Fixed Base Vs Plunge Router : Which one is best ?

A router is currently the most-sought power tool in the market for its wide array of applications in the manufacturing industries (mostly). So, if you are about to join any such field or want to start your business as a professional woodworker, a router is the must-have in your toolkit. You can also use the tool occasionally for your DIY projects and there are many other possibilities all of which is not theoretically possible to enumerate.

Now, when it comes to choosing between a fixed base router and a plunge router for your job, you must have the basic knowledge of the two of them. Else, you may end up buying one that does not suit your purpose, which is why this article is here to guide you through. Well, basically both the router types are unique for their amazing performance and efficiency. If you are aware of the differences between the two, then it is equally beneficial for you to be around both of these routers. On the other hand, if price is no bar for you, then both these tools will be a good addition to your tool chest.

However, if you are an absolute novice in this regard and are looking for the perfect router to start up your business, then this article might help you a lot. Here, we have listed all about the fixed base router and plunge router. Plus, we have enlisted all the possible differences concerning the factors like cutting depth, ease of use, etc. So, let’s get started!

Overview of Fixed Router

Fixed Base Router

Fixed base router was launched before the plunge router. The router “fixed base” is named so depending upon its design which gives it a fixed base that can not be lowered or “plunged” into the workpiece. So, cutting a wood piece directly from the middle, just like a plunge router does, is not possible with a fixed router. Plus, unlike the plunge router, you can not do cutting depth adjustment in the middle of an ongoing cutting. This router type is less versatile if compared with a plunge router.

Despite the above few setbacks, a fixed base router is well-known for its greater chances of repeated application while maintaining accuracy throughout the process. Another key point to count on is the lesser time required to mount the router on the routing table; it is the compact size and lightweight of the router that facilitates so.

Moreover, a fixed router is quite a straightforward and simpler power tool if compared with a plunge router. So, a fixed router is generally recommended to the beginners/ inexperienced woodcrafters. It lets you set the required cutting depth which stays the same throughout the operation until you reset the depth further. So, chances of getting precise and repeated cutting is high here.

In all fairness, the fixed base routers deliver high quality results when compared to the plunge router. This explains that this router type is also a suitable choice for the pro-grade woodworkers, who always look for quality performance and delivery.

Edge shaping on small wood pieces and other joinery tasks, etc. are the tasks that a fixed router excels in. As the depth of cutting is locked after setting, you will always expect precision and easier maneuverability when routing with a fixed router. 

PROS

CONS

  • Can be easily mounted on router table base

  • Perfect for joinery projects

  • Ideal recommendation for the beginners

  • Fit for edge profiling

  • Compact and lightweight

  • Not fit for doing plunge routing

  • Comparatively less versatile


Overview of Plunge Router

Plunge Router

A plunge router is the complicated one if compared with a fixed base router. This type of router is generally preferred by the professional woodcrafters and DIY hobbyists. Despite this router demands much manual effort, it is yet a versatile choice and therefore, it is suitable for a wider variety of wood projects.

Plunge router is named so because of its design and construction that allows plunging the router on the workpiece to start the cutting process from any portion of the workpiece; be it right from the middle or by the sideways, etc., as desired.

Before using this router, you have to present the depth of cutting and then lower or “plunge” the router into the wood to begin cutting. Better yet, the cutting depth of this router is easily adjustable in the middle of the cutting procedure, which is something not possible with a fixed base router.

The router has two handles on either side, giving you a comfortable grip (better than the fixed router) on the tool during its application. Most of the plunge router models are powerful enough to support handling almost any type of material.

Unlike what some of the woodcrafters think, a plunge router can be utilized for edge profiling. However, the output and quality of edging might be a little down compared to the fixed router type.

If compared with a fixed base router, a plunge router is costlier than the former. This type of router is usually the least preferred by those who have minimal to zero experience of using it. A little distraction from the work while routing with a plunge router might end up running your entire workpiece. 

PROS

CONS

  • Easy adjustment of cutting depth during an ongoing cutting task

  • Allows plunge routing in the middle of a workpiece

  • Versatile option

  • Much costly

  • Requires hands-on experience for using the tool


Does a fixed base router really have any benefit?

