Woodworking is a task that takes a good amount of work and dedication but the results that you can get from it are incredible, especially when you have the right materials.
There are quite a few things that you will want to look for and make sure that you have when you first begin getting into woodworking. One of these things is going to be a router.
The router is one of the first tools that people will use in a woodworking environment and it is one that will be used even well after you have first learned woodworking.
Routers are an incredibly versatile tool, making it all the more important that you invest your money in a router that will best serve your purposes.
There are two main types of routers that you will be looking at as you delve deeper into the world of woodworking: plunge routers and fixed base routers.
Each router has its benefits and drawbacks over the other, which makes it even more important for you to understand what makes each router different from each other.
Plunge Router vs Fixed Base Router
The main difference between a plunge router and a fixed base router is that the fixed base router has a fixed position for the bit whereas a plunge router can lower or "plunge" the bit in the stock with the base plate flat on the stock.
Both types of wood router allow for an adjustable cutting depth.
What Is a Plunge Router?
A plunge router is designed so that you can lower the bit from a height while the base is flat on the material you are cutting, plunge routers excel when you need to make a cut in the middle of a piece of material away from the edges.
Before you can decide whether a plunge router or a fixed base router is better for your needs, you will first need to understand what exactly each router is. The plunge router is a router that can be a little bit complex at first but once you have gotten used to it, it will be incredibly easy to use.
Plunge routers have two arms on them with one on each side of the router. This allows you to manually plunge into the wood to begin cutting the material, hence the name “plunge” router. To put it simply, you have to drive the cutting part of the router into the wood using your own force to begin cutting the wood.
This gives you more control over the router, offering a smooth experience and the ability to cut a little bit better. Some people worry about the plunge router not being able to handle edge-working but as long as you use the router properly, you will be able to use it with ease.
What Is a Fixed Base Router?
A fixed base router has a fixed base rather than one you move up and down into the wood. The depth of the bit is constant and is set manually before use.
Generally, these routers are going to be what you encounter most in a professional woodworking shop so it doesn’t hurt to get used to using one even if you are more interested in a plunge router.
Fixed base routers are also easier for newer users to use as you don’t have to worry about manually adjusting much. Once you place the router where it needs to be, it is physically locked onto the place and it is completely set.
The router bit won’t be moving anywhere and you are free to move the wood as you please. Because of this, you will be able to cut with much more precision than you otherwise would be able to.
This router is best for people who do precision work or are new to the woodworking scene. Both this and the plunge router have their specific benefits and drawbacks, though.
Where Does the Plunge Router Excel?
Plunge routers are amazing when you need to adjust the depth of the cutting bit exactly where you need it to be. After all, plunge routers are designed to work based on the amount of force that you apply to the cutting bit at first.
These routers also provide you with far more control when you have to move vertically than any other router would. Plunge routers offer you more versatility and mobility than a router that can only stay in one place, making them wonderful for people who need to work with varying depths of cuts.
Where Does the Plunge Router Fall Short?
Plunge routers also tend to be much more expensive than their fixed base counterparts. Of course, anything that provides as much versatility as the plunge router is going to be pricier, which is unfortunate.
Plunge routers are also not the best routers for people who are new to woodworking as a whole as they depend on your knowledge of cutting and depth. You also have to move them onto the material that you want to cut. You cannot use a base for them, which can be troublesome at times.
Plunge routers should really only be used by experienced woodworkers who are willing to move the router every time that something needs to be cut and who have the money to pay for the expensive router.
Where Does the Fixed Base Router Excel?
A fixed base router excels when mounted on the underside of a benchtop router table.
Fixed base routers are absolutely wonderful for people who might not be as well versed in woodworking.
Considering the fact that this router is not a particularly large power tool nor does it involve a lot of materials, it is one of the best introductions to the machinery involved in woodworking.
You can also use these routers to properly shape the edges of the wood as you need, which is something that the plunge router cannot do nearly as well.
Fixed base routers are also light and easy to maneuver, especially if you have a table base to mount them on. These routers provide you with the precision that you need without requiring years of woodworking experience to use.
Where Does the Fixed Base Router Fall Short?
Fixed base routers, unfortunately, do not offer the same type of versatility that plunge routers do. If you need to do work that requires you to maneuver the router in a variety of ways, the fixed base router might not be the best choice for you.
Additionally, the fixed base router cannot begin cutting from the middle of the wood. This is because fixed base routers also have a fixed cutting bit and the middle of the wood is almost always above that fixed bit. This can be troublesome for some work projects.
Which Router Is Better?
Determining which router is better depends on what you need to use the router for and your experience in woodworking.
If you are new to the woodworking scene and are trying to get the best possible equipment, you might want to wait a bit before you invest the money in the plunge router as it can be difficult for novices to easily use.
However, if you have the experience and need to work on a piece of wood with varying depths, then this is the router for you.
On the other hand, if you are looking for a router that can cut wood easily and can be used by people who are new to woodworking, then you might want to look at the fixed base router.
This router, while not as versatile as a plunge router, can easily get the job done and is the perfect introduction to woodworking tools.