Smaller in size and more affordable, the WoodRat WR600 is the little brother to the WoodRat WR900. With only a few limitations, it is every bit as high quality as its bigger brother. This tool could evolve your shop into a high performance work center.
We began this review several months ago while we were testing dovetail jigs. The problem we had at the time was that this machine is so much more than just a dovetail jig. In fact it’s not really a jig at all, this machine is so revolutionary that it could possibly make the router the single most versatile tool in the shop all by itself.
When reviewing tools objectively, you're not supposed to fall in love with them. Instead the goal is to evaluate them on their merits, test scientifically and form an opinion regarding overall quality and functionality. In this case, the resulting positive opinion was obvious. Next, is it a shop necessity? I must confess my shop would never be the same without the WoodRat WR600. To ensure more objectivity I ran through several tests again making dovetails, mortises, tenons, box joints and also edge routed sliding dovetails producing approximately 60 different joints in all. It is no wonder there are few extensive reviews done on the WoodRat due to the fact that it is impossible to force it into any single category. Because of its versatility, the WoodRat is easily the most adaptable tool in the shop and I confess to liking it very much. Reviewing the WoodRat is a difficult challenge because it does so many jobs so well. At the beginning we got it to test as a dovetail jig. At the time we were testing Keller, PORTER-CABLE, and Leigh. Each one of these dovetail jigs had their merits. However none of them performed as well as the WoodRat. The WoodRat allows the user to make half blind dovetails, through dovetails, blind dovetails, and sliding dovetails. It is only limited by your skill and imagination as a joint maker. If you do not know how to make a joint you must learn to do that first in order to perform the task on the WoodRat. In other words the WoodRat is not a magic bullet that will make you a better woodworker if you lack skills. That fact not withstanding and even if it may involve some hard work, the rewards are enormous.
One of the greatest things about the WoodRat is its ability to make many types of dovetails. We were able to easily perform the task of through dovetails during this test, simply done on the WR 600. With the use of the parallelogram, you simply lay out the dovetail marking the starting and ending points with a pencil on the frame of the WoodRat WR600. You track the with the crank, slide the router on the guides and now you have beautiful through dovetails. It's actually so simple that it's scary. As long as one does not get caught up in trying to measure everything the WoodRat performs flawlessly. When one tries to become the master of measurements one will undoubtedly run into problems. Now you may ask yourself how the WoodRat could work without measuring and the answer is because you laid it out using the parallelogram to the width of the blank. You could even leave one whole dovetail out and it will make no difference on your joint. It will still look nice and gives you enough versatility to mimic hand cut work. While you can cut any of these joints on the WoodRat with a bit from any manufacturer, WoodRat stands alone in using high quality high-speed steel router bits made to their own specifications. You’re going ask yourself why in this world of tungsten carbide tipped bits, anyone would make high-speed steel router bits for use today? The answer is simple, HSS bits can be sharpened to a much finer edge. Also, because they are engineered from a single piece of steel HSS bits can be crafted to match the shape of a traditional hand cut dovetail, even at miniature sizes. TCT bits are useful for working down the grain. We also found half blind dovetails were a fairly simple task on the WR600. It did not disappoint in any way, the ease of setup is remarkable.
Next we tested mortise and tenon joints. The WoodRat does these with ease. You can even install the mortise rail add-on and make multiple mortises on projects like Mission style tables, beds, or chairs. You can make tenons that are square and round so you have the choice of speed or tradition. After using this wonderful tool for over a year we were finally masters of the machine. We could do any joint with it and they are all worthy of fine furniture.
We were pleasantly surprised when we received a call from Martin Godfrey, the designer and owner of WoodRat letting us know of a new development. He wanted me to test the new Pathfinder jig that would revolutionize the daily use of what has become my favorite router tool in the shop. I spent another month working with and mastering the Pathfinder, and found that it has unlimited potential for making any joint by simply following the template. That’s right, you read that correctly, the templates that were included gave me mortise and tenon joints as well as all types of dovetails. You can do almost anything on this machine and with a vastly reduced set up time. What is even cooler, you can copy any joint in minutes rather than hours. The setup is simple.
The only question this review should leave you with is not whether you should purchase a WoodRat WR600, but whether you choose the WR600 or the WR900. I know I am saving up for my second rat. I want to get a WR900 and set it up to do just dovetails. This would allow me to leave the WR600 set up for mortises.
One more thing on the Pathfinder, if you have great ideas for a template to make other shapes or joints, you can have them made on any CNC machine or put the shape into the blank template, and they will work perfectly.
In Conclusion I would give the WoodRat our highest rating of 5 stars on my star scale. It is truly the finest router machine made today. I will choose to have no less than the original WoodRat WR600 in my shop.
Lance The Dude Granum