The Best Plunge Routers and How to Find Them

The Best Plunge Routers and How to Find Them

If you need to do a lot of home improvement projects, a plunge router could be a good purchase for you. They’re a pretty versatile tool – if you’re remodeling your home, or you’ve got a stack of DIY projects to complete, you’ll find a lot of them involve woodwork – and you might find that a plunge router will enable you to complete many of these tasks.

What is a plunge router, and how do they work? How do you know which one to get? A new tool can be a big investment, so it’s important to choose wisely. In this article, we’ll be looking at the best plunge routers and how to find them, including taking a thorough look at some of the top-rated models you can buy. We’ll look at their specifications, their features, and their pros and cons, before deciding which one we think is best.

We’ll also take a look at the main things to look for when you’re shopping for a plunge router, extra information about the different kinds of bits you can purchase, and safety tips, as well as some of the most commonly asked questions about routers. Hopefully, all of this will enable you to make the best choice.

Learning to use a new tool to create something from scratch is very satisfying – but hard work. It can be a little overwhelming, especially if you’re just getting started. Let’s begin by looking at what plunge routers do, and how they work.

Our Recommendation: Makita RT0701CX7 Router
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The Makita RT0701CX7 Router offers the functionality of both a fixed and a plunge-base router. It's extremely comfortable to use and it creates a speed between 10,000 and 30,000 RPM. Overall it has extremely high value for the price.
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What is a Plunge Router?

A plunge router is a tool that allows you to hollow out an area in a piece of wood or plastic. They two arms, one at each side, and you have to plunge the cutting bit into the wood to begin the cutting process. It requires hand-eye coordination and strength in your arms.

It’s a small tool, but it has a lot of uses. They’re commonly used for making grooves in wood, and with a bit of practice, can give great results. They offer a lot of freedom of movement, which can give you more creative control over your projects – unlike a stationary power tool like a table saw or a miter saw, a plunge router lets you move around, allowing you to be a little more creative with what you make.

You can buy a multitude of router bits, which will give different results depending on what you need – this makes a plunge router a good investment, as you’ll be able to use it for different purposes.

A plunge router is different than a fixed base router. As you may be able to tell by the name, a fixed base router is attached to a base and it may be a little easier to use as you don’t have to rely on being steady-handed. This makes it a good choice for beginners.

You can buy plunge routers that can also act as fixed base routers by attaching it to a base – there are a couple of models like this on our list. These are a good compromise, as you could start with the fixed base router and then move on to the plunge router when you feel you’ve had enough practice.

What is Plunge Router

Generally, the plunge router offers more flexibility. You will not have to stop midway to change the depth, as you would with a fixed-base router.

In terms of projects, you can achieve a lot with a plunge router. They’re commonly used on dado work, or to create rounded or beveled edges, for example, on tables or doors. Or, you could use them to make smaller projects, like picture frames or dolls houses. Really, you could use a plunge router on any kind of woodworking project – they’re really useful if you can get the hang of using them.

What to Look for When Buying Plunge Routers

If you’ve never used or bought a plunge router before, it can be overwhelming trying to figure out which one is best. Here are a few things that you need to look out for when looking for a plunge router:

Comfortable Handles

The handles are a key part of a plunge router. You need to know that the handles are easy to grip, comfortable to hold, and designed to decrease fatigue as you work. The best plunge routers are ergonomically designed and enable you to press buttons easily as you go – without accidentally pushing them while you work.

Weight

Obviously, you’ll be holding the plunge router yourself as you work. You need to make sure the weight is right for you – anything too heavy may be difficult to keep using for extended periods of time.

Collet Size

A collet is a steel sleeve, which holds a bit in place in a plunge router. If you want the ability to use different sizes of bits, look for a model that has two or more collet sizes.

Speed

Check out the speed controls on a plunge router. Is it intuitive and easy to change the speed as you go? Different projects will require different speeds, and a well-designed plunge router will allow you to do this without having to stop. Speeds vary for different models – the standard is usually 10,000-20,000RPM.

What To Consider Buying Plunge Router

Safety Features

Some models of plunge router come with extra safety features, like chip deflectors and guard rails. These features will help you to work with both precision and safety.

