Review By Dean Bielanowski  GMC Website - http://www.gmcompany.com

 

 

GMC R1200 1/2" Router
Review
By Dean Bielanowski

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Please note: Since this review was published, Global Machinery Company (GMC) has gone into receivership and is no longer operating. As such, spare parts or technical support cannot be obtained directly through them. Their website at www.gmcompany.com appears to still be available online and offers some product information and manuals but contacting them will receive no reply. Note that OnlineToolReviews.com does not work for GMC, nor do we offer any support or spare parts for their products.

There
is a common saying among woodworkers that "you can never have enough clamps". A dedicated woodworker might also say you can never have too many routers!

Here at OnlineToolReviews.com, we just say;
"You can never have too many tools - full stop!"
but we are self-confessed tool junkies...

Like a woodworker needs a variety of drill bits for specific applications, so should they desire a different router for specific projects and tasks. Ok, I can hear you saying now... "We are not made of money!" but when you consider that the router is such a useful tool for a wide range of tasks, and most woodworkers will own a router table at least, having a couple on hand can save time and ease frustration. Trying to freehand rout chamfers or roundovers on smaller stock with a 3HP+ beast is often not practical, or safe. You will soon find a need to own both a large, and a small router for common woodworking tasks.

Today we are going to see if Global Machinery Company's newest router will fit that small router slot in your workshop, and just what level of woodworker, and what budget this product will suit best. Let's take a look at the GMC R1200 1/2" Router!

Packaging & Doco's
Unlike many other products coming off the GMC line, the R1200 Router does not ship in a moulded carry case. It is simply cardboard boxed with all the gear packed inside. Open the box and you will find;

  • 1 x GMC R1200 Router
  • 1 x fence assembly
  • 2 x fence rails for fence assembly
  • 1 x collet wrench
  • 1 x 1/4" collet (the R1200 comes fitted with a 1/2" collet)
  • 1 x 7/8" OD template guide

The box arrived undamaged, and all components accounted for, which is a good start! Apart from the warranty card/information, a 12-page color printed manual is also included. It covers general safety information, parts/features diagram, general instructions for basic use of the router plus maintenance and company contact information. The photos used in the usage descriptions are clear color photographs which leave no discrepancy in what the text is directing you to do. A point scored here.

Tech Specs
Before looking further into any router purchase, the woodworker will almost always look for the technical specifications list first - that is what I do first at least, so here it is:

R1200 Specifications

Voltage: 230-240V ~ 50Hz*
Power Input: 1200W
No load speed: 8000-31500 RPM
Collet Capacity: 1/4" (6.35mm)
  1/2" (12.7mm)
Plunge Depth: 50mm
Insulation: Double Insulated
 *Note - power rating is given for Australian product. Power rating for US/International version of product may vary.

Motor Power
At 1200W (or a shade under 2HP), the R1200 will handle most woodworking tasks. In testing we we able to spin a variety of bits of varying diameter and the motor tackled the tasks well without any problem. The ability to change speeds on the fly is an added advantage when using a variety of woods or composites in the one project. 1200W is a pretty good figure for a handheld router. Powerful enough to handle all the handheld routing tasks and most all small to mid-size bits, yet not so powerful that you feel the motor has control over you rather than you having control over the motor.

Fence
Nothing fancy here. The fence is a 2 piece unit (fence with separate rails) and they come together nicely to form a solid edge guide you can use to rout trenches near the edge of boards. The fence locks in 2 positions on the router base via screw-down star knobs. Nothing out of the ordinary here. There was no evidence of fence movement in use, indicating the screw down knobs were holding the fence tightly in position.

Depth Adjustment & Turret
The depth adjustment features on the R1200 are fairly run of the mill mechanisms, however the depth gauge bar does incorporate a fine adjustment knob to make small depth changes. The adjustment scale reads from 0-50mm, from which you can set and lock your depth setting via the star locking knob on the router depth assembly. A nice feature on the R1200 that I would like to see standard on all routers is a stepped depth turret stop. This offers 8 depth stop settings from the default '0' setting up to the largest 25mm step. These are great for making multiple passes in deep routing operations. Simply make you first pass, twist to the next turret depth stop and away you go.

