Plunge Router Vs Compact Router Review 2019 | DIY Experience

Plunge Router Vs Compact Router Review

Before we get into the difference between routers, more specifically a plunge router vs compact router, for all you newbies out there, we’re going to go over what a router is and why it’s an essential and highly useful tool in any woodworker’s garage.

Routers Are Possibly The Most Versatile Tool For Woodworkers

Routers are power tools that  can do a wide-range of tasks such as:

  • Hollow out a particular area of wood, metal or plastic with a smooth finish
  • Create curved edges
  • Create beveled frames
  • Drill holes
  • Cut joints
  • Create raised panels
  • Trim wood

The reason why routers are able to perform this long list of different woodworking tasks is because of the many router attachments and bits it can take on, transforming the hand tool into several different tools.

These router additions make possibilities of what you can do with a plank of wood, endless.

You can look at routers as a type  of one-man band in the woodworker's toolbox.

Although this tool is incredibly versatile and useful, not all woodworkers have used this tool, or rely on it for their work.

However, despite the personal preferences of some woodworkers, adding a router to the mix of tools undoubtedly makes shaping, cutting and finishing wood jobs a lot easier and a lot of fun if you’re new to using one.

But what type of router do you need?

There are roughly seven different types of routers that you can choose from and, like any other power tool, these types include different sizes, speed motors and horsepower as well, making the decision-making process a bit overwhelming.

manufacturing machine

Image via Flickr

Well, good news. That’s why we’re here.

In this article, we’ll discuss two common types of routers: plunge router vs compact router. We’ll outline what each router does, what they’re used for and ultimately, which router will best suit your woodworking needs.

Everything You Need To Know About Plunge Routers 

A plunge router is made to allow the user to preset a cut depth and then lower the router bit into the cut while the router’s base is flat against the surface of whatever material is being used.

They move up and down on the base which contains spring-loaded arms on both sides which allow the woodworker to “plunge” manually into the material with the cutting bit.

This function is ideal when you’re working on the top of the wood or material, as well as for fluting, mortices, dados, rebates, grooves and insets.

That being said, plunge routers can also be used for any type of edge work you’re looking to accomplish as well. This includes profiling edges with a round-over bit.

Bosch 1617EVSPK Combination Router - 12 Amp 2.25 Horsepower Corded...
  • VERSATILE: This versatile kit can be used for a broad range of applications, including precise bit plunging, edge...
  • DURABILITY: Aluminum construction makes this one of our most durable routers for woodworking yet with wooden handles on...
  • EASE OF USE: Rounded hardwood handles maximize user control

What Makes Plunge Routers Special?

In short, they can go where no other woodworking tool can.

When we talk about plunge router vs compact router comparisons, this may be the biggest factor. Plunge routers make it easy to perform router chores due to its spring-loaded arms that forces it to spring upwards to the top of the posts, allowing for maximum coverage and angles.

The lock and release lever on a plunge router allow a free up and down movement of the housing or locks the router in place at a chosen depth.

This depth of the cut can be preset which allows you to place the router over the wood or piece and plunge the bit to the exact depth you need.

The depth stop piece works similarly to a stop on a drill press.

These types of routers have been on the market for many years, and for good reason. While there are some big fans of fixed-base models who argue that fixed-based routers can do all the same actions as a plunge router, many experts agree that the plunge router is extremely unique.

We’ve outlined eight of these unique aspects below to give a fixed-router a run for its money.

Top 8 Unique Characteristics Of A Plunge Router

construction tool

Image via Flaticon

While the ease of use and versatility of a plunge router is arguably the most attractive characteristic, there are many other attributes that make plunge routers an excellent addition to your tool box.

We’ve outlined 8 points below so that you can see for yourself everything a plunge router can do.

1. Awesome Template Routers

Plunge routers make template routing with any guide bushings worry-free.

This is because all you need to do is set the router over the template, turn it on, take the bit and plunge it into the depth and route you preset.

Plunge routers help eliminate any nicks or unwanted cuts in your templates.

2. Necessary for Certain Jigs

When dealing with sophisticated jigs for creating joints, a plunge router is a must.

While these jigs can cut mortises, dovetails, tenons and more but they can’t perform all operations without the use of a plunge router. Plain and simple.

3. Great For Inlay Grooves

A plunge router is suited for delicate and stringing inlay work.

This is because the plunge allows for a smooth cut entrance and exit. If you try tipping a fixed-base model into a cut such as this, the cut will be misaligned exactly where the groove begins.

With this type of operation, you’ll want to get it perfect, right off the bat. A plunge router will ensure this.

4. Stopped Flutes, Burn-Free

Plunge routers mill stopped grooves and flutes the best.

By milling with a plunge router, you’ll be worker simpler and safer than with a fixed-router. In order to achieve this, get a start block, a stop block as well as an edge guide.

Set the start block, plunge the bit into the depth and press the lock lever while you create the cut across the board.

Once you reach the end of the cut, release the lock lever and you’ll see the bit unloading from the board. In its place, you’ll find the smoothest flutes possible.

No burn-marks, only clean cuts and a great finished piece.