Dust Collection

Dust can be a real issue when you’re using a plunge router, especially if you have a larger project to work on. Some plunge routers come with efficient features to reduce the mess caused by dust. This is important to keep the machine working properly, as too much dust sucked into the router can eventually cause problems. A good dust collection bag will also keep you from having to clean it up afterward!

Soft Starts

A soft start is pretty self-explanatory: it eases you into the process as you start to use the tool. If the model you’re looking at doesn’t have a soft start option, it will go at full power immediately, and this could lead to making mistakes as you begin. Most models have soft start built-in, which gives you a few moments to steady yourself and make sure you’re in the right position.

Spindle Lock System

Essentially, a spindle lock system makes changing bits on your plunge router more straightforward. If you’re working on a complex project, you may want to switch back and forth between bits quite often. Without a spindle lock system, or something similar, you’d need two wrenches to change them, which is a bit of a pain.

Power

Some models vary in motor power. The stronger the motor, the tougher materials it can work with, and the higher RPM it can reach.

Edge Guides and Jigs

Sometimes a plunge router will have these included, but usually, you have to purchase them separately. A jig is used for cutting dadoes, while a guide helps you to stay steady and straight whilst you work. There are even tutorials online on how to make your own edge guides.

Extras

There are handy extras you can get for plunge routers, like bags to keep everything together, extra bits, and dust bags. Check what comes in the box – sometimes the pictures can be deceiving, and you actually have to purchase the accessories separately.

Dewalt DWP611PK

Router Bits – a Quick Guide

You can purchase a variety of bits for your plunge router to make different types of cuts. Here’s a quick look at the options out there:

  • Straight Bits make straight lines and are useful for dado work
  • Flush-Trim Bits allow you to trim the edge of a piece of wood to match another
  • Beading Bits cut a rounded, decorative edge
  • Chamfer Bits allow you to make beveled cuts
  • Rabbeting Bits cut notches along the edge of a piece
  • Round-Over Bits allow you to create rounded edges
  • Specialty Bits vary, allowing you to make specific cuts that are needed for certain types of project
  • Plastic Cutting Bits allow you to cut into plastic – check with your model of plunge router to see if these are compatible.

Some models of plunge router come with a variety of bits in the box. You can also buy sets of bits if you’d like a bit of variety. Again, make sure to check the collet size – this will determine which size of bit you will need to buy.

Top-Rated Plunge Routers: An Overview

In this article, we’ll be looking at five of the highest-rated plunge router models. Here’s an overview of the specs for each model:

Model

HP

Speed

Soft Start?

Weight

Collet size

Plunge Depth

Makita RT0701CX7

1.25

10,000-,30,000 RPM

Yes

3.9lbs

1/4″

0-1.3”

Festool 574692

2.3

10,000-22,000 RPM

Yes

9.9lbs

1/2”, 1/4” and 8mm

2-3/4”

Dewalt DWP611PK

1.25

10,000-22,000 RPM

Yes

8lbs

1/4″

0-1.5” (plunge router) or up to 2” (using stand)

Makita RP1800

2.4 (roughly)

22,000 RPM

Yes

13.23lbs

1/2″ and 1/4”

0-2-3”

Triton TRA001

3.25

10,00-20,000RPM

Yes

13.2lbs

1/2” and 1/4”

0-2.6”

Makita RT0701CX7 – Best Budget Plunge Router

Best Budget Plunge Router

If you’re on a tight budget, the Makita RT0701CX7 could be a great choice.

It’s designed to be easy to use – the ergonomic handles are comfortable to hold, and it’s slim and light. However, it’s still durable, made with heavy-duty aluminum. It also looks attractive, in silver and teal.

The speed control dial is easy to use, allowing you to go between 10,000-30,000 RPM. Although it’s lightweight, it’s powerful – it has a full 1/1-4 horsepower, which makes it capable of completing a lot of tasks. It’s also fairly quiet as it runs, which is a great bonus.

It has a soft start, designed to give you control as your startup. It also comes with a straight guide, helping you to work with precision. The fixed base also allows you to work with industry-standard templates, which is great – but you need to purchase an adaptor to use this, which some of the reviewers found inconvenient.

