Router questions - plunge vs. fixed, variable speed

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Forum topic by Lumber2Sawdust posted 10-20-2010 04:30 PM 9732 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Lumber2Sawdust's profile


139 posts in 3040 days

10-20-2010 04:30 PM

I have been doing woodworking intermittently for many years. One tool I’ve always kept at arm’s length is the router. I have one, but I rarely use it, even though I know it can be a very useful tool. I’ve just don’t reach for it when I need to do something.

That has changed lately for a couple of reasons and I am trying to embrace the router more in my woodworking. (Although my wife looks at me strangely when I’m embracing a power tool :) )

I have a dewalt 2HP plunge router. It hasn’t been used very hard, but it has some problems so I’m thinking about replacing it. That is where questions start to arise.

What is a better all-around router to have? I have used the router on a table to make some trim. I use it more freehand for putting an edge on some boards, or making a rabbet or dado. How useful is a fixed-base router for making a dado where you need to take several passes?

I came across a good deal on a Bosch router with a fixed base and I noticed that it is not variable speed. It is a fixed speed of 25,000 RPM. My current router has variable speed and as I understand it, the larger the bit, the lower the speed. With a fixed RPM of 25,000 what size bits am I limiting myself to?

I know that the answer to “which [tool] is best” usually results in the answer “It depends”. I’m just trying to get a better understanding of some pros/cons before I take the plunge (pun intended) on a new router.


8 replies so far

View PurpLev's profile


8541 posts in 3823 days

#1 posted 10-20-2010 04:48 PM

it depends…

lol (sorry could not resist)

you got it right about variable speed. a fixed 25K RPM will be best suited for edge treatment and bits that are smaller than 3/4” (1/2” and smaller would be ideal) once you get closer to 1” diameter cutters and above you want to consider reducing the speed although so far I haven’t found a need to reduce the speed on my VS bosch 2.25Hp router for doing anything (I’ve been using mostly 1/2” diameter bits, and the occasional 3/4” and 1” rabbeting bit. So if the deal is good – the VS may be negligent for such operations.

you’d REALLY have to reduce speeds when you use raised panel bits and bits that are 2”+ in diameter no doubt. but for most operations involving a router – I find that the max speed works just fine.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View lilredweldingrod's profile


2496 posts in 3281 days

#2 posted 10-20-2010 07:15 PM

I have several routers, and since I got my Hitachi M12V 3 1/4 hp plunge, it has become my go-to router. It has variable speed, but so far, like Sharon, I very seldom use the low speed. It is very “comfortable” to use. I seem to have better control and with the soft start, no torque on start up. AND the best part is only $189.00 from Amazon. You play with this baby, and you will throw rocks at the others.

View Kent Shepherd's profile

Kent Shepherd

2718 posts in 3461 days

#3 posted 10-20-2010 09:32 PM

Good question—Fixed base or plunge? I spent years of my career using only a fixed base router. I served me for what I generally did with a router. I mostly did edge treatments with mine. Fairly recently I began to use a plunge base. They both definitely have their place. You are right about a plunge base for dados. A fixed base would not be practicle in my opinion. I like a fixed for certain things, but it may simply be because I am used to it. I don’t like a plunge base in a router table. I feel it’s too hard to set up.

So, I guess my answer would be to get a dual base kit. It’s not that much more expensive, and would give you the best of both.

All this is simply based on my personal experience, you really can’t get away from—-It all depends. (Sharon, I couldn’t resist either)

Variable speed is only important using large diameter bits. Since I have shapers, I do all my larger cuts on them.
If you use your router for that, I would highly reccomend that feature.

I have Bosch, Freud, Porter Cable, Milwakee, and Makita. I prefer my Bosch, but they are all good.
(Actually, I prefer my Festool, but I don’t care to start that war again)


View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3249 days

#4 posted 10-20-2010 10:35 PM

My 2 cents -

Fixed base for use in a table – plunge for handheld. Ideally, get one of each and don’t bother putting the router on and off the table.

I prefer mid-sized routers (about 2hp) unless I really need more power. They’re lighter and easier to handle.

I have variable speed on all my routers and never use it. Note – I do not do raised panels.

I have Porter-Cable, Makita and 2 Festools (1400 & 2000). Festool 1400 is the best but I bought good used Festools at reasonable prices. I would not pay full price for a new one.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View Lumber2Sawdust's profile


139 posts in 3040 days

#5 posted 10-21-2010 03:48 PM

Thanks for the responses everyone. I guess I couldn’t really get away without at least 1 “it depends”! :)

I found a Bosch fixed base router for $75 (supposed to be unused). I think I’m going to grab it. It will compliment the plunge router I have, until that one dies.

View SnowyRiver's profile


51457 posts in 3655 days

#6 posted 10-21-2010 05:52 PM

I pretty much agree with everyone. I think each type of router has a nitch, so thats why many woodworkers have serveral of them. I have fixed base/speed Makita D handle router which I use a lot on edges. I also have a PC plunge router that comes in handy for certain jobs, but when doing edges, and dovetails, I like something smaller and easier to handle.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View toolferone's profile


55 posts in 3000 days

#7 posted 10-22-2010 05:48 AM

With routers I say the more the better. I have a big one in my table and several other 1.5 hp fixed base that I use the most and one plunge I don’t use much unless I am working in the middle of the board.

-- Tom

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

10983 posts in 3603 days

#8 posted 10-22-2010 01:12 PM

The ideal is to have one router for each bit you own. At least, I think Norm Abrams follows this thinking. :-)
Of my 6 routers, 1 is PC7518 sans base and fitted to a lift in the table, another is a 1hp PC in the overhead router station, another one is a Freud 2100 plunger for bench use, the others are palm routers and are all fixed base.
I’m thinking of getting that little Trendline with the plunge base. Plunge routers make it soooo easy and fast to adjust the depth with accuracy. Plus, cuts requiring multiple passes to depth (dados, etc.) are a snap with a plunger.
As far as VS goes, I only use it at the table for larger bits. I can adjust it for smoother cuts. The Freud is VS, but I can’t remember ever using that feature. Both the PC 7518 and the Freud are soft start. I like that feature a lot.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

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