Hey, old Jack here and today we will discuss the top-rated plunge routers in the market in America in 2019. First, I would briefly discuss the use of a plunge router and its benefits. I am also going to list some elements that might affect the buyer’s decision that will help you a lot. Hence, with the help of a product’s features and my experience, I am going to present the pros & cons, what I like and don’t, so you would have a crystal clear idea about the best plunge routers available on the market.
Having said that, if you are in a hurry;
- Our pick for professionals is the Festool OF2200 as the best plunge router all around.
- The best plunge router is the Hitachi M12V2 for its price and features, not as expensive as the OF2200 while still having greater features than most.
- The Triton TRA001 is most suitable for beginners for how easy it is to use though lacking some features.
Now let’s dig deeper to find out the rest, here we compare and review the top 6 best quality plunge routers on the market after months of working with them.
- Here are the Best Plunge Routers from Old Jack
- 1. Hitachi M12V2 3-1/4 Peak HP Variable Speed Plunge Router – The best wood router for controlled and precise cutting
- 2. Festool OF2200 Imperial – Great dust collection and versatile router – Top Choice for professional plunge router
- 3. Triton TRA001 – best plunge router for beginners
- 3. Makita RT0701CX7 Plunging Router Kit – Best budget plunge router
- 5. Dewalt DWP611 with the plunge kit – Professional All-around
- 6. Bosch 1617 EVS – Large fixed base opening
- Buying Guide – Things to Consider Before Purchasing a Plunge Router
- Plunge router operating tips:
- Wood Router Accessories
- Conclusion – Final pick
What is a plunge router and what they are used for?
A plunge router is a hand tool which a worker can use to rout or hollow out the area in a hard material such as plastic or wood. A plunge router is used in the woodworking, specifically cabinetry. The raw power of the plunge router makes it perfect for routing mortises while being able to remove waste in a single pass and its big size is easier to control smoothly. Whether it is template routing, profiling edges or cutting dadoes and rabbets, the plunge router can do it all. The motor of a plunge router slides up and down on a pair of posts attached to the base. A spring suspends the motor on the post and a lever locks it in place, making depth adjustment while the router is running is easier than ever.
This offers a lot of benefits over your traditional table router. Not only could this be easily moved around, offering freedom for the working, but this could also be used just like the table router, plunging up from below and turned upside down. That doesn’t mean there is no difference between a plunge router and a fixed based wood router, plunge routers can make interior and stopped cuts much more easily. The plunge-base motor is mounted on two spring-loaded posts above the base, which let you position
the motor above the work, then lower the bit straight down into the wood and begin cutting. Similar to fixed-base routers, plunge-base routers are available in multiple sizes and power. Most will accept both 1⁄2 ” and 1⁄4 ” collets.
This versatility has actually made a plunge router popular with the woodworkers. There’s a large range of various bits that are available for a plunge router, making this capable of multiple tasks. The plunge router also comes in 2 forms that include the fixed base & the plunge base.
A plunge router moves up & down on its base that has the spring-loaded arms which are on either side. Its plunge mechanism allows the user to ‘plunge’ cutting bit manually down into your material from the above.
Plunge mechanism is essential when you are working on board (just opposite to the edge), for the applications that include insets, fluting, grooves & rebates, dados & mortises, and other joints that require stating and ending the cut at a specific point of layout. In order to lower the bit to a precise depth, plunge routers have a depth stop, which is a steel rod that positions against a screw on the router base.
A plunge base router could also be used for the edge work as well (including profiling edges along with the round-over bit). In fact, with a plunge router, you can turn on the motor and then lower the spinning bit straight down into the workpiece with complete control. Unlike a fixed-base router, you are not limited to starting and stopping a cut at the edge of a workpiece. Stopped grooves, dadoes, mortises, pockets for inlay and fluting are the easy tasks for a plunge router.
Plunge Router Basics
- Spring Action. The first thing with a plunge router is that the motor and base are a single unit. This meant a pair of posts attached to the base mate with spring-loaded sockets in the motor casing, which allow the motor to travel up and down on the base. The worker will then push against the force of the spring to lower the motor and bit then at the end of the cut, the springs take over to lift the motor and bit back up.
- Plunge Lock. When you lower the bit into a cut, you don’t want to have to concern yourself with keeping it a constant depth. A plunge router has a lock that fixes the motor at any position along with the posts. The most common type is an easy to reach, spring action lever that you trip with a finger or thumb. You pull it down to release the lock and simply let it spring back when you want to re-engage it.
