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.
There are two main types of routers – Fixed and Plunge. On a plunge-base router, the base or sole of the router is placed on the surface of the wood with the cutting bit raised above the work, then the cutter is lowered down (plunged) into the wood. With a fixed base router, the router bit position is constant.
Below, we’ll also provide you with information regarding the applications, with a few essential tips on using router tables and bits. The versatility of a router makes it one of the most commonly used woodworking machines.
Different Types Of Woodworking Routers
We get two basic types of routers, plunge routers and fixed base routers:
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
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 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.
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”.
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”.
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.
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