Using My DeWalt DWP611 to Chamfer Lid Panel in Place

The Routers I Use In Box Making: A Review of the Skil 1830 Router


In this post, I’m going to review the first of two routers I use in my woodworking shop:  The SKIL 1830 Combo Base Router Set.  This is the router I use every day to make the boxes I produce here at the Rist Wood Works.   It is the router I used exclusively in my shop until just recently.

The Skil 1830 with Plunge Base for Free Hand Routing

The Skil 1830 with Plunge Base for Free Hand Routing

The Skil 1830 is my full sized router.  I purchased this model as a combo kit.  This means that it came with both a fixed base and a plunge base.  In my box making shop, I have dedicated this larger Skil router for use in my router table.  This is done with its fixed base, so the plunge base usually sits most of the time on a shelf in the shop.  I occasionally use it with the plunge base on large projects.  I have a DeWalt DWP116 compact router for free-hand routing.  Because this is a light weight, compact router, it usually stays in the plunge base for using with free-hand routing.  I will explain further as I review these two routers that I personally use in this post and a review post on the DeWalt.

Skil Model 1830 Router and Combo Set

I Dedicate My Skil 1830 Router with Fixed Base to My Router Table

I Dedicate My Skil 1830 Router with Fixed Base to My Router Table

Skil Router With Plunge base and Attached Homemade Edge Guide Making Mortise Cuts

Skil Router With Plunge base and Attached Homemade Edge Guide Making Mortise Cuts

The first NEW tool I purchased for my box making endeavors was my Skil router.   I had come to the realization that some woodworking operations could be more easily done with a router and router table.  Plus, these operations could be done safer and with more precision… producing a better quality product.  Yet, I knew nothing of routers and routing, only what I had read about.  At HomeDepot they recommended their Bosch or Makita.  The local lumber yard people liked the Festool or Porter-Cable.  I was told that for a router table, I would need a fixed base router.  But, I might need two as a plunge router is more versatile.  At the other local lumber yard, I was introduced to combo units that gave one the best of both worlds with two bases (both fixed and plunge), and an interchangeable motor.

I was on a slim budget and all the recommendations I was hearing were starting to sound expensive.  I had already decided I needed a full sized router but was now thinking maybe something a bit less powerful (and less expensive), would do.  I went to Amazon to look at my options (like any good shopper would do).  Here’s where I found the choice that met my needs (and on a 25% off sale), the SKIL 1830 Combo Base Router Set.  Not the choice that most professional woodworkers would pick, but in my price range at the time, and yes, being on sale helped my decision.

The Skil 1830 combo set was a full-sized router, 2 1/4 horsepower (not the fullest but just right).  Both fixed and plunge bases make this combo set versatile and ready for all situations I might come across.  It has a 1/2 inch collet and a 1/4 inch insert so that this router will accept any bits available (I have a preference for the 1/2 inch shank bits if I have a choice).  It has a variable speed motor (10500 – 25000 rpm’s), which makes it perfect for all bit sizes, and the motor has a “soft-start”.  These larger routers have quite a torque when they start up and the soft-start dampers and tames this and makes the routing more manageable when free-hand routing.  All the other specifications like micro-adjustment, etc. are pretty standard on most routers in this class.

Skil Combo Router with Plunge and Fixed Bases

Skil Combo Router with Plunge and Fixed Bases

So, the Skil 1830 is competitive in its class.  And, for me, less expensive.  There are a few features that this router lacks that others have and I wish this one did.  The main feature I would have like to see (and didn’t realize I might need at the time of the purchase), would be an adjustment from the top when mounted upside down in the router table.  Just for ease of adjustment (and me being lazy), but not a necessity.  As you can see from the above picture of the router mounted, all the adjustment from below is easily accessible.  The Skil 1830 works out just fine for me when used with the fixed base in my router table.

My biggest complaint (and it’s not that big), is when using the plunge base.  The base diameter of the plunge base is 7 inches.  I work with small boxes.  When making mortises and other free-hand routing techniques I find that this router is too big and awkward for my uses.  One should suspect that with a full sized router though.  I first started noticing this when making some signs.  Not only is the size of this tool a hindrance,  but the torque of the machine gets away from me at times and I’ve cut through the templates accidently.    For furniture and cabinetry making this wouldn’t be a problem.

All in all, for my box making purposes, the SKIL 1830 Combo Base Router Set has served me well.  My neighbors think the name is wrong.  I should have purchased a more professional name as they think of Skil as a hobby tool.  It’s not.  Skil has made great strides in their tools since I was in high school.  I have had no problems with my Skil router and consider it essential to my work, where it performs like the pros.  It has made my box making tool investment slightly less without the quality suffering and I recommend it as a great tool to use when you’re just starting out like I did and are on a budget.  For me, it was the best of all worlds as I began my new woodworking career.  This router has served me well for the past 4 years and I expect it to until I can no longer do my woodworking.

For Box Making, The Skil 1830 Router Needs a Router Table

My Original Homemade Router Table

My Original Homemade Router Table – Nothing Fancy

My Bosch RA1171 Router Table I Use Today

My Bosch RA1171 Router Table I Use Today

I know you definitely need a good router for box making, but the router table is also important.  I realize this is a review of the SKIL 1830 Combo Base Router Set, but I think I should say a couple of things about my router table also as the two are intertwined in my work…

I began with the homemade router table you see pictured above.  I found the plans on the internet.  This table was in use for the first 3 years of my woodworking.  Over time, I had made a variety of base plates to accommodate various size bits so I could do all the operations I needed to do.  These were tedious to exchange.  But all in all, totally adequate for what I was doing.  I found, though, I wanted a couple of extra things from my homemade table over time.  I needed a larger table top… not much larger but one for some bigger boxes I was working on.  I also wanted some better dust collection (routers are sawdust makers).  A closed cabinet, not only for dust collection but also for accessory storage was lacking on my homemade router table.

When I finally decided to bite the bullet and replace my homemade table, I came across the Bosch RA1171 Cabinet Style Router Table.  Yes, another inexpensive item (got this on sale too).  One of the big selling points for me on this model was a review I read on it where the purchaser had a SKIL 1830 Router and it could be mounted with the throat plate that comes with the unit.  Most other tables I looked at wouldn’t accept the Skil router.  It is definitely a step up for my wood shop and in the future, I’ll do a review on this table, but for now, just realize that if you’re making boxes, you will need a router table to go with your router.  The other nice thing about this table is the throat plate inserts that are easily changed without re-mounting the router as I had been doing.

My Skil 1830 Router Combo Set Meets My Box Making Needs

Yes, there are more expensive name brand routers, but for me, my Skil 1830 has served me well for the past years and as a router dedicated to my router table, I couldn’t ask for much more.  If you’re on a budget like I am, this is a bargain.  It performs as well as the name brands without paying for the name.  I’ve found it versatile, but large, heavy, and awkward when free-hand routing.  Since most of my routing is on the router table, here it shines.  If it’s a hobby tool, hurray for the hobby!  It’s a bargain…

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