Fixed Vs. Plunge Wood Router: What’s The Difference?

If you are a beginner at woodworking, all routers will probably look similar to you. However, the difference is found in the details such as motor speed, power, base aperture, etc. This blog post focuses on two main types of wood routers – fixed wood base router and plunge wood router. We’re going to compare fixed vs. plunge wood router, considering different factors to help find out which one may be ideal for you.

Fixed Vs. Plunge Wood Router: The Differences

  • A fixed wood router is ideal for projects that require long hours due to its lightweight accuracy, whereas plunge wood routers are heavier and mainly used for tasks that require fewer hours hence less effort and physical strength.
  • Despite how every router works, they possess similar features such as horsepower, speed control, and ergonomic handles for comfort when working. However, a plunge wood router has more versatile features.
  • A fixed wood router is easier to use and highly recommended for beginners to woodworking. It is light and exact, lowering the chance of making even minor mistakes. As I started making small items using wood and a router, I have become hooked to this router mainly for its small size, and it does not drain me physically, unlike a plunge wood router.

Fixed Vs. Plunge Wood Router: The Similarities

  • Maintaining a fixed wood router and a plunge wood router is pretty the same. However, check your user manual to ensure proper storage and servicing of both to avoid early damages.
  • Woodworkers use the two types of routers to drill and shape wooden pieces. They also have a high horsepower for efficient cutting. Expert woodworkers recommend at least two horsepower if you intend to use your equipment vigorously for cutting.

Fixed Wood Base Router

A fixed wood base router is exactly as the name suggests; it has a fixed base rather than one you can move into the wood up and down. Before using it, you have to manually set the depth of the bit, which is constant. They are ideal for beginners as you don’t have to make a lot of manual adjustments.

Features of a Fixed Base Wood Router

  • Accuracy

If you are looking for extreme precision, a fixed wood router has a static base and preset cutting depth, which minimizes human error risk. It is one of the main reasons fixed base wood routers are overly popular for projects such as edging that require you to work from the side.

  • Ease of Use

To use a fixed base router, all you need is to guide it having set the bit. It has a compact design that makes it naturally lightweight and easy to operate. What does that mean for you as a beginner? It is the ideal tool to work with on extensive first-time projects.

What to Look For in a Fixed Base Wood Router

An excellent fixed wood router is easy to maneuver and lightweight. In my experience using it, finding one with a table mount base has a lot of benefits. First of all, it naturally improves your precision and allows you to work quickly. Another thing to consider is the trigger found near or on the handles. It enables you to shut off the router while it’s still running with both your hands on it.

When to Use Fixed Base Wood Routers

Since it is beginner-friendly, a fixed base router is used for a wide range of projects by both newbies and experienced woodworkers. Some of the most common uses include:

  • Edge Sharpening

The edges of all woodwork materials need to be accurate and precise to avoid creating an item with an improper or irregular shape. A fixed base router is ideal for making well-shaped and right edges which are crucial even in joinery.

  • Joinery

Joinery is the part of woodworking where two pieces of wood or lumber are joined together to form a particular item. A fixed base wood router is exact and accurately cuts depths and edges that are easy to join.

Pros

  • You can rely on it to give you the same results every time, and you don’t necessarily have to rely on your arm’s steadiness.
  • It is small and light, making it easy to use, especially when working on one project for long hours.
  • It is easy to move around from one worksite to another.
  • Most of them come with or rhyme with a specific table mount.
  • You can use them to shape the edges of a workpiece with extreme precision and accuracy.
  • The depth settings are marked for easy locking.
  • Easier to master and start using for beginners to woodworking

Cons

  • It denies you creative control over your project
  • Sometimes, fixed wood base routers find it challenging to reach the center of a workpiece or board since the bits can’t be pulled up before setting it to the depth you desire.
  • Anytime you want to make a change, you need to create the desired adjustments manually.
  • It can get frustrating to use on projects that require many cuts at different depths and angles.

