Plunge vs. Fixed Router – What’s the Difference?

Plunge vs. Fixed Router

A router is one of those power tools that you must have if you are planning on getting into woodworking or even just like doing home crafts.

Like with most other woodworking power tools, there are different options to choose from when it comes to buying routers. But you will typically need to pick between the plunge and fixed routers.

Both routers do an amazing job and will be perfect to have around, and if you can afford both then you will have some great tools for your projects.

However, to pick between the two, you need to understand what each has to offer and what sets it apart from the other. Here, we explain this is in more details and also compare them to help potential buyers make the right pick.

Plunge Router Overview

Plunge Router

The plunge router is the more complicated of the two and will often be a great pick for the more experienced woodworkers and DIYers. However, despite taking a little more effort to use, this is also the more versatile router and will hence be perfect for a wide variety of projects.

Plunge routers get their name from the fact that they have been designed to allow for plunge routing which is starting the cut from the middle of the workpiece.

With these routers, you will only need to preset your cutting depth and then lower the machine into the workpiece to start cutting. Better yet, this router will also allow you to adjust the cutting depth in the middle of the cut something that will not be possible with the fixed base types.

Because they will include two nice handles on the sides, this router will be generally more comfortable to use than the fixed ones. And most will also be more powerful than the fixed base types which allow them to handle almost any material.

Contrary to what some woodworkers tend to assume, the plunge routers can be used for edge working, and while they might not produce the same quality as the fixed types when doing the edges, they still deliver good enough outcomes.

When compared to the fixed routers, the plunge routers will be more expensive. Some users will also not like them because they will need more experience to use, and if you are not careful when using one, you can easily ruin your workpiece.


  • Allows for depth adjustment when cutting
  • Can plunge into the middle of the material
  • Generally more versatile


  • More expensive
  • Requires more experience to use

Fixed Router Overview

Fixed Router

Fixed base routers are the older of the two router types. As their name suggests, they will have a fixed base design meaning that you cannot plunge into the material to start a cut from the middle of the piece. And neither can you make any depth adjustments in the middle of the cut.

But, despite their inability to plunge cut, these routers will still come with many other merits. Key among them is the fact that they will give you a much easier time when you want to mount them on a table base.

Also, these are more straightforward tools to use that will be perfect for the inexperienced woodworkers as to use on you only need to set the desired depth and start routing.

Overall, the fixed base routers will offer higher quality results when compared to the plunge router which explains why they are the more common option for professional woodworkers.

Many users will also appreciate that they provide more precise cuts, and this is more so when doing edge work on smaller wood materials

Because the cutting bit is always locked into one place, these routers will deliver more precision when routing. They seem to excel when it comes to joinery work thanks to their easier maneuverability and high precision.

But besides not being ideal for plunge cutting, the fixed base routers also have another significant shortcoming which is that they are less versatile when compared to the plunge routers.


  • Easily mountable on table base
  • Great for joinery work
  • Ideal for novice woodworkers
  • Perfect for shaping edges
  • Smaller and lighter


  • Not ideal for plunge cutting
  • Relatively less versatile

Comparison Chart

Plunge RouterFixed Router
Cutting DepthAdjustableFixed
Best UsesPlunge cuttingEdge working and joinery
Repeat Application SuitabilityNot very goodGreat
Table BaseAwkward to mountEasily attachable
Weight and SizeHeavier and bulkierSmaller and lighter
Ease of UseA little hectic to useEasier to use

Plunge Router vs. Fixed Router

Both the plunge and fixed router have a place in the workshop and many professional woodworkers will either have both or buy the combo router kits that work as both. But for the many DIYers and woodworkers that want to buy just one, here are some key differences that you need to remember.

1. Cutting Depth

Different routing jobs will require different depth, and so the router that you buy should be able to deliver the precise depth you want. Luckily, both the fixed and plunge router have been built to route at different depths, and you will only need to choose what you want.

However, the plunge routers offer the advantage of allowing you to adjust your cutting depth even when in the middle of the cut. This can be a huge advantage especially when you want to make intricate designs on a piece of wood.

