How to Use a Palm Router


Introduction to Palm Routers

There has always been a debate about whether or not you need a full-size router versus the smaller trim router or palm router.  While the full-size router is definitely the more powerful and versatile tool, the trim router can definitely be an essential addition to any workshop or DIYer’s toolkit.

The trim router, despite being smaller and more compact that a full sized router, packs a surprising punch. This tool has become a favorite among casual DIYers, hobbyists, and even professional carpenters for its ease of use, precision, and ability to tackle a wide range of tasks with ease. From flush trimming and freehand sign making to adding decorative edges, the trim router is a true jack-of-all-trades in the woodworking world.

While full-size routers excel at heavy-duty tasks and large-scale projects, the trim router does quite well in its portability and maneuverability.  It is an great choice for intricate work, tight spaces, and projects that need a more delicate touch. With its lightweight and ergonomic design, the trim router offers a level of control and comfort that can be particularly appealing to beginners or those with limited strength or dexterity.

Key Features and Benefits

Portability and Ease of Use: One of the biggest advantages of trim routers is their remarkable portability and ease of use. Weighing in at only a few pounds, these compact tools are incredibly lightweight and ergonomically designed, making them comfortable to operate for extended periods. Their small size and sleek profiles allow for easy maneuverability, enabling users to access tight spaces and work on intricate details with precision. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or a DIY enthusiast, the trim router’s user-friendly nature makes it an excellent choice for those seeking a tool that minimizes fatigue and maximizes control.

Versatility in Applications: Despite their compact size, trim routers boast an impressive versatility that belies their modest stature. These multi-talented tools can tackle a wide array of tasks, from flush trimming and edge forming to freehand sign making and even small-scale joinery work. With the ability to accept a variety of specialized bits, trim routers can be adapted to suit virtually any woodworking project, making them an indispensable addition to any well-equipped workshop or DIY arsenal.

Precision and Adjustability: Precision and control are paramount in woodworking, and trim routers excel in delivering both. These tools often feature adjustable speed settings, allowing users to fine-tune the router’s performance to match the specific demands of the material and the task at hand. Furthermore, the compact size and lightweight design of trim routers allow precise handling, enabling users to execute intricate cuts and patterns with remarkable accuracy. Many models also offer micro-adjustment capabilities, giving you the ability to make minute tweaks for truly flawless results.

Practical Applications

Flush Trimming: One of the trim router’s best uses is flush trimming. This involves trimming the edge of one material so that it is perfectly flush with another. An example of this would be when working on a laminated countertop or veneered piece, the trim router, equipped with a flush-trim bit, can easily remove excess material, leaving behind a smooth, even surface. This application not only exemplifies the router’s precision but also its ability to handle detailed work with ease, making it a great tool for finishing touches.

Freehand Sign Making: For those with an artistic side, trim routers open up a world of possibilities in freehand sign making and creative woodworking projects. By using specialty lettering bits and following freehand templates or stencils, crafters can effortlessly carve beautiful signs, plaques, and decorative pieces from wood. The trim router’s lightweight design provides the maneuverability needed for these intricate carving tasks.

Decorative Edges: Trim routers are great at adding decorative flair to otherwise ordinary woodworking projects. By swapping in specialized edge beading or molding bits, users can quickly and easily dress up plain edges with beautiful profiles and accents. From simple roundovers to elaborate cove cuts, these versatile tools allow DIYers to incorporate decorative touches that take their projects to the next level.

Beyond these popular uses, trim routers also excel at smaller-scale tasks like hinge mortising, creating custom moldings and edge treatments, and even basic joinery work like cutting rabbets or dadoes on smaller workpieces. Their portability and precision make them perfectly suited for a wide range of intricate routing applications.

Here is a great video from Woodworkers Guild of America

Buying Guide and Usage Tips

With so many trim router models on the market, it can be challenging to determine which one best meets your needs. Choosing the right trim router can make all the difference in your woodworking and DIY projects.

Power and Speed

The motor’s power, usually measured in amps, is a critical factor to consider. Most trim routers range from 5 to 9 amps. While a higher amp rating generally means more power for cutting through tougher materials, it’s also essential to look for a router with variable speed control. This feature allows you to adjust the speed based on the bit size and material, enhancing the tool’s versatility and the quality of the finish. Speeds typically range from 10,000 to 30,000 RPM, with variable speed routers offering the flexibility to tackle a wide range of tasks.

Ergonomics and Design

The physical design of the trim router greatly affects its usability. Look for models with ergonomic grips and a lightweight design to reduce fatigue during extended use. The tool should fit comfortably in your hand, providing control and stability as you work. Additionally, consider models with a clear base or LED lighting, as these features greatly improve visibility, ensuring precision in your cuts.