- Depth Rod and Stop. When you release the plunge lock and push the motor and bit into the cut, an adjustable depth rod and stop will be responsible for stopping the bit at the correct depth. The depth rod and stop is a simple system that is housed in the motor casing. It can be easily adjusted up or down and then locked securely in place. The rod sits over a depth stop on the base. When the motor is plunged, the rod contacts the stop at the correct depth.
- Micro-Adjust. A quick adjustment of the depth rod will get you close to your target. In our recommended routers, you will find that they all have micro-adjust features built-in to most routers, making fine-tuning the depth is easy.
- Changing Bits. Since you can’t separate the motor from the base, access to the collet for bit changes is often tight. Most plunge routers get around this problem by including a spindle lock that makes “one-wrench” bit changes possible. It is the handiest feature for me, the ability to change bits without removing the router from the table. A must-have feature for your plunge router.
- Dust Collection. Simple, if your router fills the shop with dust, you will not like it so much. We prefer wood routers that can handle the problem by being to harness dust at the source or have designed dust collection plates that cover the motor. The round plates include a channel that feeds into the dust collection port.
- Turning It On. The control system near or right on one of the hand-grips. This system needs to be situated in the most convenient place near your hand-grips.
The Downside of Power
Being a professional woodworker, I like my plunge router to be as powerful as possible. But is that such a good thing to have? Your plunge router needs to be big to be powerful and a big router can have quite a few problems when mounting.
The first issue is weight. As you might notice later, our Festool OF2200 weight as much as 25 lbs, it heavyweight can cause your table or mounting plate to sag easily if you are not equipped properly. For heavy routers, your tabletop needs to be thicker or use a good bracing system if it is mounted into a phenolic plate.
Second, the big size of your router handles that could extend past the sides of the plate. Now, this could lead to a lot of twisting and turning to remove them from the table.
A more powerful plunge router is usually more costly, and that is why the Hitachi M12V2 is more preferred due to having adequate power for a decent price.
Here are the Best Plunge Routers from Old Jack
After using the M12V2 for 2 months, we recommend it as the best wood router because of how easy it is to operate:
1. Hitachi M12V2 3-1/4 Peak HP Variable Speed Plunge Router – The best wood router for controlled and precise cutting
Quiet and Powerful Motor
The M12V2 Router Kit is very powerful along with the 15-amp motor and 3-1/4 peak horsepower. It has a nickel-plated housing. The motor is adjustable and no-load speed of about 8,000 – 22,000 RPM to dial in the setting perfectly. Also, the M12V2 router motor features electronic speed control that means the tool maintains RPM constantly as the load differs hence you get precise and controlled cuts.
2-Stage Motor-Release Clamp
With the 2-stage motor-release clamp, this M12V2 Router allows you to make easy and quick base changes & depth adjustments. Also, switching from a fixed base to a plunge base can take just a few seconds. Its added bonus is that this plunge base also features the fine-depth adjustment knob that ensures precise depth control.
Ergonomic Design Boosts Comfort
Hitachi has designed M12V2 Router Kit to be comfortable & portable. For great comfort, its handles are designed ergonomically that allows for precision, control, and accuracy. For portability, plunge base weighs just 13.9 pounds.
The M12V2 Plunge base comes with a case, motor, ten hex socket HD bolt M5 by 10, half-inch collet chuck, sub base (B), 1/4-inches collet chuck, four-mm hex-bar wrench, 7 template guides, ten-mm wrench, lock nut, 23-mm wrench, centering gauge, and sixteen-mm wrench.
Things I like:
The Hitachi M12V2 router is awesome, it is my top pick for the best plunge router for the money. It mounts on the router table easily. It plunges smoothly and handles very well. Adjustments are easy and simple as you need only flip a well-placed lever to switch between macro and micro. I’ve also bought many Hitachi attachments for the router & have enjoyed a lot using this router.
Things I don’t like:
It’s a nice router package but it’s not perfect. The dust collection is ineffective(just like most other routers except the Festool). The spindle lock worked fine but the wrench is stamped from thin steel and uncomfortable to use.
