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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Well I know I sound like a kid in a toy store, not knowing what he wants. Recently I've been looking at another fixed base router purchase for freehand use. From one to the next, some will have features that I love but lack one thing I really wanted. The next will have it but leave out something the first one had covered. So through all this, I just decided to make myself a check list of features I had to have, no exceptions.

This led to another list of uses for a freehand fixed base router, and I also did one for table mounted and plunge routers as well. I only came up with about 4 things I do with a fixed base router, all essential of course, and some of these the plunge base could also do if needed. On the other hand, the plunge list was twice as long, and most of these the fixed base could not do at all, or at least not safely.

This is causing me to reevaluate my router needs. Some of the things a fixed or plunge could both do, I much more enjoy when I use a fixed base to do it, like edge forming. Since I don't have extensive router experience, I don't know exactly what all each type is capable of, like dovetail jig use for instance. I've read a lot, but never done any of that, and it seems a fixed base would be best. I could see a plunge being used, but there's a lot of small stuff that seems it would matter there, when I consider my current router doing the same job in my hands, like for instance, just getting set up and the bit put in. When I put a bit in my plunge router now, it seems more of a hassle than when the motor is in the fixed base, just from obstructions and poor visibility. Also, the way the dust guard is, visibility becomes an issue too, but with the same motor in the fixed base, it is not at all as frustrating. Maybe I just have a poor plunge model. It's a Craftsman 17543 combo kit. My plunge base also has some play in the mechanism, and yesterday I looked at a 1617 plunge base and it had zero play, plus I loved the locking lever, push to release and it self locks when you let go. Mine is the opposite.

So maybe I could be better served with a plunge router sometimes, and a fixed at a few other times. Maybe the answer has just been as simple as that I just bought the wrong combo kit to start with. I got what experience I have by using it, and even the better model displays in the stores seem to change my mind by just handling them. All I know is, my routers do OK, but I can imagine a lot better, but the models I've looked at as replacements all seem lacking in one way or another. I could easily make this post very long in those details, but I won't. I'll just leave it at this and see what kind of replies I get. I guess I'm looking for some wisdom from the more experienced router users here. Which base do you prefer for specific techniques? I know some use only plunge models, which seems cumbersome when I think of it with my current routers.
 

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I've always stated that a plunge router can do EVERYTHING that a fixed base one can but not the other way round so I'm intrigued to know what YOU have found that will prove me wrong Duane.
 

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Rick
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Duane , I would just buy lots of routers , problem solved ! Well that's what I did :D

I'm counting 5 and hopefully a CNC someday . No idea what I'm going to do with them but it will come to me :)

I have one attached to a circle jig and it would be a pain to remove it all the time . So there are times when you want extra routers
 

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Rick, I always assume that newcomers are strapped for cash and so try to give answers that are relatively low cost. I know in my early days that is how it was.
 

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I agree with you Harry but I do prefer my PC fixed base when using my Dovetail Jig or my hinge template jig. I have a plunge 1 hp trend that's lighter. I also have a Dewalt combo that is primarily plunge base set up and I still grab the fixed base for some tasks
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I haven't so much found something a fixed base will do that a plunge won't. I just find my fixed base seems easier to use for edge forming. The plunge base seems bulky and more tipsy when I have it along an edge. There is more off the edge than on it when you edge route. I also find depth adjustment is easier to get more accurate with my fixed base. It may be due to the way I use the bit. I normally use a bearing guided round over and I set the depth so it leaves a little ridge line at the surface of the wood for making signs or table tops. I don't need more than 1/16 of a reveal and I can fine tune this on my fixed base. With the plunge, I put the bit in, plunge it to where I need it and then hold while I push the lock lever. This is very hard to get just right on the round over bit. This works fine for setting depth on straight bits cause I just plunge until I hit the surface, set that as my zero point on the rotating depth adjust, then I can step it down in 1/4 jumps until I hit my desired mortise or dado depth. For edge routing on a plunge though, for me its not a good choice.
 

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Duane if you want to stop at a certain depth on a plunge you use the depth stop rod. I know it's in some of Harry's tutorials on how to do it the easiest ways. A fixed router is a little nicer for edge treatment because of the low center of gravity compared to a plunge. But Harry's assumption that if you are just getting started the first router should be a plunge and not a small light duty one either. That allows you to do any job needed done.

