It doesn’t take long for someone that has gotten into the hobby of woodworking to realize they need or want a router. We have had a similar post about this before, but this is a hot topic.
There are many that have become hobbyist that will ask what the difference in routers is going to be. Once you get any experience using a router, you will know the answer. There is a large difference in the various models and types that are out there. What do you need to know in order to make the right choice for you with this great tool?
First thing to consider is if you need to have a plunge router or stationary one. The majority of the difference in the two is that the stationary router is set to a desired depth and then locked in place to stay in position.
The plunge router will do just as the name implies – plunge into the material if you push down on it. Or you “plunge” down to make the cut. Then you can pull the router out of the cut and it will be finished. They are spring loaded. Which one is for you then?
Of course, the simple answer is to get both types if you can afford it, but many can’t. The budget may not be there for the two. So the first purchase is usually best with a stationary router, then when you can get the plunge. There is another option though. Many routers come with two bases. You can alternate between the plunge and the stationary.
The motor is separated, so you change the base out to the one that you need. This is ideal in that it will give your router more versatility. These are usually more expensive routers, but they aren’t the cost of two different routers, so they are cheaper in the long haul.
But as mentioned, if you are low in budget, then you fair better if you go with the stationary router. You can get a low cost one for about 50 bucks if you are in the market for one but can’t really afford much.
Plunge routers are usually more expensive than the stationary ones. You can’t really find one for 50 dollars like the stationary type.
The issue with lower priced routers is the power. They don’t have the horsepower as a more expensive router usually does. The cheaper routers will have less than 2 HP and if that is the case it takes more passes than a larger motor will cut.
The collet size is important to consider as well. You want a router that will hold up to 1/2 inch bits if possible. Most low cost ones will only hold 1/4 inch bits. A 1/4 bit is less expensive and can be easier to locate. But 1/2 bits will give you less tear out and chatter than the 1/4.
You can adapt a router with a 1/2 collet to hold a 1/4 inch bit. But not the other way around. If the router has variable speeds built in that is great as well. Many routers don’t have this feature. But don’t fret. You can buy a variable speed control and add it to the plug on the router itself.
It is handy because if you have a larger bit, it does better if your RPM’s are cut back to a slower speed. The cuts are cleaner. You also can burn the wood and the bit if you don’t slow the speed on the tool. This holds true for the plunge and the stationary router as well.
Also, it is important that the tool feels good in your hands while using it. If it is uncomfortable, it could become a hazard and unsafe to use. The switch position is important as well. You need to be able to turn the tool off without letting go of it if at all possible.
Both the fixed and plunge routers have their pros and cons to the comfort level. It all depends on the manufacturer and your hands. If it is a comfortable fit in your palms, that is a good thing.
One more factor to consider is that a stationary router can be put into your router table. This isn’t so with a plunge router. So many woodworkers have a router table, or desire to build one. Therefore, if you get a stationary router first, it will put you off to the right start.