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This is a good, basic, frill-free router with a matching price tag.
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Craftsman 2 1/4HP, Variable Speed, Fixed Base Router

All the Useable Bells & Whistles

Text & Photos by Tom Hintz

Posted - 4-7-2008

The Craftsman Fixed Base Router (#320.28190) may not be a stand-out for any one feature but it does have more than ample power and all of the useable features woodworkers need in moderate to over-active home woodworking shops. The kit comes with 1/4" and 1/2" self-extracting collets, collet wrenches, edge guide, dust shields, a 1 1/4" dust hose adapter and manual. A blow-molded plastic carry case is included that has storage for all of the included components in addition to the Craftsman Fixed Base Router itself.

Motor and Controls

The motor and controls are easy to understand, use and work as expected.
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At the heart of the Craftsman Fixed Base Router is a 2 1/4 HP (peak), 12.5Amp motor equipped with permanently sealed and lubricated ball bearings throughout. The motor case is smooth aluminum and 3 1/2"-diameter. That makes it compatible with a large number of lift plates and other accessories on the market.

User-replaceable brushes reside under caps accessible from the outside. The power cord to the motor is detachable and a "pilot" light on the motor next to the plug indicates it is connected to electrical power.

A simple toggle switch turns the Craftsman Fixed Base Router on and off. A dial at the top of the motor housing controls spindle rpm. The speed dial has simple 1 - 6 numerical markings provide basic indicators of the present portion of the 12000 to 25000 (no load) speed range. A sticker on the side of the motor suggests basic speed settings rated by bit diameters.

Craftsman includes 1/4" and 1/2" collets and necessary wrenches.
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The motor has internal circuitry that monitors load to maintain constant spindle rpm. In use, this feature seems to work well though the changing rpm on startup can be a little unsettling for users that are new to these kinds of "on-their-own" controls. The motor also has the now standard soft-start circuitry that eliminates the "torque kick" when the motor starts. The amount of lag between flipping the switch and the Craftsman Fixed Base Router reaching the set rpm is minimal.

Spindle & Collets

The Craftsman Fixed Base Router comes with 1/4" and 1/2" self-extracting collets. They actually do pop bits free as advertised and should eliminate stuck bits, one of the more frustrating aspects of bit changing. A wrench is included that fits both collets.

A push-button spindle lock makes bit changing a one-wrench task. The button engages detents in the spindle itself and provides a solid lock.

These LED lights would border on frivolous except that they actually work and are useful.
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Work Lights

Three LED work lights are built into the lower end of the motor case. These lights are arranged so that they illuminate virtually everything under the base and actually do help vision. The lights are controlled by the motor switch, coming on only when the router is in use. When shutting the switch off, the work lights fade to black, suggesting they are actually powered by a mechanism within the motor.

Fixed Base

The magnesium fixed base is relatively straight forward in design and function. A pair of fixed, ergonomically designed, rubber covered handles make control solid and predictable. The removable, clear, 6"-diameter sub base plate provides good visibility. A 1 1/4"-diameter opening provides clearance for virtually all bits designed for use in a hand-held router.

Clear plastic windows at the front and rear of the Craftsman Fixed Base Router base add to the visibility while helping to contain dust and debris. A screw-lock plastic adapter provides a connection for 1 1/4" shop vac style hose.

Depth Control

The magnesium fixed base (left) is pretty standard in configuration. the depth adjustments (right) are easy to use and accurate.
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The Craftsman Fixed Base Router uses a simple thread style bit height system. A flip lever locks and unlocks the motor in the base to enable using the height adjuster. A push button on the threaded height system allows making large height changes or removing/installing the motor. The base has a through hole that allows using a separate wrench for adjusting bit depth from above a tab le when the base is so installed.

A knob at the top of this threaded system has a graduated dial at its base for making fine bit depth changes with accuracy. The 1/64" graduated dial can be repositioned to zero after the initial cut so changes from that point on are dead on accurate. Each full turn of the knob produces 1/8" of bit height change.

In the Shop

Using this router is easy (left) with no surprises. Use good bits and common sense and all will be fine. the through-the-base depth adjustment (right) is standard fare for non lift plate applications. It is a compromise (as they all are) but it does work, after you reach under the table to release the motor clamp, as all similar bases require.
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The Craftsman Fixed Base Router is your basic but solid woodworking router. The 2 1/4Hp (peak) motor has plenty of guts for all normal woodworking chores, especially if approached with a little cut-depth common sense and good quality bits. The built-in motor controls and circuitry all work normally and present no big surprises.

Depth adjustments are easy to make and predictable. The repositionable graduated dial works as advertised and makes specific cut depth changes easy to make. The above-table-adjusting feature is no more or no less clunky than any other similar system. As with most others, you have to each under the table to release the clamp. It works but like all similar systems, is a compromise to a full-on lift plate.

The overall weight and feel of the Craftsman Fixed Base Router is good, as is visibility. Compared to most of the leading routers, the Craftsman Fixed Base Router has no major deficiencies in operation. The handles are comfortable and placed well for common routing operations. Control of the Craftsman Fixed Base Router is solid with no sensation of being top heavy.

Conclusions

The Craftsman Fixed Base Router is a good all around router for the $129.99 (4-6-2008) price tag. It appears well made and should last the average user a long time with minimal upkeep along the way. Being available at Sears stores can be a plus for some woodworkers.

See the Craftsman Fixed Base Router on the Sears web site - Click Here

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