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5 Best Plunge Routers for Beginners and Experts – Reviews & Buying Guide

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For most woodworkers, even the beginners, a router is one of the most essential power tools they need to have. It's a versatile tool that can be used in many cases. But there are two problems. First, most people don't know whether to choose fixed router or pluge router. Second, they don't know which one is the best among hundreds of products on the market. Today, we'll tackle these two problems by reviewing some of the best plunge router you can buy.

Our pick

THE BEST PLUNGE ROUTER

Makita RP2301FC Plunge Router

Makita RP2301FC is durable, strong, has huge motor power, and excellent grip. It also has all the main features that you'll need in a router. Although a little bit expensive than other products within its class, Makita RP2301FC definitely worth your money.

Fixed Base vs. Plunge Router

First, you need to know the difference between a fixed base router and a plunge router. Let's talk in more depth about the difference and which one you actually need.

1. Fixed Base Router

With a fixed base router, the depth of cut is set before you turn the router on.In other words, if you set a fixed base router at a cut depth of 1/4", the router bit protrudes past the base 1/4" until you change the depth. The lack of a plunge mechanism tends to make these routers lighter and less expensive.

2. Plunge Router

A plunge router allows you to adjust the depth of cut while the router is turned on. This feature comes in handy when you need to make multiple passes on a board, taking off a little more wood with each pass. To accurately plunge the router to the appropriate depth while in use, plunge routers have depth stops.

Plunge routers can be used to cut mortises, stopped grooves, dados, and incised letters (with special jigs). The main disadvantage compared to fixed router is that the plunge mechanism adds weight to the router.

Deciding which one of the two is the better choice might be something impossible without actually knowing what you're going to do with it, considering that both tools do the same exact job with minor differences that are convenient according to different opinions. However, today we are here only to discuss the plunge router and go deeper into its characteristics and the different products that will shape your experience.

For many woodworkers, a plunge router is like one of those deluxe TV remote controls that have lots of buttons and functions. Only some understand how to utilize it, and most people only use a few of them because they don't understand their full capabilities.

What to Consider When Choosing a Plunge Router

There are three main things that you should look into while trying to buy a plunge router to make sure you get the best one, and they are as follow:

1. Your Need

Before trying to think about any other criteria in the product, you need to ask yourself what are the tasks you are going to do with your plunge router.

Depending on your needs, you will choose the most suitable product for you. If you are trying to buy a router to soften sharp edges or cut small edges off the wood—but on a small scale—then a trim router is the best choice out there. They’re small enough to stand on the edge of a board for trimming off edge banding or laminate, yet powerful enough to handle smallest profiling bits.

Here are the advantages of trim routers:

  1. Compact
  2. Nicely appointed
  3. Affordable
  4. Easy grip and control
  5. Used for cutting hinge mortises, small dadoes, and fine joinery

2. Work strength

A mid-sized router will definitely perform better and cover more base than a trim router. We’re talking about a 1.75- to 2.25-hp machine that requires two-handed operation with either a fixed-or-plunge-style base.

So if you are looking for the ideal router that will perform all the tasks you could think of, starting from typical routing task to moderate and large profiling cuts, dovetailing and mortising, then the best device for you would be a mid-sized machine. For all-around woodworking, a mid-sized router is the workhorse of both serious hobbyists and professional shops.

Plunge routers are equipped with a depth stop system so you can step off a series of cuts to create a deep mortise or cutout. The depth stop can also help you reset the tool to the same cutting depth without measuring, making it ideal for repetitive cutting situations. For all practical purposes, a plunge router can do everything a fixed-base router can do, but the handles and motor are mounted higher up on the base to facilitate the plunging motion.

The higher center of gravity can feel a bit unstable, especially when you’re milling small or narrow stock.

3. Size

The rule that claims “bigger is always better” does not imply for routers, especially if you are going to use the machine as a handheld tool instead of using it on a table.

Although useful, unless you plan to use really large profiling bits or raise panels for cabinet doors, a full-sized router is more machine than you’ll ever need for ordinary profiling and joint-making. That extra weight, size, and power can even work against you on smaller or delicate work.

Still, if your budget will allow it, a 3- or 3.25-hp router will give your router table the gumption only exceeded by a shaper. It’s an investment that can easily wait for a while until you get serious about the heavy-duty jobs.

With that said, once you step up to a big router, there are many good fixed-base or plunge models to choose from.

Router Features to Look At When Purchasing

On the other hand, there are a few features that could or could not be on your plunge router which mainly depends on the product you picked. They could be smart and professional enough to include the features with a better quality, or just sending out a product for the sake of the sale.

Here is a detailed explanation of each feature that will make your choice even easier:

1. Variable speed

Variable speeds on your router is an important attribute that you should have at any cost. It gives you the option to have different speeds, each achieving a different task with different accuracy. Small bits cut most cleanly at mid to high speeds, and large bits need to be dialed down to slower speeds to be used safely. With variable speed, just twist the dial one way or the other and you’re covered, no matter what bit you need to use.

