Can the world’s first cordless 1/2″ router really compete with corded models?
Cordless trim routers have taken over much of the router market in the past few years. For many of us, we still need routers with the power to handle large 1/2″ bits. There was bound to be a race to see who could make a full-size cordless router. Just for the record, the Metabo HPT 36V cordless plunge router (M3612DA) took the checkered flag.
- Cordless freedom at last!
- Optional AC adapter available for when you need longer runs
- 2 hp brushless motor provides plenty of power
- Extremely smooth plunging mechanism
- Variable speed
- LED illuminated cutting area provides good visibility
- Lots of included accessories like a guide fence, template guide set, and bag
- Square collet makes it more difficult to change bits
- No micro depth adjustment on the plunge base
- Opening on dust collection port too small for many bits
Originally I planned on testing the 36V cordless performance of this Metabo plunge router by running a series of tests on both pine and red oak. I started off with the oak and was immediately impressed with the power. It wasn’t long before I realized I would just be wasting material if I repeated the test in pine. If it will do the cuts in oak that easily, it will do it in almost any wood.
I cut 3/8″ x 3/8″ rabbets in oak in a single pass and the Metabo 1/2″ router simply ate through the oak like it was balsa wood. My 1-1/4″ router would have required two passes to remove that much material in oak as fast as I was pushing this cordless tool. I then decided to see what it took to deliberately bog down the motor. I cut a dado 1/2″ wide and 5/8″ deep. It handled it well but my bit smoked and burned a lot. I re-examined my 20+ year-old bit and found that it was very dull—and it still made the cut.
I replaced the bit with a brand new Freud bit and…can you imagine the first time a Jedi cuts through a tree with a lightsaber? That is what it felt like. This time however I was not cutting 1/2″ x 5/8″ deep in one pass. Instead, I cut 1/2″ x 7/8″ deep in a single pass—effortlessly. The router cut the board clean in half in a single pass giving me a 1/2″ thick saw kerf.
As I used the Metabo Cordless Plunge Router, I monitored how much battery charge it was using. Clearly, this varies with the hardness of the material you cut, how much material you remove, the sharpness of your bits, and how quickly you feed the material. After using the router, I only need one battery for now. Your mileage may vary. If you build one piece of furniture at a time, one battery will probably be all you need for most tasks. Cabinet makers who have to make larger production runs of cabinet doors might want a second or third 36V battery.
There is another option, however. Metabo offers an optional AC/DC adapter for their 36V cordless tools. They call it the Metabo HPT ET36AM MultiVolt 36V Power Tool Battery Adapter Kit. It is priced around $149—about the same as buying two batteries. With this kit, you get unlimited runtime for those longer production runs.
The collet which holds the bit in the Metabo Cordless Router is one thing I am not happy with. I’m fine with it being a safety collet, which is standard on quite a few routers. A safety collet means to remove the bit, you loosen the collet. Then turn it by hand and it will get tight again. You will need the wrench to loosen the collet again. That is not my issue.
Metabo HPT made the collet square and not hex-shaped, however. Trying to tighten and loosen router bits on any router is always tricky. Using a square nut on the collet means you have fewer positions to place your wrench to turn it. This means you can get in a situation where you literally cannot turn your wrench from either side to tighten or loosen the collet. This happened to me more than a few times while testing the router.
The dust collection system works great once you understand its limitations! The hole in the dust collector port doesn’t fit the vast majority of my router bits, so I had limited use of this feature. It fits straight cutting bits and some of my 1/4″ router bits. I don’t use 1/4″ router bits unless I cannot locate a 1/2″ version. The smaller mass on these bits heats up more quickly and causes them to get hotter. This also helps them dull faster than their 1/2″ counterparts.
The second headache with the dust port is the end that plugs into your vacuum. It does not seem to fit any hose or adapter I could find. I tried it on DeWalt, Festool, Hitachi (ironically), Shop-Vac, Makita, and Ridgid vacuums and dust extractors. I finally found an adapter on the end of a Bosch dust extractor that would work. It should not be that hard to plug a tool into your shop vac hose considering there are only two sizes of hose on most shop vacs. Once you finally get it hooked up, the dust collection makes a huge difference in keeping your shop clean.
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The Bottom Line
I no longer lust after a big heavy 3 hp router. I now want a second Metabo 36V Cordless Plunge Router to leave on my router table! Being able to take my now cordless router table outside where I don’t have to worry about dust is a huge win.
If you need more power than a trim router can give you, or you need to use 1/2″ router bits, then I think the Metabo HPT M3612DA 36V Cordless Variable Speed Plunge Router might be the perfect router. It should certainly appeal to most woodworkers. This router produces tremendous power in a lightweight but full-size package. It can run off both batteries and a cord with the optional AC adapter. Other than the square collet and the finicky dust collection port, what’s not to love?
You can pick up the kit with 4Ah battery and charger for $399.
Metabo HPT M3612DA 1/2″ Cordless Router Specifications
- Metabo HPT M3612DA
- 36 Volts
- 2 Peak HP
- Plunge Base
- 1-31/32″ Plunge Stroke
- 1/2″ and 1/4″ Collets Included
- 11,000 – 25,000 No-Load Variable Speed
- Soft Start
- LED Illuminated Cutting Area
- 6.6 lbs (tool only)
- Limited lifetime warranty on tool body