Fixed vs Plunge Base Routers: Which Design Should You Choose?

Fixed vs plunge base router

Routers are one of the more versatile power tools in any woodshop. You need to understand what features are available between fixed base vs plunge router designs, as well as what will serve your needs.

Making an educated purchase will provide you with a router that increases your woodworking skills and improves your enjoyment of the hobby at the same time.

Things you need to know about fixed-base routers

Things you will like:

  • Easier to use
  • Most precision
  • Compact and lightweight
  • Often cheaper

Fixed-base routers tend to be easier to use since they require no manual height adjusting during use. Inexperienced woodworkers will appreciate the straightforward control.

The bit height is locked into place before use, making the cut precise and consistent. That precision is more difficult to achieve with a moving bit in a plunge base design.

These routers do not require the springs and other hardware needed for plunge movements. That will reduce the tool’s profile and weight, making them easier to handle.

Finally, the fixed-base design is often cheaper than a plunge base router, something that might fit into a smaller shop budget.

This base design has limitations, though.

The primary disadvantages to a fixed-base router are the limited depth adjustment and lack of plunging ability. You might find your skills and interests grow beyond those limits. These are issues addressed by using a plunge base design.

Best uses for fixed-base routers

  • edge work
  • shaping
  • router table mounting

General router work, such as edging, is where the fixed-base excels. The locked bit height is ideal for thinner edges.

Shaping is also easy when using bits that provide a consistent profile. Plunging is unnecessary for this type of work.

An important consideration for many hobbyists is the router’s ability to mount onto a table. Fixed-base designs are the choice for most woodworkers, as the plunge features are limited when using a router table.

Good Fixed-Base Routers to Consider

DeWalt DWP611 Fixed Base Router

 

DEWALT Router, Fixed Base, Variable Speed,...
  • Imported from: Mexico
  • POWER TOOLS
  • Commercial Brand: DEWALT

OVERVIEW

The DWP611 from DeWalt is a fixed-base router with a 1.25 HP electric motor. That should prove adequate for light and medium edgework, but it will likely slow with deep-cutting router bits or through cuts in thick boards.

You can use 1/4-inch router bits with this model. That will limit the selection of bits available, especially with larger bit patterns. You will still have plenty of edging bits to select from that fit the smaller collet, though.

A nice feature is the speed control that DeWalt offers on the DWP611. You will get speeds ranging from 16,000 through 27,000 RPMs under no-load conditions, allowing you to adjust to the bit used and material you are routing.

DeWalt has included two LED lights that illuminate the work area. This router also has a clear base. Between these features, you are provided with maximum visibility as you work.

The manufacturer has made bit changes fast and easy. That includes the detents used to keep things in place as you fidget with the bit.

Pros

  • Dual LED lights aid visibility
  • Is compact and lightweight
  • Ergonomic grip provides hand comfort

Cons

  • Uses 1/4-inch collet only
  • It does not have handles

Bosch 1617EVS Fixed Base Router

 

Bosch 1617EVS 2.25 HP Electronic Fixed-Base Router
  • 12 Amp router motor - Combines ample power with adjustable speed settings, allowing users to glide along cutlines
  • Adjustable speed dial (8000-25,000 RPM). 2 inch sub-base opening
  • Fixed base has threaded holes for mounting to router table positioned in common 3-hole pattern

OVERVIEW

The first thing that you will notice with Bosch’s 1617EVS is that it has a larger motor. It has a 2.25 HP electric motor, which is a considerable upgrade from the DeWalt.

You get two collets with this product. That will allow you to mount either 1/4-inch or 1/2-inch router bits, giving you access to most bits.

The 1617EVS is a variable speed fixed-base router. You can adjust between 8,000 and 25,000 RPMs. It has a much lower range than the DeWalt, which is ideal for some of the larger 1/2-inch bits you will use on a router table.

Bosch has added advanced control circuitry to this router. That circuitry helps to maintain consistent speed as you cut. The control switch provides both left or right-handed access, making it comfortable to use for all users.

This router easily mounts to router tables. The manufacturer has threaded holes for mounting and provides you with easy above-the-table access for bit height adjustment. Bosch offers a template guide separately that can be used with many guides.

