Review By Dean Bielanowski  Festool Website - http://www.festool.com

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Festool OF1400 EBQ Router
 Review

By Dean Bielanowski

The router is a definitely a "must have" tool in the woodworker's shop. It is very versatile, allowing a number of different cutting and milling tasks including trimming, rebating, making dado cuts, and profiling/shaping wood, among others.

Today we are reviewing Festool's OF1400 EBQ router. It certainly looks interesting on the surface. Let's dive underneath and find out just what it has to offer!

Packaging and Doco's
The OF 1400 EBQ comes shipped in one of Festool's "Systainer" hard plastic containers. The Systainer is useful if you own other Festool tools as it allows you to neatly stack the containers on top of each other and lock them together for storage or transport. If you own a Festool dust extractor, such as the CT22E extractor, you can also stack the smaller Systainers on top of the extraction unit to keep everything neat and tidy, and to give your tools wheels for transportation. The Systainer itself has molded plastic inserts for storage of the tool and all accessories. They help keep the tool a little more organized. The included manual is printed in more than a dozen languages and offers mostly text based instructions for using the various features, with few images. Usually this is not an issue with Festool tools as most features or adjustment knobs on the tool itself are green colored. If it's green, it performs a task!

Power and Motor Related Features
A 1400W motor drives the OF 1400. This is more than suitable for most all handheld tasks, but perhaps slightly underpowered for dedicated router table use, especially if you want to spin larger diameter router bits. The router emits a respectable average sound level of 79 decibels. It still warrants ear protection but it's probably not loud enough to really annoy any neighbors nearby, unless you power it up in the middle of the night!

Before you can even apply power to the router however you must hook up the power lead. The OF 1400 uses one of Festool's innovative removable power cord systems called the "Plug-It" system. The click-and-rotate power cord system for connection to Festool power tools is also somewhat unique and prevents the cord from being pulled out of the tool during use. The other major advantage this accessory has is that if you own several Festool tools, this cord can be used interchangeably with other Festool tools. Take for example a corded tool that is damaged on a worksite, or even in the workshop. To replace the cord on a regular tool means a trip to a service center which could take days before your tool is back in operation. With the plug-it system, you can just grab the power cord from another Festool tool and continue on with no down-time.

Your main ON/OFF switch is located on the main handle near the body of the motor. As you can see from the photos to the right, the main handle is not of standard design, but is actually very comfortable to grip and, to my surprise, offered a good level of control over the router in use. A power-on locking switch on the left lateral surface of the handle allows you to maintain power to the unit without keeping the trigger depressed. Interestingly, this button does not act as a safety lock for the trigger, as it does on some other routers, so keep the tool unplugged or well out of reach of children when not in use.

Further up the body of the router is the variable speed dial. It is in comfortable reach of your thumb when your hand is located on the handle. The speed adjustment is infinitely variable between 10,000 and 22,000 revolutions per minute, however, marked numbers from 1 through to 6 give you an idea of the rough speed you have set. Naturally, the slower speeds are used when spinning larger diameter router bits, and the faster speeds for smaller diameter bits. You wouldn't want to spin a raised panel bit at 22,000RPM! Not only would it be rather unsafe, but the tip speed on the end of the bit would be extremely rapid and give poor cutting results and would likely burn the material you are routing. Always remember to set the speed appropriate to the router bit diameter prior to powering up.

The OF 1400 EBQ does feature a soft-start power up. This means no 'jolting' of the machine as soon as you switch it on. While it's not an essential feature on a router in my opinion, it is certainly very desirable to have.

Perhaps the best motor/spindle related feature on the OF 1400 EBQ is the spindle brake! What? A brake on a router? Yes indeed. The OF 1400 EBQ is the first router I have used with such a feature (there may be others), but the ability to stop the bit within one second of releasing the power switch is very useful, not just from a time standpoint, but a safety standpoint as well. Now you can power off and pretty much sit the router down on the workbench, and in the second it takes to do that, the spindle and bit will likely have come to a full stop (the manual states two seconds, but I only counted one second. Tradesman or any type of work where time is valuable would benefit from this feature greatly. For home woodworkers, hey, if they are going to offer it, we will take it. It will save us time too!

The motor related features don't stop there. Additionally, the OF 1400 is fitted with a temperature control cutoff mechanism. If the router becomes too hot or overheats the router will switch itself off to prevent heat damage to the motor or wiring. I can't say whether this works or not as, so far, I probably have not been able to heat it up enough to let this mechanism kick in. Perhaps if you were working outdoors on a very warm day in direct sunlight and running the unit regularly, you might be getting the unit up into the heat range for this cutoff feature to kick in.

