Why would anyone want a fixed base router?

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Forum topic by newwoodbutcher posted 12-14-2010 09:21 AM 10635 views 1 time favorited 45 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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744 posts in 2876 days

12-14-2010 09:21 AM

What is it that a fixed base router will do that a plunge router won’t do? What am I missing?

-- Ken

45 replies so far

View wseand's profile


2796 posts in 3067 days

#1 posted 12-14-2010 09:50 AM

My fixed base router base goes into my Router table. Other than that I don’t use it.

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1287 posts in 3084 days

#2 posted 12-14-2010 01:08 PM

For routing an edge profile, I prefer a fixed base router. The depth of cut setting is less likely to move during the process than a plunge base router.


-- Hey, woodworking ain't brain surgery. Just do something and keep trying till you get it. Doc

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2796 posts in 3067 days

#3 posted 12-14-2010 01:30 PM

I have to agree with you Doc. I use my trim router for edge work though. But if I had an extra fixed base I would probably use that. The fixed base is a lot lighter and tends to be easier to manipulate.

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9949 posts in 2868 days

#4 posted 12-14-2010 02:40 PM

I definately can’t speak for anyone else, and since I do not use a router often, I can only tell you why I have a fixed base router, not why anyone else would.
I have a plunge router that I seldom use anymore. The only time I do use it is if I specifically have to make a plunge cut, which is next to never. I mostly use my router for putting rounded over or fancy edges on something. I mostly do this on my router table, but there are times a piece is too big, or for whatever reason, I have to use a handheld.
I promise, I’m getting to a point.
In the beginning, I was in agreement with you, so all I bought was a plunge router. However, I soon found out several problems with my plunge router.
Because of my bad back, for edge work, it was just too hard on my back to try and hold the plunge router down into position while also trying to control my cut along the edge of a piece of wood. I found out quickly that if I did this for a longer cut than a few inches, it would make my muscle spasms in my back flare up and I’d be down in my back and unable to do any woodwork afterwards for a few days, up to a week at a time. This was unacceptable.
My plunge router had a lock on it that would lock it in the downwards position, thus basically making it a fixed base router. However, it was too easy to bump this lock lever in any kind of way and make it release. When this happened, it popped up unexpectedly. When this happened, it not only ruined a piece I had been working on for over a week. It slipped off the edge of the workpiece and nearly took my finger with it. This too was unacceptable.
So I went and bought a fixed base router. After that, my plunge router was pretty much shelved except for dedicated plunge cuts. My fixed base, which is made identical to my plunge excpet for the base, is just easier and safer for me to control on edge cuts.
Now, my reasons, of course, have to do with my health more than anything else. Hoever, even though my back is screwed up, I can’t help but think that my reasoning would also make most cuts, unless they are plunge cuts, easier on anyone by using a fixed base router. To each his own, but I was always taught to work smarter, not harder. I personally think there is a place for both style routers, plunge and fixed base.
I would also have to throw in that it is also easier to have a third, stationary, or table mounted router. When ever possible, I use the table mounted. By all accounts, it is easier, safer, and more pleasurable for me to use than either of the handhelds.


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4258 posts in 3186 days

#5 posted 12-14-2010 02:58 PM

Like most tools, they are not meant for the same jobs. For roughing in, Bandsaws for the outside of a donut and a scrollsaw for the inside. For finish work, fixed base router for the outside of a donut, and plunge base for the inside.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

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13607 posts in 3367 days

#6 posted 12-14-2010 03:16 PM

i use both
as stated above
for different routes

i like foxed base
it is lower
and easier to keep up-right
(remember only half of the base is on the work)

i do have one of those acrylic offset bases
with a handle on it
to hold the router flat and keep it from tipping
and move it from router to router as needed
the little ‘steps’ on a plunge base
are nice to keep from hogging deeper routes

as stated they all have different uses
together there are more options

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

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Bob #2

3809 posts in 4047 days

#7 posted 12-14-2010 03:32 PM

As far as trim style routers are concerned:

The handles get in the way.

The base is larger.

You need two hands to operate it .

Usually, interchangable base routers must be turned off and on at the motor housing .
Except for the Triton.
Triton seems to be the only router out there with any sort of ergonomically advanced features.
I wish they would tackle the trim routers now.
Plunge base routers are easier to adjust when creeping up on a cut or making multiple passes to avoid tearout.
They also sport a turret style depth adjustment stop.

