Last week, I talked a little about router options for router tables, and mentioned that I bought a heavy duty Porter Cable 7518 router.
The Porter Cable 7518 enjoys a long-standing reputation as being the best large-motor option for router table lifts. Reading user experiences at woodworking and router forums, the common consensus is that it’s still the best choice for mounting to a router table lift or other contraption, but that the quality might not be what it used to.
There are other very popular options for mounting directly to a router table, which is why I was careful to say that this seems to be the best option for router table lifts and other such mounts.
I wasn’t quite ready to start making wood chips, but I wanted to test the motor out, so that I could chuck the boxes with last week’s recycling collection.
Well, it left me flummoxed. (This now marks the first time I have ever used “flummoxed” in written or verbal conversation.)
I should point out that the router doesn’t quite look like this anymore. After the recall in 2014, it now has black plastic handles over the metal fixed base handles.
So, the 7518 is supposed to be a 5-speed router with electronic speed control and soft-start functionality.
Testing it out at the lowest speeds, there was no soft-start, and the speed started off at max. What? No, it didn’t ramp down, it just started at or near its max speed, with a hard counter-rotational tug of the handles.
I slid the speed control switch to its second speed setting, and it ramped down to a lower speed. It sped up a little when switched to its third speed setting. I couldn’t really differentiate what it was doing when switching to the two highest speeds.
Other tool motors, even those with electronic load-monitoring speed controls, ramp up or down in discrete steps. You can hear the difference in RPMs as it does this.
Could this tool’s weird max speed at the lowest setting be intentional? I couldn’t possibly believe that. Even if that was true, what’s the excuse for the soft-start failure?
I retrieved my Bosch-made Craftsman router, which hasn’t been used in a few years. It’s more than a decade old, now. I used a roommate’s Sears gift card wedding gift to snag the router kit, which was either deeply discounted or clearance priced.
That Bosch motor behaved predictably and confidently.
Something seems wrong with my new Porter Cable 7518 router. Either the speed controller is defective, which is why the soft-start also doesn’t work at the lowest speed setting, or I just don’t know how to use this router.
In my mind, a brand new tool with a defective component needs to go back. I’ll try again another time.
In the meantime, I do have 3.5″ pads for my router table, and so I’ll pop something else back in there. Maybe it’ll be my Bosch-made Craftsman Pro router, or a Porter Cable router sample I’ve been testing on something else.
I tried to find some answers online, as to why the Porter Cable’s speed control switch doesn’t seem to work properly – or perhaps it’s just not working intuitively, making the issue user-error rather than a product defective – and found many posts about speed control failures. While some opt for add-on router speed controllers when their built-in functionality fails, that’s not something I should have to do with a brand new tool.
Maybe I won’t even need the added power of the 7518, compared to the still not too shabby power of smaller routers, like the Porter Cable 690, or Bosch 1617EVSPK that my Craftsman is a slight adaptation of.
From what I can gather, the Porter Cable 7518 is a relic, a time-testing but old design. That’s why its speed controller isn’t all that smooth to use, aside from the mentioned issues, and why its power switch has an old-timey look to it.
Its look, its feel… this model is crying out and begging to be updated.
What will happen if or when a supplier stops making a specific part that goes into this router? Will it be discontinued or perhaps updated?
Shown here is a Porter Cable low profile sander, which was also available in Dewalt colors at one point. Both have been discontinued, because Porter Cable could no longer buy the special motors they built it with. If something like that happens to the 7518, maybe they’ll update it then.
If the need arises, and I want a larger size and more powerful router motor, maybe I’ll get the single-speed version, 7519, but the 5-speed version is the same price, or a little less. Maybe I’ll try my luck with another version of the 7518.
The 7518 is made in Mexico (not China), and from the markings, I received one that was built in the later part of 2017. It feels solid, and both the fixed base and the collets felt nice and precise.
I was very excited about my sight-unseen purchase, and was even more excited, until I switched it on.
I can understand why it’s an older design that hasn’t been updated. If it isn’t broken, why fix it? Mounted under a router table, the large rocker switch and speed control switch might be easier to control than the smaller power switches and speed control dials found on more modern designs.
But all that excitement was quickly diminished once I came to the conclusion that the high speed at the lower setting and absence of soft-start there was more likely an issue with the tool than my familiarity with it.
I checked the user manual too, just to be sure, and again after I searched the internet for clues. The only related part says something about switching the speed and not hearing an anticipated change in sound, and about how continuing to run the motor can overheat it.
Cosmetic defects? I can handle that. What seems to be an unknown electrical defect with unknown consequences apart from limited speed range and soft-start complications? *Sigh* It’s going back.
Or am I somehow wrong about this being a defect?