Easy handling and control, along with superior dust collection, make this router a true standout in a crowded field.
The Festool OF 1400 EQ router arrived for review packed in the company’s signature “Systainer,” a hard-plastic container that interlocks with containers for other Festool equipment. This ingenious case is the ultimate in creativity for package engineers – the router plus a number of accessories store easily within, but it’s a good idea to memorize how everything fits inside.
The 12-amp machine’s features and accessories are quite intuitive, and the first obvious physical difference is that the handles are not symmetrical. One is a knob which turns to lock/unlock the plunge mechanism. The other is a lever-type handle with a trigger switch under your index finger, a locking button under your thumb and the variable speed dial within reach of your thumb. These hand-friendly handles seemingly negate the 10-lb. weight of this machine, even for smaller hands. The variable speed control – continuous, by the way, not stepped – goes from 10,000-22,500 rpm.
Unlike most other power tools, the electrical cord isn’t permanently wired to the machine, and attaches instead to the end of the lever handle with a twist-lock plug. If you choose to store the router on a shelf rather than inside the Systainer, you will like this. What’s more, if you ever need to replace a damaged cord, it can be accomplished without rewiring a new cord into the motor; just toss away the old one, and plug in the new one.
Routers that stand on their heads make attaching jig bases much easier, and this one was reasonably stable upside-down on the bench. Once on its head, I removed the very short 4mm screws and sub-base. Some things popped up here that can make attaching shop-made jigs a bit problematic. The screws required a small Torx driver for positive hold. The tempting straight slot was too small for a regular straight screwdriver and the fit was too loose for the small screwdriver. In any event, the screws are too short to attach anything but the thin sub-base. The screw holes are blind, so it is easy to have screws that prove to be too long. The 4mm x 19mm screws I had on-hand were too long by almost half. My first thought would be to replace the screws with Phillips flathead 12-14mm screws.
Removing the sub-base with the thought of attaching a shop-made router jig revealed a ring around the center hole standing proud of the surface, so the sub-base will have to be used as a spacer with an attached jig. The thin sub-base did serve well as a screw-hole marking template using a 1/4" transfer punch to mark hole locations on accessory jig bases.
Good-bye Mr. Chips
Dust collection is where this router really shines. Like most experienced woodworkers, I’ve given up on efficient dust collection from a router. Clever German engineering proved up to the task. There is a snap-in top collector with a pick-up tube with a hole just large enough to accommodate the collet nut. The diameter of the pick-up tube did require an adapter to fit my small Ridgid shop vacuum. Fortunately, I had one from my DeWalt biscuit joiner that fit perfectly.
For edge work there is a bottom-swiveling half-cup-shaped shroud that snaps into the base. This worked wonderfully with the top collector to very efficiently collect chips and dust. For captured cuts such as mortising or dadoing, the top collector worked well by itself. The edge guide has its own collector.
The European heritage of this machine revealed its metric self in two important areas. The router comes with two collets. The larger collet is a standard 1/2", but the smaller one was 8mm, rather than 1/4". (A true 1/4" collet is available ordered separately.) A 1/4"-shank bit will not hold securely in an 8mm collet.
The second item was the included 30mm template guide called a copying ring. An adapter plate that will accommodate the industry-standard, two-piece threaded guide-bushing assemblies is available. The metric guides will not work with an American dovetail template, as an example. The guides snap into the base securely with no play, however – a nice feature.
The posts are not equally opposed from one another. I thought it would hamper the smoothness of the plunge action. Not so. This is one of the smoothest plunge actions I have ever experienced. Further, a single knob will lock the router on both posts simultaneously.
Depth adjustment can be done in two stages. The quick adjustment dial travels the router’s full range of 23/4". Once close to the desired depth, the fine adjustment dial will give you another 5/16" of play for whenever an exact depth is critical.
Lock and load
The highly polished collets are long and captured within the nut. The minimum effective shank-holding length is nearly 11/4". The socket is much deeper, providing the ability to swallow extra shank length for extra long bits, a good feature for mortising operations.
There is a two-way spindle lock. Press the rocker device on the left to lock the spindle when tightening the bit. Pressing on the right side aids loosening the bit. The spindle itself has a racheting action that helps make bit changing a bit speedier.
The Festool OF 1400 EQ router comes packed in a Systainer with a dust extraction hood, chip catcher, forged 22mm collet wrench, 1/2" and 8mm collets, bushing ring adapter and detachable power cord. The machine retails for around $385.
Smooth operation, powerful, great dust collection, ergonomically friendly for small hands and large. One last nice detail is that the router’s label features not just the model number, but also the 800 service number! Incredible thoughtfulness.
This machine is a keeper.
— Carol Reed lives in Pine, Ariz.