Plunge Wood Base Router

A plunge router is used on wood of variable depth since it contains springs on both sides, enabling the base to move up and down into the wood. It is mainly used on top of the wood, but that does not necessarily mean you cannot use it on edges. It is also suitable for inlay grooves due to the plunging feature that provides smooth cutting.

Features of Plunge Routers

  • Cut Depth

One of the best features of plunge routers is that it allows you to adjust the cut depth while still in use. The two springs on both sides make it easy for you to dip the cutting bit into the workpiece from various angles. 

  • Versatility

The ability to cut materials from the top and the middle makes them very versatile. In addition, their movable bits increase their flexibility even further. However, this feature gives plunge wood routers a steeper learning curve.

What to Look For in a Plunge Router

Since plunge routers are a bit challenging to use, you need to consider comfort. Therefore, find a router with ergonomic handles that are unlikely to hurt you until you achieve your desired results. Some plunge routers have a locking mechanism you can use to set a certain depth despite the pressure you place on the tool. It is advantageous if you need both types of routing for your project.

The overall size also matters as it contributes to the weight. Plunge routers are generally significant, but you can find some medium-sized options depending on your ability to operate one and what you want to achieve. Additionally, find a router whose on/off switch is near the handles for convenient and safe operations.

When to Use Plunge Routers

A plunge router is ideal for working on chopped-up wooden surfaces or top of a board. But how does this help you? It gets you more precision and control over your cut’s depth. The following are some popular uses of plunge base wood routers:

  • Molding

Routers often need to make the molding for table and desk edges, picture and mirror frames, and others. You can move a plunge router along a piece of wood with more control and a chance to come up with a fancy design. And the best part? You can turn the router upside down and run the wood over it.

  • Drilling

If your project requires exact measurements, a plunge router can be a great advantage since the variety of bits allows the user to achieve many possibilities. While you can work with thick wood, the plunge stop function stops you from removing too much wood while drilling.

  • Trimming

Due to its versatility, a plunge router is suitable for edging and prevents you from making mistakes. Additionally, if you use the side fence, you will have even more accurate results. It is adjustable, ensuring the task at hand is performed the first time correctly.

  • Cabinet Making

A few decades ago, cabinet making often involved using hand tools like chisels. However, you can now use a plunge router which is easier to use and more accurate. All you need is to set the depth on the equipment and guide the router around the wood to make the desired cuts. Nevertheless, the plunge router is not very beginner-friendly, and it might take you some practice to do this properly.

  • Decorations

If you want to create something like a wooden fruit bowl, you can use a plunge router to make the bowl and stand. A plunge router can work around inside a circle at a specific depth to create the bowl.

Pros

  • A plunge router can directly make cuts directly into a piece of woodwork.
  • It has ergonomic handles to ensure user comfort.
  • It allows for versatility and creativity where you can simply place the router on your desired location after setting the depth and pushing it into the workpiece.
  • You can complete workpieces more quickly since this router can make both edge cus and cuts inside the workpiece using the same route.

Cons

  • They are generally large and heavy and demand some extra physical strength to operate successfully.
  • A plunge router gives you extra control, which opens up an opportunity for mistakes such as plunging too deeply.
  • You need a steady hand when using a plunge router for effectiveness. It is less stable than a fixed router making the user more susceptible to errors.

Which Wood Base Router Should You Buy?

In the end, the championship between the two will mainly depend on your expertise and familiarity with routers. If you have been in the industry for years, you may find the plunge wood router a viable option due to its versatility and ergonomic features. However, you can still go for the fixed wood router as it has no limit to experience. Furthermore, it is famous for its accuracy and precision.

If you are new to woodworking, the best option for you is a fixed wooden router. But why should you only go for this option? It is easy to use, light and has provided me with some of the most accurate results throughout my woodworking career.

James Thomas

James Thomas

Tool Enthusiast

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