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If quality and value are important, this is a router kit to check out.
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Bosch 1617EVSPK Router Package

Power, Versatility and Value

Text & Photos by Tom Hintz

One of the better woodworking marketing concepts in recent years is packaging a single router motor with both fixed and plunge bases. The combination of cost savings and versatility instantly made this concept very popular with woodworkers who run their shops on a budget.

   The Bosch 1617EVSPK kit is a perfect example of market research gone right. It's 2.25 HP and array of user-friendly features make this an extremely versatile package that has become a favorite of value-wise woodworkers.

Initial Impressions

   Considering it's 2.25 HP and 8,000 to 25,000 RPM range, the Bosch 1617EVS appears smaller than anticipated. The overall fit and finish indicate quality machining and design throughout.

Even the wrenches in this kit are high-quality forgings rather than stamped.
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   While many routers come with stamped collet wrenches, Bosch includes forged tools that are far more comfortable to use, stronger than you should ever need and far more expensive to produce. This small but revealing component of the Bosch 1617EVS kit shows a commitment to quality.

   Another bonus is the first-class case the Bosch 1617EVS comes in. In addition to the spaces for the router motor and bases, molded-in positions for many of the more common accessories, including guide templets, let you keep the pieces associated with this router secure and in one place. This is a significant feature in today's cramped shops.

Instructions

   The instruction manual for the Bosch 1617EVS kit is better than most. It includes instructions in English, French and Spanish and the mandatory safety and legal pages. Beyond the legalese, you find clear descriptions of the features and how to use them, supported by well-done illustrations.

   The manual also provides basic information regarding direction of feed, using fences, installation in a router table and more. Some of the accessories available for the Bosch 1617EVS are also discussed, giving the new owner a good idea of the value for these add-ons and how to install them correctly.

Motor Unit

The switches are placed and work well. They can be moved from side-to-side also.
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   For 2.25 HP, the Bosch 1617EVS motor is deceptively compact. The major portion of the motor case is a magnesium casting and typical high-quality Bosch molded plastic components.

   The on-off rocker switch has a positive feel, with the ON position guarded. The switch is located on the side of the motor housing in easy reach from the handles of both the fixed and plunge bases. The motor case features two sets of indexing grooves that allow positioning the switch (and cord) at either handle. This may sound like a minor convenience, but in practice can be a big help when moving the switch or cord location makes using the router easier or safer.

   The speed control dial is located near the top of the motor housing and features six marked positions but is infinitely adjustable. The positions, marked 1 through 6, represent a total RPM range of 8,000 to 25,000 (see the speed chart).

Speed Chart

Dial
Setting

RPM

1

8,000

2

13,500

3

16,500

4

20,000

5

21,500

6

25,000

   An exclusive motor feature is the Bosch Constant ResponseTM Circuitry. This allows the motor to monitor itself and when RPM begins to drop under the load of cutting, more power is automatically applied to maintain the selected RPM.

   The Bosch 1617EVS comes with nicely machined ¼" and ½" collets. The motor shaft has flats ground into it for the included wrench, used when changing bits. The collets are "self-extracting" meaning that turning the locking nut less than 360-degrees after it initially loosens pops the bit free. If you have ever tried to free a stuck bit from a collet, you know how valuable this feature is.

Bases - Common Features

(TOP) Visibility is good with both bases thanks to a large window and a 2" opening in the baseplate.
(Bottom) Swapping the motor between bases is fast with this lever system.
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   The fixed and plunge bases feature magnesium castings that show top-notch machining on the all-important interior surfaces. Round bosses for an accessory edge guide are also cast into both bases.

   Both sub-bases have large 2"-diameter openings that allow using larger bits than with many other routers. When templet bushings are needed, a nicely designed adapter is installed into the opening with two screws. The Bosch adapter allows no-tools changing of the guide templets.

   The motor is retained in both base units by way of an easy-to-use lever-lock system that makes moving the motor from one base to the other fast and easy. The locking system is also part of the height adjustment feature on the fixed base. See more on this system below. The lever-lock even has a fine adjustment feature to alter the amount of clamping force if need be.

Fixed Base - #RA1172

   The first things that catch your eye on the fixed base are the handles. Large, round and made from wood, they are very comfortable and give firm feel of control. Large "windows" at the front and rear provide a good view of the bit area, enhanced by the 2" bit opening in the sub-base.

The handles on both bases are comfortable and easy to control.
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Plunge Base - #RA1166

   Nicely contoured rubber-covered handles are comfortable to hold, buffer vibration and make maneuvering the plunge base easy. The plunge lock lever is located by the left grip and is easily accessible with your fingers without having to lift your hand from the grip.

   The plunge action is smooth throughout its travel with just enough return spring tension to provide good feel without being tiring.
   Plunge depth is controlled with the familiar depth rod with locking knob and sliding indicator and turret. The rotating turret has six fixed positions, each producing a 1/8" change in depth.

