Say the word "Colt" to a router enthusiast, and it's a good bet he or she will immediately know which router you're talking about. That's because, unlike every other router on the market, Bosch's PR20EVSK Palm Router has a catchy name as well as a model number. Its equine connotation has definitely stuck as its popularity has grown.
Jim Stevens, Bosch's product manager for fine woodworking tools, says that in the seven years since Bosch first introduced it, the little Colt has become a favorite among professional remodelers, fabricators, woodworkers and woodworking enthusiasts alike.
"We've sold hundreds of thousands of them here in North America and elsewhere in the world." The Colt has also become Bosch's best-selling router, Stevens adds, based on unit sales. Those are big results for the company's smallest stature router.
Even if you've got a Colt in your tool corral (couldn't help the pun), what you might not know is why the router received that name in the first place. Stevens chuckled a bit when I asked him about it, because Bosch endured some pre-launch razzing from industry insiders about that name. He was reluctant to share those particular details, but the original intention for "Colt" was to play off the fact that this new router could develop one peak horsepower, which was significantly more oomph than any other laminate trimmer produced at that time. And, prior to 2005, laminate trimmers were the only North American router to which the Colt could really be compared.
Stevens says, around 2001 and 2002, Bosch still carried its 1608/1609 series laminate trimmers, and the company wanted to update them. But field research indicated that people were using laminate trimmers for all sorts of things besides trimming laminates. Could there be room for a more powerful version of a single-handed router with better features and broader capability? Product managers thought so. Bosch was also still enjoying the kudos it was receiving for a number of then-innovative features that had been introduced with its 1617EVS routers, launched in 1998. The time seemed ripe to bring that technology to a smaller router platform. "We saw a great opportunity ... to make it easier for users to do 'small routing' work with a more powerful and higher capacity tool that brought electronic variable-speed, soft start, electronic feedback circuitry and numerous other conveniences," Jim recalls.
And so, the Colt Palm Router made its way through R&D, onto the production line and into end users' hands. Adding those "big router" features proved to be a smart experiment. Stevens says that the tool's peak horsepower has been a consistent crowd pleaser, as has its larger bit opening in the sub-base (a common limitation of laminate trimmers), tool-less base clamp and ergonomic overmolded grip. The tool's internal electronics, which help it maintain speed under load and prevent torque-twisting during startup, have also helped it avoid being "pigeonholed" as a super-sized laminate trimmer.
While Stevens says the Colt's popularity for hinge mortising, edge forming and slot cutting have given it purpose outside of the countertop fabrication market, one limitation has been the lack of plunge capability — a shortcoming for woodworkers. That is about to change. This October, Bosch will offer a dedicated Colt plunge base. If you missed our recent IWF trade show video blog coverage, Jim discussed the new PR011 plunge base and Colt PR20EVSPK Plunge Router Kit with me in a short video, and you can watch it by clicking here.
Several years ago, DeWALT and Porter-Cable unveiled similar versions of compact routers in the 1.25hp range, with both fixed- and plunge-base options. Jim says Bosch's plunge base was "on the drawing board" then, but funds at the time were otherwise dedicated within the organization to a wide variety of tool categories, including concrete and metalworking tools as well as its woodworking and cordless divisions. Jim admits that it was tough to see competitors nab the first-to-market acclaim for compact plunge bases, so once Bosch's plunge base was approved for production last year, the project was put into "high gear."
Still, Stevens anticipates that Colt aficionados will find the wait worth it. He's most pleased with the new base's smooth and precise plunging action. Its ergonomic handles are modeled after Bosch's recent MR23 mid-size router for comfort, and it has a round sub-base that should allow it to more accurately follow a straightedge than a flat-edged base, once the round base is adjusted for concentricity with the bit. Readers might also appreciate that, while the new plunge base will be packaged as a kit option with a Colt motor pack and fixed base starting in November (the PR20EVSPK is expected to retail for around $199), the same base will also be sold separately ($89 to $99) for users who already own the Colt fixed-base tool.
Jim doesn't anticipate that the popularity of today's new and growing class of compact plunge routers will ever spell the end of traditional laminate trimmers, but their convenience and versatility has definitely "broadened the pond" of our tool options. And, these compact but potent little machines may also be shifting our perceptions of what a small router can really do for woodworking. Stevens says end users are increasingly looking for the smallest tool they can find that will do the job satisfactorily, without the added weight or size. The Colt has proven that out, and so has Bosch's success with its compact 12-volt lithium-ion cordless tools.
To learn more about the Colt and Bosch's other router options, visit boschtools.com.