Way back when, when I tested the Makita 3601B, I described it as a stopgap, suggesting that an old, very basic USA router had been launched in the UK as a knee-jerk reaction to the likes of Bosch. That model appears no longer to be available on Makita’s website.
This time round Makita has bided its time to come up with a small combination router that rivals the DeWalt D26204 and the Bosch GFK 600. Makita has certainly assessed the market well this time, and covered all the bases, choosing to offer this mode! as a basic trimmer with an 88mm round base with adjustable lower roller for laminate trimming and smaller routing operations. But the better option is the kit with three bases: complementing the laminate trimming base is a tilting base that traverses between +45° and -30° for running various bevels against a straightedge or undercutting work, and also a plunge base. The plunge base turns the unit from a single-handed body grip to a traditional router.
This base has a three-position rotating turret (or presetting depths, as well as a decent fine adjuster with 0.5mm increments and a fast over-ride for quick rough setting.
Maximum plunge is limited to 37mm on the plunge base, locked with a standard thumb-operated clamp behind the left grip; the movement is sweet running with no stickiness through the plunge travel.
Fitting each base and swapping between them is a breeze; a toggle clamp locks the base to the main body of all three, while the laminate and tilting base also have a smooth-running rack-and-pinion adjuster to set the depth of cut.
Additionally for the plunge and laminate bases, an adjustable pressed steel fence fits to both for working grooves and moulds between 35 and 135mm away from an edge. The setup is a little basic, with no fine adjustment for example, but it does the job well enough.
On the router body is a rocker switch for power and a dial for speed adjustment, allowing you to slow down for biggish-diameter cutters, on timbers prone to scorching, or to rout plastics, although at 720W it’s not designed for bigger bits, I’d be looking at around 30mm as the maximum diameter.
It does have the option to take 8mm shanked bits, but that shouldn’t mean you increase the diameter accordingly — the trimmer base aperture of 35mm should be a good guideline as to sensible bit diameters.
Easy to control
The whole kit is well made, as you would expect from Makita, and a joy to use. These smaller routers are very useful for the more intricate work, inlays, smaller edge moulds and the like, as well as freehand carving, and with the addition of the plunge base, standard routing applications are easily achieved but without a bigger heavier machine to move around so it’s very easy to control especially on stopped cuts.
Keeping trim Having control is what it’s all about, and I pul that in good use as part of my testing, doing a bit of reshaping on one of my son’s guitars; using the round base and a single hand grip, a bit of round over work was an easy task.
Fitted with the fence I also found it realty easy to control with one hand while letting in an intumescent strip on a fire door.
In many instances a smaller router is more than enough, and with the base options you have that bit more scope, although there are limitations in the plunge depth and bit diameters; even so. I’m a fan.
There’s little difference from a bigger model aside from those limitations, and with user-friendliness throughout, from bit change through to base and accessory swaps, Makita should have a winner on its hands.
If there is a negative, it’s the optional offset base. This in itself can maybe prove useful if there’s a need to get a cutter into a restricted area; it offsets the collet and drives it via a belt. But alongside, you can also use it as a teardrop base for additional support when moulding edges, and in that respect, it will get more work, but it seems that option is only available as a secondary function to the offset base.
It would make more sense to offer the teardrop base as part of the kit, or a separate accessory as the offset collet base in itself is a bit specialised for most of us.