It has a ratcheting spindle lock for bit changing – this makes the process really simple.

It does not have a dust collection bag, which is a shame, but the lower price makes up for this.

In terms of depth capacity, it has an easy-to-read depth adjustment, with three pre-set depth stops.

It also comes with a one-year warranty – so if you have any problems in the first year, you’re covered.

Our Recommendation: Makita RT0701CX7 Router
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The Makita RT0701CX7 Router offers the functionality of both a fixed and a plunge-base router. It's extremely comfortable to use and it creates a speed between 10,000 and 30,000 RPM. Overall it has extremely high value for the price.
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Specifications for the Makita RT0701CX7

Here are the details you need to know:

  • Horsepower: 1/1-4
  • Speed: 10,000-30,000 RPM
  • Weight: 3.9lbs
  • Collect size: 1/4″
  • Plunge depth: 0-1.3”

Pros of the Makita RT0701CX7

  • Very lightweight
  • Quiet operation

Cons of the Makita RT0701CX7

  • Reviewers found it gets hot quite quickly compared to other models
  • You have to buy an adapter to use industry-standard templates

Festool 574692 – Best for Comfortable Use

Most Comfortable Plunge Router

The Festool 574692 is designed to be comfortable to use. The handle has been designed to reduce fatigue, and also offers easy access to the power button and speed control.

It’s pretty powerful – at roughly 2.3 HP, it’s able to handle many tasks with ease.

It also has a soft-start, which reviewers say works really well. It also has a ratcheting spindle lock – again, it’s really easy to change bits if you need to.

What makes the Festool 574692 great is the dust collection – it has integrated dust extraction ports, which capture dust – which saves you a job cleaning later and protects the machine itself. It also has a swiveling chip deflector (compatible with edge forming bits), which is really helpful.

In terms of depth, it stands out. It offers micro-depth control – offering you control to 1/256”, with ball detents. This allows you an incredible amount of control and precision. It doesn’t have an edge guide, however, which is a shame.

It’s the most versatile on this list in terms of collect sizes, accepting 1/2″, 1/4″ and 8mm bits.

A great bonus is that Festool offers a three-year warranty on all its products – if you have a problem at that time, you’re covered. It’s on the pricier side, but you may decide this is worth it for the amount of use you will get out of it (and the cover the warranty provides).

Festool 574692 Plunge Router
$625.00
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Specifications for the Festool 574692

Here are the details you need to know:

  • Horsepower: 2.3
  • Speed: 10,000-22,000 RPM
  • Weight: 9.9lbs
  • Collect size: 1/2″, 1/4″, 8mm
  • Plunge depth: 2-3/4”

Pros of the Festool 574692

  • A good amount of power
  • Dust collection is great
  • Great ergonomics – really comfortable to use

Cons of the Festool 5746292

  • A little expensive
  • Doesn’t come with an edge guide

DeWalt DWP611PK – Great for Beginners

Best Beginner Plunge Router

The DeWalt DWP611PK is a Compact Router Combo Kit. It has both a fixed and plunge base – this makes it really versatile. The fixed base is quite light, and its easy to remove.

It’s pretty comfortable to use, although the power switch can sometimes get a bit stuck. It’s durable and well-made, and not too heavy – a little lighter than the previous model at 8lbs. It’s got a decent amount of power at 1.25 HP, and reviewers found that it could handle many tasks. It has a soft start, allowing you more control.

It has a dust collection adapter, but some reviewers found that it did not collect dust efficiently, which is a bit of a shame.

It has an adjustment ring – it controls bit depth changes to anything within 1/64th inch (using the fixed base). This allows for excellent accuracy.

You may see an edge guide in the pictures if you decide to purchase this model – it’s not included, and you will have to buy that separately. It does, however, come with LED lights – they help to guide your path as you cut. That combined with the ability to use a fixed base makes it a good choice for beginners.

It has a three-year limited warranty, which is reassuring if anything goes wrong.