If you have the plunge covered to your satisfaction then you only need a fixed base to go with it. If you want more versatility you can go with a combo kit.

The list you made is called a Benjamin Franklin balance sheet. Ben would make 2 columns on a sheet of paper, pros on one side and cons on the other and when done he could compare one to the other. I use it at times and it works. Ben was a pretty smart guy.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Well, I may need to explain a few things here. I have some of this shown in my profile too, but I am not completely inexperienced. I have made a good few things and they have turned out well. But that's all across the board, not just all router work. As a matter of fact, sometimes I never touch a router for some projects, and on others, it's only needed for a quick edge profile or a rabbet. So based on that, I am somewhat inexperienced with router work.

I got into woodworking about 3 years ago. I've been a carpenter about 10 years longer though, so table saw use, circular, drills, and other tools, I have quite a bit of experience using. Woodworking was what brought me to the router, though, and I've used it some, but not enough to know all it's uses cold.

So, to start off, I bought a Craftsman 17543 combo kit (2 HP), and also bought another table from Lowe's with a Task Force plunge router in it (just needed the table but the router came with it). It took me no time at all to see that the plunge router it came with did not belong in the table. It was a great little tool when used freehand for signs and with an edge guide for mortises and dadoes though, so I took it out of the table and left it out. Signs and light duty plunge work are what I do with it now. I also was given another older, fixed base Craftsman router (Ryobi made) that I put in the table, so I use the original Craftsman combo router freehand as well, the plunge base for what I consider harder mortises and dadoes, such as in hard woods or for when I need much deeper cuts, anywhere I think more power would help, and the fixed base for anything else I can make it work for. But with its plunge base being so much heavier and bulkier feeling than the small Task Force router, I don't reach for it first unless I just feel I need it on plunges. I normally leave the motor in the fixed base and use this for edge forming, and rabbets, and sometimes long grooves or dadoes that go completely across or end to end of a board (not dadoes that don't come to an edge, which is a job for a plunge router only).

I have also done some edge forming using a plunge, and found it not to my liking. I know how to use the depth stops, and they are great for setting depth on straight and spiral bits. Nothing with a bearing though. Because of how I use it, I put a straight bit in and plunge until the bit hits the surface and then set that point as my zero point. If I want to drop down, I rotate the stop turret, or whatever the stepped thing is on the base, and I can drop in 1/4 inch increments. If I need less or more, but not another 1/4, then I can adjust the micro adjustment knob and just sneak up on it. But this same technique won't work on a bearing bit, or maybe it would but I'd have to put some more thought into it. However, other issues arise as well, such as when I put the bit in, it's seems like there's more stuff in the way on the plunge base to obstruct view and also for the wrench to hit as it suddenly comes loose. My knuckles too. Also, the whole thing just feels clumbsy and bulky. I just have an easier time changing the bit in the fixed base, and that base seems to feel more solid as well during use, so I just found myself preferring it anytime I can use it and make it work. So much so, that for my next router, I was only considering fixed base models.

But as I've said, my router use has been somewhat limited, so I wasn't really aware of my router needs, and in my search, I have discovered that many do not even have all the features I consider essential, such as LED's and dust collection chip guards. Some can be ordered, and others cannot.

This prompted me to make the list of needed features, which led to the list of what I use each type for (some things I added even though I have not yet done so, but know the technique through reading). I found that the plunge router had many more uses on the list than the fixed base. I wasn't really aware of that fact until I saw it on paper.

Then yesterday I was looking at different models at Lowe's, and I could tell that the plunge base on the Bosch 1617 is a different animal than the one I have. It changed the whole game. Without even using it, I can tell it would be much better. That's why I made this thread today. I'll post my lists in another post below for any interested.
 