Most of you might be wondering how can a fixed base router be beneficial to do what tasks that a plunge router can not? In simple words, it cannot really do any wonder. But, the fixed base routers appear to be more precise and accurate. They have the ability to deliver repeated cuts at the same depth that was set previously unless you change the cutting depth further. Fixed base router is most suited for performing any tedious task like making dovetail joints, edge cutting, and other joinery.

Added to that, the fixed base routers are compact in size and light in weight. Many users have found that a lower profile cum lower gravitational center makes the tool easy to control and maneuver compared to tippy, big sized plunge routers. These are the reasons a fixed base router is always the first preference compared to a plunge base if utilized with a router table. Fixed base routers are easier to do the bit depth adjustment. Plus, as mentioned earlier, these routers are more accurate as the cutting depth and its position is kept locked and fixed unlike the flexible cutting depth of plunge routers.

Being bulkier in size and heavier in weight, a plunge router is difficult to mount on a routing table. Plus, the bit depth can not be adjusted without the router base removed from the table, if you do not buy any added accessories.


Quick Comparison Chart of Fixed Vs Plunge Router

Features

Fixed Base Router

Plunge Router

Suitability for Repeated Application

Perfect

Not so good

Cutting Depth

Fixed

Adjustable

Best Uses

Joinery and edge working

Plunge cutting

Table Base

Can be easily attached

Difficult to mount

Ease of Use

Easier to utilize

A bit strenuous to deal with he

Weight and Size

Compact size and lightweight

Bulky and heavier

Price

Half the cost of a plunge router

Twice the cost of a fixed base router


Detailed Comparison of Fixed Router Vs Plunge Router

Both the fixed base router and plunge router are equally important power tools to be in any professional’s toolkit. Or, it is better yet to go for the combo kit that can be used both as a fixed and plunge router, as per the need. However, for most DIY hobbyists and woodcrafters who prefer buying one of the two router types, here are some important points to consider before buying a router:

Suitability for Repeat Application 

Consistency in performance is the key feature any professional woodworker looks for before buying a power tool. This requirement is even more when your project is about making the same cuts on different workpieces. This is where the need for a fixed base router steps in, as this router type facilitates repeated cuts several times with the same consistency. 

A fixed router lets you set the required depth of cutting, which remains the same throughout the entire cutting operation. Plus, if you wish to do further depth adjustment, then you have to stop the device, reset the depth and then start again. Fixed router type speeds up your cutting job even during repeated cuts.

On the contrary, a plunge router lets you adjust the cutting depth even in the middle of a continuous cutting job. However, you can not do repeated cuts. This is the major setback of a plunge router, as maintaining the same depth throughout the process is harder in this case. 

Cutting Depth

The cutting depth varies from one project to another. Therefore, make sure that the router you purpose would be suitable to serve your purpose. Fortunately, both the fixed base and plunge routers are meant to route wood pieces at varied depths. You just have to decide what kind of cutting requirement you have- like whether it is edge shaping, middle cutting, etc.- and then make the purchase. 

However, if you are more into intricate designing/cutting jobs, then there is only option to go for, i.e., the plunge router. the plunge routers.

Fixed base router allows setting a cutting depth which is locked and can not be adjusted during cutting. For instance, if the depth of cutting is set to ¼ inch, then you will continue to have abutting at the same depth, which can be quite restrictive for certain cutting jobs. 

Best Uses

Both the fixed and plunge routers excel in performing a wider range of woodworking projects, through their unique adjustability and design features. But to make that happen, you must know which type of cutting job matches your chosen router type or vice versa.

If your project requirement includes plunge cuts right at the center of the wood piece or carving decorative designs, etc., then plunge router us the solution. On the other hand, if you are a novice and so need a router to handle simpler cutting jobs like minor trimming work, making joinery, or edge profiling, then a fixed base router is the solution. Being a beginner in woodworking and maintaining high precision in cutting is possible with a fixed router. 

Table Base

A table base is a must have thing as it keeps your router stable during the cutting operation. The maximum cutting accuracy greatly depends on the table base and therefore, it is a good accessory to have around.

