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What is a Plunge Router?

B. Turner
B. Turner

A router is a popular woodworking tool used to cut, shape and polish wood, plastic and metal products. While various types of routers are available, all contain the same basic components. A base contains a motor and other inner mechanisms which are used to power a device called a collet. The collet spins very quickly when the router is switched on, and can be loaded with many different types of bits that can be used for wood or metalworking projects.

A standard stationary router allows the collet and associated bits to be used at only one specific depth. This depth may be adjustable on some models, but the router must be switched off and manually adjusted between cuts, making this a lengthy process. For greater adjustability, choose a plunge router, which has a collet that moves up and down to various depths using a simple switch. A locking mechanism keeps the collet and bit at the desired depth, while a series of gauges guide the user as he works. This allows woodworkers to create more specialized and intricate cuts than can be made using a stationary router.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Depending on the type of plunge router used, woodworkers can operate this tool by hand or mount it to a table or workbench. When using a hand-held plunge router, the object being worked on is generally secured to the bench using clamps for added safety and precision. If a table-mounted plunge router is used, the object is generally not fastened down, which allows for greater cutting and shaping flexibility.

Woodworkers may use metal or plastic templates to guide the path of the plunge router bits. Templates are available for many different applications, including hinges, hardware, specialty designs and many other uses. The template keeps the router bit in a controlled area, making it easy to create specific cuts and patterns in wood or metal.

A plunge router can be used to cut holes in wood for dowels, fasteners and other types of hardware. It is also used to cut intricate details, or to carve out sections for visual effect. With the right bit, a plunge router can also be used to smooth, polish or sand the edges of wood or metal items. No matter what type of task you are performing with your router, wear proper safety gear and take precautions to avoid injury while you work.

While a plunge router offers much more flexibility than a standard unit, they also tend to be more expensive and difficult to use. To choose the best plunge router, buyers should consider things like horsepower, price and size. It is also helpful to match the materials to the router and to consider the size and fit of the router to the individual user.

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