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The Porter Cable 693PK router set was the best value for my tool dollar.
Click image to enlarge

Porter Cable Router Kit Model #693PK

The industry standard

Text & photos by Tom Hintz

   I had been using my old Craftsman 1 ¼ hp router for most hand-held jobs around the shop, but it was fading fast. I had been using this router for at least 9 years and it had seen miles of sign edging when I was in that business, before moving to the woodworking shop full time. Rather than rebuild it I wanted to move into more current technology.
   While researching routers in this power range, I kept going back to the Porter Cable 693 kit because of the versatility. The Porter Cable reputation for quality did not hurt either. After buying it, I was not disappointed. The initial "play with it" session in my shop served to reaffirm the decision to buy this outfit.
   The 1 ½ - hp rating seems to be a bit of an understatement according to how it feels in operation. I pushed a ¾-inch mortising bit, ¼-inch deep through several running inches of oak with no straining by the motor.
   Another important feature these days is the ability to use both ¼ and ½ -inch shanked bits. Woodworking today requires the most flexibility possible with all our tools. The ability to use the proper profile bit for the job without worrying if I have it in a specific shank size is a definite plus.
   The standard base, equipped with dual, low-mounted, ball-shaped handles make controlling this router easy. Following a guide clamp or running a bearing-tipped round over bit around a 90-degree corner is effortless with a very solid feel. Even rounding an edge to the end of a board, minus a fence, without accidentally slipping around the corner is much easier than with other routers I have used.

The depth setting system on the standard base is a snap to use, and very accurate.
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   The most impressive feature of the standard base is the built-in depth-of-cut system. Simply install the bit, place the router on a flat surface and rotate the motor until the bit touches the surface. Align the dial indicator "zero" mark with the scribed vertical line on the motor housing. Set the router on it's side, turn the motor housing so the scribed mark aligns with the desired depth on the indicator ring and tighten the locking screw. It takes far longer to describe the process than to perform it on the bench. I have checked and rechecked the bit exposure this system produces and have yet to find any variance what so ever.
   The plunge base, like the standard version, is very well machined and has a solid feel to it. The plunge controls are easy to reach and work with. The plunge action is smooth and not overly resisted by the return springs.
   Another aspect of the Porter Cable 693PK router I liked is the ability to obtain a wide range of accessories that actually fit the router (and its base plate) as it comes from the factory. I also bought a Porter Cable bushing set that fit either base properly. The set contains a sufficient range of sizes to favorably mate with all of my bits and all templates I am aware of.
   Some accessories, such as the Porter Cable edge guide, are a bit pricey, but offer features and quality that make them worth the additional expense. The quality of the Porter Cable products means the price will be spread over a very long useful life.
   The only problems I have encountered is 1/4-inch bits sticking in the collet and the router motor getting stuck in the plunge base. It turns out both are easily avoided.

UPDATE: Ever since buying this outfit I have been more and more impressed with Porter Cable quality. This router has power to spare and handles great. I feel much more in control with the round handle setup than I have with any other kind of grip. The depth setting is surprisingly accurate and easy to use.
   I have heard complaints about no "soft start" or variable speed. I miss neither on this router. It is not designed for the very large bits that need slower speeds. With all normally sized bits this router performs as good or better than anything I have seen.
   The plunge base works very well. I like the controls and how easily it moves up and down through the plunge stroke. Unlike other plunge routers I have held, this one feels very comfortable.
   If you need a router setup, consider this one. I doubt you will be sorry.

See my special "Tips" page on this router - GO

 

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