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The Milwaukee kit includes 1/4" & 1/2" collets, collet wrenches and a very nice case.
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Milwaukee #5615-21 1 3/4 Hp, BodyGrip Router Kit

Contractor-tough, home shop affordable

Text & Photos by Tom Hintz

   Milwaukee Electric power tools have always had "Heavy Duty" associated with their name with good reason. They are designed and built to be used in the real world - and to be used often. This combination of accuracy and durability has made Milwaukee Electric power tools favorites of contractors for decades. In the woodworking shop, power tools may not be direct income producers but their performance and durability remain important to the budget.

The case has a removeable base for "parking" the router between cuts.
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Initial Impressions

   The Milwaukee #5615-21 looks very well made with exceptional machining and parts fit. The overall design appears to be typical Milwaukee Electric, heavy on accuracy, function and durability with little attention given to flash or fancy. The five-year warranty covering this and many Milwaukee tools suggests the insides are done as well as the outside.

Power

The motor is strong, smooth running and makes a good dedicated hand-held operations router.
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   The #5615-21 develops 1 ¾ Hp (11 Amp draw) and 24,000 RPM. A finely machined case and heavy-duty ball bearings insure smooth, quiet operation with a very long expected lifetime. The #5615-21 does not have soft-start technology built in but with 1 ¾ Hp and being held as any router should be during startup, this is not a problem.
Note: The Milwaukee #5616-21 is equipped with a variable speed control (10,000 - 24,000 RPM) and soft start.

Collets and Bit Changing

Self-extracting collets and forged wrenches make bit changing easy.
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   The #5615-21 comes with ¼" and ½"-capacity collets. Both collets are self-extracting to prevent stuck bits. A pair of heavy duty, forged collet wrenches are also included and make bit changing easy on the hands.
   To make full use of this design, insert the bit into the collet fully and then lift it about 1/16" before tightening the collet nut securely. To release the bit, break the collet nut free, turn it out until it gets "hard" again and use the wrenches to continue turning it off until it frees up again. At that point, the bit pops free and can be removed by hand.

BodyGrip and Handles

   Most visually dominant is the BodyGrip feature of the #5615-21. This unique system includes a rubber handgrip that wraps around the motor housing and an adjustable Velcro

The multi-position knob-style handle (left) combined with the BodyGrip (right) make this a very comfortable, easy to control router.
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strap that further secures the operators grip. The strap has two upper mounting points to make it more comfortable and effective for right or left hand use.
   A traditional knob-style handle positioned on either side of the base can also be used with or independent of the BodyGrip. The handles are ergonomically shaped and formed from a rubberized material for a comfortable, non-slip grip.
   The handle opposite of the BodyGrip can be installed in any of three positions by removing its mounting bolt (4mm Allen wrench) and reinstalling it in the desired hole. Being able to position this handle is an important feature as it allows configuring the #5615-21 to be most comfortable for the operator. That level of comfort in operating a tool frequently makes it easier and more accurate to use.
   The stationary handle directly below the strap has only the one mounting position. While this handle could be removed, it does not interfere with using the BodyGrip and strap.

Depth Adjustments

The dial bit depth adjuster (left) can be released by pushing a button to remove the motor from the base very easily. A hole in the baseplate (right) provides access to a 3/8" hex adjuster for making bit height changes with the router in a table mount.
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  The #5615-21 has a dial-controlled fine height adjustment feature that can also be accessed from the bottom, through the base in table-mounted situations.
   A dial on the top of the adjustment shaft has a repositionable scale with graduations every 1/64". A full revolution of the dial produces a 0.2" change in bit height.
   The "bottom" end of adjustment shaft has a 3/8" hex cut into it. A corresponding hole in the base plate allows inserting a 3/8"-socket into the base to make height adjustments when the router is upside down, as in table mounted applications.
   The locking handle that secures the motor in the base housing must be opened to use the dial or socket end of the height adjuster. Flipping the locking handle to the closed position secures the current bit height.

In the Shop

The BodyGrip and a very smooth-running motor make this an easy router to control.
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   Lacking a variable speed control, the Milwaukee #5615-21 is limited to using bits approximately 1 ¼" in diameter or smaller. (Follow the bit manufacturers RPM suggestions!) In today's multi-router woodworking shops, this is not such a bad thing. The design of the #5615-21 is great for hand-held routing operations like edging and joinery. Having a dedicated router for those tasks can reduce the need to remove one from the router table.
   The Milwaukee #5615-21 is very smooth operating and never seemed to lack for power even during intentionally heavier cuts than I normally make. With a reasonably sharp bit the #5615-21 powers through soft and hard wood without a whimper.
   The BodyGrip originally concerned me because I thought perhaps it was more of a sales gimmick than functional. After using the #5615-21 the first time, I understood the benefits of this unique router-holding design.

Large openings in the base and baseplate give exceptional views of what the bit is doing.
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   With one hand grasping the body of the router and the other guiding the knob-style handle, controlling the #5615-21 is remarkably easy. The feeling of control is remarkable but it goes beyond that. You really do have more control. Placing the bit as well as starting and stopping a cut where you want is surprisingly easy.
   Even though I had never used a BodyGrip router before, it took just a few minutes to become comfortable with it. Wrapping the hand around the router is more natural way of controlling these machines than I thought.

Conclusions

   The overall quality of design, materials and construction are high, but typical of Milwaukee tools. The contracting trades have long been a major market for Milwaukee and building a solid, long-living tool is the only way to keep their interest. For the home woodworker, the function and durability of the Milwaukee #5615-21 router makes the street price of $129.00 (6-5-2005) a long-term investment that is even kinder to the always-sensitive budget.
   For those who need the variable speed feature, Milwaukee offers the 2 1/4Hp #5616-21 kit that carries a street price of $189.95 (6-5-2005). That kit has all the same Milwaukee qualities built in.

Visit the Milwaukee web site - www.milwaukeetools.com

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