Like any complex power tool, there are many options to choose from with different sizes, power outputs, single or variable-speed motors, and more. There are two common styles of routers, and they both have their strengths and weaknesses. In this article, we will look at the fixed vs plunge router models to help you make an informed choice.
Adding a router to any workshop will open up a whole new world of possibilities. Many woodworkers will claim that routers are among the most versatile power tools, and it would be hard to counter this argument. When a router is paired with an appropriate jig and router bits, you can really up your woodworking game.
The Fixed Base Router Basics:
When you first look at fixed base vs plunge router differences, the most obvious feature is the fixed base. But, on closer inspection, it’s easy to see that the cutting position bit is also in a fixed position. This makes cutting precise; the depth is fully adjustable to any depth you need.
When the depth is set it remains constant, which is invaluable when you’re routing handles or rounding edges. This consistent depth of the cutting bit will ensure that the edge of a rounded edge is uniform around the entire piece.
The Plunge Router Basics:
A plunge base router has a fixed base, but unlike a fixed base router the cutting bit is built into the case of the router and lowered onto the work-piece. This occurs at a pre-set depth, the router is “plunged” into the wood and the cut is made.
The cutting depth is fully adjustable, like a fixed base router. But, the router bit cuts to the set depth, and then it’s moved along a measured length to make the desired cut.
Fixed vs Plunge Router: Features and Differences:
Now we’ve covered the basics, we’ll explore some of the key features and differences.
Ease of Use of The Router
A fixed router is usually more compact and lighter than a plunge router. There are fewer moving parts; there are no stainless steel arms or springs to hold the motor in place.
The base tends to be light and easy to remove, and it snaps directly on the router. These bases are made from lightweight metal and plastic to reduce the overall weight.
But, this does make the fixed router feel top-heavy in comparison to a plunge router.
Fixed routers feel simpler to use; they have a streamlined design and is compact for routing and storage. So, you can use a fixed router with one hand, and certain models are marketed as palm routers for that reason.
Accuracy of the Cut
A fixed router is considered by many woodworkers to be a more accurate tool than a plunge router. But, a plunge router is a more versatile tool with fewer adjustments, and they even help the user to push smoothly away from the work surface. A fixed router has built-in catches (detents) to make fast adjustments, built-in clamps, and micro-adjustment dials for improved accuracy.
Safety of the Fixed vs Plunge Router
Once you’ve taken the time to learn how to use a plunge router, you will find that you can do anything that a fixed-base router can do. As an added bonus, a plunge router is safer and easier to use as you work through the middle of a work-piece.
The reason for this is that the router won’t jump out of your hands when the bit touches the surfaces. A plunge router can be safer for certain jobs than a fixed router.
Edgework vs. Working from Above
If a project requires you to route the middle of the workpiece, such as hidden dadoes that don’t run to edges or the milling of mortises, these tasks are well suited to a plunge router. The plunge router can be positioned where you need it, then you activate the motor and lower the routing bit into the workpiece.
A plunge router is far easier to control than a fixed base router. But, if your focus is on accuracy at the edge of the board, including rounding over and milling ogee profiles, you need a fixed router. These finished edges are visible when the project is finished, and poor accuracy will be noticeable.
A plunge router tends to be more expensive than a fixed base router with a similar power output and feature set. Both router types are available in a wide variety of price points with different features, such as slow-start, electronic feedback, variable speed controls, and more.
But, plunge routers have more moving parts that need to be durable, and this increases manufacturing costs. The stainless steel arms and springs in a plunge router will contract and expand during every use. A fixed router base only needs a couple of adjustments during a typical project.
Let’s take a look at the various fixed vs plunge router pros and cons in more detail:
Plunge Router Pros:
● There is unparalleled accuracy in the depth of the cut.
● This is an excellent tool for working with varying cut depths on a single work piece.
● Making cuts in the middle of the wood for raised panels is possible.
Plunge Router Cons:
● A plunge router can be an intimidating tool for new woodworkers because it must be moved onto the work-piece before the base is set.
● They tend to be more expensive than fixed-base router models.
Fixed Base Router Pros:
● These are excellent routers for new woodworkers.
● A fixed router is light, compact, and easy to maneuver.
● These router models work well if they are under-mounted on a router table.
● Because the user’s hands are close to the work-piece, there is greater control and stability.
● When the cutting bit depth is set, it remains constant and uniform.
● A fixed router is the ideal power tool for edge work.
Fixed Base Router Cons
● The cutting bit is in a fixed position which makes cutting from the middle of a work piece harder.
● A fixed base router is not as versatile as a plunge router.
When Would You Buy One Over The Other?
As you can see, the fixed base vs plunge router choice is not simple. If you’re new to woodworking, you may find that a fixed base router is the best choice.
This will be adequate to tackle simple projects until your skills and confidence have improved.
For an experienced woodworker that wants to work on advanced projects, the plunge router makes more sense.
Can You Plunge With A Regular Router?
Yes, but extra care is essential when the depth of the cut is set. The greatest strength of a fixed-based router for plunge cuts is that the cutting depth is consistent.
Wrapping up- Fixed vs Plunge Router
We hope that this article has demystified the fixed vs plunge router choice. A good woodworker can get by with either power tool, but they have their strengths and weaknesses. Many experienced woodworkers own and use both to maximize the accuracy and versatility to complete their projects efficiently.
I’m Thomas Steven with more than 12 years of experience in woodworking. It has always been my passion to become a successful woodworker. I have completed hundreds of successful projects. This blog is a way of sharing my woodworking experiences and what tools get the best results. I write about woodworking while being an associate with Amazon and I earn a little commission from every qualifying purchase.