DeWalt DWP611PK Router
$199.99
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Specifications for the DeWalt DWP611PK

Here are the basics you need to know:

  • Horsepower: 1.25
  • Speed: 10,000-22,000 RPM
  • Weight: 8lbs
  • Collet Size: 1/4″
  • Plunge depth: 0-1.5” (plunge router) or up to 2” (using stand)

Pros of the DeWalt DWP611PK

  • Fixed base offers greater versatility
  • LED lighting enables you to make accurate cuts
  • Good for beginners

Cons of the DeWalt DWP611PK

  • Dust collection isn’t as good as other models
  • The power switch can be difficult to use

Makita RP1800 3-1/4 HP Plunge Router – Most Powerful

Most Powerful Plunge Router

If you want a powerful machine, the Makita RP1800 would be a great choice! It has a 15.0AMP motor, delivering 22,000 RPM. It runs smoothly and is tough enough to handle thick materials.

It feels comfortable to hold, with ergonomic rubberized handles. It’s also simple to operate – it has a built-in two-finger switch which is pretty large and easy to access. It also has an easy to reach plunge lock lever – these small details make a difference if you plan to use a tool often.

It has a 0”-2-3/4” plunge depth capacity and has linear ball bearings – this makes the plunge action very smooth, allowing for greater control. This is great if you have very detailed work you need to do.  It has 3 pre-set depth stops, too.

It’s also got some other nifty features – it has a lock-on trigger switch for continuous operation, a chip deflector which keeps chips away from you, and a fan with a clever labyrinth construction – this stops dust from entering the tool itself, making it last longer.

It accepts 1/4” and 1/2″ shank router bits, and it’s easy enough to change bits.

It doesn’t come with an edge guide, however. It’s also one of the heavier models. It doesn’t have variable speed, either, which lets it down slightly. It is slightly lower in price, though.

Makita RP1800 Plunge Router 22
$289.00
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Specifications for the Makita RP1800

Here are the basic specs you need to know:

  • Horsepower: Roughly 2.4
  • Speed: 22,000 RPM
  • Weight: 13.23lbs
  • Collet Size: 1/2″ and 1/4″
  • Plunge depth: 0-2-3”

Pros of the Makita RP1800

  • The powerful motor means it can handle many tasks
  • Well-designed and easy to use
  • Smooth plunge motion means you can work with greater accuracy
  • Slightly cheaper than other models

Cons of the DeWalt DWP611PK

  • Fairly noisy
  • No variable speed

Triton TRA001 3-1/4 HP – Best Value for Money

Best Value Plunge Router

The Triton TRA001 is a good all-rounder. It’s also very competitively priced – you get a lot for your money with this model, as it can be used both as a plunge router and a fixed router. The changeover process for this is simple – it just requires the press of a button.

It’s well-designed, with a very smooth start-up. It’s designed to be comfortable to hold. It may not be as attractive as some of the other models, but for the price, it’s great.

It’s powerful – in fact, it’s one of the most powerful models on this list, at 3-1/4HP. This allows for speeds up to 20,000 RPM. Users were impressed by how powerful it was at such a low price – it is able to handle most jobs with ease.

It allows for bits of 1/2” and 1/4”, making it pretty versatile. It uses a one-wrench system to change bits (and it comes with a wrench, too). It may not be as easy as some of the other models, but it’s still fairly straightforward.

It has a micro-winder, offering continuous fine depth adjustment. This allows you a decent amount of control as you work. It also comes with an edge guide, which is a nice bonus.

The only real drawback with this model is the amount of noise it generates, and the dust collection. At higher speeds, it can be pretty noisy. It’s also difficult to find a dust collection bag that is compatible with it.

However, it’s a highly-rated model on Amazon – with reviewers praising the quality of the product, especially considering the price. Check out our full Triton TRA001 review here.

Triton TRA001 Plunge Router
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Specifications for the Triton TRA001

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Horsepower: 3-1/4
  • Speed: Up to 20,000 RPM
  • Weight: 13.2lbs
  • Collet Size: 1/2″ and 1/4″
  • Plunge depth: 0-2-3”

Pros of Triton TRA001

  • Powerful motor
  • Versatile – can be used as a plunge router and a fixed router
  • The start-up is very smooth
  • Comes with an edge guide

Cons of Triton TRA001

  • Dust collection isn’t great
  • Noisy

Conclusion

All of these models are very highly rated, and any of them would be great for any woodworking enthusiast. They’re all pretty powerful, comfortable to use, and efficient. There are also a couple of options on there if you want to use them as a fixed-base router – this is great if you’re a beginner, as you may find them a little easier to use.

