Review: Dewalt DW618K Router Kit

Dewalt’s latest router entry first caught my eye at the IWF show in Atlanta in late much so that I spent close to 40 minutes speaking with one of the engineers that designed it, going over all the features that this tool has to offer And features are what sets this router system apart from its competitors.

Like similar kits from other manufacturers, the DW618K includes the router motor and both a fixed and plunge base. Accessories include a spindle wrench, 1/4" and 1/2" collets, two sub-bases (one for use with “standard” guide bushings) and a convenient centering guide to insure that your sub-base is installed concentric with the collet. All this comes in a sturdy plastic carrying case for convenient storage and transportation. Dewalt also offers the kit with its new fixed speed DW616 motor with all the same accessories. Both motors are available with a D-handle base, as well as just with a standard fixed-based.

The DW618 motor offers 12 amps of power, soft start and electronic variable speed with a range of 8-24K rpm. The DW616 motor offers 11 amps of power at 24.5K rpm. Both motors have a fine height adjustment but are unique in that the motor, itself, stays oriented in the base--the motor does not spin when you make height adjustments like many other similar tools do. Removing the motor from the base is quick and easy. Just release the height lock lever, push in two latches with one hand and lift the motor out with the other hand. Reinserting the router motor does not change the height setting unless you have changed the cutter.

Also convenient, the DW618 and DW616 routers feature a removable power cord. This eliminates tangled cords when changing bits as well as makes for more convenient storage. It also makes the D-handle base more convenient to use since it can use a short cord to the motor and accommodate the original cord from the base, itself.

The fixed base offers a compact package for easy routing when stability is a must, such as with a dovetail jig or when routing hinge mortises. The handles are comfortable and height adjustment is a breeze. Just release the height locking latch, rotate the ring to the desired depth and re-lock the latch. The plunge base is reminiscent of the well-liked DW621 plunge router, complete with integral dust collection. Height adjustment is versatile and can be incremented in precise amounts. The action is smoother as compared to a Porter Cable plunge router that I own.

So how does it work?

I purchased the DW618K in early 2003 to provide a much-needed fixed base router to my shop as well as insure I had more than one hand-held router available for certain projects. I had considered several other choices, but decided on the Dewalt product based on my impressions with the tool from the shows and some reviews by others.

Most of my work to-date with this tool has been with the fixed base; particularly for dovetails and other incidental routing. The router is noticeably quieter than fixed-speed routers I’ve used in the past, although hearing protection is still necessary! Motor start is smooth, but it ramps up fairly quickly. Like any soft-start router, you do need to wait a second or three for it to spin up before you start your cut. But you’ll also enjoy a less stressful experience with the tool as a result.

The cut quality with this tool is smooth and clean. It easily did anything I’ve asked of it so far in a variety of materials. The flexibility of the DW618’s variable speed make for easy adjustment for both cutter and material, especially on difficult grain or wood with tendency to burn. The weight of the unit is comfortable to use and well balanced, although the plunge configuration is noticeably more top-heavy than the fixed base setup. That is expected, however, and one of the reasons that having both bases is a can use the one best for the job at hand.

Setup is particularly easy with the convenience of the removable power cord, easy motor-base separation, single wrench collet adjustment and the included sub-base centering tool. What would I change? The power switch “flicks” in the opposite direction than I would prefer when holding the tool in two hands. Additionally, I'd prefer that you could lock the spindle when changing the bit or collet so you can grip the tool more securely with the non-wrench laden hand. Overall, however, this is one sweet router and I recommend it highly.

Dewalt DW618K Router Kit
Reviewer Ratings

Tolerances, fit/finish, instructions, set up, design




Overall Grade


Also read Jack Loganbill's DW618 review --> here

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First Router?

Buying your first router doesn’t have to be a difficult task and you have many more choices in today’s marketplace. So here are a few things to think about if you are in the market for this essential woodworking tool.

Fixed or Plunge?

One of the first decisions you need to make is the type of router to buy...relative to the “base” that supports the motor. There are two general categories available: fixed base or plunge base. Fixed base routers allow you to adjust the depth before you make your cut, but that depth is “fixed” during the cut. A plunge base router will allow you to adjust the depth during the cut which is certainly useful for certain oper-ations, such as mortising.

Both styles have advan-tages and disadvantages, so I recommend you consider one of the “kits” that contain both bases for your first router purchase. By the way, a D-handle base is also a “fixed” base router, but it’s design is particularly useful for edge treatments where one hand needs to hold the work piece.

How Much Power?

While most of the router ads you will see list horsepower, look more carefully at the amperage rating. For universal motors, like those used in a router, amperage is a better indicator of the power of the tool. Routers typically are rated be-tween about 9 amps and 15 amps--the higher the number, the higher the power. Most of the kits mentioned above are in the 11-12 amp range and will serve you for almost any task you ask of them, other than very heavy table work with large cutters.

Other Features?

There are several other essential features you should look for in a first router, including soft-start and electronic variable speed. Both make your router more enjoyable and safer to use. Variable speed is also required for bits larger than about 1 1/2" in diameter. Your new router should also provide support for both 1/2" and 1/4" shank cutters.