6 Types Of Woodworking Routers-Woodworking Tools Guide


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The router provides some great options to a woodworker who needs to undertake some versatile woodworking operations. You can impart some great finishes, surfaces, sharp edges and cutouts from patterns by using a router. The possibilities are endless.

Here, we take a closer look at the different types of routers that you can get with specific details of the features of each one. We also provide you with information regarding the applications, with a few essential tips on using router tables and bits. Once you have read this article, you will have no doubt about the versatility of this power tool and its importance in the field of woodworking. So without further ado, let’s get into it!

woodworking router on a wood work
Woodworking router. Image Credit: Dale Simonson

Different Types Of Woodworking Routers

We get two basic types of routers, plunge routers and fixed base routers:

Plunge Routers

Bosch 1617EVSPK Wood Router Tool Combo Kit - 2.25 Horsepower Plunge Router & Fixed Base Router Kit with a Variable Speed 12 Amp Motor
Bosch Plunge Routers. See on Amazon.

With a plunge router, you can have vertical movement to move the housing. The action that happens here is that you “plunge” the bit downwards to work on the surface of the workpiece. You can make a deep groove, a mortise, dadoes or create patterns and do template work.

Fixed Base Routers

DEWALT Router, Fixed Base, Variable Speed, 2-1/4 HP (DW618)
DeWalt Fixed Base Routers. See on Amazon.

We consider the fixed base router a good all-purpose router. This type of router allows us to do a great job of edge shaping. The base is set, and the bit sticks out at a predetermined length. You use the edge of the workpiece as a guide or use a fence clamped to the workbench to guide the router.

The best option you can have is a multi-base router. This type of router consists of a motor that you can use on both a fixed and a plunge base.

Heavy-Duty, Medium-Duty, And Light-Duty Routers

When we talk about the ‘duty’ of a router, we allude to two factors, namely, the power and size of the machine. You need to select the type of router depending on the particular task in hand. It will depend on the materials you will use, and the frequency of working on these materials. You also need to consider the duration of each work session.

Heavy-duty routers

Makita RT0701CX7 1-1/4 HP Compact Router Kit
Makita Heavy Duty Router. See on Amazon.

Heavy-duty routers are the largest, heaviest, and relatively powerful hand routers. These routers typically have the largest collet size. By ‘large,’ it means they have the capacity of holding router cutters of over 1½”. This type of router falls under the category of professional use tools. You can use them quite heavily over an extended period.

Medium-duty routers

Milwaukee 5625-20 15 Amp 3-1/2-Horsepower Fixed Base Variable Speed Router with T-Handle Height Adjustment Wrench and 1/2-Inch Collet
Milwaukee Medium Duty Router. See on Amazon.

Here, we refer to a group of machines that fall in between the heavy-duty and light-duty categories. So, you can expect to do more delicate and accurate work with medium-duty routers. However, you will observe some limitations wherein you won’t be able to cover jobs that have a heavier requirement. The collett size would go up to a maximum of ½”.

Light-duty routers

TACKLIFE Plunge and Fixed Base Router, 30,000RPM Compact Router Kit, 6 Variable Speed Router Tool, 1/8" Flex Shaft, 1/4", 6mm Collets, Auxiliary Handle, Compass for DIY - PTR01A
Tacklife Light Duty Router. See on Amazon.

While the above two categories usually fall under the classification of professional routers, light duty routers are semi-professional tools. As a hobbyist, you can get the maximum benefit from a light-duty router. We use this type of router occasionally, and the work session may not be that long either. Being the smallest size of router, a light-duty router can usually accommodate smaller bits. The maximum size would be about ¼”, but some models have collets of up to ½”.

CNC routers

SainSmart Genmitsu CNC Router Machine 3018-MX3, with Mach3 Control and Safety-Driven Design
SainSmart CNC Router. See on Amazon.

The CNC (Computer Numerical Controlled) router is a specialized category of router which we control through a computer program. We usually only find this type of router in industries. The specialty of the CNC router is that you can predict highly-precision results in terms of microns. Once the program is set, you can bulk-produce any number of workpieces with identical dimensions. Hence, a CNC router forms a valuable part of any process where you need precision parts in bulk.

Advantages to fixed base routers

  • The handles of a fixed base router sometimes exist at the lower part of the body. This puts your hands at a lower level, too, which provides better stability and control so, you can guide the router in a more precise manner.
  • Fixed base routers are an ideal choice for edge forming on thin workpieces.
  • If you are doing a repetitive operation, even if you have set the depth with a plunge router, you need to be careful about the depth each time you apply the router to the workpiece. However, you can be sure of the correct depth, each time, which a fixed base router.
  • A fixed base router is the easiest type to set up on a router table.

Disadvantages to fixed base routers

  • The downfall of fixed base routers is that they are not that versatile. If you have a job where you need to plunge into the material from above, you may find it difficult.
  • Another disadvantage is that you cannot plunge into the workpiece from the middle. You have to start from the edge. It makes it challenging to work with most jigs and templates.
  • Further, you can only adjust the cutter depth when the router is idle. It makes using this type of router rather time-consuming.
  • Handy Tip:

A good way of making your router more versatile is by choosing one with an interchangeable, base. The top half of the router consists of a motor, collet, and a removable base. You can get different bases to suit various applications. Hence, you can get, say, a light-duty router with a plunge base. Then you can remove the base and use the router for grinding, carving or sharpening either in an overhead position or on top of a flat surface.

Conclusion

After reading this article, we hope that you have more clarity regarding the different types of woodworking routers that are available. As you may now realize, the router is an extremely versatile and indispensable part of any woodworking shop.

We also covered the classification of routers based on duty, meaning the size and power ratings of different routers. Then, we covered the advantages and disadvantages of the various types of routers. It is our endeavor that after reading this article, you will have sound knowledge about routers. Whether you are an experienced woodworker or a novice, you can now find a suitable router to get your job done.

Featured Image: Jeff Keyzer