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The Ridgid R2900 kit includes all the tools and accessories described in this review, plus the rugged canvas carry bag pictured here. Though we don't carry our routers around much, having on e place to keep all of the pieces that come with this kit eliminates a bunch of frustration later.
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Ridgid #R2900, 2 1/4Hp Router Kit

Ridgid jumps into the router market with both engineering feet

Text & photos by Tom Hintz

Ridgid’s entry into the 2 1/4Hp router kit marketplace may have been a long time coming but a look at this fixed/plunge base kit shows much of that time was spent on designing this tool and the array of features it sports. The result is an innovative router kit that will send major ripples through the woodworking router pond, heretofore dominated by a few traditional powerhouses in the woodworking world.

Initial Impressions

As it comes from the box, the Ridgid R2900 is impressive looking. The fit and finish of the individual parts is well done and shows Ridgid was intent on producing a quality tool. Nearly all of the metal parts are precisely machined from magnesium, a high-end material that insures strength, durability, reduced weight and higher manufacturing costs.
The overall look and feel of the Ridgid R2900 gave me a warm fuzzy feeling even before I plugged it in for the first time. Using the Ridgid R2900 during the evaluation process would do nothing to quash those feelings.

Power Controlled

The motor controls couldn't be easier, primarily because Ridgid actually marks the rpm on the control dial rather than meaningless digits that leave you guessing.
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The Ridgid R2900 features a 2-¼-peak horsepower motor with a speed range of 10,000 to 23,000 rpm. Externally accessible brushes allow quick, easy replacement should that become necessary and eliminates the downtime of sending the motor in for repair.
Power is supplied through a 12-foot-long cord that gives the operator freedom while routing. A slider-type On/Off switch is located near the top of the motor and while easy to use, provides a clearly felt detent when moved from one position to the other. The switch is also clearly marked (text & graphics) for quick visual checks before connecting to electrical power.
Electronic circuitry provides soft start and constant rpm throughout the speed range automatically. To make the Ridgid R2900 compatible with a wide range of bit sizes, an electronic speed control is included.
A dial, mounted just above the On/Off switch allows the user to set the required rpm before or after starting the motor. Unlike too many speed control dials, the Ridgid R2900 version is clearly marked with numerals representing the rpm being set. Those numeric values are spaced 3000 rpm apart with separate detents at 1500-rpm intervals between each of them. This 1500-rpm resolution makes setting the proper speed for virtually any compatible bit simple.

Headlights

The area under a router, at the bit (left) can be shaded, making it difficult to see the bit itself or layout lines. The Ridgid worklights (right) illuminate the area nicely, making it easy to see what's going on, even for my 50-something eyes!
Keep in mind these images were taken under strong photographic lighting which actually brightens the left image most.
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One of the more ingenious features of the Ridgid R2900 is a pair of LED lights in the bottom of the motor housing that shine down onto the bit area. The necessary shape of a router base blocks much of the ambient light, often making the bit area rather dim. While not overpowering, the Ridgid R2900 lights provide plenty of illumination to make seeing layout lines and the interaction of the bit with the wood clearly. In addition to being exceptionally handy for those of us sporting 50-something eye power, the increased visibility these lights provide is also a safety feature.

Bit Changing

The pushbutton spindle lock makes changing bits a simple, one-wrench job.
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Easy bit changing has become a standard feature on better routers and the Ridgid R2900 meets this standard as well. A pushbutton spindle lock makes installing or removing bits a one-wrench task, though two wrenches are included.
In addition to the spindle-locking feature, the motor shaft has a hex-drive machined into it that allows using two wrenches. When the dust collection adaptor is installed, the spindle lock button is covered though lowering the motor usually exposes it sufficiently for use.
Both the ¼” and ½” collets included with the kit are nicely made and have the self-extracting feature built in that works well.

Subbase Alignment

The centering tool and cone make aligning the subbase precisely with the spindle centerline quick and easy.
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Alignment of the subbase with the spindle/bit centerline is crucial in many routing operations, especially those using a guide collar to follow a small template. Dovetailing is one of these alignment sensitive tasks. Woodworkers also change subbase plates far more than in the past, further increasing the importance of this feature.
The Ridgid R2900 includes an alignment shaft (1/4” and ½”-diameter ends) and a cone that are used to center the opening in the subbase with a high level of precision. Install the alignment shaft in the collet, the cone over the shaft so it engages the loosened subbase. The cone will self-center the subbase which can then be tightened to lock that alignment in place.

Dust Collection

The dust collection adaptors for the (left) fixed and (right) plunge bases do a good job when hooked to a decent shop-vac of dust collector unit. The outlets are 1 1/2"-diameter.
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Woodworkers are increasingly aware of the importance of controlling dust. The Ridgid R2900 includes dust collection adaptors for both the fixed and plunge bases. The plunge base dust collector covers the entire base opening surrounding the bit. The fixed base dust system uses a removable chip shield opposite of the hose adaptor to seal the housing, creating a chamber to contain the debris.
The outlet on both adaptors is sized to fit inside a vacuum hose with a 1-1/2“ inside diameter.

Mainstream Subbase's

The Ridgid R2900 router is even more versatile because they accept standard Porter Cable 690/890 series subbases. The photo shows a PC-style subbase installed on the Ridgid R2900. That makes lots of aftermarket attachments, including guide bushings easy to use on this router.
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I was happy to discover that the Ridgid R2900 6”-diameter subbases use a common 3 bolt pattern to attach them to the plunge and fixed bases. This is the same three-hole pattern used on the Porter Cable 690 & 890 series routers as well as the secondary pattern on the Bosch 1617 series routers. This means accessory subbases you may already have can be used without modification on the Ridgid R2900. If the Ridgid R2900 is your first router, this pattern means there are many aftermarket subbases and attachments that will bolt up.
The thick, clear subbases that come with the Ridgid R2900 cover most common routing tasks. One has a 2 ½”-diameter center hole for general routing and the other has the stepped 1 ¼”-diameter hole that fits the Porter Cable-style guide bushings. The two subbases can be interchanged between the Ridgid R2900 fixed and plunge bases. Both included subbases have oversized mounting holes that allow using the alignment tools to center them perfectly on the spindle/bit.

