When I started woodworking (at least XXVIII years ago), Milwaukee was known as the premium brand of portable power tools. There simply was no better brand available than “Big Red.” Over the years, Milwaukee continued to put out excellent tools at a good value, but lost its leadership position for many reasons – real and perceived. One knock was that the quality tools Milwaukee was selling back in the golden days of my youth were the same models they were selling at the close of the century. And there was a certain degree of accuracy to this assertion. Milwaukee didn’t modify a solid and workable tool just because a rival company added a couple of new features to a competing model.
So, when I heard through the grapevine that Milwaukee had created a new hand-held router and that it was a slick little unit, I was not only curious, but surprised. Bottom line: premium and “Big Red” are synonyms once more.
New Routers are Big Winners
This summer Milwaukee rolled out routers in two versionsthe innovative and practical BodyGrip soft handle and a more conventional D-handle option. The guts of the tools (and tools with guts are a Milwaukee tradition) are 11 amp, 1-3/4 hp motors. The power-plant spins the shaft at a very speedy 24,000 no load RPM and features 100% sealed ball and roller bearings. Each unit comes with 1/4″ and 1/2″ self-releasing collets. That said, it is just a confirmation that the 5615-15 and the 5619-20 are tough enough to hold up to demanding work conditions.
These routers also have design features that support efficient and productive work processes. The BodyGrip handle is the most visible feature. It looks, at first glance, a little like a protective cover wrapping the body of the exterior housing of the 5615-20 (remember, boys and girls, always practice safe routing: use a router wrapper!), but it is really an integrated single-handed handle (with an adjustable Velcro strap system). This provides enhanced one-handed control and works well for left- or right-handed folks. A great feature for production shops or repetitive tasks.
Adjusting the cutting height of your router bit while you have the router upside-down and mounted in a router table has always been a challenge…and has recently become a hot new router table accessory category. Milwaukee simply built this adjustability into their new routers. A threaded adjustment rod that can be accessed from the base of the router is standard. Drill a small hole in the top of your router table and you can adjust the cut with a standard 3/8″ hex wrench. Very cool. (And probably a little disturbing to certain router acccesory producers!)
There are a couple more features to mention. While they’re not earthshaking, when they’re added to the already mentioned bells and whistles, you get a very nice package. First, the routers’ tops are flat ( to make bit changing easy). And second, they are marketed in a plastic carrying case with a detachable bottom. The bottom does double duty as a benchtop router holder (with the bit still in the machine). Put this together with a street price of about $160, and you can see why the euphorically recalled days of my youth suddenly seem so vivid to me.