Weight: 13.9 pounds
Dimensions: 11 x 19.1 x 9.4 inches
Style: With or without Collets
15 Amp motor
- Top value product
- Reasonable price
- Accurate and solid router for the woodworking
- Perfectly mounts to the workbench
- Great Speed Control
- Quick Release
- Speed dial is loose
- Its plunge base is tough to move
2. Festool OF2200 Imperial – Great dust collection and versatile router – Top Choice for professional plunge router
Plunge with Zero Reservations into Any Surface
Exceeding hopes is possible with Festool. If you are trimming the laminate that is making large cuts in the hard maple or creating some decorative edge on the solid surface material. Then, routers surpass several demanding needs. More surprising is the accuracy, versatility, and ergonomic control & comfort present across the lineup. You can couple this router with the FS Guide Rail or CT Dust Extractor to experience the incomparable system that is working at every level.
This Festool router is designed for decreased fatigue and increased control. The excellent angled grips on this router ensure that your wrists remain straight, which leads to greater control.
The integrated ports of dust extraction capture the dust & debris at the creation point, prolonging cutter life, increasing visibility, & saving your precious cleanup time. It is the best performer out of the 6 plunge routers we have that it left just a few chips in the mortise when I routed.
It is designed to use along with its FS Guide Rail system for MFS multi-routing templates, guided cutting, & a large variety of other accessories.
Swiveling Chip Deflector
The chip deflector might be used together with the maximizing chip, edge forming bits, & dust extraction around corners and curves as well. Attaches & releases rapidly with the tool-free.
Things I like:
The router is accurate. Its dust collection feature is far better than several other routers out there. The operation is smooth and its motor also starts up smoothly. Adjustments are smooth and clear. The trigger switches are convenient and very safe as both hand grasp the router when it starts. It has the smoothest plunge, best plunge lock, easiest micro, good depth adjustment, and macro height adjustments. In addition, it has an automatic spindle brake, a nice extra when you have a lot of stopping and starting to do, a unique feature.
Overall, its quality is just superb, as it is the best plunge router that I’ve had.
Things I don’t like:
It’s a well-built tool which is quite expensive. Viability is its major issue. With dust collection in place, it’s tough to view the working area.
Weight: 25 pounds
Dimensions: 18.5 x 18 x 12.5 inches
3-Year Limited Warranty
2,200 watts of power
- Great precision, Quick Release with amazing speed control
- Amazing router
- Very high-quality, top product
- The drop-down dust shroud can make it hard to see the bit on deeper plunges
- High price
3. Triton TRA001 – best plunge router for beginners
The Triton Router is a simple versatile tool in the precision armory of woodworkers. You will have complete control over this tool & its workpiece is also guaranteed with the patented rack & pinion depth adjustments while electronic speed delivers the exact level of the power. It is a precision-engineered innovation that does not compromise on safety and performance.
Enhanced material support and stability for the large stock is given by a cast iron table. Plus, the oscillating action also moves drum up & down during the rotation. It reduces static friction which causes burning. It eliminates band marks & extends the sanding sleeve’s life.
It also includes six sanding sleeves along with rubber drums & table inserts. It’s well equipped to give an ideal finish to external and internal profiles. It offers the matching of the maximum size of a sleeve for perfect requirements of all woodworking projects.
Switch from Plunge to Fixed-Base Router
A button can switch from the plunge to the fixed-base router along with rack & pinion height adjustment. With the help of base, bit change can be achieved along with the automatic spindle lock. Variable speed and soft start allow you to choose the precise speed for every cutter type.
Things I like:
It’s an outstanding and powerful router. Extremely simple to set up & the adjustments are precise. It is easy to set up & the results are better. I noticed less tear out & more accurately match the rails & stiles.
I love how easy it is to change bits on this router, the Triton makes the task very simple, better than the other by having the spindle locks automatically to free up one hand to hold the router body for more stability.
Things I don’t like:
Location of its power switch is not good with respect to its height adjustment knob. In its table application, I need the height adjustment knob closer to me. If I set this way then its power switch is on the back side which is a bit challenging to access.
Weight: 8.97 pounds – lightweight
Dimensions: 10.2 x 12.9 x 11.4 inches
12 Months Limited Warranty
3-1/4hp / 15 Amp motor
- Smooth starting
- Perfect collet lock
- Flexible work perfectly for fixed & table application & passably in the plunge.
- Good speed control
- The plunge isn’t smooth.
- Includes wrench & above table height adjust is flimsy
- Its power switch isn’t positioned accurately.
3. Makita RT0701CX7 Plunging Router Kit – Best budget plunge router
The 1-1/4 HP Router Kit includes precision and performance in the compact size. With a full 1-1/4 horsepower and a plunge base in its router kit, the cheap plunge router RT0701CX7 is made for precision routing applications.
