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The Hitachi M12V router kit includes an adjustable fence, 1/2" bit, guide collar and an adapter for Porter Cable-style guide bushings.
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Hitachi M12V, 3 ¼ Hp, Plunge Router

Competitive features - competitive price

Text & Photos by Tom Hintz

Posted - 5-22-2005

   Hitachi's M12V plunge router is popular with budget-minded woodworkers because it combines a good price with the power and features they need in their shops. The power and electronic speed control make the Hitachi M12V useful for both hand-held and table-mounted applications.

Motor

   Sporting a 3 ¼ Hp, 15 AMP motor, the Hitachi M12V is can handle virtually any routing job or bit design. The motor features an infinitely adjustable electronic speed control dial and soft start to make it manageable for hand use. The 8,000 to 20,000 rpm range (no load) dial is divided by 1 through 5 numerals (no detents) on the dial.

   The On/Off switch is located off the right-side handle and can be easily operated while gripping the handle. This is a good idea, especially with such a powerful router.

Plunge Base

The base has a flat section for following a fence. The flat is on the front of the base rather than the back as with many routers.
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   A nice feature on the Hitachi M12V plunge base is a flat side that makes following a fence or guide board easy. Somewhat unusual is having the flat side facing the operator but this could be a plus, especially for newer woodworkers. The flat side can be a liability if the operator does not keep it flush against the fence. Having a clear view of this base feature makes it easier to keep it aligned against a fence.

   The base plate has a large opening that provides good vision and accepts up to approximately 1 ¾"-diameter bits inside a pair of mounting tabs. The tabs provide mounting for the included guide collar sized to mate with the included ½"-diameter straight bit. Also included is an adaptor plate machined to fit the popular Porter Cable, screw in guide bushings.

Even the plunge scale itself is adjustable!
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   The plunge base has an overall depth range of 2 7/16". For table-mounted applications, our kit came with an extended fine adjuster knob that makes bit height changes easy when reaching under the table.

Depth Scales

   The Hitachi M12V has the traditional adjustable stop rod that mates with a three position turret on the base flange. Two positions on the turret are adjustable. A dial on the side of the router housing operates the stop rod, which is locked with a wing screw.

   To make depth cutting more accurate, the scale next to the depth rod indicator can also be adjusted by loosening its wing screw and pulling the knob out before turning. That engages the scale rather than the depth rod.

Handles and Controls

The controls are easy to use and the handles repositionable through three detents.
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   The Hitachi M12V uses a familiar finger-operated lever to lock and unlock the plunge function. The plunge motion itself is surprisingly smooth for a big-power router in this price range.

   Not so familiar is being able to adjust the angle of the hand grips. Both grips can be adjusted to one of three positions from vertical to laid back by simply loosening the mounting screw, turning them to the index wanted and tightening the screws.
   The handles are large, nicely shaped and give a good feel of control without being tiring.

Changing Bits

The shaft lock is handy, especially in table-mounted applications.
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   The Hitachi M12V has a nicely designed exterior spindle lock that makes changing bits a truly one-wrench task. A heavy, spring loaded sliding plate is moved into position, its sides fitting into flats on the spindle shaft. The included wrench is then used to loosen or tighten the collet for bit changes. This feature is always handy but especially nice in router table applications that do not allow bringing the spindle above the surface.

   The Hitachi M12V has a ½"-diameter collet but a reducer sleeve is included for using ¼"-shanked bits.

Guide Fence

The guide fence is solid and easy to use.
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   Also included is a fully adjustable guide fence that mounts into holes in the base and is secured with wing screws. The mounting rods themselves are used to make coarse adjustments while a fine adjuster screw on the fence itself permits fine changes with accuracy.

   The all steel fence has a 9"-long by 1"-tall face for stability, plus has holes for screws should you need to attach an auxiliary face.

In the Shop

In testing, the M12V did well.
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   Throughout our testing the Hitachi M12V performed well. It handled all edging and grooving tasks with no sign of bit RPM variations or a lack of power. The plunge lock and sliding motion are reasonably smooth and easy to control. The lock is positive though there is no detectable detent or stop. As with most plunge routers, the up and down sliding motion grew easier with a little use.

   The speed control dial is marked with 1 through 5 numerals so you have to guess at the selected RPM. For veteran router users this is not a big deal but for those with less experience, specific RPM designations would be of help.

Note: This dial labeling is not a Hitachi-only problem by any means but one that can be found on many routers from lots of manufacturers.

   In operation, the motor is a bit loud but not any more than other routers in this price range. It is smooth running and the power developed feels consistent when cutting wood.

Conclusions

   The Hitachi M12V is a popular router kit for good reason. It is a solid router with all the features necessary for general shop use. It also has the power to serve as a table-only machine in the home woodworking shop.

   With a street price of $159.99, (5-22-2005) the Hitachi M12V brings the power and flexibility of modern routers within reach of even modest shop budgets.

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