Before I start I must mention that I am not a qualified electrician so therefore we can’t take any responsibility – the information below is just purely my experience of importing a power tool from the US!….
I’m quite fortunate that my sister has a US postal address and the other week when my mum was going to visit her seemed to be a good time to order a few bits from over the pond. I had a rough idea what I wanted and visited the WoodCraft, Rockler and Amazon websites to see what I could find.
I ended up ordering a Porter Cable 690LRVS router. Okay, I do admit I have a slight router problem, whereas certain people have a plane for every day of the week I seem to collect routers instead! Saying that, I only have two routers which I permanently use for hand held jobs, a T5 and an old and slightly knackered Bosch 500A which I often feel are under powered for most jobs – and I find my self having to take my 7529 out of the table which isn’t a job I enjoy. Also I’ve always wanted to try a fixed base router (but didn’t fancy buying the performance pro one and the new Bosch GMF1400 is just too expensive.) I took a gamble and ordered the 690LRVS from the US. Even though there have been a few posts on the forum from members who successfully run US power tools off a 110V yellow transformer I still wasn’t sure if how well it would work.
I ordered the 690LRVS from amazon.com for $149.99 including shipping to my sister’s address. With the exchange rate it worked out at just under £80, not bad for what is meant to be a quality router and considering that my T5 cost a lot more.
The 690LRVS has a 1-3/4HP motor, 10,000 to 27,000 rpm variable speed with both ¼” and ½” collets and what helped me decide on this model is that in the PC description the power specs mentions 25-60 HZ. In the US the power cycles are 60HZ and here in the UK it’s 50HZ and what you find is that motors designed for use in the US will run slower in the UK, although I have been told that only applies to induction motors and not the brush type found in routers.
My initial impressions of the router after unpacking it from the suitcase were good, the router was much more compact then I imagined, the weight feels good and well balanced and the build quality looks great.
10 minutes later I had the standard US plug cut off and replaced with a yellow 110V, 16amp plug. Time for the moment of truth, would it work? I plugged it into the transformer, turned it on then…. The router whirled into action – what a relief! I was very happy that it worked and I hadn’t just wasted my money.
The router comes with two spanners, both ¼” & ½” collets and the manual. The router itself is in two parts, the base and the motor, which is interchangeable with different bases. On all my existing routers to change bits they have a spindle lock so I only have to use one spanner, a feature that the 690LRVS lacks. You have to use two spanners to change bits which I thought would be awkward but it’s not at all, in fact it’s an easy job. It uses the same self-releasing collets as my 7529 that make changing bits even easier.
In use the router’s taking a bit of getting use to as I’m so used to plunge routers. Also the power switch is located at the top of the motor so you have to let go of one of the handles to turn it on/off.
Adjusting the bit height is straightforward, you just rotate the motor clock-wise to lower the bit and anti-clockwise to raise it, the motion is smooth and very accurate. The base-clamp lever that secures the motor in the base easily moves, I was surprised at how much pressure it applies because you need hardly any force to operate it. The micrometer depth adjuster also works well although I doubt it’ll be of any use to me, as I never use it on my other routers plus the scale is in inches.
I’m disappointed with the supplied sub-base, while it’s great to use with guide bushes it’s next to useless with the majority of my bits as the openings too small. It’s also hard to see what you’re cutting. I regret not buying the optional clear sub-base with the 2 ½” opening.
I used it on the Leigh dovetail jig yesterday and it performed beyond my expectations, the bit & depth changes were quick and had plenty of power – my T5 always struggles with this.
I’ve only had the router a few days so can’t give an in depth review but at the moment I’m very happy with it – it’s a impressive router and it’s a bargain at £80, okay I know I’ve had to buy a transformer that cost £50 but the way I see it is now I can buy other 110V tools from the UK and US.
Both the fixed base and plunge routers have their advantages. If I could only have one router then it would be a plunge type no question as it’s a much better all-rounder. Although saying that you can get plunge bases for the 690 series router as an optional extra.
So was importing a US power tool worth it? I think so, I can’t get a fixed base router of this quality and price in the UK. Of course if the router ever breaks down and I can’t fix it going to be too much hassle let alone money to arrange for it to be repaired.