The depth locking lever is placed on the back side of the router to the right of the left handle. It is actually metal alloy construction and doesn't feel like you are going to snap it off like the feeling you can get with plastic levers found commonly on routers in this price range. It works as it should!

We found the plunge action on the R1200 to be a bit 'stiff' during the first part of testing, although it became smoother after more and more use when the springs loosened up a little. We didn't feel the need to add a lubricant to the plunge shafts, but if you require precise plunge action for your tasks, you may want to consider an appropriate 'dry' lubricant, although be sure to check any warranty issues before taking this step. It is important to use a lubricant that does not attract dust, if you need to use one.

Handles
Router handles come in all shapes and sizes, but most commonly you find either round handles, rectangular/oval handles or rounded pyramid-type shaped handles. On the R1200, I guess you could call the handles rectangular in shape, with rounded edges. What is different compared to many others though is that the handles are tilted forward by about 20 degrees (by eye). The handles themselves are certainly comfortable and the angled design is rather interesting. This was the first time I had used a router with such a design feature as this. In testing I actually found there were times when 'pushing' the router forward, that there was a tendency to introduce a touch of 'rock' forward on the front of the base, hence, lifting the back of the base up off the work surface. This was more prevalent when routing on surfaces that were not reasonably smooth, plywood being an example). If you are aware of this however, you can easily compensate in your movement and direction of applied force on the handles to alleviate and avoid the problem. A good advantage in the angled design is realized when pulling the router back toward you across a workpiece. I found the angled handles helped greatly in keeping the base flat down on the work surface in this case.

Incorporated into the handles are all the switches and dials needed to retain complete control over the router motor. On the right handle you have your on/off trigger, which also features a locking switch medially to lock the trigger on for continuous use. This provides excellent fingertip control over the router and eliminates the need to remove your hand from the handles to turn off the machine. I see it as an added safety feature, as well as providing a greater level of user convenience. On the left handle, you will find the variable speed dial. Labeled with speed settings from 1 - 6, you can quickly set the speed required for the task at hand. Anywhere in the range of 8,000rpm to 31,500rpm is possible with the R1200. That should give you enough speed variation to swing a number of different sized bits safely and allow you to modify the speed for varying wood densities. I think the handle controls are a great feature on the R1200 and particularly suitable for beginning routing enthusiasts still learning the ins and outs of their tool.

Dust Collection
With woodworkers becoming more aware of the potential health effects of dust exposure, dust collection features on tools can account for a fair portion of importance when it comes to the purchasing woodworker. Routers have always had a problem with dust collection, however, newer routers these days are making great strides in improving dust catching ability, although some models are miles better than others. The R1200 does have dust collection abilities and features a plastic dust adaptor a shade under 1" in diameter. This small sized adaptor is naturally only useful for hookup to a shop vac system, and you will need an adaptor to fit most hoses (not included). Trying to hook up a full sized dust collector would be wasting one's time. The effectiveness of the dust collection port is further reduced as it tapers down to an elongated 3/8" opening into the router base. This is a little too small for today's standards and its effectiveness (or lack of) is evidenced by not being able to collect enough dust/chips during the routing operation. We were often left with fair volumes of dust/chips to clean out of routed trenches or to be cleaned from the air by our shop air filter system, although the dust collection does tend to catch most of the 'lighter' waster material. The plastic dust protection piece through which the router bit plunges does help in reducing dust/chips spitting out the sides of the router in use. The undersized port is not uncommon to many routers, but the more time spent cleaning is less time spent woodworking!

