How to Use a Plunge Router in 9 Easy Steps

Every woodworker out there has most likely come across routers that are used for routing purposes. A plunger router is a versatile electric tool designed for adding detail to wood work.

You can use a plunge router to create custom trim pieces, add a profile to an edge, or cut dovetail joints. The tool also makes it possible to add fluting work to crown molding, clean out an area for a door hinge, or create other intricate designs like cutting out a space for a sink in a countertop.

Types of Plunge Routers

A plunge router comes in two forms: the fixed-base and the plunge base. A fixed-base router allows you to lock the base once the bit is in, which means the bit remains in a fixed position and its depth is set.

A plunge base router, on the other hand, lets you lock the bit in the router. With this router, it’s easy to plunge it in and out of the material.

More often than not, homeowners push the plunge base router to the side in favor of the more simplistic fixed-base router.

Many woodworkers liken the plunge base router to a plush TV remote control with lots of confusing buttons and functions. Statistically, about 40% of users understand its full functionalities, while the rest of the users have no idea how to get the most out of the device.

In this article, we’ll unleash some useful tips and tricks on how to use a plunge router. Using a plunge router for the first time might seem intimidating.

However, once you’ve learned the ins and outs of this tool, it’ll be very easy to use it to rout any material irrespective of its type or hardness.

Follow these steps on how to use a plunge router appropriately.

What You Need: 

  • Plunge router
  • Clamps
  • Wrench
  • Router bits

Step 1: Thoroughly examine your plunge router

Start off by thoroughly observing your plunger router and its components. You should find an electric motor sandwiched between two posts.

The motor is mounted on the roof of springs and is hooked to a flat base. The flat base of the router helps guide the motor down at an angle of 90 degrees.

Releasing downward pressure raises the motor back into position and lifts the router bit higher above the base. Being attached to a collet, the plunge router’s motor connects the same way a hand drill chuck does.

Plunge router motors range in size from 1.5 HP to 3.5 Hp. Usually, the bigger the motor, the bigger the router bit, resulting in deeper cuts.

Step 2: Set your plunge router bit

Router bits come in various sizes and shapes. There are router bits for straight cutting, while others are designed to create curved surfaces, beveled edges, and even groove and tongue joinery.

It’s best to choose your plunge router bit depending on the project at hand. After choosing the bit, flip your router upside down and locate the spindle release button close to the top of the plunge router.

Press this spindle release button and use the wrench provided by the manufacturer to slacken the spindle nut.  Located in proximity to the spindle is a slot where you can slide the wrench through.

Slip the bit into the spindle and fasten in a clockwise manner. Ensure the spindle is just tight, but be careful not to overdo it.

Step 3: Secure your work

You’ll probably hate having to chase your material across the work surface in the middle of the job. The router bit oscillates at an extremely high speed, so you need to clamp your wood to a sturdy workbench to secure it against movement.

Under some circumstances, clamping the material is not the best solution as the clamp has a tendency of getting in the router’s way, forcing you to reposition it every often.

Using a router mat is a preferable way to achieve a non-skid surface. Therefore, handle your project on the mat and enjoy working around all four edges with little to no interruption.

You can purchase router mats from your nearest woodworking specialty stores and home centers. Securing the wood with a router mat enables your router bit to enter the wood seamlessly without issues.

Pro Tip: A router mat may eventually lose its grip. When this happens, try rinsing it under water to clear out the dust and restore some of its clasp. .

Step 4: Set the side and depth of your plunge router

This step has to do with setting the side and depth of your plunger router depending on how you wish to cut the groove. To do this, disengage the springs holding the base plate by pressing in the depth guide.

Then, move up the plate guide until you achieve your satisfactory depth. It’s best to use a ruler to get the precise depth.

Once you have pushed up the plate guide and you have your desired depth, let go the depth guide lever. In so doing, the bottom plate will be securely locked into position.

Step 5: Adjust the plunge route into position

You can set the plunge router base onto the wood piece to let you plunge the bit into the piece by pressing a button on the handle. Firmly press the button downward while holding the handles and pulling the trigger.

Push in against the edge holding the bit and extend it to the depth you need. This makes it possible to set the router into position without disfiguring the wood. It’s advisable to set the plunge router where you’re going to make your first cut.

Step 6: Protect your eyes and ears

Plugging the router in before you wear eye and ear protection is not recommendable. Routers are excessively noisy and can cause permanent hearing damage if you don’t protect yourself.

And, of course, small wood chips can get into your eyes when using these power tools. It’s advisable to wear eye protection before getting started.  

Step 7: Start plunging bit into piece

As soon as the router is in proper position and you have the right protection, plug it in to get started with using a plunge router. Hold the router by both handles and examine the view slot to determine the bit positioning.

Switch on the power button to begin the router spinning, and push the plunge button located at the handle. By so doing, you’ll start to plunge the bit into the wood, increasing or lowering the speed as you wish.

Maintain even pressure all through until the bit digs in to the required depth. Discharge the knob and run the router over the workpiece.

Step 8: Start in the right spot and go in the right direction

When routing all the four edges of a board, it’s vital to create cuts following the right sequence. You should initiate the cutting on end grain.

You may notice that the bit slightly chips the adjoining edge as it exits the end grain.  But when you rout that edge, any chipping will automatically be cleaned up.

Also, to safely use the router, moving it in the right direction is more than essential. This means that you need to go clockwise when routing the external edge of a board.

It’s equally important to move in a clockwise direction when routing the inner edge of a frame. By going in the correct direction, you’ll take more control over your router. This prevents it from climb-cutting and straying away from you.

Step 9: Finish your cut

When you are all done, release the pressure on the downward handles to complete your cut. Releasing the downward pressure on handles allows the router to retract the bit into the base. That’s it. Easy, huh!

Final Thought 

A plunger router is a powerful and versatile tool that’s ideal for any modern wood shop. The above nine steps on how to use a plunge router will guide you when cutting the wooden piece and other materials no matter their hardness level.

Hopefully, you have now discovered all the useful ideas on how to use a plunger router and can work on your project without the likelihood of getting stuck along the way. Always remember to set the depth gauge in line with the size or amount of bit you are using.

If you still face any difficulty using this appliance, please feel free to drop us a line. We’ll be more than ready to provide the best possible assistance.

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