Router Woodworking

Milwaukee 5616PK

The Motor

The 5616-20 VS 13 amp x ~2HP motor is a splendid surprise. The motor is light (5lbs.11 oz.), spry, well made and exchanges well from plunge to fixed base castings. Its switch and speed controls operate within useful limits, tho with a harder start than most VS router motors. Its wire set and plug have changed since early production; the laminate plug of the earlier days has been replaced with a smooth bladed one that does not stay well in unlocked receptacles. The strain relief (SR) at the motor is sure to last. Tho the other motor I have (from the first few weeks of production, has a frayed cord at its entry to the SR*, the SR on it is as good as the new one.

The rocker switch is a good one but difficult to find. In my view, a switch, the gateway to power (and trouble if you can't reach it), should always be within a thumbs' reach of the operator*. This one is not. Moreover, & at some risk, you have to remove your hand from the right grip on the plunger to switch it. It is more proximal in the fixed base casting. The on or off position of a rocker switch is not conspicuous* x default. In my view, the switch position should be visible from the plug end of the stretched wire*. All too often a tool gets plugged in with the switch on. The VS wheel is as well placed as the competitions', at the top of the motor head.

Milwaukee collets are the state of the art. Expect no surprises here. Use 2 forged wrenches to tighten, no spindle locks.

The armature in my sample has .005" of axial play. This is unusual in a new tool but not to Milwaukee. I have inspected, used and sampled new and old 5660/5680's with similar results. My first 2 5615 motors had similar problems. Notwithstanding, Milwaukee engineering has stated that they are actively working on this. Moreover, they indicated that my sample is normal and that under load, astride on its bearing grease, the slop will not manifest itself in a chattered cut. And to my surprise, they're right! X, diagonal and long grain cuts with this motor and both castings, proved to be immaculate. Long term use may aggravate the condition.

The acme depth screw on the motor casting is reasonable but no better than market competition for adjusting depth of cut*. There is at least 3/64ths slop in my sample. Moreover the knob that controls it dances/rotates whilst routing so changing depth is guess work. The screw resides in a half-nut such that rapid and extreme depth changes are possible. There is no safety catch for the screw. As such, the motor in a router table will fall from the casting, pressing the screw escape button, a potential safety issue.

This motor is very well styled; its machine work and assembly are superb. There is but one small burr on the plastic molding, none on the aluminum. Product made west of longitude 135 used to be a QC nightmare; not so with this component. Moreover, the motor changes speeds on the money, rests well on its head for bit changes, has no functional resonances and performs admirably under stress. I like the motor.

Plunge Casting

This casting is heavy. The motor, wire set, and casting weigh just under 11 pounds, 0.8 pounds less than the 3HP 5625. The machine sits 1 - 2" higher than most (12" max) and is therefore a little more top heavy. The paint, cast quality and construction are excellent. The entire assembly is essentially free of burrs. The work face of the casting rocks on my granite surface plate x ~.005"*. The motor lock lever is adjustable and royally locks the motor to the casting. Motor insertion and extraction are excellent.

Tho the plunge stroke smoothness is fair to good (2-13/16" travel), the motor head rocks on its posts* but will not jam (whilst plunging) with uneven handle forces. The depth adjustment hardware is sloppy & unpredictable*. The turret stop is better than most with little slop on compression.

The handles (subjective/opinion) on this plunger are of the best material, location, style, size and comfort. They are alone in their class. Their centerline axis is on the center of mass of the tool & motor, a plus in my view.

The plunge springs are way too stiff as is the spring in the self locking plunge release lever.

The plunge release requires at least 7 pounds to activate while the motor head plunge forces are >8 pounds. As such, small changes in depth require better than average touch. I would expect some loss of control here, steering and plunging simultaneously. Ladies may find these high K springs challenging. Plunging on inside cuts, however, is safe and predictable, albeit with high forces; whilst plunging on the edge of stock is unsafe* as the router will tip.

Steering/controlling the plunger whilst its cutter is engaged in the work (inside) is above average tho, in my view, the subbase is too small for max control*. Notwithstanding, the handles, so perfectly situated, do compensate nicely in spite of the high c.o.m. (center of mass) and small (6") footprint. Changing depth whilst the router is moving & the cutter is deeply (say >1") into the work, may cause the machine to tip in the direction of travel*. A larger subbase would obviate the problem. This plunger (et al) has substantial handling problems along the edge stock or rounding corners*. I would not plunge this tool whilst routing outside edges*.

Fixed base Casting

The fixed base casting is well made, well finished and well deburred, way above average. It's <1/2 the weight of the plunger; the DeWalt 618PK has the same odd weight relationship. It too, rocks*, ~.004", on my granite surface plate; it is not flat. Expect ~1.6" of vertical motor travel with the depth screw engaged. The casting accepts edge guides well and I like the way it holds the guide rods. The body armor, casting knobs and their location options offer comfort for the fussiest of operators. The motor lock is excellent. Controlling the tool on inside work is met with no surprises but, as with the 6" plunge casting*, expect adversity on outside cuts, especially as you navigate around corners. Never is there >45% of the casting on the work and whilst routing around right angles that number falls to < 20%*. The tool can be mounted upside down in a router table. Provision is made to change the depth through the casting (from the topside of the router table) with a wrench supplied in the kit. Be mindful, there is no means to stop the router from falling out of the casting whilst pressing on the quick release. Collect the motor with one hand when removing it from an upside down configuration.


The polycarbonate transparent subbases are a uniform 1/4" thick. The depth of the counterbore on the collar hole plate varies from ~.090 - .110" on my sample. As such, the flange on some guide collars will sit proud of the workface of the plate, an unacceptable condition. Moreover, the counterbore (shoulder) itself is way too shallow, (my sample measures ~ .040). The typical shelf for the collar flange is twice that.

The large hole plate (2.5") is so big that it may snag the corners of stock while circumnavigating squares or rectangles. Moreover, a hole of this size invites big cutters and, in my view, these small machines should not enjoy the company of any cutter >1.75" in length or diameter. Appreciate, a 1.75" diameter cutter in the tool places no more than 37% of the casting on the work whilst edge routing, & only 18% rounding 90 degree corners.

Dust Collection Port

This accessory (et al) is functionally conditional; they don't work well for all occasions. This one will not allow chip collection whilst inside routing with templet collars. The port works well (without collars in play) for x-grain cuts. Down grain, edge cut chips may or may not be collected x the port. The hardware is easier to install than most but expect to pull the motor for installation.

Bottom-line: I like the motor, plunge, and fixed base castings. The machines rout well. And I'd recommend them. The high K plunge springs may be a problem for some. Both castings are more comfortable than most. They adjust to rough depth handily but do not expect to hit target depth with the depth adjusting hardware on either casting; this is not unique to Milwaukee.

And lastly, Milwaukee, the last in line to make a plunge casting, could have done better. The plunge castings from DW, PC, Bosch, Fein, Makita, Hitachi, Triton, Freud, and so on, have been around long enough to display their weaknesses; a classroom full of good & bad hardware that Milwaukee could have benefited more from with a little more homework.

*Not a problem unique to Milwaukee.

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Copyright © 2009 Pat Warner
Last modified: Mon Mar 2 14:40:32 PST 2009