There are two types of wood routers, fixed base and plunge base. A few models allow you to switch between the two.
Most plunge routers and fixed routers have a few basic things in common. The shank of a bit fits in a nonadjustable chuck of a router called a collet. The router’s motor is mounted in the base, and most have a plunge mechanism to move the bit up and down. The depth of cut is adjusted by moving the router along the Z-axis (up and down), while the height of the bit is adjusted along the Y-axis (side to side).
The size of a given router is determined by its power, measured in amps. The most common sizes are 1-1/2 to 2 hp. But don’t let horsepower be your only criterion for size. The efficiency of the router’s motor is just as important. A more powerful motor that runs at a slower speed will actually remove material more quickly than a less powerful one that runs at a higher speed.
The plunge base is the most popular type of woodworking. It’s easy to use and provides good control, especially when making stopped cuts or working in tight spaces. The motor is mounted in the base, and a plunge mechanism moves the bit up and down. The depth of cut is adjusted by moving the router along the Z-axis (up and down), while the height of the bit is adjusted along the Y-axis (side to side).
The fixed base is more compact than the plunge base, and it’s often used for trimming, flush-trimming, and making shallow cuts. Because the motor is fixed in place, it’s easier to make precise adjustments to the depth of the cut. But you can’t make plunge cuts with a fixed-base router, so it’s not as versatile as the plunge base.
There are also combo kits that include both a fixed base and a plunge base. These are a good choice if you’re unsure which type of router you’ll need, or if you plan to use the router for a variety of tasks.
No matter which type of wood router you choose, always read the instruction manual carefully before using it. And be sure to follow all safety precautions to avoid injury.