It’s a very personal decision. What will you be using your plunge router for? Will it be mostly dado work? Or if you’re renovating, will it be cutting grooves into doors? Are you into DIY as a hobby, and therefore want to make more specialised projects just for fun? Are you willing to take time to learn a new tool, or will you want to get on with it straight out of the box? Do you have a bigger budget, or are you trying to keep costs down? All of these factors will influence your decision.

However – if we had to pick one winner, it would probably be the Makita RT0701CX7. It’s budget-friendly, lightweight, and it has very good reviews on Amazon – users praised how easy it is to use and how many tasks they could achieve with it.

The Makita models are usually nice to look at, too, and the RT0701CX7 is no exception. For the price, we’d say it’s a great choice, and it’s definitely a worthwhile investment if you’re renovating your home, or just want to go a step further in your woodworking hobby.

Whichever you choose, you’re sure to find one that will help you with any project you need to complete – big or small.

Our Recommendation: Makita RT0701CX7 Router
Why don't we show the price? Be
The Makita RT0701CX7 Router offers the functionality of both a fixed and a plunge-base router. It's extremely comfortable to use and it creates a speed between 10,000 and 30,000 RPM. Overall it has extremely high value for the price.
Check Price Learn More
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
06/04/2021 10:59 am GMT

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about plunge routers:

Can plunge routers be used in a table?

Yes – some work better than others, and it depends on the table. It’s best to research this beforehand.

How deep can a plunge router cut?

It depends on the model – generally, a higher-powered plunge router can create deeper cuts.

Can I use a plunge router on MDF?

You can, but you may want to test it beforehand to make sure the finish is how you would like it to be. It does make a lot of dust, however.

Are plunge routers expensive?

It really depends on the model – some of them are more expensive than others! You can get a pretty good model for $200-$300 dollars

Can I make wooden doors and frames for hinges?

Yes – providing you have a hinge jig.

Can I use a plunge router to cut aluminum?

Yes, providing you have the right bit – check the manufacturer’s instructions beforehand.

If I’m left-handed, can I use a plunge router?

Yes – many people use them with no problems. If you’re unsure, check the user reviews – they’re usually a good way of checking if people have had issues with using a product.

Are plunge routers loud?

Yes, they usually are pretty loud, although some models are quieter than others.

Plunge Router Safety Tips

You must take care of yourself, and others, whilst using a plunge router. Here are a few tips to stay safe:

Take Care of Dust

Routers generate a lot of dust. If you’re working on a particularly dusty project, use a face mask to prevent you from breathing it in too much.

Watch Out for Your Eyes, and Your Ears

Eye protection is important. When you’re using a router, you’re at risk of wood chips flying in unexpected directions. A good plunge router will have features built in to help prevent that, but you can’t rely upon that all the time. Wear good-quality safety glasses while you work, just to make sure.

It’s also important to take care of your ears – plunge routers can be really noisy, and you may not notice that damage is being done to your ears, but it can build up over time.

Read the Instructions Thoroughly

When you get a new piece of equipment, it’s important to check through the instructions to make sure you’re setting it up – and using it – properly. It may be a boring step, but it’s pretty important.

Practice First

This is always important, but especially when you’re using a freehand tool like a plunge router. Get a feel for how it works with different types of materials before you dive into a project. (Obviously, this will save you wasting materials you need to keep!)

Did you enjoy this article? You might be interested in our guide on How to Find the Best Wood Planer,  our Guide to Drill Presses, or our A-Z Guide: Best Woodworking Tools

David Borgogni

David is passionate about sharing his insights on top trending and mainstay products for the home. As an avid renovator, he has become well accustomed to the tools used to build houses, which in turn allows him to help others make better purchasing decisions when choosing which tools and equipment to use to renovate their homes.

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