Pros

  • 2.25 HP electronic motor
  • Self-releasing collet
  • Advanced control circuitry

Cons

  • Adaptor ring breaks easily
  • Clogs easily when mounted on a table

Things to know about plunge base routers

Things you will like:

  • Plunging ability
  • Deeper cuts
  • Versatility

A plunge base gives your router access to the interior of your project. You can cut or shape the surface without removing material from the edges.

The plunge base usually offers a deeper path for bits. That will help to make deeper cuts, including cuts that penetrate through the entire piece of wood.

You can use a plunge base for the same edgework you would use a fixed-base router.

Plunge base routers have limitations, however.

A fixed bit height offers less chance for errors. This design transfers to a router table easily.

Best uses for plunge base routers

  • Interior cuts
  • Deep cuts

A plunge router excels at interior surface work. That includes engraving, joinery that does not extend to the edges, and template work.

Best plunge base routers allow bit depth adjustment. That gives you the option to make deeper cuts, along with cuts that penetrate from one surface to the other.

A note about router bits

Keep in mind that router bits affect your cuts. Router bits with bearings on the tip cannot penetrate the wood. You will need bits with a cutting tip for plunge work.

Plunge-Base Routers I Personally Like

DeWalt DW625 Plunge Base Router

 

DEWALT Router, Plunge Base, Variable Speed, 3-HP...
  • 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

OVERVIEW

This plunge base router uses a three HP electric motor that will drive the largest router bits without issues. The DW625 comes with both 1/4 and 1/2-inch collets, and DeWalt also includes a dust extraction adaptor and guide adaptor as well.

A variable speed control adjusts between 8,000 and 22,000 RPMs. The speed dial sits at the top of the housing, which means that you can not make adjustments as you work.

It will allow you to plunge to a depth of 2 7/16-inches. That is adequate to allow complete penetration through most pre-dimensioned lumber that beginner and intermediate woodworkers will use for a project.

The rack and pinion design of the depth adjustment allows you to penetrate a board’s surface smoothly, helping to prevent gouging the wood. A micro-adjuster sits at the top of a column to make small depth adjustments.

You will be able to use two side-mounted handles to control the router as you work. They are small, however, and will not feel ergonomic in large hands.

Pros

  • Rack and pinion depth adjustment
  • The micro-adjuster is smooth to operate
  • Its scale is easy to read

Cons

  • The handles are small
  • It comes with a higher price tag

Makita RP1800 Plunge Base Router

 

Makita RP1800 Plunge Router 22, 000 RPM, 3-1/4 HP
  • Power Tools and Accessories
  • Country of manufacture: Japan
  • Manufacturer: Makita

OVERVIEW

The Makita RP1800 uses a 3.25 HP electric motor, which represents the highest rating on this list. That will drive any 1/4 or 1/2-inch router bits you can buy. It only includes a wrench as extras, though.

This design is single-speed, rating at 22,000 RPMs. You might find this a downgrade compared to the variable control of other routers, but the no-load maximum is ideal for a wide range of bit types. That speed is not the best RPMs for larger router bits, however.

The maximum plunge depth reaches to 2 3/4-inches. That is deeper than most router designs, including DeWalt’s DW625. It is a feature that makes full-penetration routing pleasurable.

The router weighs in at 13.4 pounds, which is heavier than the other routers reviewed here. That would make it harder to control, but Makita has added ergonomic handles that provide a comfortable handhold. The weight can still wear your arms out with extended router sessions.

Pros

  • Employs a 3.25 HP electric motor
  • A 2 3/4-inch plunge depth
  • Ergonomic handles are comfortable

Cons

  • Wing nuts on the base plate are plastic
  • More difficult to install and use in tables

Trimming Down Your Choices

When it comes to fixed vs plunge router designs, it is important to match your needs to the product features. While all four products are great options for particular applications, I would recommend the DeWalt DW625 Plunge Base router over the others. You will pay more, but the price tag includes:

  • Best depth control – Rack and pinion and micro-adjustment knobs eliminate the play found in many plunge base designs, making it comparable to fixed base products.
  • Easy to read scales – You can see markings and make adjustments more easily with the high-contrast colors and larger print.
  • Three HP motor – You can drive most 1/4 and 1/2-inch router bits with the DW625.

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