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Plunge Router vs. Fixed Base Router – The Ultimate Comparison

If you’re a carpenter, woodworker, or simple DIY-er, then you probably know what a router is. If so, then you’re probably well aware of the popular argument of fixed base routers vs. plunge base routers. People typically think that they’re the same thing. That there’s no difference between fixed base routersand plunged base routers.

I’m here to explain why that’s not true.

While both appliances are necessary for woodworking, they actually differ in a variety of ways. First off, a fixed base router, of course, uses a pre-set function that continuously cuts at the same depth.

Meanwhile, plunge base routers feature a plunging design that dips, cuts, and then lifts back up. It’s as simple as that. In these upcoming sections, we’ll look at the various ways that fixed base routers and plunge base routers are different.

If you’re interested in the difference between these two router types, I encourage you to thoroughly read through our review.

Fixed Base Router vs. Plunge Base Router: Uses

Before we get started on our review, let’s take a quick look at the general functionality of our routers. As stated before, fixed base routers feature a pre-set function for equal-depth cuts. Meanwhile, plunge base routers feature more hands-on work as they can physically dip, cut, and lift to pull-up stock.

That said, fixed base routers tend to be inexpensive, lightweight, and perfect for edge sharpening. On the other hand, plunge base routers allow straight vertical movements and can cut through thick woods, grooves, and molasses. However, plunge base routers typically are more difficult for beginner use.

Fixed Base Router vs. Plunge Base Router: Features

Regardless of how the router works, it should at least possess a specific series of features that will make it easier to handle. These features can range from horsepower to speed controls, ergonomic handles to electronic feedback systems. While they may vary base on functionality, versatility, and usefulness, they should definitely be considered when choosing a reliable router.

Horsepower Rating of the Motor

When it comes to horsepower (HP) ratings, it’s important to find a router that features more than 2HP. Anything less may not provide enough power for pushing bits through thicker, coarser wood. However, many fixed base routers come with additional features that make up for a lack of horsepower. This is why it’s important not to focus solely on the HP of the motor

Variable speed control

A variable speed control is a fairly common, yet extremely important feature when it comes to routers. This feature allows more control while using the router. It also provides versatility as the router can be used at various speeds for different types of woods. While there aresingle-speed fixed base routers and plunge base routers, they’re best used on small bits instead of large ones. If you’re looking for a router with a variable speed option, I suggest checking out the DEWALT DWP611 Compact Router. While it might not have an overly impressive HP rating, it makes up for this with its speed and versatility.

Collet diameter

First off, collets are defined as a type of chuck that tightly clamps around objects like a collar. They’re meant to keep work bits firmly in place while the router is in use. Collect diameters refer to the size of chucks that the collet can hold. That said, it’s generally best to find a router with a collect diameter of at least ¼ or ½. ½ collect diameters are typically more expensive and harder to find. While ¼’s can fit into a ½, it does not work the other way around.

Ergonomic handles

Right. Well, Ergonomic handles are a fairly straightforward concept. When searching for the best fixed base router or plunge base router, it’s important to find one that’s comfortable to use. Handles often vary base on the manufacturer. While some come with a dual-handled grip, others may have a single-handle grip. Despite how many handles there are, the only important thing to take inconsideration when discussing ergonomic handles is the level of comfort. If you perform better with a hook handle or a one-handed grip, then I recommend searching for a router that offers these features.

Electronic feedback system

Possibly the best feature you can have in either a fixed base router or plunge base router is an electronic feedback system. Electronic feedback systems are capable of sensing the load and adjusting the router accordingly. This provides a more accurate and easier usage with better results. The downside to this is that the electronic feedback system is a bit of a costly additional feature. While it might have its uses, it’s important to consider rather or not it’s a necessary addition. I recommend asking yourself if you’re planning on using the router for professional use or light DIY-er use.

Fixed Base Router vs. Plunge Base Router: Easy to Use

As stated before, fixed base routers and plunge base routers work in two completely different ways. Because of this, one typically takes more work to handle, maneuver, and set-up than the other. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s easier to use.

While plunged base routers are generally considered easier to use, fixed base routers offer more control. Fixed base routers typically offer hand grips on the side which provides more stability and control. Plunge base routers offer repeat application, but fixed base routers guarantee that each dip is at equal depth. Finally, while plunge base routers can easily make deep vertical cuts, fixed base routers can pair with a router table for sturdier usage.

Overall, it’s safe to say that performing interior cuts with a plunge base router is definitely easier. On the other hand, fixed base routers are easier to maneuver. It’s hard to say which is the easier of the two.

Fixed Base Router vs. Plunge Base Router: Maintenance and Reliability

In terms of maintenance and responsibility, maintaining a fixed base router and plunge base router is fairly the same. That said you should always check the user manual to see if your router requires special care. Nevertheless, when using either a fixed base router or plunge base router you should remember to move along the grain. Also, you should always work against the bit’s rotation. This guarantees that you keep control of the rotor instead of having to fight against it.

Another helpful tip is to use bits with ball-bearing pilots. These keep the bit firmly in place, on-course, and in control. Also, a dip tray for a plunge base router allows for quicker and easier cuts with better results.

Which One Should You Buy?

Hopefully, now you have a better understanding of fixed base routers and plunge base routers. So let’s take a moment to look at which one you should buy. As stated before, both the fixed base router and plunge base router are perfect for different uses.

Fixed base routers are typically compact, easier to maneuver, and feature single and double-grips. They’re preferable for all-purpose routing, as well as, edging wood. They also pair with routing tables for sturdier usage.

Plunge base routers are typically better for interior cuts. They’re often considered the best for a novice or new carpenters as they’re easier to set up and handle. This router type is popular for cutting deep grooves into thick wood. They’re often used for template work, sign-making, and engraving.

Overall,both plunge base routers and fixed base routers have their uses. That’s why I recommend finding a package that offers both routers instead of purchasing just one. Personally, I suggest you take a look at our 2 top choices: the DEWALT DWP611 Compact Router or the PORTER-CABLE 6931 Plunge Router Base.

DEWALT DWP611 Compact Router

The DEWALT DWP611 Compact Router features a 1.25 HP motor and variable speed control. Its soft start motor offers an electronic feedback system for accurate cutting. It also comes with an adjustable ring for bit depths of up to 1/64 of an inch. Finally, this router comes with a 3-year warranty against product defects in materials and workmanship.

PORTER-CABLE 6931 Plunge Router Base

The PORTER-CABLE 6931 Plunge Router Base offers 6 different stop depths. Lightweight and compact, this plunge base router is compatible with 6902 and 6902vS motors. Also, as a 6931, it can work with 690, 691, and 9690 routers.