The plunge depth adjustment is easy to use, and very fine.
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   Rather than using adjuster screws on some of the turret lands, Bosch added a fine-threaded adjuster at the bottom of the depth rod that allows ultra-fine depth changes. Moving this adjuster one of the engraved increments produces a total depth change of 1/128"!

   The plunge base has a flat area on its rear edge that makes following a guide fence very easy. It also means cutting grooves and slots has never been simpler. Holding the flat area against a guide fence helps prevent accidentally turning the router during the cut which can change the bit-to-fence distance if the base is even slightly out-of-round.

Note: Only the fixed base (#RA1160) is recommended for under-table mounting. Bosch cautions against using the supplied plunge base (#RA1166) in a router table as mounting it could damage the base. Bosch offers a special base unit (RA1165) designed to be left in the under-table installation so you can install the motor only for those applications.

Bit Height Adjustment

   The Bosch 1617EVS fixed base has a very nice no-tools mechanism that controls both coarse and fine adjustments. Height adjustments are locked with the same lever that secures the motor assembly.

This groove and detent array is repeated on the other side to allow moving the switch (and cord) from side to side.
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   Open the motor locking lever and then depress the height lever to select from three coarse height positions indexed ½" apart. This is a very nice feature that lets you set the rough height for different length bits quickly.

   A dial system controls fine height changes independently from the coarse adjustment. Each full revolution of the fine adjustment knob produces a 1/16" change in height with a total of 7/8" change available with that mechanism. That 7/8" adjustment range is available at all three of the coarse height index positions.

Using the Bosch 1617EVS

   In the shop, cutting wood is where the Bosch 1617EVS really shows its stuff. Whether spinning a ¼"-diameter grooving bit at 25,000 RPM or a large rabbeting bit at 8,000 RPM, the Bosch 1617EVS is very smooth, easy to control and obviously not lacking power. The Bosch 1617EVS motor is so smooth and quiet that when using a ¼"-diameter slotting bit I found myself checking the speed control dial to be sure it was at full RPM more than once.

A nifty no-tools templet adapter makes changing the guides out fast and simple when patterns are to be followed.
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   The 2.25 HP motor gives the Bosch 1617EVS a slightly heavy feel when lifting it but in operation, it feels deceptively light. Moving the router along an edge or following a pattern is effortless and accurate thanks to the overall engineering of the bases and controls.

   The first task for the Bosch 1617EVS (fixed base) was cutting a ½"-radius roundover on a piece of red oak. At all but ridiculously fast feed rates, the motor maintained its RPM very well. Only when I intentionally increased the feed rate far above reasonable levels did the motor begin to bog. Even under this very abnormal load, the Bosch Constant ResponseTM Circuitry kicked in and prevented substantial RPM loss.

   When making the first roundover cuts, I had the switch above the left handle as I am accustomed to, but the cord was catching on the clamps that secured the workpiece. I changed the switch position to above the right handle which also reverses the cord's location and the snagging problems went away.

Cutting slots is made easy by the flat rear side of the plunge base and the plunge adjustments.
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   Incidentally, changing the switch location had no effect on the bit height adjustment. I made sure I re-installed the motor in the same detent and intentionally resumed the cut, overlapping the last few inches of the first pass. There was no visible ridge where the first and second cuts met, indicating the bit height remained identical through the switch position change.

   I also tried using two bearing-guided bits around some of my stock patterns. The wooden handles and balance of the Bosch 1617EVS with the fixed base made it easy to handle and follow the patterns accurately.

   Switching to the plunge base, I tried making a T-slot for a sliding through-bolt using a clamp-on guide fence and simple pencil lines indicating the beginning and end of the slot.

   A ¼"-shank, ¼"-diameter straight bit was used to cut the through slot in three passes. After changing to a 5/8"-diameter flat bottom bit (1/2"-shank) I set the plunge depth for 1/4" and made a pass. That groove needed to be slightly deeper to recess the bolt head beneath the surface so I turned the fine adjuster nut up a few turns and made another pass. The change in depth was perfect, and took just seconds to do.

The trick depth adjusting rod tip makes those clumsy screws on the turret a thing of the past.
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   Since that first test session I have used the plunge base on several projects in varying situations and the Bosch 1617EVS performed flawlessly in all of them.

Templet Guides

   Using the included templet guide adapter and guide bushings is simple, especially with the tool-less bushing retainer system. Suffice it to say the system works great. For more about the templet guide system see the companion story.

Impressions

   The Bosch 1617EVS is a well-made workhorse that can handle all of your hand-held woodworking operations with ease. It has more than enough power to handle many table-mounted applications as well.   

The design of the grips on both bases make handling this router a pleasure and allows you to concentrate on making the cut, not fighting the router. Though it powers through the tough jobs with ease, the Bosch 1617EVS is more than capable of doing fine work as well.

   Many woodworkers have limited budgets that demand stretching their tool dollars wisely. If you need a router, or want to add another to your shop, the Bosch 1617EVS should be at the head of your candidate list. If quality, capability and price are decision-making factors, the Bosch 1617EVS will be at the head of a very short list.

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