Palm Router vs. Trim Router: A Woodworking Comparison


Routers have gained a remarkable reputation as one of the most versatile tools available for woodworkers, but there are so many different options, like palm routers and trim routers. Between these two, which one should you choose? It all depends on the projects you expect to use your router. 

Palm routers are smaller and more compact, making them better for small projects requiring precision such as decorative molding, engraving, and rounding or beveling edges. On the other hand, Trim routers are better for larger projects such as shelving, wooden fencing, or creating large signs.  

Because they are affordable and versatile, you can expect to find a router in nearly every country’s woodworking shop. However, their popularity may make it difficult to decipher which options will be best for your projects. Continue reading for a complete comparison between a palm router and a trim router and some additional information on features and safety precautions. 

Palm Router vs. Trim Router at a Glance

Check out the table below for a glance at what you can expect in this article. 

Palm RouterTrim Router
Most versatile
Most affordable
Lightweight/portable
Most powerful
Higher speeds & more speed options
Most durable

What Is a Palm Router?

You may have guessed that the palm router received its name because of its ability to fit in the user’s palm. It is also frequently referred to as a compact router or a hand router. Woodworkers love to have this type of router in their shop because it enables them to perform much more precise and accurate work than a trim router. 

Palm routers are typically less powerful than trim routers, offering users between .5 and 1 horsepower. The horsepower essentially determines the type of work you can perform with your router. Lower horsepower machines cannot complete some tasks because they require more effort from the machine. 

Despite not performing more robust woodworking tasks, palm routers have an advantage that trims routers will never have. They can complete smaller tasks, which require much more precision and accuracy than a trim router will offer. This is a big win in favor of the palm router because woodworking often requires intricate detail. 

Some options for using your palm router include small sign engraving, cutting decorative edges, or evening out a piece of wood. 

What Is a Trim Router?

Trim routers, also known as laminate trimmers or laminate routers, were originally invented to cut laminate wood flooring. However, they quickly became a favorite of woodworkers because of their many uses in flooring, cabinetry, and countertops. 

The main thing that separates a trim router from a palm router is its size, which directly affects the types of projects it can perform. Trim routers generally have higher power options, ranging from one to three horsepower. That is up to three times as high as many palm routers, enabling users to complete larger projects. 

Its size and power can complete some tasks that would not be possible with the smaller palm router. Some projects that could be completed using a trim router are large wooden signs, duplication pieces of wood such as fence posts, trimming shelf lipping, and cutting intricate inlays in wood pieces. 

Features to Look for in a Router

There are a few features you should always be mindful of when shopping for a router. Choosing a router with features specific to the types of projects you work on will be crucial to your success. Here are a few features to which you should pay special attention: 

Power

As I said previously, the power, measured in horsepower, is the feature that will have the most impact on the type of work you can perform with your router. Each router will have a peak horsepower and a sustained horsepower. Respectively, these are a router’s maximum power for brief periods of time and maximum power for longer durations of use. 

Palm routers will typically have about 1 horsepower than a trim router, which could reach 2 or three horsepower. Unless you are performing large tasks, a lower horsepower should get the job done. There isn’t a “better” choice for power because it all depends on your job. 

Slow Start-Up

Just like how you would slowly accelerate a car, you want to ease into trimming. The slow start feature makes the tool start slowly and increase until it reaches the desired speed. If it immediately turns on to the highest speed, it will be difficult to control and possibly escape your grip, ruining your work or injuring you.

This is an important safety feature and is relatively common in most trimmers. Ensure yours includes a soft start-up before purchasing. 

Variable Speed Control

Variable speed options enable the user to choose the speed, typically between 10,000-30,000 RPMs (revolutions per minute). This feature will help you adjust the tool to match the work you are performing. Larger bit sizes (generally found on the trim router) should be used at a lower speed, while smaller bits should be used at a higher speed. 

Price

The last thing to consider when purchasing a router is your budget. Routers are pretty affordable tools in general, but you could easily spend more than necessary. It may come as no surprise, but the more features included in your router, the more it will cost. With that said, consider features that are important to you as you decide how much you are comfortable spending on a router. 

Safety Precautions

As always, when you are using any battery-operated or electronic equipment, safety should come first, second, and third. The best safety precautions for this type of work are gloves, eye protection, a dust mask, and ear protection. Continue reading for more information about safety precautions and some specific recommendations. 

Gloves should be worn to protect your hands from sharp edges, splinters, or other abrasions from rough surfaces. They should also have a good grip and be comfortable enough to wear for long periods of time. 

You should also wear eye protection when doing woodwork. The wood can sometimes be unpredictable, tossing small pieces around the room. Additionally, these routers have different bit attachments, which may fly off if not connected properly. In either event, you want something to protect your eyes. Something that makes full contact surrounding your eyes will be best. These YunTuo Safety Glasses are affordable and offer the best possible protection. (Check current Price on Amazon HereOpens in a new tab.)

When working with wood, dust particles often end up on all surfaces. A dust mask will protect your mouth and lungs from inhaling the wood particles in the air. The volume of particles will depend on the project. Sanding and carving projects may produce more dust than others. 

Lastly, depending on how loud your router is, you may want to consider ear protection. If yours gets too loud, protect your ears with the ClearArmor Safety Earmuffs. They will block harmful sounds and are comfortable enough to wear all day.  (Check current price on Amazon hereOpens in a new tab.)

Final Thoughts

As you can see, it is easy to get bogged down by all of the small details of routers. Ultimately, the types of projects you intend on completing with your router will be the main factor in determining which tool you should choose. 

When you decide on a router, it is important to be realistic about your skill level, experience, and needs. Smaller, more detail-oriented projects require a palm router, where larger projects may require a more powerful tool such as a trim router. Now that you have all of the important information, good luck finding the perfect router. 

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