With the fixed base router, the cutting depth is not adjustable when cutting. To make any depth changes, you would first need to stop the machine and remove it from the workpiece. If for example, you set it at a cutting depth of 1/4-inch, you have to continue with this until you finish the cut which for some tasks can be very restrictive.

2. Best Uses

Given the differences in design and adjustability, these two routers will excel at different things. Knowing their best uses is crucial as it will ensure you can match the router to your specific needs.

If you are doing anything that requires to you to plunge cut which is to start the cut in the middle of the workpiece such as when making decorative designs on wood, the plunge router is perfect as this is what it is best for.

The fixed routers will be excellent for handling smaller trims and when doing some edge work as they will offer more precision. Also, the fixed base routers are your best bet if you want something for joinery which is thanks to its high precision.

3. Repeat Application Suitability

Consistency is often vital in woodworking, and this is more so when working on different pieces that require you to make the same cuts.

When you want consistency and the ability to repeat the same cut several times, the fixed base router will be your best bet.

With the fixed router, you will only need to set your desired depth and it will remain the same as long as you want it to. To change it, you have to stop the motor and make the adjustment. This can help speed up the job when doing repeat cuts.

The plunge router’s ability to adjust the cutting depth is one of its main advantages. But if you want to do repeat cuts, it will be its greatest shortcoming as it makes it hard to maintain the same depth setting.

4. Table Base

A table base is highly useful when using a router as it can help keep it stable to ensure maximum accuracy, and so it is always nice to have one.

Many fixed base routers will often come with a table base which is one of the reasons why they will be more precise. And even if what you buy does not come with one, it will be super easy to attach it to one without wasting a lot of time.

When using the plunge routers, attaching a table base is theoretically possible but given its design, it will be a little awkward and tedious.

Furthermore, even if you can attach the plunge router to the base it will not work as well as the fixed types. This means that with these routers, you will not be able to enjoy the extra stability and precision that come with a table base.

5. Weight and Size

Since these routers are handheld devices that you will need to control by hand when in use, their weight and size matter a lot, and this is more so if you plan to use them for extended periods or when handling larger workpieces.

When it comes to weight and size, the fixed router has an edge here. Most will be typically designed to be lighter which means they will not require a lot of physical effort from the user when cutting.

The smaller and more compact size of the fixed router also makes it easier to move from one work site to the other which for many woodworkers is quite convenient.

Plunge routers will come in a significantly larger size and are much heavier than the fixed routers. What this means is that they will require a little extra physical effort for you to get the routing results you need. Also getting high precision when drilling or cutting will take a little extra work.

6. Ease of Use

Ease of use for both the plunge and fixed routers will largely depend on the experience of the user. Anyone that has used them for a long time will find the tools more effortless to handle.

However, the fixed routers seem a little easier to use than the plunge routers. When using one, you will only need to set the desired cutting depth and then place it on the workpiece. What makes it easy to use is that it will be more stable and it maintains the preset cutting depth throughout the cut.

The plunge routers will take a little extra effort to use and might not be very ideal for novice users without enough experience. Everything from the mid-cut adjustability to their larger size and heavier weight mean they will give users more work.

7. Price

Because these are still power tools, they will not come cheap despite being overall smaller than other tools like the power saws and drills.

But, of the two tools, the plunge router will be the more expensive option given its convenient plunge cutting and ability to adjust depth in the middle of a cut.

A typical plunge router can cost as much as twice what you would pay for the fixed router but in most instances, it will be around $100 more expensive.

However, like with any other power tool, what you pay for either of the two routers will depend on the brand and model and other things such as what you get on the kit. Also, for those that want both, you can save lots of cash by buying a combo kit instead of the two routers separately.


Routers are very handy to have around for every DIYer, hobbyist, and woodworker as they will help with everything from making signs to giving your workpieces intricate designs and for joinery.

When it comes to picking between the two common types which are the plunge and fixed routers, you will first need to identify your specific needs and then match them to one of the two. With their few differences highlighted above, this should be easy.

If you think you will need both router types, you will be better off going for the combo kit. But, for the novice woodworkers with no experience with routers, the fixed base router is perfect while the plunge router will be more appropriate for anyone looking for something a little more versatile.