In Use
At 1200 watts, The R1200 makes for a good handheld router for the woodworking enthusiast. We found the handle grip controls and on/off button allows full control over the router as it starts up and winds down. Changing bits is relatively straight forward, although this cannot be achieved through the base plate with the plastic dust collection 'shroud' in place. A spindle locking button helps to lock the spindle while you tighten or release the collet when changing bits. A basic collet wrench is included in the package and serves its purpose adequately. We found that out of the box, the collet would not take the 1/2" bits. The collet cone had contracted a little. No problem. Simply remove the collet nut, take out the collet cone and insert the bit. it expands the cone slightly and allows the bit to be inserted. Once we had done this once, we had no further trouble with bits not fitting from there on. I've had to do this on other routers as well, so no big deal and certainly not what you would call a major, or even minor problem.

Using the depth stops was fairly painless and exhibited as a good asset to the model. In my personal use of many other brands of budget, mid range routers I found that the depth stop rod can move/loosen when you plunge down on a depth turret continuously during a routing operation. The depth stop locking knob seemed to hold its setting very well during use and no movement of such was evidenced during the test period.

Fitting the supplied 1/4" collet requires the complete removal of the 1/2" collet. On some routers, the 1/4" collet simply sits within the 1/2" collet. On the R1200, it is a separate piece and fitting it is a simple two-step process. I wont outline it here, but full instructions are provided in the manual. It is pretty hard to get it wrong, although the manual clearly states an important point, and that is not to tighten the collet nut with the wrench if their is no router bit installed. This will damage/crack the collet cone and render it useless. Wise words of advice!

We achieved template routing with the included 7/8" OD template guide. This fixes in 2 positions in the recessed base using the supplied screws. How much more can you say about a template guide? You only get one in the set. Not uncommon with routers in this price range. More templates of differing diameters would be ideal, and I'm not sure at this stage whether any other brand of templates will fit this router. As far as I know, GMC do not make a template guide set for any of their router range.

Edge routing and trench routing using the fence worked as it should. There is no fine adjustment function on the fence itself, but your not paying the higher price for that feature either.

There is a limit to the size of router bit you can spin with a 1200 watt motor. Trying to spin a raised panel bit and expecting the router to smooth right on through a cut is unreasonable, although we successfully routed profiles with bits like a 1" radius roundover and medium sized classical roman ogee profiles successfully, although you have to take things a little slower. If you want to spin large bits, or use a router in a table, it is advisable to look at the 3HP + routers in the market.  

In the End...
The R1200 is marketed as a comfortable and easy to use router with "Controls at Your Fingertips". It seemed to perform well during the testing period and we enjoyed using the product. As mentioned earlier, the dust extraction could be better and the plunge action can be difficult to initiate over the first inch or so, but this may indeed be a result of new, stiff springs.

We didn't discover or experience any mechanical faults during the test period, and if we do in the future, you will be reading so right here. The comfort of GMC's excellent 2 Year Replacement Warranty and 30 Day Satisfaction Guarantee does offer some comfort for the potential purchaser, or for those sitting on the fence making a decision. Note, however, that this warranty only applies to 'home use' of the product and not for commercial/trade use.

We feel the R1200 fits its asking price (which is AUD$119) in terms of features and performance, and makes a good router for the handyman or intermediate woodworker. Those looking for trade quality machines may need to look to the higher priced ranges, however, if you already have a bigger router and are looking for a smaller unit for handheld work, then the R1200 may be worth considering. Always check what else is available in the price range and make an informed decision. The more reviews you read, the better the decision you can make on your next purchase!
 

GMC R1200 Router Photos
All photos copyright onlinetoolreviews.com. Use without prior written permission prohibited


The GMC R1200 Ready for Action!


Depth stop adjustment scale. Note the micro-adjuster up top and the star-shaped depth lock screw.


A nice feature is the metal alloy plunge locking lever.


The stepped depth turret can be seen here along with the plastic dust shroud and collet locking button.


The variable speed dial seen here on the left handle.


"Control at your fingertips."
The main on/off switch and power-on locking button on the right handle.


Changing the router bit. Using the spindle lock to release the collet nut.


Here we are routing a trench in a plywood side frame using the R1200's included fence.


Rounding over a sharp edge.
Dust collection is not the best, although it varies depending on
the task at hand.

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