I am taking a hard look at making picture frames with a router. I have practically no experience with a router so I would like your advice on: Will a compact router handle this work? Will an economic router table handle this? These are the two purchases I will have to make and would appreciate your advice. – Bob Smith
Chris Marshall: A compact router would certainly work for picture frames if what you want it to do is create profiled edges on your frames. Compact routers also have the advantage of plunging capability (if the one you have in mind doesn’t come with a plunge base as standard, it would be worth buying as an accessory for routing mortises or fine-tuning joinery).
You can certainly mount a compact router under a router table.
If you think you might like to use a router for more advanced joinery such as dovetails down the road, however, I’d suggest going ahead and buying a mid-size router in the 2hp range instead of a compact. It’s more powerful and will accept both 1/4- and 1/2-in. shank bits (compact models only take 1/4-in. shanks, which limits your options.
Think of a compact router primarily for convenience: it’s small and easy to steer by hand. But aside from that, a mid-size plunge router works great in a router table, is still easy to maneuver for handheld work and offers you a broader range of bit choices. It would be a workhorse that could serve you well for many purposes as your woodworking skills grow. The router accessories market also is geared toward mid-size models. All in all, a mid-size is your better long-term value. I hope this helps your decision-making process, Bob.
Tim Inman: If you are wanting to set up to make production runs of picture framing stock, then a shaper is the way to go. Second choice: a large, heavy-duty plunge router mounted in a table to mimic a shaper. For production, even a small shaper would be superior to a router. If you are only wanting to do small profiles, then, yes, a compact router would certainly work. My granddad taught me a saying which might help here: “Never send a boy to do a man’s job.”