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I’ll fess up and admit that this really isn’t a reader question — it’s mine. I’m in the market for a 1/2” plunge router, and I thought I’d engage the Toolmonger hive mind and see if you guys have any advice for me on what would be a good choice.

What I’m after is a better unit for doing 3/4” slot cuts in hardwood and ply. My Bosch Colt will do them but starts smoking after the second 6’ cut. So I figure a larger unit with a little more grunt is just the ticket. Hopefully I can get the router and a base plate that’ll let me use the edge as a guide to cut the trenches — without crushing the wallet.

What do you think? Is there something out there with my name on it? Should I watch out for something, or will almost any of them do? Let me know in comments.


29 Responses to Reader Question: Plunge Router Selection

  1. Shopmonger says:

    I have the cheap “skil” combo kit 2 1/3 hp

    I have to admit it may not be the most accurate or have all the bells and whistles but I love what it does for me. I know there are a lot better units out there, but for the price (60 at HD or 39.99 rebuilt at harbour freight)

    It came with a plung base and a fixed base……….
    I have this mounted most of the time in my router table…… very smooth and very relaible.

  2. Andy says:

    Well, if you’re interested in versatility, I highly recommend the Dewalt DW618 set. They offer both a plunge and a fixed base for it, and at 2-1/4HP, it has more than enough power for anything I’ve ever thrown at it.
    The big high-power plungers like you have in the photo would be great for heavy-duty router table use, in my opinion, but for hand-held use, I’d rather have something a little easier to handle and with a lower center of gravity. Again, the 618 would fit the bill. For a dedicated medium-sized plunger, I’ve heard great things about the DW621, but haven’t tried one.
    And for a LOT more information, I highly recommend Pat Warner’s excellent router site: http://www.patwarner.com/
    Hope this helps!

  3. Rusty says:

    What starts smoking? The router, or the bit where it’s eating through the wood?

  4. fred says:

    We have been long-time users of both plunge and fixed-based routers in our wood shop and in the field. When I bought the shop many years ago, there was a frequency changer and a number of high-frequency (I think 3600 cycles per second) Stanley routers in use.
    I also inherited some old Stanley 110V – 60 cycle routers. These all are long gone.
    We now rely on either Porter Cable 7539 ‘s or Bosch 1619 ‘s for our heavy-duty portable wood routing needs. (Although we also recently acquired a Dia-Pro machine for edge routing granite countertops) We also have 1 PC 892 (which gets little use) and several Bosch 1613’s

    We still have a number of mechanics who really like our Porter Cable Routers – and their Betterley cousins that we use for laminate work. I have others who like the Bosch Colt for laminate work and they seem to like the Bosch 1619 and 1613 better. In my less skilled hands – I find that they all have some shortcomings – but I like the handling of the PC 7539 a bit better – but its plunge lock a bit less.

    I see that you picture the Triton router – that I recall has gotten high marks for router table use (we still use our 2 back to back shapers for shop use) and 2 older table-mounted Bosch units in the field

    I’m guessing that some of the choice is a matter of personal preference.

  5. tooldork says:

    @ Andy – Would have to disagree having owned the DW618 PK. I’ve had numerous problems with the plunge lever and the dust collection system.

    This was my first router kit and would never buy DeWalt again due to my experience with this kit.

  6. PutnamEco says:

    My first thought when I think of 3/4″ slots would be to use a dado blade, That said, will You be using an edge guide? I find that plunge routers don’t work that well for my with an edge guide. I prefer a standard base router like Milwaukees 5625 for heavy edge guided routing. If you really need the plunge, you won’t go wrong with DeWalts 625.
    I’ll second what Andy said about really needing a big router, They will easily cut through 3/4″ plywood, With the right bit, almost as fast as a circular saw.
    Pat Warners website is an excellent resource..

  7. Gary says:

    I have the Bosch 1617 EVSPK (I’m pretty sure that’s the right model nbr) two base set. Been using it for years with no problems at all. And they’ll even match your Colt.

  8. BT says:

    For versatility go with a set that has multiple bases. I have DeWalt 3 base set which has fixed, plunge and D-Handle. I find I use the D-Handle most followed by the plunge. I’ve also used the Bosch 1618 Kit and it is also really nice.

  9. Jim German says:

    Sounds like the next toolmonger project should be to build a Router table!

  10. fred says:

    Re: PutnamEco Says:

    You are on the mark relative to using a dado set and table saw for cutting slots where you can bring the work to the tool.
    I may have been assuming that the application was on field work where the slots needed to be cut in-place using a router.
    Your remark about the fence / alignment and inherent slop in this sort of operation is well put. Perhaps the new Dewalt plunge saw router carriage (a recent Toolmonger Post) or using a Festool router with its carriage and fence would help – if you can stand the price.

    By the way, we’ve never bought many Dewalt tools – so I can’t comment on them.
    Also never bought a Makita, Milwaukee or Hitachi router – so nothing I could contribute about them either.

