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Talking about the Makita RT0701. Do I need a larger router for my CNC?

I decided to write this post to talk a bit about routers to use on hobby CNC machines like the LongMill. If you’ve done some research on this topic, you’ve probably seen a lot of machines use the same Makita router. Of course this isn’t a coincidence. We believe that the Makita RT0701 is a great option for a lot of reasons, including:

  • Good speed control from 10,000 to 30,000RPM
  • Simple round body which makes it easy to mount to a machine
  • Affordable price of around $100 to $150
  • Easy to find at most big box hardware stores
  • Ample power and performance

However, for a lot of people, especially woodworkers who use full size routers that have 1/2″ shanks and +2HP motors in their work , the Makita router looks a little bit dinky. If you’re one of those people who have this opinion, here are the reasons why the this router is more powerful than you might think.

Electronic speed control

By far the biggest reason the Makita punches above its weight is because of the electronic speed control built into the router. Simply put, when the Makita’s motor is under load, the electronics will boost power to the motor to compensate. This means that no matter how hard you’re pushing the router, the motor will continue to spin at a constant speed. For CNCing applications, this is an important feature as the speed of your router is closely tied with the speed and quality of your cut.

Although many routers now come with this feature, routers that do not have electronic speed control need to rely on their internal inertia to keep their RPMs stable. Although this works in an hand held application, CNC machines need to have a consistent speed through all of the cuts for the best results.

If you have a router that doesn’t have speed control, you’ll likely notice that your RPMs drop when you hit the material, and you have to adjust the pressure of your cut to keep cutting consistently. With a router like the Makita, the router will instantly compensate for the change in load and not allow the RPMs to drop.

Matching the performance of your router to the performance of the machine

With almost all hobby CNCs, the deflection of the structure of the machine is the limiting factor. To put simply, the machine will deflect far enough to ruin a cut before the router will begin to struggle to keep up, which means that there is no point in putting a larger router that will never see its full potential.

Our real life testing

Over the last couple years, we’ve heavily abused our Makita routers, such as by cutting large amounts of aluminum and wood at a time. We do run tests as well that involve crashing the machines while the Makita is still running to test the effects of changes in the electronics which can completely stall the router. We also have built custom industrial-focused machines that use the same router. Here’s an example of a project where we used a Makita router to cut aluminum.

Some of our tests include cutting through upwards of half an inch of hardwood using our 22mm surfacing bits to stall the router.

I hope this post provides a bit more confidence in the Makita routers and answers some questions on whether a larger router is needed for the LongMill.