The OF 1400 motor also offers the user constant speed routing. This means that rotational speed will be the same whether the machine is engaging the workpiece or not. In basic terms, this equates to cleaner, more consistent cutting results as the bit is spinning at the same speed right throughout the cut regardless of the varying load placed upon it. While it takes some practice to figure out the correct feed speed or routing speed for different materials and bit sizes, having a constant speed system allows even the relatively new user to achieve results just like the pros. In use we found that larger diameter bits can tax the motor a little if feed rate is high. This would be expected of any 1400W router. Slow the feed down and you will do just fine. We achieved good results in all tasks and tests we subjected the OF 1400 to, however, a quality router bit that is sharp makes a world of difference. Dull, poor quality bits will strain the motor unnecessarily. The OF 1400's features and design lend itself more to handheld use than heavy duty use under a router table.

Bit Changing
The OF 1400, like most new routers, offers single wrench bit changing. Two wrenches were needed for many older routers, and still on some new models, but one wrench changing is the most logical and time saving. Some newer routers, particularly those designed for table mounted use, even allow router bit changing through the base, i.e. above the table when mounted. This eliminates the need to crawl under the table or fiddle around with the router mounted inside a cabinet to change bits. This option is not available on the OF 1400 however.

The OF 1400 does have a spindle locking feature though and this is naturally colored green. It is a rocker-type switch with one side locking the spindle for inserting bits /tightening the collet and the other side locking the spindle for removing bits/loosening the collet (with ratchet style spindle - see below). These are clearly marked with visual diagrams and the mechanism is fairly simple to use. I preferred laying the router down on its side when changing bits as it allowed a little extra force to be applied to the router in the opposite direction as I either locked or loosened the collet with the wrench. The dust collection shroud (which we will discuss shortly) does not interfere with bit changes when the router is raised all the way up, which is exactly how it should be. I have used other routers where you have to basically remove the dust collection attachments entirely just to access the collet nut. Some poor soul in that company's design department probably lost their job over that fault! It was a very frustrating and time consuming process.
Where you will save a little time and effort on the OF 1400 is with its ratcheting spindle feature. As you start to "grab" the bit in the collet when tightening, you can leave the wrench on the nut and use the ratcheting feature to tighten it up quickly. This saves you having to remove and relocate the wrench for the next tightening turn. The same ratcheting action is used for releasing the collet nut to release a router bit as well. These are the extra features that you are paying the higher price for with Festool products. Features which go beyond those found as standard on many machines, and ones that seem to address the issues directly raised by end users. Great to see that at least some companies are listening to us, meeting our needs, and resolving common issues with previous router designs.

Dust Collection
When I go to buy a router, this is one of the first things I look closely at. Dust extraction features are very important. They will not only reduce your exposure to airborne dust created during the routing process, but also save you plenty of time cleaning up the mess routers can make later on. A plastic dust collection cover comes standard with the OF 1400. It's most useful design feature is that it requires no additional tools and no screws to attach it to the router. You simply align two notches on the base of the cover with the two indents on the router base, slot it in, and then lock it in place with the green lever locking latch on the dust cover. This locks it to the outer edge of the router base so it cannot dislodge itself. It takes me around two seconds to attach the dust collection cover to the router, and I really mean two seconds. It's quick, painless, almost ingenious in its simplicity. There is minimal clearance between the inside diameter of the dust cover hole and the router collet nut, so very little space for dust to escape when fully plunged. When fitted to a quality dust extraction unit the dust collection on the OF 1400 is extremely good. There will be minimal cleanup required later on. One must be careful however that when using bits wider than the dust cover opening on the top, not to allow the router to spring back up out of a plunge as the bit will hit the plastic cover, dislodging, and possibly breaking it. You have to keep your brain switched on all the time (it should be anyway if you are using power tools) to avoid doing this, it is easy to forget. The dust cover has a 36mm inside diameter port for attaching to your dust collector. It will attach fine to any Festool extractor, but you may need appropriate connection fittings if hooking it up to other brands of extraction units.

Another accessory provided with the OF 1400 to further enhance dust collection is a chip deflector. This sits below the router base and basically shrouds bits and deflects chips to to the vacuum port when you are undertaking tasks like trimming or routing the edge of a bench or surface. Again, the idea here is to limit any open areas where dust can escape the suction of the extractor. The chip deflector can rotate itself as you pass around a corner as well, and again, it can be attached without any tools. This time, two spring loaded green levers on the top side of the base are pushed in to attach the chip deflector and released to lock it in. Another two second task. Dust collection certainly seemed like a priority in the OF 1400's design, and in use, we found it be excellent in containing and catching dust created during routing tasks. We were able to produce almost dust and debris-free mortises and trenches, and edge trimming (which is usually a task where dust is difficult to contain) was almost a pleasure to perform. I'll fall short of saying it catches all the dust... it doesn't, but as a guesstimate, I'd say well over 95% of dust is caught with the collection features and accessories supplied with the OF 1400. One of the best machines I have used in this regard.