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Duane, your analysis would undoubtedly be of interest to a lot of folks in the early stages of their router experiences. Why not post your pros and cons list?
By the way, you might enjoy Bill Hylton's book 'Router Magic'.
Router Magic: Jigs, Fixtures, and Tricks to Unleash Your Router's Full Potential: Bill Hylton: 9780875967110: Amazon.com: Books
(The list price on the back cover of mine is $18.95 US so I'm shocked to see the current asking price from some of those vendors!)
I bought my copy used in very good condition (better than the pictures looked) for $3 or $4 a few years ago. At that time i saw prices as high as $140 or so as i recall. Great resource/reference/tutorial and stimulator for creative juices.

earl
 

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Rick
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Rick, I always assume that newcomers are strapped for cash and so try to give answers that are relatively low cost. I know in my early days that is how it was.
Good point Harry . I had to take out a second mortgage after I joined here lol
 

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I had one router for a bunch of years, then a few months ago I bought a plunge router and table, last week end I bought a trim router, and I'm already planning the purchase of a much more powerful 1/2" router for the table i haven't built yet. You guys are pretty much to blame for routers 2, 3 and (after I get it) 4.
 

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I had one router for a bunch of years, then a few months ago I bought a plunge router and table, last week end I bought a trim router, and I'm already planning the purchase of a much more powerful 1/2" router for the table i haven't built yet. You guys are pretty much to blame for routers 2, 3 and (after I get it) 4.
And you have 6 more fingers to go!! :) A few years ago my wife was going to pay a guy to build a bookshelf. I did it for "free". Hiring it out would have been cheaper...a LOT cheaper!!

earl
 

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I've always stated that a plunge router can do EVERYTHING that a fixed base one can but not the other way round so I'm intrigued to know what YOU have found that will prove me wrong Duane.
I'm completely with Harry on this one. Plungers are just so much more versatile than fixed base routers.

The plunge base seems bulky and more tipsy when I have it along an edge. There is more off the edge than on it when you edge route. I also find depth adjustment is easier to get more accurate with my fixed base.
For edge trimming if you are having issues, fit an offset sub base (scrap perspex). For fine adjustment my 1/2in plungers were supplied with a fine depth adjuster, but it might be an extra on some routers - or as Chuck says use the depth rod/flag. The versatility of being able to set the recess depth of a lock face plate or an inset item directly from the item you are installing (no measurements required) is another plus of the plunge router

Regards

Phil
 

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I'm so thankful for you guys; I didn't even know I needed the stuff you made me buy... ;)
+1....and have not used yet.......:cray:
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 · (Edited)
Meant to post my lists up hours ago but work called. Earlier today I made this list to see just what I thought my router needs were. It is as follows...

Fixed base router possible uses:
1. Edge profile forming
2. Rabbets, which is also just edge forming again
3. Dovetail jig use (never tried yet)
4. Dadoes and grooves on wood where I can start at an edge
5. It seems that router skiis would work on a fixed base

Plunge base router possible uses:
1. Mortise and tenon cutting (tenons could be done with a fixed base also, but not mortises)
2. Bowls or recesses in wood (really another form of mortising in my view)
3. Planing, when the router is used with a jig
4. Sign making and other template use
5. Dadoes and grooves, either from the edge, or inset from the edge
6. Keyhole slots and T slots
7. Edge forming
8. Rabbets
9. Dovetail jig
10. It seems that router skiis would work on a plunge base also
11. Circle and arc cutting

So, as you can see, the list of plunge base uses is double what I came up with on fixed base use, but I still feel more comfortable using my fixed base for the things I listed. I also think this is due to not having a good plunge base. The more I think on it, the more it seems that if mine were more like that Bosch 1617 plunge then I might feel differently.
 

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I'd be the first to agree Duane that when one purchases a product, whether it be a screwdriver or a motor car, it must feel right to the purchaser. That said, I have to vehemently disagree with the reasons that you've given for fixed verses plunge routers. When you have time, wade through my uploads and you will see all the operations that you claim can only be done using a fixed base router being done with a PLUNGE router! As has been pointed out, edge forming is what TRIM routers are designed for.
 

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Everyone of my routers are harbor freight they have served me well. Yes I know I'm not accomplished as some of you guys but if you are new I think that's the way to go. That way when if you are ready or can pry the cheque book from your wife clutches you can go for the real thing by the way I got 5 hf routers 1 in my router lift 1 in my horizontal router stand and 3laying around .
 
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