Even though they are two very different tool, it is not uncommon for people to be deciding between a router and a Dremel tool. After all, they both take a bit and rotate it fast enough to chip away wood or other materials.
If you are finding yourself in a similar situation, continue reading. Below, I’ll take you through the major differences between the two and help you make your choice. Before doing so, let’s take a brief look at what a router and what a Dremel is, though.
Router and Dremel: The Basics
On paper, both a Dremel tool and a router might seem similar. They’re fast-spinning tools. They can both be used for cutting, engraving, etching, sanding, and rounding edges. But, taking a quick look at them will prove a world of difference.
What Is a Router?
A router is a woodworking tool that hollows out an area in a piece of wood.
It is often regarded as the most versatile woodworking power tool. It stands perpendicular to the working surface and is slid across the surface by hand. While there are numerous types of routers, fixed-base and plunge among others, for the purpose of this article we will treat them all as the same.
What Is a Dremel?
A Dremel is a woodworking rotary tool.
It is handheld and looks like a pencil or electric toothbrush. You insert a bit into the tool and then you can start working. It’s named after the gentleman and company who founded the tool, Dremel – though its official name is a “Moto-Tool”.
Router vs. Dremel: What Are the Differences?
Though the tools can do very similar tasks, there’s a lot of differences between the two as well.
The difference in the collet size of the two tools is very noticeable and could make or break your project.
Dremels only have 1/8-inch collets. Routers have a 1/4-inch collet or larger. This means that a router can take thicker diameter bits.
Since the collet of the Dremel is so much smaller, it’s a lot easier to break a bit.
Also, even a well-made Dremel has trouble lasting as long as a router. Additionally, the way you hold and use the tool makes the Dremel easier to break.
Not only are routers heavier and less likely to break, but they’re also more powerful. Dremels can see powers of around 1.6-amp motors. Entry-level routers can have 5.6-amp motors and can go way up to 15 amps.
There are projects that you can knock out with a single pass of a router. Due to the power discrepancy, it will take many passes of the Dremel to match the finish.
Along with more power, routers also have higher speeds than Dremel tools.
Routers can vary when it comes to RPM, but it’s not uncommon to see a range of 15,000 to 35,000 RPM. For comparison, the heavier-duty series of Dremel, the 7300, can deliver from 6,500 to 13,000 RPM.
Since a router is larger and stronger, it makes sense that it can work on more materials than the Dremel.
At times, a Dremel tool can even struggle with softwoods like pine. You might find the motor sputtering and seizing on even some soft materials.
This is the one place that the Dremel starts to show its strength.
There are kits available for Dremel tools that have dozens of different bits. You can attach different bits for different projects. The bits can range from carving, engraving, grinding, sharpening, cleaning to polishing, sanding, detailing, circle cutting, sculpting, dust blowing, and drilling.
The Dremel is a significantly more versatile tool than a router which largely fulfills one function.
The final big difference between the two tools is the price.
Dremels, on the other hand, are almost all under a hundred dollars. The price increases as you get the beefier model and add more attachments. Overall, the Dremel is a lot less expensive, though.
Which of the Two Should You Use?
If you need a general-use tool, and you’re looking to work on a lot of different projects, you should consider a Dremel. Especially so if you tend to work with a lot of softer materials on relatively compact workpieces.
They have interchangeable bits that can accommodate a wide variety of jobs.
If you need a tool for use on harder materials, or you need a lot of power, you need a router. Routers have significantly more power, are larger, and are less likely for their motor to sputter or seize while working.
If you’d like to use the tool for a long period of time or on many projects, you should lean towards a router as well. The collets are larger which means they are less likely to break.
If you are working on a project where time is critical, you’d be happy if you had a router with you as well.
A job that can be done with one pass on a router could take 10 passes on a Dremel to get the same final result. This is because of the power, size, and reliability of the router. At the end of the day, it will save you a lot of time to use a router.
Finally, if you just want to keep the cost down, you should stick with a Dremel.
If your applications aren’t super serious and don’t require a lot of strength, this isn’t a tool you should overpay for. Pick a Dremel because they’re significantly cheaper and are more useful for a DIY-er or homeowner.
Can a Dremel Be Turned into a Router?
Looking at the two tools, they are very dissimilar. The only thing they have in common is their function and the fact that they are rotary tools.
Even with the differences, it is completely possible to turn a Dremel into an (albeit low-power) router. Using a table like this will allow you to start using your Dremel like a router. It adds a fence and worktable to the top of your Dremel, allowing you to start slotting, sanding, and trimming.
For a sturdier tool, you can use this add-on instead. This turns a Dremel into a plunge router and allows you to use both hands to start lettering, etching, and slotting.
The transformation from a Dremel to a router is really easy, especially with either of these attachments.
As you can see, the use cases for routers and Dremels are fairly distinct. While the former is a relatively heavy-duty woodworking tool, the latter is a much smaller tool.
With that in mind, if you are planning to work on projects that involve larger workpieces or harder materials, you should definitely get a router. On the other hand, if you are going to be mostly working on smaller pieces of softer wood or other soft materials, Dremel might be a good option too.