Sunday, June 9, 2013

Review: Milescraft Turnlock 3-in-1 Router Guide Kit

This is, as you might guess from the title, a review of Milescraft's Router Guide Kit.  I bought mine at WoodCraft, and the current MSRP is $39.99.  Amazon also has them, and I think Home Depot does, too.

OK.  Before I write this, I have a confession to make:

I hate routers.  I can't stand them.  They're loud, they're messy, they're dangerous, and I can't think of a single tool that is more prone to wandering off and doing what it feels like doing while you're trying to accomplish something.  I've yet to use a table-mounted router, and I suspect I'd hate that less, but that's not what this kit is for, anyway.

So there's my confession.  I'll try to stay objective and talk about the kit, rather than how much I'd rather be using another tool -- any other tool -- than a router.

What do you get, and What's the Construction Like?

So what do you get with this thing?  I haven't used all the parts yet, but here's what I've got.

1) A baseplate.  This thing has a ton of holes and slots in it, and should theoretically fit just about any router you can find.  WoodCraft sells this thing, and they claim on their site it will fit most routers up to and including 3HP models.  All I can say for sure is that it fit both my ancient Craftsman and my more modern Rigid, and it fits both the plunge and fixed bases for the Rigid.

2) An edge-guide fence.  The baseplate drops into this, and then twists to lock in place.  It holds solidly, and the fence can be locked down tight enough that I haven't seen it vary at all.  The beam is extruded aluminum, and is straight and solid.  The beam also gets used with the circle cutting guide.

3) An offset base, for edge routing.  I haven't used this for routing, but I did check to make sure the baseplate fits into it, and it feels just as solid as the edge-guide.

4) A circle cutting guide.  This is another one I haven't used, but it looks like it should work just fine.  Basically, it's a piece that the beam slides into after you've put a nail through it to mark the center of the circle.  I don't see any reason it shouldn't work well.

5) Some tools for setting everything up.

 How do they work?

I can only really speak for the edge guide, which works fairly well.  The fence locks in place solidly, the beam locks into the base solidly, and everything goes together fairly easily with only a little persuasion.

However... this is where the cost-saving measures came into effect.  There IS a scale (two, actually, one metric and one imperial) -- essentially a very narrow tape measure -- built into the beam, but I can't for the life of me figure out what it's supposed to measure.  The zero mark falls nowhere near where it would need to be to actually put the fence in line with either the center or the edge of any bit I have.  It's not a crippling problem, but it's weird.  It seems like it wouldn't have been hard to make it work right, and it just doesn't.  It's possible mine is defective, and that most of them line up right;  I'd be surprised, but I haven't looked at any others, so it is possible.

The offset base would certainly make it easier to use an edge-shaping bit;  it's basically a teardrop shape, with the router insert at the big end and a big, handle at the other end.  If you were using a bearing-guided bit, I can see it making a lot easier to keep the router upright.

Final Thoughts?

Not bad.  I think I paid about $25 for mine, but the current MSRP is $39.99.  While you ought to be able to get a decent fence or offset base for that, you might not be able to get all three tools.  And if you have a bunch of routers, you can buy extra baseplates for a fairly reasonable price (it looks like they're about $20 right now) and just put them on all your routers.  The quality is pretty reasonable, and it doesn't seem like they could make it cheaper without making it a lot flimsier.

Would I buy another?

Nope.  But not because the product is bad... I wouldn't buy another because I'm finding I just don't like using the router, and I'll take almost any excuse to use a different tool.  If I used my router more, this might be more valuable to me.

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