By Brent Hull

Specs and Tester's Tester Comments

When you're working with historic buildings, there's one thing you can depend on: You can't depend on anything. Over the last 150 years, changes in hardware, trim details, and other product introductions and evolutions (weather stripping for example) have led to the need for a versatile tool like a laminate trimmer for making new things fit into old and odd places. We use them all over the jobsite to mortise hinges, to make notches for retrofitting hardware, and to dado wood for custom grooves and joinery. Occasionally, we even work laminate.

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The DeWalt kit ships as a full-on laminate trimmer, complete with angled base, edge guide, and offset base.

Credit: Photo: David Sharpe

Laminate trimmers, trim routers, laminate routers–whatever you call them–have come a long way in the last five years. Traditionally geared for use exclusively with laminate countertops, they are more versatile than ever and are great for getting out of small chiseling and routing binds where accuracy and precision are required. And since my company specializes in installing and remodeling historic millwork and trim on historic structures, there are plenty of binds to be gotten out of.

Test Criteria

We tested five laminate trimmers/trim routers: –the Bosch PR20EVS, DeWalt DW673K, Makita 3708FC, Porter-Cable 97310, and Ridgid R2400. While you can buy the tools with just a simple base (like a standard router), we tested the tools in kit form and evaluated attachments along with the tools that help them do their jobs better. During the eight-week test period, I looked for a smart case, simplicity, and convenience of tool operation, and I checked for power and examined each tool's feel. Quick bit switch-out, easy and accurate fence adjustments, and bases that make sense on the job are features I paid careful attention to, as well. Too much head-scratching trying to get a tool set up wastes time and money. Also very high on our list of important details was accuracy. When mortising a hinge or cutting for hardware, I like to cut right to the line–which means there's no need for a chisel after I'm done.

ToolBoxes & Bit Change

Tool Cases. Nowadays, I expect most new tools to have their own case to keep them safe and ready for action; when there's no case, I feel a little cheated. All the tools came in their own case except the Makita and Bosch. Since Bosch's tool was hot off the production line, cases weren't available yet, but they will be.

The cases for the DeWalt, Porter-Cable, and Ridgid are well laid out and serviceable. The DeWalt and Porter-Cable tools come with the most accessories and their more involved boxes accommodated the pieces and parts nicely, right down to places for spare bits.

Bit Change. Bosch, DeWalt, and Porter-Cable each have a spindle lock enabling you to loosen the bit with one wrench–which works the best. The Makita and Ridgid require you to use two stamped steel wrenches, which are short and hard to use. Plus, the Ridgid requires removing the base to change bits.