This RT0701CX7 router has a strong 1-1/4 HP (horsepower) motor along with the variable speed controlling dial (10,000 to 30,000 RPM) which can enable the user to exactly match speed to the application. And, the additional performance also features electronic speed control for maintaining the constant speed under soft as well as load start characteristic for the smooth start-up.
This kit comes with a plunge base that is required for a large variety of routing applications. Its plunge base offers a complete 0-inch to 1-3/8-inch plunge depth capacity. It is easy-to-use. The fine depth adjustment comes with three preset depth stops. This router accepts the industry-standard template that guides for the added versatility.
One Year – One Month Warranty
All Makita products are warranted to be without any defects from the workmanship & materials for 1 year.
Things I like:
The kit I have comes with the plunge base, edge guide, & standard adjustable height base along with the groove in order to attach the edge guide. Its setup is very easy. Its latch lock also makes altering the base just a breeze & allows for several options during the projects. For the price, it is one of the best value plunge routers for budget in the market.
Things I don’t like:
Its description is quite misleading as it says (3 times) the router does accept the standard template guide. Just fixed base accepts the template insert. No hex wrench is included for holding the arbor.
Weight: 3.90 pounds – lightweight
Dimensions: 17 x 10 x 7 inches
12 Months Limited Warranty
- The motor can spin up nicely
- The body isn’t bulky.
- Using an edge guide for its perimeter actually made it easier
- It doesn’t include Template Guide adapter
- Missing important bracket for the plunger
5. Dewalt DWP611 with the plunge kit – Professional All-around
It features all-time electronic feedback which maintains the motor speed via the cut.
Clear sub-base, as well as dual-LED, ensure the maximum visibility in its operation.
It enables the controlled bit depth alterations to within 1/64-inch (for fixed base).
It incorporates the fine-tune rod for the accurate depth setting.
Spindle Lock Button
Low-pressure and large spindle lock button permits you for the comfortable and single wrench bit changes.
The lock enables quick and easy bit changes.
Depth Ring & Clamping Mechanism
Clamping mechanism and depth ring make sure that the motor actually remains locked (for the fixed base).
These allow for the quick base removal (for only fixed base).
Transitioning of Motor
The motor might be transitioned easily and quickly between plunge as well as fixed bases.
Over-molded rubber handles give a secure and comfortable grip (for just plunge base).
The router ensures up to 1.5-inch depth travel along with the standard base and 2-inch with the plunge base.
Motor housing & base construction offers durability.
Things I like:
The DWP611PK is a good value plunge router that you can purchase. It is very simple to work with. It is easy and intuitive snaps & clamps. Its cord is of top quality. It has convenient handles & transparent sub-plate.
Things I don’t like:
The DWP611PK is a very popular plunge router. However, whilst it’s an amazing router for the small projects, I will not run this for an extended period of time. This would get hot & melt parts. You need to hold down the button & grip the whole router for keeping this from rotating when you are using the wrench.
Weight: 5.5 pounds – lightweight
Dimensions: 5.6 x 11.5 x 7.3 inches
3 Year Limited Warranty
- LED lights are positioned perfectly.
- Plunge base can be adjusted with ease.
- You can change from the fixed base to the plunge base in a few seconds.
- Micro depth adjustment does work.
- Bad Motor for an extended time
6. Bosch 1617 EVS – Large fixed base opening
Variable Speed and Versatile Power Tools
This router comes with the electronic speed with the 2.5 horsepower motor that is from 8,000 – 25,000 RPM. And, the plunge and fixed base combination wood router kit permit for the soft starts & micro-fine depth adjustment. This maintains constant speed under quick and loads clamp on each base. The fixed base provides much flexibility to set the bit height from above the router table. Plus, you can use it for the applications that include laminate trimming, precise bit plunging, slot cutting, and edge forming.
You will experience the precision centering for keeping bits on the cutline. While using the jigsaw, dovetail fixtures, templates, & similar devices, the fixed routers contain threaded holes for easily mounting the router table. Its base is well-positioned in a 4-hole pattern & common 3-hole pattern, bit, microfine, and depth adjustment system on plunge and fixed bases. Also, the wide base openings & 2-inch sub-base openings offer better visibility.
Durability & Convenient Combination Router
The aluminum construction does make this one the most durable fixed router for woodworking along with the wood handles on the fixed base & the soft-grip handle on the plunge base.
Thinks I Like:
The fixed router is quite, its soft start is softer & its plunge base is smoother. The collet does grab the bits tightly & releases those nicely while done. I could set the depth easily within 1/64-inch & have this return to the stop without any variation. Each side travels smoothly and evenly every time.
