Porter Cable 1 1/4 HP Fixed/Plunge Router Combo Kit

I have no hesitation in recommending the PC450PK, whether to an avid DIYer or woodworking enthusiast looking for a first router, or a professional looking for a compact general purpose router.


Porter Cable 1 1/4 HP Fixed/Plunge Router Combo Kit

The Porter Cable 1-1/4 HP Compact Fixed/Plunge Router Combo Kit (PC450PK) bears a strikingly resemblance to the DeWALT DWP611PK, which we reviewed earlier this year. Switch the colours and you might think that they are identical. This should come as no surprise, as Porter Cable and DeWALT are part of the same mega-corporation - there are bound to be both design and technological similarities.

These routers do indeed share standout features, including 1-1/4" HP motors, soft start, digital speed control, precise bit  depth adjustment mechanism, smooth plunge action, and aluminum motor housing and bases. 

Apart from brand loyalty, it's likely to be the minor differences between these two routers that will guide buyers in their purchase decisions. Essentially there are only three differences. 

Unlike the DWP611, the PC450PK has a single speed motor. You'll find that many, though not all, mid-sized and large routers are equipped with variable speed motors. This is because they are typically used to spin a wide range of bit sizes, from 1/8" diameter (which can be run at the highest speed settings), up to 3" diameter and larger (which should be run at much lower speed settings). Refer to our Router Speed Chart for more information on choosing the correct rotational speed. Compact routers, however, have 1/4" collets, and are used almost exclusively with small diameter bits. The largest diameter bit likely to be used with a compact router is about 1-3/8", which can safely be run at the highest router speed setting.

The PC450PK does not have LED work lights (which the DWP611 does have). If you work in a well lit workshop, I think that LED work lights aren't going to be overly beneficial. However, in less than ideal lighting situations, or if you're far-sighted, then the lights might be worthwhile.

The fixed sub-base on the PC450PK is round, while on the DWP611 it's D-shaped. Some users prefer a sub-base that has a straight edge, which they find easier to run against an edge guide when routing a groove or dado free hand.

Finally, the fixed base on the DWP611 has a dimpled surface while on the PC450PK it's ridged - however this is really a cosmetic rather than functional difference.

Motor housing, showing the spindle lock button (A), depth adjustment ring (B) and power switch (C)
The motor housing on the PC450PK is made of aluminum, which helps reduce overall weight. A high impact ABS top cap contains the electronics. motor bushings, and a rocker style power switch that is covered with a dust shield. At the bottom of the motor housing is the spring loaded spindle lock button, which is easy to depress with either the fixed or plunge base installed. 

A depth adjustment ring controls the movement of the motor housing when installed on the fixed base. It rotates up and down along a channel on the motor housing. You don't have to remove the ring when you install the plunge base - simply move the ring to the very top of the motor housing.

Spindle shaft and collet
The spindle shaft has 12 lock detents that make it quite easy to engage the collet with the wrench. As with all compact routers, the PC450PK has a 1/4" collet (accepting only bits with a 1/4" shank). There are 8 slots cut into the collet - these maximize surface contact on the shank of the router bit, helping to minimize bit slippage and reduce bit vibration.

Bit removal is relatively quick and easy
The spring loaded shaft lock button is large enough to easily depress, and the collet nut is 7/16" long, providing sufficient contact surface for the wrench. There is enough room to insert the wrench through the opening in the fixed base to turn the collet. Alternately, you simply remove the motor from the fixed base, install the bit, and then re-insert the motor back in the base. Either way is fairly quick.

Guide pin grooves on the motor housing (one on each side)
Guide pins are located on the inside of both bases
Installing the motor housing in either the fixed or plunge base is very quick. Simply release the motor locking lever on either base, and slide the housing into the base. You'll need to orient the grooves on the motor housing so that they align with guide pins on the inside of the bases. 

I find it quicker to just ensure that the spindle lock button (located on the the bottom of the motor housing) is oriented so that it will be accessible through the opening in the front of the base - on the fixed base there is only one opening; on the plunge base orient the spindle lock so that it faces the side with the turret stop. Slip the motor housing into the base and lock it in place.

Fixed base with the micro-adjustment scale (red ring) and motor locking lever
In fixed base mode, the PC450PK weighs 4 lbs. 7oz - about a pound heavier than most trim routers. Even so, I didn't find the extra weight a nuisance - it's well enough balanced to be easily maneuverable with one hand. The horizontal ridges on the surface of the fixed base provide a secure grip.

