Want a quick answer? We believe that PORTER-CABLE 895PK is the best plunge router for the money. Read on to find out why!
When I was younger, one of the tools in my late grandfather’s shop that fascinated me was his router. This tool was one of the first power tools I purchased as I began my own woodworking journey in recent years.
What I soon discovered was that a router can do more than edge work, especially if it is a plunge router. The best plunge router features are discussed below, followed by several products that might fit your shop and your budget.
Top plunge routers compared
Things You Should Know About Plunge Routers
Perhaps the best definition of routing describes it as a high-speed process for cutting, shaping, and trimming wood. Routers come in both hand-powered as well as motor-driven designs. It might be best to compare a fixed-base router to a plunge-base design to highlight the benefits of the later.
What is a plunge router?
This design is what many would refer to as a traditional setup.
A router bit is placed into the machine and adjusted for height. A base plate is used to provide support during operation and to help keep the bit addressed properly to the wood edge you working on.
The bread and butter, so to speak, of a fixed-base router, is shaping the edges of your workpiece. A fixed plate allows you to work quickly while making alterations that are easily repeatable. This shaping can be done on wood with either straight or curved edges.
Another job where a fixed-based router excels is making decorative molding. Thin pieces can be addressed with the router in hand, while thicker pieces can also be worked with a router placed upside down in a good router table.
Other types of cuts or shaping can be done with this type of router, but a plunge router might make those jobs easier.
Using a plunge router
This design has become more popular over the past few years and most major manufacturers make at least one model of plunge router for the woodworking market.
The major difference with this design is the vertical movement offered with a plunge router. Having a bit that can plunge into the wood’s surface allows you to take your work from along the edge to anywhere on the project. Being able to easily lower and raise the bit as you work allows you to make a variety of cuts that might normally be too difficult, especially if you are new to woodworking or have little experience with routers.
You can make both dadoes as well as rabbets using a fixed-base router, but a plunge router will allow you to make “blind” cuts into only one side of the wood quickly and with less tear-out. Plunge router bits tend to be more pointed, a feature that allows you to cut into the wood at a certain point and hollow out a section with less resistance than a wide bit used on a fixed-based router.
Plunge routers also seem to provide cleaner shallow cuts, something you can appreciate in DIY projects like creating recesses on doors for installing hinges.
These power tools can also help you to make a variety of joinery for cabinetry or jigs, including mortises.
Finally, a plunge router will excel at recreating inlay spaces and patterns in the wood surface as well. The ability to lift and lower the bit saves time and energy, allowing you to focus on making the cut instead of making complicated setups and adjustments throughout the cut.
It is worth noting before we move on that there are models on the market that offer users a combination fixed-base/plunge-base system. These will come with either two separate bases that must be changed out or will involve some type of switch or other adjustments to move between the two options.
The upside of this kind of product is that you can take advantage of fast and accurate fixed-base shaping with the option to switch to a more versatile plunge router setup. They will often cost a bit more and might be a bit harder to use, however.
Best Plunge Routers – things to look for
I think you will want to look for something with at least 1.5 hp, preferably in the range of 1.75 to 2.25 hp. Anything less will struggle in deeper cuts or harder wood grain, while larger motors will tend to be heavy during use and will cause fatigue.
Find products that allow you to adjust the speed or at least select between multiple speed settings. This allows you to match the rotations generated with the size of the bit, the type of wood, as well as the job that you are doing.
The greater the depth your bit can travel, the more versatility the router offers you. Also, keep in mind here the ability to make micro-adjustments. Moving small increments will make all the difference in various joints.
Ease of use
Features that improve the ergonomics of the router will allow you to hold it more comfortably and for longer periods of time. Another consideration would be a spindle lock, a feature I wish I had on my first router that locks the spindle and allows you to change bits with only one wrench. Control buttons and levers placed for quick access or operation also improve your routing experience and can include height controls for the above table adjustments should you decide to use the router on a table.
Top Rated plunge Routers Reviewed
PORTER-CABLE Router, Fixed/Plunge Base Kit 895PK
- Soft-starting 12-amp motor features full-time electronic feedback that maintains motor speed through the toughest applications
- Variable-speed control feature (10,000-23,000 rpm) enables bit speed to be optimized for changing applications
- Plunge base features machined brass bushings and steel guide rods for a smooth, free-flowing plunge stroke
Porter-Cable offers you plenty of power with this router kit. The 12 amp motor can generate 2.25 hp. That should give you plenty of torque and speed to cut and shape most wood projects, including those using larger bits. Proper cooling elements allow you to run this power tool for longer periods of time without concern of shutdown due to overheating.
- Its soft-start motor is also electronically monitored for feedback. This allows the motor to run at a consistent speed during cuts;
- Bushings made from machined brass are used with the steel guide rods. That makes the plunge action smooth on the plunge base;
- Plunge cut adjustments are made easier through the use of a depth rod with six positions.
- It uses through the column positioning for the dust collection. The problem here is that the hose will stick out at an inconvenient location along the top and may pull the router if the hose is stretched;
- Some components have sharp edges. These can scrape users or might even cut them and will require smoothing in some instances.
DEWALT DWP611PK – Best Under $200
- Durable 1.25 horsepower motor delivers the power to meet the toughest applications
- Variable speed control feature enables bit speed to be optimized for changing applications. No Load Speed range 16,000-27,000rpm
- Soft-starting motor features full-time electronic feedback that maintains motor speed through the cut
DeWALT is known in the power tool industry as a leader in quality and customer service, and this kit is no exception. A three-year limited warranty and excellent documentation offer new and experienced users alike with consumer confidence.