  11. Stan says:

    Love my PC 691 “D” handle, have had it for years, plenty of power.
    I’ll also agree with Gary above. the Bosch 1617 with soft start is nice. I use it in my router table, and also have the plunge base when needed. The Bosch has one of the smoothest operating plunge bases.

  12. Patrick says:

    Hey Toolmonger, I’m thinking about getting an oscillating tool like the Fein Multimaster or the new knocks off from Rockwell or Dremel which are coming out because Fein’s patent has expired.

    How about an oscillating tool celebrity smack down….


  13. Sprackle says:

    Choose one that takes Porter Cable accessories. That’s an aftermarket standard.

  14. Bob says:

    A warning about Triton Products-
    While I like them, and their routers are well received, I saw on another web site that they are going out of business.


    GMC?Triton liquidation

  15. I would definitely suggest that a plunge router is a tool that you don’t want to go for a cheap ass tool. So, I’d steer clear of HF this time. I would suggeste the DW 621 like someone above already has. Clean, reliable, variable speed, sturdy.

  16. Pete says:

    I swear by the Porter Cable routers. I have 6 of them, and they are well built, acurate, and rugged. You can’t go wrong with them.

  17. Jim Crockett says:

    I have the Bosch 1617PK router set (2HP with plunge & regular bases, case) and I would highly recommend the newer Bosch 1617EVSPK (2.25HP, soft-start, variable speed, constant-speed circuitry, micro-fine adjustment). Bosch customer service is excellent and parts are readily available if needed. Even with the 2HP version, I have never run into any wood that gave me a problem as far as power is concerned. If my 1617 died on me today, I would immediately go out and purchase the 1617EVSPK!

  18. DaveD says:

    I bought a used Makita 3612 on ebay for something like $30. I’ve been pretty happy with it. I’m no router expert, but knew I wanted a 1/2″ plunge router. It’s handled everything I’ve thrown at it.

  19. Eli says:

    Nobody’s mentioned Festool’s 2200, so I’ll throw the standard plug. It’s like a handheld shaper and smooth like budda.

  20. Kyle says:

    Another vote for the Bosch. Finewoodworking gave it a rave review. I bought it, and can see why they loved it.

  21. paganwonder says:

    Makita 3612 or Bosch 1617 have done tens of thousands of dollars of work for me without ANY trouble. Would re-purchase either one. Don’t go cheap with big routers

  22. Michael W. says:

    Yet another vote for the Bosch 1617. The two base set and soft start are just nice. I use the fixed base in my Kreg table usually and have never had a problem with the plunge base.

    I agree with the dado blade solution. I have a table saw that is just used for dados. It’s set up back to back with my other saw, they both serve as outfeed tables for the other.

  23. MattW says:

    If you go for the Dewalt, get the three base kit to begin with, rather than deciding the D handle would be nice later (it is nice). Right now on Amazon, it is like $50 more, which is a lot less than the $110 they want for just the base. I have seen in on sale where it is only like $20 more for the three base kit. Seeing that doesn’t make me feel very smart.

  24. Alex L. says:

    At my personal shop i have a Makita 1.5 Hp (model number is no doubt discontinued now) plunge router thats at least 18 years old as always works flawlessly. the only gripe is having to use two wrenches rather than a more modern shaft lock and wrench setup. never ever had trouble with ANY makita or bosche tool and probably have a collective 40 years of life in my various ones (drills, router, jigsaw etc…) so my vote is definately for bosche or makita.

    @ Micheal W.
    At my school’s toolshop we have the same setup of talbe saws, one rockwell for dadoing and one sawstop mounted end to end. its amazingly efficient. and anything you cant do on there we just put on the 4 HP CNC router that has a bed big enough to put a whole sheet of plywood on. fun!

  25. Bill Schuller says:

    I have the Ridgid Multi-base router combo kit (2 1/4 Horses). I have to admit I’ve never pushed it to it’s limits in my humble shop, and I certainly bought more than I needed. It has a built-in lift system which is killer for the router table. It’s treated me well, and it has the Ridgid lifetime guarantee, which I’ve never had the opportunity to invoke, so I can’t speak to it’s validity.


  26. Bill Schuller says:

    Quick Tip – Ridgid tools are manufactured by Emerson Electric, the same folks who make a lot of the Crasftsman gear, so accessories are usually interchangeable. Especially helpful since Home Depot is notorious in my circles for stocking tools, but not the accessories or consumables that go with ’em.

  27. Shopmonger says:

    Sean if oyu are ever near NJ, you can come over and try the 3 that I have…..
    Just drop me a line….

  28. Coach James says:

    My latest router buy was this one:


    the 17543 model

    I know C-man power tools are supposed to be junk etc, but this looks suspiciously like a PC and has been excellent for me.

    Also, I thought Emerson and Sears parted ways years ago after the radial arm saw lawsuits.

  29. Ian Ragsdale says:

    I bought the Hitachi KM12VC from Amazon for CHEAP! Still only $168. 2.25 horsepower, comes with plunge & fixed bases, does slow start, works with porter cable accessories. I’ve only had it for a few months, but so far it’s been great, and it has a nearly 5-star rating on amazon.


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