Portable routers are all about versatility to do a wide range of jobs. But when they start getting too big, one has to question if you need all that power. Hence the recent rise of convenient compact routers. The Porter-Cable compact router combo kit succeeds at trying to put enough power in a small enough package to address most common portable router chores.

What it is 

The Porter-Cable compact router combo kit combines a Model 450 1.25hp router with both a fixed base and a plunge base, all packed in a heavy-duty nylon cloth carrying bag. It comes with a ¼-inch collet and a single wrench for bit changes.

Light weight and comfortable overmolded grips on the plunge base make for good ergonomics. Both the 4-inch fixed base and the larger plunge base take standard universal template guides. Maximum depth of cut is 1.5 inches with the fixed base and 2 inches with the plunge base.

How it works 

Some of the combination plunge and fixed-base kits I’ve tried are lessons in frustration when switching bases. Not so with this Porter-Cable kit. Switching over is fast and easy with the one snap lock lever for either base. This lever opened and closed remarkably easily, but we experienced no slipping or lack of security in use. On the down side, neither base has any built-in provision for dust collection.

Depth adjustments are precise and easy. The familiar rotating collar on the fixed base adjusts in 1/64 inch increments. The plunge base has a 5-position turret stop for quick depth settings and a fine tune adjustment as well. The plunge action is smooth and sure with a lock and release lever that is comfortably sized and located.

A sealed switch on the motor head turns the unit on with a soft start and surprisingly quiet operation. With a 7-amp rating the motor seems to be plenty powerful for most anything you would want to do with ¼-inch router bits. And those bits are easy to change with one wrench and a secure arbor lock button.

A size that works 

Router size seems to run in fads. After companies tired of producing ever bigger and more powerful hand routers, they went the other extreme with what amounted to beefed up laminate trimmers. This compact combo kit represents a return to the middle of the road in size, weight and performance that will cover most jobs more than adequately. At a street price ranging $190 and lower, the kit is worth checking out. For more information visit www.portercable.com

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