Dovetail groove milled into the top of the fixed base
Corresponding tabs on the depth adjustment ring (removed from the motor housing for this photo)
A dovetail groove is milled into the top of the fixed base. A corresponding tab on the inside lip of the depth adjustment ring clicks onto this milled groove. 

To install the motor into the fixed base first open the motor locking lever, and then just keep lowering the motor until you head an audible 'click' - the tabs on the depth adjustment ring have now engaged the dovetail groove on the base. Remember to close the motor locking lever.

Press the tabs on the depth adjustment ring to remove the motor from the fixed base
To remove the motor from the fixed base you first open the motor locking lever, and then press onto the tabs on the outside of the depth adjustment ring - this disengages the ring from the dovetail groove in the top of the fixed base. You can now pull the motor housing out of the fixed base.

Depth adjustment ring (black) and micro adjustment scale (red) enable you to adjust the bit in 1/64" increments
You'll use the black depth adjustment ring to make quick bit height adjustments. Depth of travel is 1-1/2", which I've found adequate for all the bits I use with this size router. Every full turn of the ring moves the motor housing (and consequently the bit), 1/2" up or down. 

The red micro adjustment scale, used in conjunction with the black adjustment ring, enables you to make precise bit height adjustments. Each marker on the micro scale represents a depth change of 1/64". After a few tries I found it quite easy to make precise depth adjustments. The instruction sheet clearly outlines the procedures to follow.

Plunge base with offset handles, plunge locking lever, and motor locking lever

Alternate side of plunge base with depth adjustment rod and turret stop
In plunge mode the PC450PK weighs 6 lbs. 6 oz. This is still fairly light for a router that you'll operate two-handed. The offset handles are comfortable to use, and make it easy to manipulate the router. The plunge locking lever is large enough to be easily accessible with thumb, and plunge action is very smooth. Depth of travel is 2".

Depth adjustment rod (A), friction-fit adjustment tab (B), rod lock (C)
Knurled micro adjustment knob (A), and 5-step turret (B)
Making precise bit depth adjustments is very quick. There is a friction-fit adjustment tab on the depth adjustment rod that you can quickly zero out. On the plunge housing is a 2" measurement scale with 1/32" divisions. I didn't have any problem precisely aligning the adjustment tab on the measurement scale, and the 1" wide rod lock knob is easy to grasp and turn to quickly secure the adjustment rod in place.

At the bottom of the adjustment rod is a knurled micro adjustment knob - by turning this knob you can fine tune a depth adjustment. One full turn of the knob moves it approximately 5/128". I find it easiest to use a set of feeler gauges to determine precise adjustments.

There is a 5-position adjustable turret, which is a standard feature found on just about every router. This turret turns smoothly.

4" fixed sub-base
4 3/8" x 5 7/8" plunge sub-base
Both bases come with 1/4" clear polycarbonate sub-bases - round on the fixed base and with two flat sides on the plunge base. Large sub-bases provide better stability and afford a much better view of the router bit and your work piece. Both sub-bases can be used with any standard guide bushings that have a 1-3/16" through bore and a 1-3/8" counterbore.

There isn't a lot not to like on the PC450PK - the 8 foot power cord could be longer, and it doesn't come with either an edge guide or dust collection adapter (which you can, of course, purchase as accessories). It does come with a convenient canvas carry case for storing the unit when not in use, or for carting it from shop to work site.

I have no hesitation in recommending the PC450PK, whether to an avid DIYer or woodworking enthusiast looking for a first router, or a professional looking for a compact general purpose router. The PC450PK has excellent fit and finish; all the power you need for routing with any 1/4" shank bits; soft start that reduces the erratic jerking motion when you switch the router on; digital speed control that automatically controls router speed under load; a quick, easy, and precise bit depth adjustment mechanism; very smooth plunge action in plunge mode; and a decent 3-year warranty.
  • 1-1/4 HP, 7 amp motor 
  • Soft Start 
  • Digital speed control 
  • 27,000 RPM no-load speed 
  • 1/4" collet 
  • 12-position spindle lock
  • Aluminum motor body and bases 
  • Depth of travel: 1-1/2" (fixed); 2" (plunge) 
  • 1/64" bit height adjustment (fixed base) 
  • 8' flexible power cord 
  • 4" diameter fixed sub-base;
4-3/8" x 5-7/8" plunge sub-base 
  • 5-position turret (plunge base) 
  • 4 lbs. 7oz. weight (fixed configuration)
6 lbs. 6 oz. weight (plunge configuration) 
  • 3-year warranty 
  • Includes: Wrench, canvas carry case, instructions
AVAILABLE AT:Tool and equipment suppliers nationwide
Carl Duguay, January 2012

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