Plunge Router

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Forum topic by Tommy posted 01-03-2011 04:30 AM 4701 views 1 time favorited 23 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Tommy's profile


138 posts in 3338 days

01-03-2011 04:30 AM

I’m relatively new and I have a router table with a fixed base router attached. Now I am wanting a plunge router to use for inlays, etc. Here are my questions:

What AFFORDABLE routers are good? How important is the brand? By affordable I’m talking under $125 or so.

Is there a minimum HP I should look at so that I don’t outgrow this thing the day I buy it? What should I be paying the most attention to when selecting a router?


-- Tommy, ---- It's Never Crowded On the Extra Mile.

23 replies so far

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3584 days

#1 posted 01-03-2011 04:41 AM

I can’t totally answer your question. However, I will make a couple of comments that may be helpful.

HP is important if you plan to run some big bits (such as the bits for making door panels) and if you want to move fast. For most of us, less horsepower means taking a smaller bite with each pass and/or moving slower.

Even if you get a big powerful router at a later time, you will still appreciate having a smaller, lighter router in your shop.

An issue with the smaller, cheaper routers (with less HP) will be the router bits they will accept. Some of the light weight routers only accept router bits with shafts of 1/4”. If, at a later time, you get a more powerful router, it may only accept bits with 1/2” shafts. Having 2 complete sets of bits is a hassle. I think it is better to focus on a single router bit shaft size (preferably 1/2”).

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View Tommy's profile


138 posts in 3338 days

#2 posted 01-03-2011 04:49 AM

Rich, having not understood my question you answered it really well. I’m wanting to spend less money on a router that suits my needs without buying an underpowered unit or a piece of junk.

Harbor Freight has a 2.5hp plunge router by Chicago Tools for around $90. Sounded too good so I’m asking questions to avoid making a bad purchase due to lack of knowledge. I love all the experience available here so I thought I’d start on LJ first.

-- Tommy, ---- It's Never Crowded On the Extra Mile.

View FirehouseWoodworking's profile


743 posts in 3783 days

#3 posted 01-03-2011 04:53 AM


My personal preference is the Porter Cable (PC) line of routers. Plenty of power. Lots of flexibility with interchangeable bases. Interchangeable collets allow for 1/4” and 1/2” shank bits.

If the $125 price point is immovable, you’ve got two choices as far as PC goes: (1) buy a used router on a site like Craigslist or (2) keep dreaming! Craigslist is a good source, but you have to be patient and keep looking.

If you’re in a more immediate need, and have to stay under the $125, Craftsman still makes good routers. I still have my first Craftsman router that I bought 35 years ago! It’s now relegated to a permanent mounting in a router table with a chamfer bit, but it soldiers on!

Good luck in your search. Cheers!

-- Dave; Lansing, Kansas

View Tommy's profile


138 posts in 3338 days

#4 posted 01-03-2011 05:01 AM

Dave, a quick search online shows that the Porter Cable might be out of my budget. They look great, if I decide to go that way I might have to wait another month or two.

On the other hand, Craftsman has several options for me around $125-150 and I have several Craftsman tools already. My fixed base router and bandsaw are both Craftsman and they’re both working great despite being old as dirt. I think I’ll cruise to Sears this week and peek around a bit.

Thanks for the helpful input.

-- Tommy, ---- It's Never Crowded On the Extra Mile.

View Kevin's profile


507 posts in 3715 days

#5 posted 01-03-2011 05:44 AM

If I were you, I would hold off for another month or two and get a better router. A good router over 2hp that will accept 1/4 and 1/2 that is a combo (fixed and plunge base) is good. I paid $180 for a Bosch 1617evs at Lowes about 2 years ago.

Unless you absolutely need/want one right now, I’d opt for to wait and get a freud, bosch, dewalt.

here is a review which is pretty fair I believe.

-- Williamsburg, KY

View surfin2's profile


51276 posts in 3645 days

#6 posted 01-03-2011 05:54 AM

It’s a shame you didn’t ask this question a couple weeks ago.
Woodcraft had Freud FT3000VCE 3-1/4-Horsepower Variable Speed Plunge Router on sale for $199.99 free S/H it started Black Friday & lasted acouple weeks into Dec. til they sold them out…

-- Rick

View PhineasWhipsnake's profile


77 posts in 3557 days

#7 posted 01-03-2011 06:53 AM

There are a lot of very good routers out there. The combo kits (around $200) are probably the best value – one motor fits a fixed base and a plunge base. The top brands are Porter-Cable, DeWalt, Milwaukee, Makita, Bosch, Freud, Hitachi, Ridgid, Festool (Major $). According to the various comparison tests out there, Craftsman, Ryobi, Harbor Freight are pretty much lower in quality and performance, although for light-duty hobbyist use they’d do OK if you don’t want to spend much. For a smaller hand-held plunge router, I only know of 2 – the Trend (about $110) , and the new DeWalt (Combo kit is $200). These would probably be more user-friendly for things like inlays and other light-duty tasks.