Things I don’t like:
Its title says that ½- & ¼-inch collets are provided which is totally false. There was ½-inch collet but the ¼-inch collet wasn’t included. So, the router bit set that I had bought is useless.
Weight: 9.92 pounds – lightweight
Dimensions: 12.4 x 10.4 x 8.1 inches
3 Year Limited Warranty
- It’s an ideal router
- Its fixed base handles have not come loose
- Its case fits well
- Adjustments are easy and quick on each base
- The plunge base isn’t precise
- Handles are not comfortable
Buying Guide – Things to Consider Before Purchasing a Plunge Router
What makes a good quality plunge router?
There are different things you must look into when looking to purchase the plunge router in order to ensure you buy the best plunge router for your needs:
- Ease of use, comfort
The most important factor when using a plunge router. To trade for its power, the plunge router is heavier and bigger. Take note of how easy it is to reach for the power switch and plunge lock as well as how comfortable the handles are.
- Variable Speed
Variable speed is a vital attribute which you must have. It offers the option to have multiple speeds.
Horsepower rating is an important feature to look for. Purchase a wood routers with the motor that rates of two HP or even more.
- Collet Size
The wood router might make use of ¼ or ½-inch diameter bits. The ½ bits are costly but are quite stable.
- Soft Start
Along with soft start, you will experience a great moment of the pause after you power it up, & the router accelerates gently to the preset speed.
- Electronic Feedback Circuit
It’s a feature which would help in maintaining the durability of the device & sustaining its efficiency.
- Vacuum Port for Dust Collection
Buy a router which comes with the vacuum port. It would save your time which you will otherwise consume in cleaning.
Plunge router operating tips:
- With plunge routers releasing the toggle and simply raising or lowering the motor is fine for coarse adjustment but not so good if you need to raise or lower a bit 1/64 in. For these most people use the nuts on the threaded spindle. Since working under a table with a set of wrenches on a small set of nuts is cumbersome, to say the least, it is useful to replace the nut with an after-market router knob, which allows quick and easy height adjustment with one hand.
- Remember that controlling a plunge router during a cut is a two-handed job. This means you need to get the plunge router that has critical controls at your hands and also easy to operate. In all our 5 plunge routers, you will find that the switch on plunge routers are near or right on one of the handgrips. And toggle switch on the routers can easily be reached with a finger while still maintaining a firm grip.
- The basic of a plunge router is very simple with 5 steps: Set the Depth, Guiding the Cut, Plunge into the workpiece to go, Start the cut and Control the plunge router. Remember that you need your grips to be firm before, during and after the cut. Get a good feel for the location and operation of the on/off switch and plunge lock and you are good to go to a smooth and accurate plunge routing.
Wood Router Accessories
To get the best out of your plunge routers, I would recommend looking into buying these following router accessories (Router Bits, Router Jigs, and Clamps, Table and Fence). They are essential for your workshop.
- Router Table and Fence: This lets the router be to put a bit up & secured.
- Routers Bits: There’re different kinds of bits that include dovetail, beading, round nose, chamfer, V groove, cove, rabbeting, dado, etc.
- Router Jigs and Clamps: The router jigs are for holding the wood when one has to do particular cuts including dovetail joints, dado joints, hinge recesses, etc.
- Check out our guide for buying a Router Lift if you have a router table.
- A compact palm/trim router is a good option when you need to follow a template.
Conclusion – Final pick
We strongly recommended the Hitachi M12V2 as the best plunge router for woodworkers, it is not a flawless plunge router but surely the juggernaut and best-suited for daily work. It is the type of router that I am sure you would be very happy to have in your workshop.
When you’re a beginner in woodworking then you could consider purchasing a basic fixed base wood router that comes with the 2 HP motor & variable speed motor. And, when you can use this well enough then upgrade to the plunge base. While using the router, stick to its safety precautions. You need to make sure the bit is quite sharp & is tight as well. The stock which you intend to work on must be clamped properly. Keep your eyes for any nails or knots. And do not push your router as it would perform all work on its own. There is no perfect tool, look for the most suitable wood router for your needs and learn to work with its strength/limit and you will love your router.
Updated July 2019: added our top choice plunge routers and interviews from experts. Adding a review of the Makita rp2301fc in our next update.
December 2019: I got a lot of questions about using plunge routers for router tables. I have put my answer in another article for easier navigation. Now, after several months, I find the Triton TRA001 perfect as a router for router table because of its versatility.
-Added a small buying guide for router edge guide here.