Plunge Mechanisms
The OF 1400 features a standard 2 column plunge action and has a range of 70mm macro plunge adjustment and 8mm fine adjustment. The plunge action itself is very smooth. Not the smoothest I have used, that accolade goes to a Metabo branded router, but perhaps a close second. The black knob on the opposite side to the main handle not only acts as the second router handle, but doubles as the plunge locking lever as well. A quarter turn is all that is needed to lock and unlock the plunge mechanism, and it grips tight! An arcing lever is normally used for this feature on other routers but I have warmed to the knob-style locking mechanism on the OF1400. It is very ergonomic, locks both columns for torsion resistance and can be adjusted without your hands leaving the router handles.

On the same side of the router are the depth plunge measure guide, plunge stop rod, plunge locking lever and micro-adjustment knob. The plunge rod and locking lever operate in a similar manner to those found on most other routers, however you can zero out the scale for accuracy on the OF 1400. I wont describe the process here as the manual provides all necessary instructions to achieve this. The micro-adjustment wheel has ten detent positions marked from "0" through to "9". A full turn of the wheel equates to 1.0mm in depth change, so each small turn from one detent to the next equates to only 0.1mm of fine adjustment. This allows extremely fine adjustment of router bit depth to be possible. On the base a rotating multi-depth turret stop (3 positions) aids in successive plunge depth passes, or just for repeatable depth accuracy. The design is fairly standard.

In use, the plunge mechanisms work very well and are quick and easy to adjust. Everything is configured for speed. The plunge locking knob is a design I had not used before, and only requires a 1/4 turn to lock and unlock the plunge. A 1/2 turn will certainly ensure it does not move. I loved the action and ease of use of this design as my fingers did not need to leave the handle to lock the plunge.

Fence
The OF1400's fence is very handy when you want to rout a parallel groove or dado in from the edge of your material. The 400mm long fence rails also give you plenty of scope for routing well in from the edge. A dust attachment can even be added to the underside of the fence for added personal protection. It features a micro-adjustment feature which is fairly standard in design and implementation but also has a large locking knob to lock the fine adjustment setting at your desired location. This large knob also doubles as a handle on the fence. I found it extremely useful as it allows you to provide lateral force to the fence so it rides against the edge of your board snugly, and allows you to balance the router and fence well. I had little trouble routing nice straight grooves and stopped mortises with the fence assembly. The fence faces are sufficiently long enough to reduce chances of rocking the fence away from the edge, and hence, ruining the cut. A little practice is needed if you are new to using routers with fences, so practice on some scrap off-cuts before you use it on your actual project piece.

Overall
I find it very difficult to find any major faults with this router. It is well designed, addressing many issues standard router designs in the past have created. While the asking price for the OF 1400 is higher than other similar sized routers (check the Festool website for latest prices), you certainly do get what you pay for with this Festool model. Dust collection is a huge factor if that aspect is important in your purchasing decision, and it should be! Those lungs of yours are valuable assets. The Festool OF1400 is the best router I have used in this regard. It will leave very little behind in most routing tasks, saving you plenty of cleanup time. The accessories included, and the ability to attach them without tools, and without the frustration of losing screws or hex wrenches/screwdrivers to attach them is certainly a plus. If there was one improvement to be made, perhaps it could be the addition of a safety lock on the trigger that needs to be depressed before the trigger can be used and power applied to the tool?

I thoroughly enjoyed using and testing this model. If I could only buy one router, and the budget allowed for this model, I would not hesitate to buy it. With Festool's high quality reputation and solid warranty you know you are in pretty safe hands when you buy the OF1400 EBQ router.

Festool Website - www.festool.com

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Festool OF1400 EBQ Photos
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Barrel grip handle with trigger, trigger-lock button and variable speed control all within fingertip reach.


Festool's removable power cord "Plug-It" system.


The black knob acts as a plunge lock and locks both plunge poles.


Plunge depth scale, and fine adjustment wheel.


The black knob locks both fence rails. The two green levers allow bushings and dust defelctor to be attached to the bottom of the router without screws or tools.


Spindle lock button is handy, but not as handy as the ratcheting mechanism to add or remove bits from the collet!


The dust collection cover also requires no tools to attach, and can be added or removed in seconds.


Using the green pinch levers on top of the base to add a guide bush to the bottom quickly and easily.


Micro-adjustable fence comes standard with the OF1400. The large locking knob up top can be used to stabilize and move the router accurately along the edge of your workpiece.


Using the fence to make a long plunge mortise in this board.


The dust and chip deflector provides little room for dust to escape under the router base.


From plunge mortises, to trimming to routing profiles, the Festool OF1400 EBQ was a real winner.

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