Router Horsepower Classifications:  

As with most tools, routers are available in several motor size configurations. All have certain advantages and limitations. 

Palm Routers 

Typically 1 HP or less, these routers offer a compact size with impressive performance.  Palm routers are ideal for trimming, hinge mortising, edge forming, slot cutting, small-scale dovetailing, window cutouts and decorative inlays. Utilizes 1/4" shank bits. Due to the limitation of using only 1/4" shank router bits, these routers are not suitable for larger routing operations.


Mid-Size Routers 

Ranging from 1-3/4 HP to 2-1/4 HP, these routers are the most popular size in the lineup due to their versatility and ease of operation. Mid-sized routers can handle a wide variety of operations, which include everything Palm Routers can do plus large-scale dovetailing, panel cutting, template design work and circle cutting. These routers will accept 1/4" shank, as well as 1/2" shank bits, and are often available with multiple bases (see Combination Kits below). It should be noted that the majority of aftermarket router accessories are geared to this class of router.    

Full Size Routers 

These routers are the workhorses of the router family. Typically rated at 3 HP to 3-1/4 HP, these routers are designed for production use.  These routers are often used dedicated to a router table or CNC operations. Due to the massive size of these routers, they can be somewhat cumbersome to use in everyday handheld operations. 


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