- This product has excellent build quality. The materials are solid and should provide good control while limiting things like vibration;
- It uses great colors for the scale markings. This makes the lines stand out and will make it easy to read in most lighting conditions;
- No-load speed of 16,000 to 27,000 RPMs provides plenty of spin on smaller bits that you will use with this on trim and thinner plunge work.
- This product has a power range of about 1.25 hp. That is good for a trim router but will prove a bit weak for some plunge router jobs where deep cuts are needed or in hard grained woods;
- This is a bit bulky considering the motor size. If used as a trim router, which the model would excel with, you will get fatigued quickly compared to more compact designs.
Makita RT0701CX7 Compact Router Kit
- Variable speed control dial (10,000 to 30,000 RPM) enables user to match the speed to the application
- Smooth rack and pinion fine depth adjustment system for more precise settings
- Slim and ergonomically designed body for increased comfort and control
This is another design that keeps the housing at a minimum, allowing users to operate it for longer sessions without becoming tired. A slim design also offers you a better view of the action at the base for more control during cuts.
- The kit comes with an edge guide. This will allow you to use the fixed base while making cuts on areas besides the edge of your workpiece;
- It can accept a variety of other guide products on the fixed base portion of the router. That helps to improve the versatility of cutting and shaping you can do with it;
- A shaft lock is conveniently located and is simple to use. This feature allows you to make router bit changes with one wrench and will save time between cuts.
- This product is lightweight due to cheaper materials being used. The aluminum housing and plastic parts could wear out sooner than they would if made from better materials;
- The fixed-base is a trim design. That means that it provides less stability than a standard plate would when resting along the edge of your wood.
Triton TRA001 3-1/4 HP Dual Mode Precision Plunge Router
- Single button switches from conventional plunge to fixed-base router with rack and pinion mode
- Through base, single wrench bit change is achieved with automatic spindle lock
- Micro winder enables continuous fine depth adjustment through the full plunge mode
This product from Triton is designed to provide you the convenience of a combination router with the bonus of not requiring base changes. That is due to the button-activated selector that converts the router from fixed-base operations to a plunge router. You will save a lot of time with this feature compared to having to change out base types.
- A micro-wider design is used on the depth adjustment. That will allow you to make small adjustments throughout the entire depth of the cut you are making;
- Its top housing includes side vents. These additional venting areas will aid with keeping the electric motor cooled with continuous use;
- Both handles are evenly spaced and provide a natural hand position when clasped. This will help you maintain control and should limit vibrations through the handle.
- This design is a bit top-heavy. That will require a bit more attention to positioning as you make your cuts with either base style;
- All of the advantages listed above come at a higher price point. While you will not break the bank here, the price may put it out of reach for those with limited funds.
Makita 3-1/4 HP Plunge Router
- Power Tools and Accessories
- Country of manufacture: Japan
- Manufacturer: Makita
For those looking for more power, this 15 amp model should fit your needs. A 3.25 hp motor will offer you to take advantage of the deeper cuts this router can make. It is designed for serious woodworking as well as commercial applications.
- The 9,000 to 22,000 RPMs are experienced even under some load on the bit. You should not experience bogging down during cuts;
- A maximum cut depth of 2.75-inches is deeper than most hand-held routers. This will allow you to make cuts with one pass that would require more work with other products reviewed here;
- An electric brake is included in the design. This will reduce wear and speed up your workflow as the motor winds down quickly.
- The larger motor and deeper cutting ability will likely be overkill for a beginner. With more bulk and heavier weight, casual users might be better served by a smaller model;
- The power, weight, and size will make this power tool more difficult to control. This could be an issue, especially with delicate molding pieces or inlay cuts.
DEWALT DW625 Router
- Powerful, smooth-running 15 Amp motor generates 3 HP
- Full wave electronic variable speeds between 8,000 and 22,000 RPM
- Rack and pinion depth adjuster; Magnified scale; Micro-fine bit depth adjuster for faster, more accurate bit depth settings
Another large contender in this line up of products will be this three hp motor design. With 15 amps of power, it can create up 22,000 RPMs or router bit turning. It can also be dialed down to 8,000 RPMs for applications that require larger bits that need torque over speed.
- DeWALT designed the housing to stay within the base footprint. That helps to keep it from being top-heavy and adds an element of control while cutting as you will not have to strain to see around the housing;
- It uses a magnified scale on the side of the unit. This uses contrasting colors and is easy to read with a larger readout area;
- This product includes two collets, dust extraction adaptor, busing adaptor, template guide, and a wrench.
- This product stands high off of the work surface. It will take some time to get used to as the housing needs to travel farther to make contact with most applications;
- It uses a rack and pinion system for depth adjustment. It makes adjustments smoothly but can also be over tightened.
The Router to Take The Plunge With
I find most of these sufficient for my woodworking needs, depending upon the project I would be working on. However, the PORTER-CABLE Router, Fixed/Plunge Base Kit 895PK is the best plunge router for the money I have reviewed here.
It offers 2.25 hp out of the box, more than the smaller trim motors on some while not going overboard like the larger 3 hp models we looked at. That will get you through most projects.
As a kit, you are offered both fixed-base and plunge router options. You do have to change out bases instead of switching with a button, but this also helps to keep the price down a bit.
Machined bushings made from brass help promote smooth movement through the plunge, and a soft start motor allows the bit to build up speed more gradually. These features should provide longevity to your router.
It may take a bit to get used to the dust collection hose position, but it provides plenty of suction and should keep the cut area clear as you work. It may not be the cheapest on the list, but it is ideal for beginners as well as intermediate woodworkers and the types of projects they will make!
Didn’t find what you were looking for? Check out our review of the best wood routers.