Fixed Base

The handles are identical on the fixed (shown at left) and plunge bases. they are very comfortable and give a good sense of control. The height adjustment on the fixed base in hand-held mode (right) works easily and allows tiny adjustments to be made accurately.
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Made from magnesium and nicely machined, the fixed base is extremely light with openings that afford very good visibility, particularly with the headlights mentioned earlier. Line of sight is enhanced by the clear subbases.
The rubber handles are shaped and positioned to be comfortable in use. (The same handles are used on the plunge base.)
A simple lever-lock secures and releases the motor and allows making height adjustments. A simple finger-operated screw controls bit height in the hand-held mode. A positionable ring below the knob has graduations that make accurate height changes as small as 1/128th” simple.
The height screw runs through a pivoting block that also indexes to a socket in the motor housing. Left in the normal position this block raises and lowers the motor/bit as the screw is turned. Pivoting the block out releases the motor for removal.
The fixed base can also be used in a table mount and features a through the base height adjustment. An included composite t-handled hex wrench passes through a hole in the base to access the height adjusting screw from above a router plate.
Unfortunately, when bolted up to a plate drilled for the Porter Cable 890 routers, this adjustment passage is ½-hole off. Since most router plates are made from aluminum or phenolic materials, this misalignment can be “corrected” on plates you already own with a file or drill.

Plunge Base

Large bronze bushings (left) slide on 1"-diameter columns to keep this action smooth and stable. (right) Rather than the common multi-position turret, the Ridgid uses this screw-adjustable stop for the plunge rod. Again, extreme accuracy is easy with this system.
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Also machined from magnesium and very light, the plunge base is largely conventional in terms of function. A finger-operated lever positioned within easy reach of the handle locks and releases the plunge function. Pre-setting plunge depth limits is accomplished with a drop-down rod with a positionable marker that corresponds with a standard-graduated scale on the housing.
Where most plunge bases have a multi-position turret against which the drop rod interacts, the Ridgid R2900 uses an adjustable stop built into the base. This adjuster is turned to increase or decrease bit depth and features graduations that make tiny but accurate changes simple.
Also out of the ordinary are the two 1”-diameter posts that guide the plunge body. To maintain the alignment between the base and plunge body, a pair of oversized bronze bushings slide on the posts. Between the large-diameter posts and bushings, the plunge action is smooth and accurate.
Also, both the fixed and plunge bases have bosses for add-on guide fences. To further enhance the Ridgid R2900 compatibility, those bosses accept aftermarket fences that fit the Porter Cable 690/890 series routers.

In the Shop

The included composite T-wrench passes through the base to allow above-table height adjustments when the fixed base is mounted on a router plate or table. The heavy clear subbase comes off of course, but it's thickness is approximately the same as most plates so virtually no bit travel (vertical) is lost if mounted in a table.
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My initial positive impressions of the Ridgid R2900 were substantiated in the shop when it was actually put to wood. The Ridgid R2900 was used in a variety of common woodworking situations with as many bits from my collection as possible. It handled all very well.
The layout and design of the grips along with the smooth-running motor make operating the Ridgid R2900 comfortable and easy. Visibility through both bases, enhanced by the LED work lights is exceptional and makes seeing layout lines and the bit itself much easier than with most other routers I have used. LED lights often seem designed more to catch the attention of the buyer than to be functional but that is not the case here. The Ridgid R2900 lights work well and have a noticeable positive impact on using this tool.
Moving the motor from one base to the other is rather easy, especially after learning that the fit is very close and the motor needs to be straight to slip in. Also, the spindle lock button must be depressed fully to get the motor started in either base. Once you understand these two points, installing or removing the motor is quick and easy.
The push button spindle lock made changing bits easy. The self-releasing collets also performed flawlessly with the large number of bits tried. Insert the bit fully, raise it 1/8” or so before tightening and it pops free when the collet nut is fully loosened.
Though I was initially disappointed to find no external fine bit height adjuster on the plunge base, that went away after using the dial adjuster on the base. Once you get used to this little dial it enables remarkably fine height changes. Dialing the bit in to perfectly match an existing cut depth or establishing the precise depth needed is easy and exceptionally accurate.
The centering tool and cone make short work of aligning the subbases to the spindle. This system is also as accurate as anything I have tried. After setting the small-hole base and installing a guide collar, I could find virtually no error with my digital caliper. That is very good news for users who follow templates or use a dovetail jig.

In the end, it is how well the Ridgid R2900 performs that makes the real difference to woodworkers. In that regard, I give it high marks. We should also warn the perennial router powerhouse manufacturers that one of the old kids on the tool block just got involved with a great product and appears very interested in their customers!
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Dust collection with both bases is very good. The design of the dust collector adaptors appears to be well thought out and effective at moving the debris out of the base when connected to even moderately powered shop-vacs or my full-on dust collector.
The motor develops plenty of power and the constant speed circuitry did its job behind the scenes regardless of the bit size or material being cut.

Conclusions

The Ridgid R2900 is a solid, easy to use multi-function router kit that embodies the power and features today’s woodworkers want and need. Its construction is solid, precise and the materials first rate. That means that the street price of $199.00 (7-7-2006) will be an investment that will pay dividends in your shop for many years to come. The Ridgid R2900 can be seen at your local Home Depot store.

Visit www.homedepot.com.

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