A router is a very useful tool for a woodworker as it is essential for cutting and shaping workpieces. The selection of a router should be carefully made and there are many parameters that you need to account for when deciding which category of a router is best for your application. The final decision you make is usually based on a trade-off between different parameters.
- Basic Overview of a Plunge Router and a Fixed Router
- Plunge Router vs. Fixed Router – A closer look of some of the most popular wood routers
Basic Overview of a Plunge Router and a Fixed Router
A plunge router has the capability to be versatile when moving it on the base of the workpiece. You can move this type of router easily and make it accessible over a wide range of workpiece. Moreover, they are accompanied by spring load arms on both sides which would help you plunge the cutting bit into the material manually. Refer to our best plunge router guide for choosing your suitable tool.
On the other hand, the design of the fixed base router is almost the same as a plunge router, however, you cannot move as the bottom of the router is fixed. Since the movement of the base is not very flexible it is also known as a fixed-base router. To be able to get the most out of your fixed base wood router, you’ll need the best router table and a router lift.
Both routers have a duct where the material shavings and debris can be collected and removed from the workbench at the end of the work.
A pair of handles are attached on either side of the machine which helps you maneuver the machine easily according to the operation at hand.
This feature helps you to guide the machine for either linear or non-linear paths. It is usually accompanied by templates for various designs and applications.
Ease of Versatility
When it comes to handling a workpiece, most users prefer that the workpiece remains as stationary as possible so that cutting can be carried out accordingly as keeping it within tolerance is very important. You can mount a fixed base router on a table easily, however, its movement is restricted. So, for a very large workpiece (e.g. a wooden door) the router should be removed and placed for every intricate cut you need to carry out. Therefore, for these applications, a fixed router is not suitable for you and it will be very time-consuming.
Contrarily, a plunge router would give you more freedom when moving it around on a large surface. Moreover, it is a general misconception among people that plunge routers cannot be used at all for edge work. You can adjust the movement for cutting an edge by using a round-over cutting bit and the profile of the edge can be shaped conveniently. Furthermore, the depth of the cut can also be adjusted during operation. This gives a plunge router an edge over a fixed router.
Reliability of Accuracy
You can determine the overall accuracy of a machine from its ability to work out intricate cutting details. In this regard, a fixed base router is very accurate since they don’t move at all during a cutting operation. This allows the machine to use and incorporate fine cutting tools to handle delicate workpieces. The handling during the cutting is very efficient and therefore close tolerance levels can be easily achieved.
Although, a plunge router is more convenient and versatile for you to handle you would need to be extremely careful when handling smaller cut sizes. Therefore, the reliability of accuracy is low since it is dependent on your skills to handle a plunge router rather than the machine.
The size of both the routers is more or less the same. The only governing factor to check the portability of the two machines is the time taken for each router to be set up. However, the time difference is very insignificant but you be able to set up a plunge router more easily than a fixed router (given that the application requires a fixed router to be properly mounted).
In order to solve the short comes of both type of routers, developers have come up with a combo router. The router is more expensive than a normal one and is equipped with features from both types of routers. Both operate with a single motor and cutting tools can be adjusted according to the project at hand. The transition from one type of router to another is simple making this machine convenient to carry out heavy duty projects.
Plunge Router vs. Fixed Router – A closer look of some of the most popular wood routers
1. Bosch 120-Volt 2.3 HP Electronic Plunge Base Router MRP23EVS
This is a sturdy plunge router that functions on a 10-amp variable speed motor with a maximum RPM of 20,000 that ensures fine finishing. The depth capacity is 1/2 in. collect and 1/4 in. and the adapter accepts a variety of bits allowing easy penetration into the work material.
This router uses AccuStop micro-adjustable depth stop that makes it simple for you to set and adjust for repetitive plunge cuts up to 2 in. This ensures higher precisions with deep cuts. This machine is ergonomically designed and therefore it is very comfortable and durable to use.
Things I Like
The best thing I like about this machine is that It has a strong structure that gives the user a good grip of it. Plus, the depth adjustment option is helpful in getting a variety of depths for various tasks.
Things I Don’t Like
The machine is very expensive especially if you are not a regular user of it. Along with that, the plunge router is difficult to mount on smaller workpieces and workbenches.
2. Ridgid R86044B 18-Volt Brushless Compact Router
It is also equipped with soft-start and quick-lock systems that allows it to be easily handled when mounted on a workbench. It also has a finger support system that allows the machine to be convenient for adjusting the depth of the workpiece. The base is made from an aluminum plate which makes it robust and lightweight at the same time.
Things I Like
The best part of this product is its high RPM that enables a user to produce excellent finishing and detailed cutting. Moreover, it is very lightweight which helps in adjusting the machine very convenient.
Things I Don’t Like
I don’t like the small size of the machine which restricts my work area at a time. The fact that I have to constantly readjust the machine for large workpiece makes the use of machine extremely time consuming and inconvenient.
3. DeWalt DWP611PK 1.25 HP Variable Speed Compact Router Combo Kit
If you are a regular user of a router machine and wield it for a variety of projects then this product is the most suitable for its price and functionalities. It uses a 1.25 HP motor that delivers suitable power to carry out finishing operations. More importantly, a variable speed controller allows you to vary the speed according to the kind of finishing required.
This product will only enhance your workshop gears as it is versatile and offers a wide range of operations to carry out on a workpiece.
Things I Like
The best part about this machine is how a user can easily switch between two types of router. This option makes it very suitable for regular woodworker. Moreover, the power of the machine is also very good helping reach variable speeds for different tasks.
Things I Don’t Like
The price is the only concern for me when evaluating this machine because it has the best of both routers. The price is only high if a person is not a regular user apart it is a good purchase for any woodworker.
The selection of each type of router is contingent on the user’s workload and application. The price of each product is quite different but the functionalities end up almost the same. A fixed router is helpful for smaller and complicated cutting that requires high accuracy and precision. The machine is therefore very light and helps you to cut out fine finish products. On the other hand, a plunge router is very convenient for large workpieces but it is relatively expensive.
But my suggestion would be to make a trade-off can be made on price and a user can buy a combo router which has the best of both and comes at a reasonable price.