Depth Adjustment

Precision depth adjustment is another crucial feature, allowing for accurate control over the bit’s penetration into the material. Look for a trim router with an easy-to-use depth adjustment system that offers both macro and micro adjustments. This feature is particularly important for tasks requiring high precision, such as creating intricate inlays or detailed edge profiles.

Dust Collection

Woodworking can generate a significant amount of dust, which not only creates a mess but can also be hazardous to your health. A trim router with an effective dust collection system can help keep your workspace clean and reduce airborne particles. While not all models come with built-in dust collection, those that do—or at least offer an attachment option—can be a good choice for both cleanliness and health reasons.

Accessories and Compatibility

Consider what comes with the trim router and what additional accessories are available. A model that includes a variety of bases, such as a plunge base or tilt base, offers greater versatility. Additionally, check the compatibility with different bits and whether the router accepts standard sizes, particularly if you already own bits you’d like to use. Some routers are designed exclusively for ¼-inch shank bits, while others may accommodate both ¼-inch and ½-inch sizes.

Price and Brand

Trim routers are available across a wide price range, from budget-friendly models to high-end professional units. Determine your budget beforehand, but also consider the tool’s durability and the reputation of its manufacturer. Investing a bit more in a reputable brand can lead to better performance, longer tool life, and access to customer support and spare parts.

Selecting the right trim router involves balancing power and precision with comfort and versatility. By considering these key factors, you can choose a tool that not only meets your current needs but also grows with you as your skills and projects evolve. In the next section, we’ll share some tips on using your trim router safely and effectively to achieve the best results in your woodworking endeavors.

Overcoming Limitations

While trim routers offer an impressive array of capabilities, they do have some inherent limitations that users should be aware of. One of the primary constraints is the restriction to 1/4-inch shank router bits. This smaller bit size, while contributing to the router’s compact design and ease of use, also limits the scope of projects and materials that can be effectively worked.

Larger 1/2-inch shank bits, commonly used in full-size routers, have greater mass and cutting surface area, making them better suited for hogging out large amounts of material or tackling heavy-duty tasks like mortising or cutting deep grooves. The 1/4-inch bits used in trim routers simply lack the heft and cutting area for such demanding applications.

However, this limitation can often be mitigated by taking a multi-pass approach or roughing out the bulk of material removal with another tool before using the trim router for final shaping and detailing. Additionally, some manufacturers offer base plate accessories that increase the trim router’s stability and control, allowing for safer use of larger diameter bits when needed.

Another potential drawback is the relatively low maximum cutting depth of trim routers compared to full-size models. Most are limited to a 1-inch maximum cut depth, restricting larger-scale plunge routing operations. For projects requiring deeper plunge cuts, a full-size router may be a more appropriate choice.

Despite these constraints, trim routers remain incredibly versatile tools that can handle the vast majority of routing tasks encountered in hobby woodworking, cabinetry, and general DIY projects. By understanding their capabilities and working within their limitations, users can maximize their effectiveness while avoiding excessive strain that could risk bit breakage or loss of control.


The world of woodworking and DIY is constantly evolving, with new tools and techniques emerging to meet the needs of hobbyists and professionals alike. In this landscape, the trim router stands out as a remarkably versatile and indispensable addition to any well-rounded toolkit.

Despite its compact size, the trim router packs a powerful punch, offering a unique combination of precision, maneuverability, and ease of use that is unmatched by its full-size counterparts. From flush trimming and edge profiling to freehand sign making and decorative touches, these mighty little tools have proven their mettle time and time again.

For casual DIYers and hobbyists, the trim router represents an affordable and user-friendly entry point into the world of routing. Its lightweight design and ergonomic features make it approachable for beginners, while still delivering the precision and control required for more advanced projects.

Even seasoned professionals have come to appreciate the trim router’s ability to tackle intricate tasks and access tight spaces that would be challenging or impossible with larger routers. Its versatility allows it to serve as a valuable secondary tool, complementing the capabilities of a full-size router.

When it comes to choosing between a trim router and a full-size model, the decision often comes down to the scope and scale of your projects. For most casual DIY and light carpentry tasks, the trim router’s combination of power, precision, and portability make it an excellent choice that can handle the majority of routing needs with finesse.

So, whether you’re a seasoned woodworker or a budding DIY enthusiast, the case for investing in a trim router is a compelling one. With its ability to elevate the quality and sophistication of your projects while offering unmatched convenience and ease of use, this mighty little tool is sure to become an indispensable ally in your workshop adventures.

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