Hitachi M12V 3 1/4 HP Variable Speed Plunge Router
by Jason Waters

This all came about after making some small boxes requiring rabbets and dados. My router was 1 1/2 HP with a fixed base that twisted up through the housing. This was fine but I did not have enough power to cut the rabbet in one pass. So I did multiple passes resulting in the bit getting slightly off axis and making the rabbet slightly stepped. I decided that a more powerful router was needed to eliminate the multiple passes (or at least reduce them down).

The first step is determining which router to get. Ask anyone and they have their own opinion. There's even a great debate about whether to put a plunge router in a router table but that's what I decided. I decided to try and find routers and put them in my hand to try them. The first I tried handling were the Bosch 1613EVS, DeWalt 621 and Porter Cable 7529 routers, all advertised a 2 HP Plunge Routers. They all felt good with smooth plunge action. But wanting more HP, I went and tried the 3 1/4 HP Freud FT2000E and Porter Cable 7539. These two routers were a mixed blessing. The Freud was nice, had an adjustment knob (for table use), comes with a free edge guide and priced right at the time, but my hands are small and I had trouble using the Plunge Lock. The Porter Cable, no doubt a well built beast, was heavy and expensive. However, I could operate the Plunge Lock Mechanism.

I decided to call on people at the Pond to help me out. Many good recommendations came to the DeWalt 625 and the Hitachi M12V, as well as previous routers which I had already ruled out. I looked for a reconditioned DeWalt but could find one and to save a few dollars decided on the Hitachi M12V, ordered right from the Pond Mall. It came with and edge guide, 1/2 inch straight carbide bit, a templet guide, and a templet guide adapter to use Porter Cable style guide bushings. Unfortunately, no height adjustment knob in the package but one can be purchased separately, if one desires.

I received my package and it was packed well. The original box was inside another plain brown box with bubble packs around it. I removed the original box and opened it. I got out the router and inspected it and tried the plunge action, very smooth. I was able to reach the plunge lock. I started fooling with the height scale and didn't quite understand it so I got out the manual. I suggest reading it first. The height scale is different than what I had used but I think it works quite well and is well thought out (Just need to check for accuracy later). And the handles pivot by loosening a screw and are adjustable to your liking, nice small touch. They also are removable if you need more clearance such as in a Router Table.

The templet guides, as advertised, were included. The Adapter to use Porter Cable bushings works fine. Nothing fancy, just a small piece of "pot metal" casting. A templet was also included out of stamped steel, measuring 0.71 inches with my calipers, or about 18mm(I think this is a metric guide). This is a little small to use as a 3/4 templet to me (my Porter Cable templet measures 0.745). The biggest bit that will go through the base from the factory appears to be near 2.0 inches in diameter (maybe slightly smaller). I've heard of people removing the metal on this machine to use bigger bits in a router table but I think I'll leave mine alone (especially while under warranty). There is an alternative way of mounting the bit that gets around this but I'm not frying that fish here or now.

The edge guide also came, and while not very high tech, is more serviceable than many I've seen. Bad news is if you remove it from the router and want to remove the thumbscrews that are in the base (they're kinda bulky), there is no convenient place to keep them without risk of losing them. I'm sure they are metric (as all the screws on this router) so best probably not to lose them here in the US (I, personally, have nothing against the metric system, they could be difficult to find new ones, though). The baseplate mounting screws have a locking compound applied to them, so use a good tipped (not that worn out thing you use as a prybar) #2 Philips screwdriver and don't let it slip. The screws appear long enough to use in some router baseplates (as others have reported).

The 1/2 inch collet, while not my personal preference (I like the Porter Cable system the best), is fine. It does screw out and is not part of the shaft so as to be able to get a stuck bit out. For 1/4 inch bits, you have to use one of those sleeve adapters (included), but I really don't have that many (or possibly, any) 1/4 inch bits I need to use in a 3 1/4 HP Router.

I tested it out using the supplied 1/2 inch bit in some particle board. I tried out the variable speed. At the low setting (8000rpm), it routed fine. When I bumped it up to high (20000+ rpm) you could definitely feel the power (and torque) this router puts out. The soft start is a nice feature. I played with the depth stop and I like it. I didn't check it out for accuracy but it was not far off, if any.

Then I heard SWMBO ask if I liked my new router, I said come try it out. She did a little and said it's nice and she like the slow speed that the variable speed offers. She did mention that she preferred the plunge lock on the left side (like my other router) rather than the right side where it's located on the Hitachi.

My initial impression is this is a good machine for the money. If the price creeps up a lot, I might would spring for the DeWalt instead, as I believe the fit and finish are slightly better on the DeWalt. For instance the cord on the Hitachi is a vinyl or plastic sheath, not a nice, supple rubber one. The wire inside appears to be high quality, just not the cable sheath. This doesn't concern me as I will use it in a router table and it seems to have plenty of power.