Most fixed routers often include a table base within the package. Perhaps that is one of the many reasons why one gets more precision in cutting wood with a fixed router. In case your purchase router model did not come with a table base, you can still attach one to that, in no time.

If you are using a plunge router, you can still use a table base to it. However, considering this router’s design, fixing a table base to it might be a bit tiresome. Moreover, attaching a table base won’t make a plunge router work like a fixed router. That means, there will be no additional cutting precision or stability, which you otherwise get from a fixed router when coupled with a table base. 

Ease of Use

How easily and conveniently you can use either of two router types depends on your hands-on experience. If you are an adept user already, then you can handle these power tools more effortlessly. However, if you compare the ease of use between the fixed and plunge routers, then the former type is easier than the latter. Simply set the required depth of cutting, then place it on the material. What more adds to this router’s (fixed base) ease of use is its stable nature of delivering precise cuts, while maintaining the preset depth of cutting throughout the process.

Plunge routers require a little more manual effort and therefore, it is not a good choice for the people with minimal to no experience. Everything starting from its mid-cutting depth adjustability to handling its heavy weight and large size, increases much manual effort. 

Weight and Size

As the routers are the handheld power tools, the entire control might depend on your hand, the router weight and its size. Both the size and weight of a router matter a lot, especially while conducting larger projects where you have to work on for prolonged periods.

Here, a fixed base router is the clear winner as it is compact in size and light in weight. So, cutting larger workpieces for an extended period will not be troublesome. Plus, you will not have to put much physical effort while making the cuts.

On the contrary, plunge routers are significantly bulkier and heavier. You will need to put additional physical effort to bring about your desired routing results. In fact, getting precision while cutting or drilling will also require extra effort.

Price

The plunge router is costlier than the fixed base router as the former type allows convenient plunge cutting. Plus, the adjustable cutting depth in the middle of an ongoing task is another key feature that adds to the price of a plunge router. The cost of a plunge router is two times more than a fixed router. However, in many cases, it is about $100 more expensive.

The price of the router also depends on the model, brand, and other factors. So, it is not necessary that a fixed base router will always be the cheaper one, unless you go for an ordinary brand or model. If you need to buy both the router types, then you can save much of your budget by going for a combo kit rather than investing separately on both the routers. 


So which one should you buy?

Fixed Base Vs Plunge Router

Now your ultimate question must be which is the most suited router type to meet your purpose? Well, there is no such universal answer to this question as the use of a fixed base or plunge router depends on the type of job you are about to conduct or you generally deal with.

Most of the reputed router manufacturers out there are focusing more on selling combo router kits. The kit contains a motor to run the router; be it the fixed or plunge router. The good news is you can use the same motor for both of your fixed router and plunge router. Buying the combo kit is basically a smarter decision. Even the professionals recommend this as it frees you from the hassle of choosing one between those two router types. However, combo kits are a bit expensive compared to the cost of either of the two routers (fixed or plunge routers).

In case you are fixed budget to stick to, then here is the advice for you:

If you are a beginner in the field of woodworking, simply looking to include a power tool to your toolbox without having any specific purpose for that, keep a plunge router as your first preference. As mentioned earlier, a plunge router has a wider array of applications in woodworking compared to a fixed router. You can even lock the plunge router base to your desired position and utilize it as a fixed router.

If you are about to conduct a number of similar projects, such as edge profiling dovetail joints cutting, etc., and/or if you strictly work using a router table, then a fixed base router is what you need precisely.


In Closing…

Routers are the most handy power tools to be in the toolbox of every DIY enthusiast, occasional woodcrafter, and most importantly, a pro-grade woodworker. Having a router makes every wooden project starting from making patterns, frames, other joineries to carving intricate designs and making precise cuts on your wooden workpiece.

Before deciding and picking one of the two routers- fixed base or plunge router- get sure about your purpose of buying the router. Consider the specific requirements like the factors that are mentioned under “Detailed Comparison…” section above. Then make the purchase accordingly. This will ease your product selection procedure.

In case you need both the fixed base and plunge routers, then the combo kit is the most suited. For the people looking for versatility in router application, a plunge router is the one. Else, a fixed base router is a compact choice for those looking for a lightweight router for their prolonged woodworking projects. 

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