11-Amp 2 HP Fixed-Base Wood Router with Carrying Bag and Edge Guide,...
  • 【Powerful and Efficient】11-Amp motor produces 2 peak horsepower to handle a range of woodworking applications; This...
  • 【Precise Depth Adjustment】 Micro-fine depth adjustment ring provides precise depth adjustments in 1/64-inch...
  • 【Durable and Comfortable】 The motor housing and bases are made of aluminum, and the power switch is completely...

5. On-Board Scale For Finely Tuned Adjustments

The micro-adjustable depth knobs will make a fine-tuning adjustment on a plunge router as simple as can be.

On some fixed-based routers, small or fine changes in the height of the bit can be frustrating.

With a plunge router, you’ll be able to read and fine-tune the depth right away.

6. Bit Protection, Built-In

Another unique and attractive attribute of a plunge router is its bit protection.

This router automatically and immediately protects and surrounds your bits when the machine is not in use.

All you need to do it push your finger to disengage the lock lever. This will retract the housing and will then lift the bit into safety.

This not only protects your expensive bits, but your fingers and benchtop from potential cuts

7. Awesome At Mortises Cutting

You’ll quickly find that the task of cutting mortises is a lot easier when using a plunge router.

This is because you can cut a deep mortise without overworking the router or bit due to the adjustable stepped turret.

This allows a plunge router to be able to make a number of shallow by deeper cuts. This means you won’t need to angle a spinning bit into the board as you would need to with a fixed-base router.

All you need to do is simply twist the plunge router’s stepped turret to increase the depth of cut for the next pass.

8. Great For Specialized Bits

Certain popular bits are used the best with a plunge router.

For example, a keyhole or picture hanging groove would be almost impossible if using a fixed-base router. This cut needs a bit to get down into the stock, slide laterally and then reverse to create the keyhole at the other end.

With a fixed-base router, this just wouldn’t work.

Make sure you use the proper bit for plunging. Straight bits  for plunge cutting allow the bit to create a hole as it enters the wood. If you use a bit without a bottom cutter, you won’t be able to make this type of cut seeing as they bottom out.

11-Amp 2 HP Fixed-Base Wood Router with Carrying Bag and Edge Guide,...
  • 【Powerful and Efficient】11-Amp motor produces 2 peak horsepower to handle a range of woodworking applications; This...
  • 【Precise Depth Adjustment】 Micro-fine depth adjustment ring provides precise depth adjustments in 1/64-inch...
  • 【Durable and Comfortable】 The motor housing and bases are made of aluminum, and the power switch is completely...

Everything You Need To Know About Compact Routers

Alright now that we’ve gone into great detail with plunge routers and all their many abilities, it’s time to compare it to the compact router.

Compact routers can be a type of fixed-base router that can cut decorative edges, make a profile for woodworking joints or straighten an edge on a crooked piece of wood.

These compact routers can work as a convenient palm router or with a two-handle base that provides an ideal grip.

The compact router can be used a number of ways as it is a multi-functional handheld tool.

This is the best tool to use when you’re decorating an edging, as mentioned above, however the quality of the specific compact router makes a huge difference.

In order to achieve professional results, it’s necessary to find a well engineered product that provides an effortless duty.

One of the most attractive characteristics of the compact router is its convenience so you’ll need a model that supports this.

Quality compact routers are in high demand among individuals and contractors.

While many different brands claim to have the best compact routers available, you’ll need to do some digging in order to find the truly exceptional brands.

Makita XTR01Z 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Brushless Cordless Compact Router
  • Makita-built Brushless motor delivers faster and more accurate cuts in a variety of materials
  • The electronically-controlled BL Brushless motor efficiently uses energy to match torque and RPM to the changing demands...
  • Variable speed control dial (10, 000 - 30, 000 RPM) to match the speed to the application

What Makes A Compact Router Special?

Clearly, the defining characteristic of a compact router is its small, convenient size.

It’s an excellent choice for woodworkers or hobbyists who are looking for something small, light and easy to manage, especially if they’re working in a smaller area.

For certain jobs around the home such as the main jobs we mentioned above, many woodworkers find a compact router to be the perfect tool.

The special aspect of a compact router is how lightweight it is compared to a larger sized router. For novices and hobbyists, the portability of a compact router is quite desirable.

Plunge Router Vs Compact Router

Now that we’ve reviewed the best attributes of each tool, it’s easier to see which tool is appropriate, depending on which project is at hand.


Woodworkers love a quality plunge router. This is because of the many different tasks it can perform and the ease of use it offers.

Plunge routers are a type of all-in-one tool for experts, professionals or confident novices or hobbyists.

This tool can perform many cutting and perfecting woodworking tasks without frustration.

A compact router on the other hand, is a much simpler tool. It specializes in edge decoration, edge straightening and profiles for woodworking joints.

While it’s compact and lightweight body is convenient and enjoyable to use, it only completes a fraction of the tasks a plunge router does. It’s also great for novices and hobbyists.

So, which one is better? It all depends on your project and your skill level. By knowing exactly what type of woodworking project you’ll be focusing on, you’ll be able to make an educated and informed decision on which router is best for you.

Featured Image via Pixabay

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