Maybe you’re building your home woodworking and tool collection, or perhaps you’ve got a job in mind. Routers are an essential part of any toolkit, and some argue that they’re crucial pieces in a well-stocked collection. They’re one of the most versatile power tools out there, and it’s time you got one for yourself.
Fixed Or Plunge Router
Fixed routers are locked in place and make very precise cuts. However, if you’re anything but a professional currently making money from woodworking, fixed routers are going to be a headache. They just don’t have the flexibility most hobbyists, and occasional handymen need.
Plunge Routers might not be as precise, but honestly, they’re accurate enough. What you get in the trade is flexibility to use the router just about anywhere for any job. You can use them for fluting, insets, mortices, and even profiling edges.
Plunge Routers work by moving up and down the base using spring-loaded arms. You “plunge” the bit to get the cut that you need.
Plunge routers come in a few different sizes and prices, so there should be something that fits your budget and needs. Keep in mind that plunge routers are larger than fixed, so size is relative.
Consider also the speed and horsepower of your tool. Bigger, faster machines make the work quicker, but they’re loud and kick up a lot of dust. If you’re mostly handling projects around the house, you may not need top of the line horsepower and rpms. One good option is a variable speed motor if that’s part of your budget.
If you aren’t sure where to start, we’ve put together a list of our favorite plunge routers to help you out. Let’s take a look.
The first plunge router on our list is the Bosch 12 amp variable speed router. It can give you soft starts, and because it can convert to a fixed base, you’ll get micro-fine adjustments.
It has a variable speed range of 8,000 rpms all the way up to 25,000 rpms. Aluminum construction adds durability without making it too heavy. The fixed base features wooden handles while the plunge feature has soft grip handles.
It has a built-in constant response circuitry, so your speed doesn’t wobble during a job. The microfine adjustment is variable up to one inch and is accurate to 1/64 inch. The dust-sealed power switch should prevent debris from mangling the power supply.
-fixed and plunge options
-21/2 horsepower for a range of big jobs
-the motor can be tough to switch between fixed and plunge modes
DeWalt’s router is a variable speed tool with a range of 16,000 to 27,000 rpms. It has a soft start motor with electronic feedback and maintains speed throughout your job for better accuracy.
The plunge base has rubber handles for better and more powerful grip. It’s mostly aluminum, so it’ll last a long time. The base platform is large enough to accept a wide range of template guides and provides stability for heavy applications.
It has a slightly lower horsepower, which is more comfortable for beginners who still want some flexibility. It has a steel cam lock for adjusting the depth and swapping bases easily. If you’re just getting into these types of jobs, the DeWalt may be a better option than the Bosch above.
-soft start motor
-large base platform for a range of template guides
-good for beginners
-the switch is difficult to maneuver through its dust cover
The Hitachi is a variable speed kit with both plunge and fixed options. It has a max horsepower of 21/4, so it’s able to handle larger jobs. It has a two-stage motor release clamp, making depth adjustments and changing the bases a little easier.
One great thing about the Hitachi is the amount of noise. Some of the routers on the list are pretty noisy, but Hitachi’s decibel level is an industry leading 79.5 decibels compared to the average of around 95 or as much as 110.
The electronic speed control helps keep the bit steady even as the load changes throughout a job. It has a more ergonomic design and weighs just over nine pounds in plunge mode and just over seven in fixed. It also includes a carrying case.
-noise level is well below the industry average
-higher horsepower for bigger jobs
-the collet is a little bit undersized, which might make it difficult to find bits
Triton’s router uses a single switch rack and pinion height adjustment to change from plunge to fixed bases. It uses an automatic spindle lock for the single wrench change. You have the option of continuous fine adjustments through plunge modes by using a micro-winder.
It has a soft start motor and variable speeds. It uses a protection system that prevents the machine from accidentally turning on while changing bits.
It’s better for people who do more massive routing jobs because of the sheer amount of power. It’s going to kick up a lot of dust, and it’s loud. The horsepower alone is enough to outpace most beginners with this tool.
-a huge amount of horsepower
-protection system against accidental powering on during bit changes
-continuous fine adjustment options through plunge modes
-gathers a lot of dust on the shield
This Bosch model has a wide variable speeds setting, between 10,000 and 25,000 rpms. It has a trigger style power switch located right on the handle. It has micro-fine adjustment settings for just about any plunge depth.
It has a spring lock plunge lever for more comfortable work, plus LED lighting that’s always on for better visibility. It has constant response circuitry so that speed maintains consistency regardless of what stage of the job you’re in. The soft start motor keeps the beginnings of your job accurate.
It has contoured, soft grip handles so you can use it longer without the corresponding hand fatigue. It also has a trigger lock so you can work longer.
-always on LED lighting
-soft start motor and micro-fine adjustments for better accuracy
-trigger lock prevents fatigue
-cannot be mounted on a dedicated router lift system
This larger DeWalt model is a convertible base combo kit with a variable speed motor that adjusts from as few as 8,000 rpms to 24,000 rpms. It has a micro-fine adjustment ring that allows you to make adjustments.
Adjustments are 1/64 inch increments. It permits finer routing jobs. The bit collects are 1/4 and 1/2 inch.
This model is suitable for intermediate to advanced woodworkers because of the amount of horsepower available. One excellent feature is that it collects about 95% of dust. The rubber overgrip handles are comfortable and have good balance and control.
It’s made of heavy duty die cast aluminum, so it’ll last longer than other types of tools. Changing between fixed and plunge bases. It comes in a hard case to contain all the pieces.
-has micro fine adjustments in 1/64 inch increments.
-collects up to 95% of dust
-really wide variable speed adjustments
-the motor can be tough to change from fixed to plunge base
Our last router is a convertible fixed to plunge based model that’s smaller but gives you a lot of power. It has a single horsepower capability, which is suitable for beginners or those who don’t have space for a large machine.
It has a variable speed of 16,000 to 35,000 rpms, a higher number than some miniature models. It has a soft start motor for better accuracy. You can make micro-fine adjustments with a wheel on the back of the base printed in both imperial and metric measurements.
It has an ergonomic design with soft grip handles for more control. It has a lightweight aluminum base and comes with a carrying case to wrangle all the pieces. The clamping level makes depth adjustments straightforward and fast.
There’s no barrier between the finger rests and the spinning bit, so exercise caution as you’re manipulating the machine and wear highly protective gloves.
-clamping level makes adjustments simple
-single horsepower is a leader in its class
-watch your fingers while the bit is spinning because there’s no protective barrier.
If you’re a beginner, we recommend going with less horsepower and a soft start motor until you’re entirely confident maneuvering the machine. Convertible routers are great, but be sure the plunge function works for you because this will give you the greatest flexibility.
What projects do you plan to complete with your new router? Let us know in the comments below.