Do you remember library ladders? Those rolling, tilting ladders libraries used to use (remember libraries?) to get to the high shelves. I always loved those as a kid, and I always wanted to build a set of tall bookshelves with a library ladder.

So when I bought a new house two years ago, it had the perfect empty 12-foot-high wall for that set of bookshelves I’d been dreaming about. I designed the shelves, bought the wood and the hardware and got to work.

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But when it came time to build the ladder I realized I was going to need a good fixed base router. No, not the wi-fi router you’re probably picturing—one of those specialized tools that can produce a nice straight channel in a piece of wood. In this case, the library ladder itself needed to have perfectly parallel, and perfectly-angled, sets of channels for the steps. I went looking for a router.

I wound up buying the Ryobi R163K—actually I bought its very similar predecessor, the R160K, which has the same basic specifications—for a number of good reasons. The Ryobi router has a powerful, 8+ amp ball bearing motor, definitely necessary for routing the hardwood I planned to use to construct my library ladder. It also has a heavy, perfectly flat cast aluminum base, LED lights and a micro-adjustment knob that allows very fine tuning of the depth of the router bit.

A cam lever locks the adjustable motor unit securely in place, and a quick-release button makes changes simple. I was hoping to find a two- or three-speed router, which would be helpful for routing different kinds and grades of wood, but found that those models were much more expensive—the Ryobi sells for around $60 at big box home improvement stores, and a little less online at places like Amazon.

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How did it work? The Ryobi router made fast, accurate, straight cuts—at least when I clamped a rigid fence on my boards to guide the router. Don’t make the mistake I first did and try to guide your router by yourself—you’ll wind up ruining your nice, expensive piece of hardwood with a meandering, squiggly cut. Ask me how I know this.

Sometimes you can just pick up a tool and feel its quality, and that’s the first impression the Ryobi makes. It’s not expensive, but it has some of the features of pro routers, and if you’re not a professional cabinet maker, you’ll get excellent service, utility and durability out of this very nice tool, which comes with a full two-year warranty, a nice carrying case and some piece of mind.

Summary

This Ryobi router has excellent stability, well-thought-out controls and good reliability at a decent price.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

Pros

  • Solid, cast-aluminum chassis
  • Ergonomically-correct controls
  • Powerful motor
  • Up to 2” depth cutting capability
  • Reliable, good quality tool

Cons

  • Not the least expensive router on the market
  • Single speed