What is a Plunge Router? A Beginner’s Guide

When a new woodworker is ready to take their workshop to the next level, one of the first tools they consider is a router. This is a versatile power tool, and a plunge router is the most common type that people choose to invest in. In this article, we will take a closer look at this flexible tool to help you make informed purchasing choices.

The Plunge Router Basics

Man Wearing safety gear with router

The plunge router is a router that plunges the cutting bit into the wood with no need to raise the router. This makes it easier to start a cut, and the mechanism plunges the router into the work-piece and pulls it upwards to make the cut.

The configuration is somewhat similar to a handheld router, but a plunge router is larger and far more stable. This is an ideal power tool for DIY enthusiasts that feel ready to tackle more ambitious projects.

A plunge router is powered by a high-speed motor with a cutting bit that can be set to the desired depth. This makes it an ideal tool for cutting elaborate holes such as mortises for a hinge. Most routers are handheld power tools, but a plunge router is stationary, and only the router base is moved up and down manually.

What is a Plunge Router Used For?

The simplest and most common explanation is to create mortises, grooves, and dadoes in wood. But, this versatile tool can also be used to create different edge profiles, such as a round over or chamfer. The router bit is lowered gradually into the work-piece to cut a smooth edge similar to the finish created on a router table.

Pros And Cons of a Plunge Router


  • A plunge router is extremely accurate.
  • Delicate cuts are easy to make.
  • Unlike fixed-based routers, a plunge router can be used for plunge cutting.
  • The cutting bits can be changed without taking the machine apart.


  • A plunge router tends to be heavy and bulky.
  • Many plunge routers don’t have a lift.
  • These power tools can be noisy.

Why Would I Need To Buy a Plunge Cut Router?

What is a plunge router used for

A plunge router is a fantastic addition to any shop because it makes routing tasks, such as inlay pattern work, stopped dadoes, and mortising, easy and safer.

The base facilitates the up and down action of the motor housing on a pair of fixed posts.

The mechanism is spring-loaded to move the router upwards. The free up/down movement is engaged with a locking and release lever to the desired depth.

The cutting depth is preset to position and plunge the cutting bit accurately. A depth stop works in a similar way to a drill press to prevent cutting too deeply.

Is There Another Woodworking Tool That Can Do The Same Job as a Router?

Yes, it is possible to make plunge cuts with a fixed base router without making an investment in new equipment. Here are five steps to follow:

Step 1.    The Jig

You will need a jig to make it easier to keep the router base adding to the cutting bits. Without a jig, the router base can move as you’re routing, which reduces control and safety.

Step 2.    Check the Base

The jig needs three particles, a ¼” plywood base with a cut down the middle to accommodate the straight bit. Then you’re going to need a pair of 2´x 4´fences, which are set alongside each other. They are set in a single straight line on the top of the base, and the cutting range is marked on the top blocks.

Step 3.    Setting Up

The cutting bit should be set at a depth of ¼” to ensure that it’s set properly. When you’re ready, you should position the router at the desired angle and then go through the route base on one side. Then hold the router against the jig base firmly and slowly place your hand on the router bit and lower it.

Take it down slow inside of the jig, and you should notice that it’s level with the jig base. When you start the router, pay attention to the sound of the motor for unusual noises. This is a surefire way to tell if the router is cutting into the wood piece in a safe and proper manner.

Step 4.    Routing

When you’re ready, start the router, hold it, and lift it in a backward and forward motion. You need to stop at the front and back boundaries, and the routing direction can be confusing at times. Try not to worry; the fences are in place to keep the router aligned properly.

Depending on the depth of the cut, it may be necessary to make some initial shallow passes. Make sure you’re working at a comfortable speed with full control, and nourishing the router bit in the material is essential.

Step 5.    Stopping and Cleaning

Man using plunge router

When you’re done, keep a firm grip on the router until the motor has fully stopped and the cutting bit is not moving. If there are any bit changes to make or other issues to solve, the router must be fully stopped first.

After the work is completed, switch off the router and clean it. There will be particles of wood stuck to the surface that need to be wiped away to ensure that it’s ready to use when you need it. Take care during cleaning to avoid the sharp routing bit, or remove it entirely to stay safe.

Using A Plunge Router In A Router Table

A plunge router can be used on a router table because it’s a router with an attached plunge base. The router motor needs a removable collet to use it with a router table. The motor temperature should not exceed a temperature that may damage the router table.

Some modifications to the table fence may be required to use your router on the table. The diameter of the plunge router bit should not be bigger than the overall height of the fence. The fence should be at least ⅛” taller than the bit during a plunge cut. A router lift can be used to keep the plunge mechanism free and clear of the router table.


A plunge router is designed to make routing cuts safely in tight spaces. If you’re taking on a complex project which needs a number of intricate cuts, this is the ideal power tool. A plunge router can be used for more than cutting holes, including installing trim, creating dadoes, and shaping/rounding edges. If you want to up your woodworking game, it makes good sense to invest in a plunge router.