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If power, durability and value are issues, you need the Porter Cable 7518.
Click image to enlarge

Porter Cable 3 ¼-HP #7518 Router

What normal routers want to be when they grow up

Text & Photos by Tom Hintz

   If you are familiar with the industry-leading Porter Cable routers, it comes as no surprise that the 400-pound gorilla of big horsepower routers also carries the Porter Cable nameplate. Manufacturers of router lifts, plates and tables most often design their products around the PC 7518 because they know it is very powerful, durable and extremely popular for all those reasons.

   When quality, reliability and the power to handle whatever routing job comes along are important, the PC 7518 leads the pack.

Initial Impressions

   Aside from being larger, the PC 7518 is typical of Porter Cable routers. The fit, finish and machining are all high quality. The overall design and layout of the controls make the PC 7518 easy to use with the accuracy woodworking demands. A full set of user-friendly features including variable speed, soft-start and an auto-release collet make controlling this powerful machine easy.

Motor

(Top) An easy-to-use speed control and soft start are built in.
(Bottom) A large ball bearing is located very close to the collet for maximum support and stability.
Click images to enlarge
            

The heart of the PC 7518 is the 15-amp, 3 ¼-hp motor, designed to continue producing that power for many years to come. The finely machined 4 ¼"-diameter cylindrical housing is tough and locates the lower sealed ball bearing close to the collet. This drastically reduces the potential for shaft runout and vibration, extending the life span substantially.

            

   To control all that power soft start and an electronic speed control are built in. Speed is regulated by a clearly marked slider switch with detents at 10,000, 13,000, 15,000, 19,000 and 21,000 RPM.

   The PC 7518 motor also has built-in thermal protection circuitry that automatically shuts the router down if internal temperatures reach a predetermined point. To restart the router simply shut it off using the On/Off rocker switch and let it cool down while the cause of the heat buildup is corrected. Problems such as wet wood or a dull bit can make a router work much harder than expected.

   A 10ft-long, heavy-duty cord is standard on the PC 7518. A coil spring strain relief at the motor protects that potentially fragile connection against damage during years of use.

Fixed Base

(Top) comfortable, wide-spread handles give very good control.
(Bottom) The familiar Porter Cable adjuster ring makes bit-height changes fast and very accurate.
Click images to enlarge

   The PC 7518 comes with a solidly built fixed base, designed to enhance control in hand-held applications. The comfortable cast-in aluminum handles span 11 inches giving the user the leverage needed to control the PC 7518 safely and accurately.

   The round 7"-diameter baseplate provides a large platform that helps keep the PC 7518 stable. The included baseplate has the 1 3/16"-diameter center hole that fits the industry standard Porter Cable guide bushings.

   The motor is secured in the fixed base using a T-shaped handle to tighten and release the clamping mechanism.

   For setting bit depth, the familiar Porter Cable graduated ring is included on the base. Set the router on a flat surface, lower the bit until it touches the surface and then align the zero mark on the ring with the scribed line on the motor housing. Turn the motor so the line matches the desired depth and lock the clamp.

Collet

The auto-release collet eliminates stuck bits.
Click image to enlarge

   The PC 7518 comes with a ½", auto-release collet. While using ½"-shanked bits in a router with this much power makes sense for every day use, ¼" and 3/8" collets are available for special jobs.

   A pair of metal wrenches is included for changing bits. The auto-release collet design means the days of stuck router bits are over. Loosen the collet nut until it frees up and then turn it another full turn or so to pop the bit free.

In the Shop

   While the PC 7518 is a general purpose production router, it often spends most of its time bolted under a router table in the home woodworking shop. During this review, the PC 7518 was used in both the hand-held and table mounted modes.

   The first thing I noticed about the PC 7518 was how smoothly it runs throughout the speed range. Whether hand-held or suspended in a quality lift plate, the PC 7518 showed no tendency to cause vibrations.

The size of the 7518 can be a little intimidating but it is actually very easy to control thanks to the handle design, wide base and soft start.
Click image to enlarge

   The graduations in the electronic speed control make spinning anything from ½" straight bits to 3 ½"-diameter horizontal panel raising cutters at a safe, effective speed a simple click and run task. The soft start feature does a very good job of preventing torquing of the router on startup without causing an extended lag in reaching full shaft speed as happens with lesser machines.

   The PC 7518 can be a little intimidating as a hand-held router but is actually surprisingly easy to control and use accurately. The generous base diameter and wide-spread grips give the operator complete control, making routing safe and predictable.

   The depth adjustment proved to be very accurate, producing exactly the depth change indicated by the graduated ring. This is important, as it is easy to get over confident in terms of how much material can be removed in a single pass. The PC 7518 can easily turn bits through remarkable amounts of wood but to get the best finish and do it safely, multiple light cuts remains the best plan.

   Mounted in a quality router lift or plate, the PC 7518 really shines. The combination of brute power, the electronic speed control and a full dose of Porter Cable durability means you can install the PC 7518 and worry about what bit to use, not if the router can handle it.

The Porter Cable 7518 is at home in a router table, where many woodworkers depend on it's power and durability.
Click image to enlarge

   During testing, the PC 7518 was operated with every size and style of bit in the shop. In all cases, the selected speed did not vary when cutting woods from soft pine to rock-hard maple. Even my largest panel raising bits cruised through red oak with no loss of RPM.

   The PC 7518 has so much power available in all of the speed ranges that I had to get used to feed rates that were noticeably faster than I am accustomed to. The wood does not race over the bit but with minimal pressure applied, moves faster than with lesser routers under the table.

   The PC 7518 never hinted at stalling, over-loading, vibrating or otherwise protesting the tasks asked of it. The fact that the PC 7518 is not strained by any conceivable routing operation substantially increases its lifespan.

Conclusions

   If you are building or buying a router table and want it to be fully capable regardless of how your project needs change over the years, the Porter Cable 7518 should be part of that package. Remember that this also is a fully capable hand-held router.
   

There is no other router I am aware of that surpasses the power and reliability of the PC 7518. The fact that the PC 7518 can easily handle any router bit on the planet means you will never come up short on power.

   With a street price of $299.00 (2-9-2005) the PC 7518 is a long term investment that will pay dividends every time you use it in the next few decades - or longer.

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