-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 3009 days

#8 posted 12-14-2010 03:38 PM

While I have both, I find that I use the fixed base far more than my plunge base. While both routers are used I have more control with outside edges using the fixed base. I had a fixed base first and had learn to do some plunge cuts with it before getting the plunge base. Which is why I bought the plunge so that I could make those cuts safely. I also find it much easier for myself to use the fixed base with jigs attached to it.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View JBfromMN's profile


107 posts in 2802 days

#9 posted 12-14-2010 03:56 PM

I have 3 routers that I use. A fixed base old Milwaukee that I do all my detail work on larger pieces. The only issue is it has a 1/4 collet. Then I have my fixed base that is mounted in my router table permanently. That one I have both sized collets for. Then I have a plunge router with a 1/2 inch collet that I use when I need to do either an operation that required a plunge or the bit I need to use, I only have in 1/2”.

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242 posts in 3772 days

#10 posted 12-14-2010 04:43 PM

If you are going to have just one router, a plunge may be your best choice because of the versatility. As you can see, many people have multiple routers. I have 6 routers. 3 are fixed base, 2 are laminate trimmers, and 1 is a plunge/fixed base combo (the bases are interchangeable). Fixed base routers normally have a smaller and shorter profile and aren’t as “top heavy” making them easier to control on a narrow surface. I also find that a fixed base (depeneding on the brand) is easy to fine tune (adjust in very small increments). I rarely use my plunge router, but it’s there when I need it. No matter what router or routers you choose look for key elements like 1/4” and 1/2” collets, where the power switch is located, where is the dust directed, how easy is it to change bits, what lifts will it fit into if you ever want to use one, the amperage and horsepower rating, etc. I started with one router, then purchased a much larger one for my lift in my router table, then found the other 4 on clearance at different times and couldn’t resist the value. It’s nice being able to work on a project and not have to change bits and try to get the depth exact multiple times. By the way, I rarely do laminate work, but the laminate trimmers are handy to have around for inlay and roundovers.

-- NorthWoodsMan

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51457 posts in 3506 days

#11 posted 12-14-2010 04:45 PM

Although I have both, I tend to use the fixed base router more. I have a Makita D handle fixed base router, and a PC plunge router. I like the Makita because it is lighter and smaller and its easier to handle doing
dovetails, and edge routing.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View dbhost's profile


5726 posts in 3258 days

#12 posted 12-14-2010 05:01 PM

I have both. Fixed base and plunge. For most of the routing work I do, the fixed base is easier for me. And it’s not like the plunge base is tough to use… Edge profiles where your depth is set, dadoes, and table work, patterns etc…. All easier for me with a fixed base…

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View Dan's profile


3630 posts in 2906 days

#13 posted 12-14-2010 05:03 PM

I only have one router and its an older Rockler fixed base. It seems to be the perfect size for everything I have ever needed to use a router for. I agree with everyone else that a fixed base is best for detail and edge work.

If I ever need a plunge cut I just drill a pilot hole with a fostner bit and then I can put my fixed base router in and go from there.

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

View newwoodbutcher's profile


744 posts in 2876 days

#14 posted 12-14-2010 05:49 PM

Wow! Great responses, thank you. I guess I need to go out and get myself a fixed base router.
I have three routers, all plunge, one (Triton) hangs permanently in my router table, this is where I do almost all my edge work . As a side note, I’ve never understood why people say a plunge is no good in a router table. I had a 31/2 hp Dewalt plunge hanging in my router table for 10 years, no complaints. I replaced it with a 31/2 HP Triton plunge and still have no complaints. I also have a light weight 1/4” collet Dewalt plunge and a 31/2 HP 1/2” collet Dewalt plunge that I use largely for stop dados and mortises and hardly anything else. So, up until I got your responses I thought I had all the bases covered when it comes to routers, although I have been thinking about a trim router lately.
So, now that you know my router inventory, can any of you recommend a fixed base router? I’m thinking one with D handle set up.
Thanks again for the free education.

-- Ken

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4541 posts in 3100 days

#15 posted 12-14-2010 06:43 PM

I use a fixed base router in my router table with a router lift system. In this application, all I really need is a motor and a collet.

I have 3 plunge routers and I have a role for each. One is dedicated to routing mortises with my Mortise Pal jig. Another is my heavy duty machine and the 3rd is my all purpose mid-weight machine.

I’m starting to think that a smaller, lighter fixed base router with a D handle may be a better idea for edge work and I may pick one up one of these days. I’m also thinking a fixed base router may be a better idea for cutting dove tails on my dovetail jig.

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

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