2. Electronic feedback circuitry

This is a feature that will help maintain the durability of your device and sustain its efficiency. It basically means to measure the load in order to balance it with the output torque. So during a heavy cut, the motor won’t labor or stall, and power output still feels the same. Electronic feedback circuitry is a feature you won’t truly appreciate unless you’ve used an older router without this sophisticated circuitry. With EFC, you can really focus your attention on the technique and how your cut is progressing and let the router keep pace with you.

3. Soft start

Without the soft start, your router will blast up to full speed the second you turn it on. The noise can be startling, and that surge of power might even make the router jerk in your hands, especially with a big bit in the chuck. It’s not a pleasant way to ease into a tricky cut or get over your trepidations about routing in general.

With the soft start, you’ll experience a moment of pause after powering it up, and then the router gently accelerates to the preset speed. The soft start feature comes standard with most new routers that have electronic feedback circuitry. It’s a subtle but pleasant feature to have on a handheld router.

4. Spindle lock

Many routers require two wrenches for making bit changes. One wrench holds the motor shaft, and the other wrench loosens or tightens the collet. With spindle lock, you push a spring-loaded pin or engage a locking collar to hold the motor shaft in place, so the only wrench you need is the one for the collet.

This is a particularly handy detail on dedicated plunge routers where you can’t remove the motor to get better access to the bit. It’s not a do-or-die feature, but it does take a little hassle and knuckle-busting out of the bit changing equation.

5. Above the table adjustment

If you are like most woodworkers, sooner or later one of your routers will spend its days hanging under a router table. Two relatively new features can make table routing more precise and convenient.

First, buy a router that allows you to adjust cutting height from above the table with a handle, crank or knob. It sure beats stooping over to tweak the depth setting from underneath. Second, look for a router designed to extend the collet above the table so you can change bits without lifting out the machine. Machines with ATA will generally include both of these great enhancements.

Best Plunge Router — Reviews

Now that you have identified the best features and characteristics that you are looking for, here is the part where you get to know the products in the market and reach your final decision. Try to check every product thoroughly and read more about them to ensure you found what you are looking for. Here is a list of the best products out there according to our researchers:

1. DEWALT DWP611PK Max Torque Variable Speed Compact Router Combo Kit with LED's

This 1.25hp product is definitely a very good contender to the number one position on the list. It is a true durable device that utilizes its motor power to perform the toughest tasks. It has the ability of changing speeds ranging from 16,000 to 27,000 rpm. This product in particular has an extra opportunity of the lighting LED’s that provides you with visibility through the whole task.

What we like:

  • Great for tough tasks
  • Very accurate
  • Strong materials, seems durable
  • Great for its price level

What we don't like:

  • Expensive

2. Bosch PR20EVSK Colt Palm Grip Fixed-Base Variable-Speed Router with Edge Guide

Next on our list is a product of BOSCH which is a strong and credible name when it comes to these types of tools. It looks kind of different from a regular router but is still as effective as. It has a 5.6 amp motor a wider range of speeds for your convenience. This offer specially contains more items that you might find useful. A few tools that will give you the best experience with the wood you own.

What we like:

  • Lightweight
  • Affordable
  • Good for its price

What we don't like:

  • Hard to setup
  • Can be hard to control

3. Black & Decker RP250 Variable Speed Plunge Router

This is a “to the point” product that has a 10 amp motor with just a single speed. You’d think that is has way too few attributes compared to the others, but remember that over doing it with the device is not a smart idea either. On the other hand, it has a gradual start function that allows amazing accuracy that you will definitely need.

What we like:

  • Accurate
  • Affordable
  • Better quality than some routers with double or triple its price

What we don't like:

  • Not for heavy use
  • Doesn't seem very durable

4. Makita RP2301FC Plunge Router

This tool is one of the most popular ones out there. It might be a little more expensive than a typical router but this one literally defines “you get what you pay for”. It has one of the largest ranges of speeds with a quick release cam button for depth adjustment. While looking for the right product for you, this one in particular should always be an option in mind.

What we like:

  • Accurate
  • Extremely durable
  • Reliable for different type of tasks
  • Huge motor power
  • Easy to control
  • Low power consumption (for its class)

What we don't like:

  • Expensive (but worth it)
  • Hard to set up

5. Festool 574342 OF Router

This is the most luxurious tool out there probably but it has all what you’re looking for in one tool. It will simply finish the task as efficient as possible with the best accuracy and with the cleanest surface finish you will find. This is like owning a wood master right at your home. It is an investment buying this device as it is durable for a lifetime even if you are trying all the tough work you’ve heard of.

What we like:

  • Versatile, for all kinds of wood work
  • Durable
  • Stable and accurate
  • Excellent grip

What we don't like:

  • Expensive
  • Not for beginners, can be too complex

Conclusion: Our Top Pick

Now that you have understood different type of routers and what makes a good router, you should be able to make the decision on our own. However, we have one specific product that we evaluated to be the best plunge router in the list stated above.

Our pick

THE BEST PLUNGE ROUTER

Makita RP2301FC Plunge Router

Makita RP2301FC is durable, strong, has huge motor power, and excellent grip. It also has all the main features that you'll need. Although a little bit expensive than other products within its class, Makita RP2301FC definitely worth your money.

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