-- Gene T

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 3507 days

#8 posted 01-03-2011 08:12 AM

For cheap routers, I have been happy with Ryobi.

Downsides for the larger plunge router:

Pay extra for edge guide (If you can find one ~$15)
Pay extra for depth knob (If you can find one – I have only seen one online for about $16)
No standard bushings (universal base is around $15)

Their little fixed base has an unexpected bonus, it has a through base depth adjustment for a table. You can get a little router + table for about $100. The router by itself is like $60. The combo that they have with the table and the router is actually surprisingly nice setup for the money.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View Pete_Jud's profile


424 posts in 4262 days

#9 posted 01-03-2011 08:42 AM

I am a PC router fan as well, I think I am up to around 8 now. Craigslist is not a bad way to go as well as amazon. The nice thing about PC’s is that you don’t have to stay with one company for the accesorys, Even HF has bushings sets for the PC routers. Woodcraft, Rockler, Benchdog, and others all make insert plates and lifts to fit onto the PC’s. I have bought motors alone, and then bases later from different websites. PC kind of set the standards years ago. BTW, as long as you inspect the brushes, and blow them out, they may last a lifetime. And if a part should fail, odds are, the part support is great.

SAVE UP FOR ANOTHER MONTH and then look around.

-- Life is to short to own an ugly boat.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18671 posts in 4185 days

#10 posted 01-03-2011 09:16 AM

I have had good luck with Craftsman, but they are older from back when they made better quality. I don’t have any expeience with the newer ones everyone says are lower quality. I have found a lot of good buys on used tool on Craigslist. I bought a plunge Craftsman 1/4” for $75 about 6 months ago. I’d buy from Craigslist before I wasted my money on Harbor Freight power tools. A lot of these newer tools that claim to have 3 or 4 horsepower are calculated with near locked rotor current, not the HP they constantly put out. Those older tools with 1/2 hp rating are more or less = to 1 1/2 or 2 now.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View tt1106's profile


138 posts in 3578 days

#11 posted 01-03-2011 12:50 PM

Another shout out for the Bosch. I have had a craftsman, a skil and 2 ryobi’s. I now own a ryobi, still going strong attached to my little table and a Bosch 1617. The difference is night and day. The difference is the little things…. Bosch plates are drilled for adjustments from top of table. The plunge mechanism is a 1000 times better than any cheap routers can provide. the accessories are quality, like the edge guide.
The adage is true, you get what you pay for. I now have my everday tools, then I have the back up in a pinch, wouldn’t have bought if I could afford better tools. Buy what you can afford, but in the end, you are probably better off saving a little longer and buying something that will last.

-- -Todd

View KDO's profile


154 posts in 3279 days

#12 posted 01-03-2011 03:44 PM

I have both PC & DeWalt and would vote for you trying to get something besides a Harbor Freight. is an old, well known online reseller (they have a big store in Denver) that also sells reconditioned tools, from PC, Milwaukee, DeWalt, etc. I have bought a lot of stuff from them over the years.

The Combo Kits really are your best bet.

I bought the big deWalt plunge router kit (3 bases, etc.) for less than $200 a few years ago.
As well as Craigslist, don’t forget eBay, and the used sellers on Amazon.

My 2 cents worth…

-- Christian, Husband, Grandpa, Salesman, amateur Woodworker.

View Tommy's profile


138 posts in 3338 days

#13 posted 01-03-2011 03:55 PM

I appreciate all this info and it looks like I need to start researching on line and waiting for the best sale to try and snag something special. It was a relief to hear someone talk about all the sales and discounts available on routers, maybe that’ll help at some point too.

-- Tommy, ---- It's Never Crowded On the Extra Mile.

View knotscott's profile


8334 posts in 3885 days

#14 posted 01-03-2011 04:46 PM

If you stick with a handful of top names, brand name isn’t as important as feel and having the right features to suit your needs….Milwaukee, Makita, Ridgid, Craftsman, Hitachi, DeWalt, Freud, Triton, Bosch, PC all make good routers that can drop into your price range on sale. Try a few to see how they feel to you…we all have our favorites for different reasons. Most sell the plunge bases as part of a combo kit. The Hitachi KM12VC kit occasionally drops into that price range on sale, and is usually one of the better bargains. I like my Milwaukee 5615 plunge a lot, but tends to run a bit more. The Craftsman plunge kit gets mainly good reviews too and is often within your range. Refurbs are also a great way to get the most bang for the buck.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3584 days

#15 posted 01-03-2011 07:43 PM

I’m going to be in the minority on this issue but I will share my honest opinion anyway.

You need a fixed base router for a router table. I see virtually no need for a fixed base router in any handheld operation. Tommy has a fixed base router for his router table and now he is interested in a plunge router. I see no reason to pay the extra for a combination router.

I have a fixed base router in my table (PC 890). I also have 3 plunge routers. One of those plunge routers I purchased as a combination router. I have had that router for over 5 years and I have never put the fixed base on it.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

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