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Woodworker's Gazette
Gazette Archive 2/28/98

An Adventure in Yellow: By C. E. (Chuck) Ring

I recently acquired a DeWalt DW621 router and put it through its paces. My objective was two-fold; I wanted to find out if it would be a bonus for my shop and I wanted to pass on useful information to all who might have an interest. Below, in slow speed, are my experiences and conclusions.

First we can skip right over the speed ranges, electronic "soft-start", and constant speed functions. These features work and work well.

The insert for the router base is another story. The router I received came with a 1/8" thick insert. The recess for the insert is 1/4" deep. With no instructions from the manual concerning the insert, I installed it. Then I chucked a 1/4" shank, 45-degree chamfering bit in the machine.

Eager to minimize the dust in my shop, I hooked up a Red Devil vacuum to the dust extraction port and commenced to chamfer the edges of some 1-1/2" wide X 1-1/4" thick pine. It didn't take me long to realize the 1/8" difference between the insert and the recess spelled trouble. As I routed across the ends of the stock the router tipped and spoiled the profile. At this same moment I noticed the router was leaving piles of dust and debris in its wake; the vacuum was not performing.

I solved the tipping problem in short order by making an insert from 1/4" plywood. However the vacuum still did not pick up the remnants of my artistry. Thinking the Red Devil might be underpowered and not able to provide sufficient SPM's (sucks per minute), I hooked the router up to a Sears' shop vacuum with a 2-1/2" hose, the biggest sucker in my shop(not counting myself, of course.) The shrill squeal of the motor on this behemoth is akin to the deafening roar from the turbine of a Boeing 747.

The sensation, as I turned the Big Sucker on, reminded me of the time a big bully forced a tootsie-pop from my hands when I was in grade school. When I finally wrested the small router from the inlet of the Sears' Sucker(pun intended), I continued my tests. Changing bits to a 1/4" wide X 5/16" deep slotting cutter, I routed grooves around the perimeter of some shutter frames. The router did a magnificent job of routing the grooves but the "BS" was not up to the task, leaving sawdust piled up behind the router's path.

By now, puzzled and chagrined, I opted to cautiously inch my way to the switch on the Big Sucker and silence it. The effect on my medium frame and 186 pounds of fat and flesh was instantaneous! As the suction stopped, the physical force I was exerting in the opposite direction caused me to lose my balance and fall halfway into an empty cardboard container carelessly left adjacent to my work area.

Next, the green of my 2 HP Woodtek dust collector met my squinting eyes, sparking a moment of excitement. But quick mental calculations of the mega-SPM's this baby would provide caused an image of myself in the bottommost dust bag to flee across the narrow passages of my addled brain, and I discarded the idea. Being born at night, but not the previous night, I decided to skip the sucking part of the test and carry on testing the mettle of the router.

A friend needed some recesses routed out to receive some wrought iron heating registers in his red oak floor. After making a jig the exact size of the registers, I proceeded to my friend's home. Once there, I attached the jig to the floor with double-sided carpet tape and installed a 1/4" bearing piloted mortise bit to route out the recesses. Quickly, the router routed 3/16" deep recesses in all five of the locations. At each location, 2" was taken from each side and 4" was taken from each end. The bit-center alignment marks located on two opposing sides of the router base really came in handy while performing these tasks. I didn't have to actually see the bit to determine its location in relation to the material--I just aligned the center mark with the edge of the material and "hogged" away. The heating registers fit perfectly after the corners of the recesses were squared with a corner chisel my friend had forged from an old horse drawn buggy spring (He's a blacksmith, don't you know). He presented this jewel of a tool to me after my (our) perfect work. No complaints from Ole Yeller on this job.

I continued the evaluation of Yellow Bird in my shop, mounting it in my Veritas Router Tabletop. I hooked the Big Sucker up to the router again, but no enchilada! The router did its job of routing, but the "BS" just looked as though it was trying to sneak up on the blind side of the unsuspecting assemblage in order to deliver the coup de grace; or coupe de ville, depending on whether you hail from France or Louisiana.


All during the preceding, while I was having dangerous fun, I have neglected to inform you of several facts:

  • The on/off and lock switches are all one component contained within a roundish knob located on one side of the router assembly. Once I became familiar with this novel mechanism I found it to be very functional and a great safety feature.
  • The plunge release/lock mechanism is located on the opposite side of the router and is operated by turning a knob clockwise or counter-clockwise to either lock the router in position or unlock it for plunge cutting, etc.
  • The plunge action was smoother than any I have previously experienced and I have five other plunge routers, including two DeWalts. There was absolutely no binding or grabbing as I tried the function during the testing. I don't know the actual composition of the material for the plunge posts but they appear to be hardened and polished steel.
  • The plunge-depth fine-tune and three stage plunge features were easy to set and adjust and once set, remained constant.
  • The button for locking the shaft is larger than any I have previously seen and makes it easy to lock the shaft during bit changes.
  • In my subjective opinion the router is light, but it is not a "lightweight." It had adequate power to perform all the tasks I put to it.

All right! This episodic account has a happy ending. Today, after much thought (a major undertaking for me) I decided to try to solve the mystery of vac/no vac. I again attached the Red Devil unit to my new friend. I chucked a 1/2" shank, 5/8" diameter carbide straight bit in the router and plunged the bit into a 12" square piece of 3/4" thick pine. Nothing! I had forgotten to turn the router on. Backtracking, I went back to the point where the router was to be turned on, clicked the switch and proceeded.

I routed out a sizable recess on the workpiece and all of the debris was sucked away into the bowels of the Red Devil. I next tried the same task with the aluminum insert removed. Same results! Steeling myself against failure during the next test, I used carpet tape to attach a 3/4" "outrigger" to the base of the router. This "outrigger" would prevent the router from tipping as I routed along the edge of the workpiece in a counter-clockwise manner. Ah, once again complete removal of the dust and debris. Then I tried routing in a clockwise manner and found the pick-up less efficient. My guess is the rotational direction of the router bit was at odds with the direction of the vacuum.

In my previous attempts to determine the dust gathering attributes of the router, I believe there was to much space between the base of the router and the surface of the workpiece. This, I am convinced, diluted the suction force. I had no residue left when the entire router base was over the material and an extremely small amount when I routed 3/4" thick material along the edge.

To close, and end your suspense, I'd say the DW621 is a great tool. With a little thought and experimenting on the part of the user it works as indicated in the advertisements I have seen. With or without the dust collection function, its many features make it a tool worth considering. The manual could have a bit more information concerning the insert features and the dust collection idiosyncrasies. If provided, this additional information might hasten the transformation of "Doubting Thomases" into "true believers". Yep, DeWalt has another winner!

C. E. (Chuck) Ring

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