Understanding The Different Types of Wood Routers

Many folks claim that routers are the most flexible tools in a carpenter's toolbox, and justifiably so. With the right fit, the shapes you could bring to life are endless. This then begs the question what’s the right fit? How big or how small? How fast or how slow should it be? Here’s a rundown of the different types available with their unique features.

By Base


​Now the common question people grapple with is how do I control the depth of the actual cut? Remember whereas edging a shelf may require a surface cut carving out a rabbet will beg for more depth. All this is in the hands of the base of the wood router so choose wisely.


Fixed Router

With a fixed router you have to set the depth of the cut before proceeding to shape the wood. Keep in mind that this depth will stay fixed till you choose to reset it, but never while doing the actual woodwork.​

Characterized by

​The handles of this router are near the foot of the base. If you were keen in your physics class I’m sure you can deduce that it has a low center of gravity.

Pros​

Believe me when I say these routers can hold their depth quite well. No need to fret about cutting too deep even when you accidentally press too hard.​

The preset height bit makes it user-friendly for it does not require a lot of technical know how to judge depth while cutting.​

Cons

As easy as it may be to use these babies, their application range is quite small.​

The low center of gravity prevents you from plunging into wood.

Application

​I would urge you to use it mostly for edging since you are restricted to up and down movements. I am alluding to all you weekend hobbyists who only want to do some light touch ups on your shelves or any other general profiling.


Plunge Base Router

​Plunge and fixed bases are poles apart. For plunge router, you can change the depth of the cut while using it.

Characterized by​

The variation in depth while woodworking is achieved by its make. How you ask? It has a motor mounted in between two spring-loaded posts on the base. This allows you to change the cutting depth instantaneously without shutting off the router. All you have to do is simply unlock a lever (or knob) then lower or raise the motor housing.​

Its handles and motor are higher up giving it a high center of gravity essentially allowing it to plunge into wood.​

Pros​

I kid you not, the sheer number of strokes this router can make will have you driving to the store to buy one right now.​

They have a depth stop system that is good at halting or starting a cut that is far from the edge.​

For all intents and purposes, this router can do all what a fixed router can.​

Cons​

I am aware some of you are optically challenged, so please don’t go rocking a plunge base router. You’ll end up with an unsightly piece of furniture. It needs a certain amount of attention that not everyone has.​

The high center of gravity may feel a bit unstable particularly when refining a narrow or small stock.​

Application​

Owing to their greater versatility when it comes to cutting depth, they are most suitable for interior woodworking.​


Combination Base Router

These spiffy routers have an interchangeable plunge and fixed bases consequently carrying the advantages of both routers. This is the routing equivalent of a match made in heaven.

Pros​

It’s better to invest in this one than buying two separate routers. Pretty cool don’t you think? You get two at the price of one, well slightly higher if I’m being candid.​

Another perk is you can swap one out and use the other depending on your routing need.

Bosch MRC23EVSK Combination Plunge & Fixed-Base Variable Speed Router

Cons​

They are a tad more difficult to learn and use. That said this can be remedied with a few hours of practice, even for the greenest woodworker.

Applications​

These babies can do virtually anything. Well nothing crazy like fly to space, but anything in regards to your wood routing needs. It can do the ordinary stuff like divide a plank of wood, soften edges as well as drill holes. That’s not all, it takes wood routing a notch higher by dovetailing, creating elaborate rabbets and wait for it carving letters.​

By Size


Trim/Palm Router

​These are small routers with a horsepower of less than one. Don’t dismiss it just yet; it can do more than people give it credit for. They may be small enough to stand on the edge of a board but that doesn’t take away from their ability to handle large pieces of wood.

Pros

For one they are very easy to manipulate even with just one hand. The compact design offers easier maneuvering when milling constricted areas.​

compact wood router

They are extremely portable and accord you the freedom of walking about with it in your workshop unlike table mounted ones that tie you down.​

Cons

​The horsepower is not suited for heavy milling.

Applications​

The routers may be teeny weenie machines but they are surprisingly very effective. Not only are they suited for cutting hinge mortises and small dadoes they dabble in fine joinery too.​


Medium Sized

Ok, I’m sure you get the gist that these machines are of medium size and as such can handle a bit more horsepower than trim routers. This usually ranges from 1.75 to 2.25. Unlike trim routers that can fit in the palm of your hand, these one require two-handed grip.

Pros

​You have the option of choosing from either a fixed router or a plunge based router.

The horsepower caters for a bit more heavy duty milling compared to trim routers.

Applications​

It’s suited for moderate to large profiling cuts, mortising and dovetailing.​


Large Sized

The horsepower of large sized routers is about 3-3.25.

Pros

I bet you already have this figured but it wouldn’t hurt to say it. These routers can handle the heaviest routing needs you can think of.​

Do you remember the advantages of combination routers? Well, they all fall under this purview and therefore enjoy the same benefits.

Cons​

If you are an occasional hobbyist who hasn’t yet mastered the routing trade, stay away from these routers because the horsepower is more than you can handle.​

Another thing, bigger doesn’t always mean better in the routing world. Not only does it eat up a lot of space it also unable to get into those narrow stocks. Simply phrased it's more machine than you'll need for ordinary edging and joint-curving.

Applications

Are your routing needs leaning towards the likes of table mounting as opposed to edging? This is the router for you.​

By now, you would have a better understanding about the different types of wood routers and their capabilities. There is no one size fits all wood router. I have written a in-depth review on the best wood router on the market. Make sure you check them out!

Think Woodwork
 

Product reviewer & passionate blogger. Beside writing for this blog, I spend my time crafting research based contents for HuffingtonPost, Lifehacker & Forbes!

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