10 Major Plunge Router Uses

April 12, 2022

Woodworker demonstrating the correct ways to use plunge router.

A question I often get asked by tyros in the use of routers is about the difference between a plunge router and a fixed-base router. Well, the succinct difference between these two routers is quite apparent. For example, you can (with the fixed-base router) specify and lock in the router bit’s depth to get a consistent groove throughout the routing process. On the other hand, the plunge router lets you vary the bit’s depths by plunging it down or pulling it back up.

The plunge router, of course, is a must-have tool in any woodworking shop. You can safely and accurately perform routine routing tasks like mortising, inlay pattern works, and stopped dados using the plunge router. It is spring-loaded; hence, the motor housing tends to spring up to the posts’ top while you route. In the succeeding parts of this post, you will learn about the different uses of the plunge router.

10 Different Applications of the Plunge Router

The plunge router allows you to rout even in the middle of the workpiece, unlike the fixed-base router, which will not let you do so. Besides, you will find the plunge router handy in most woodworking projects, and below are the different uses of the plunge router:

1) Mortising

When mortising using the router, you can use jigs to enhance your router’s accuracy and make consistent and repeated cuts. With the router, you are no longer required to use a hollow chisel mortiser for quick and easy mortising. You only need to build your jigs and use your plunge router with an up-cut spiral bit. 

In your router’s subbase, you can install a bushing (5/8″) along with a matching bit for your mortise width. Then, route in 1/4″ increments after centering the scribed lines on your jig to that of the mortises. 

To make the tenons, you can employ any of the following three options. First, route mortises in your mating workpieces and let the loose tenon fit. You should ensure that you get the right dimension of your stock according to the width and thickness required. Afterward, you can round the edges over on the router table. 

Second, you can machine a tenon into your mating workpiece. Then, you round the edges using a rasp or knife. Lastly, you can square the corners of your mortise using a chisel to make the corners fit the matching tenon. 

Using guide bushings when you utilize a plunge router, you can easily engage in template routing. You only need to set the router over your template. Afterward, please turn it on. Then, plunge the router bit to a preset depth. After that, you can start routing.

It is best to do several overlapping plunges to the full mortise depth when routing. Overlap every plunge until you achieve the mortise’s full width. Then, return and do away with the waste utilizing side-to-side movements for a clean-out.

2) Use Your Plunge Router for Doweling!

You can use the same jig as you used when mortising. Nevertheless, don’t slot the acrylic top. Instead, bore two holes about 5/8″ in diameter. Then, make several tops using different spacing between holes to allow varying dowel setups. Set up the jig as you would do when mortising. Afterward, rout the holes to your required depth. Redo this process for the mating pieces. After that, assemble the joint using dowels and glue.

3) You Can Use the Plunge Router for Sign Making

You can use your plunge router to make signs. You got two ways, however, to make signs. First, you can begin with a sketch of the letters and numbers on your workpiece. Then, you can rout freehand over the sketch. Your hands should be very steady to achieve perfect routing using this method. You can also use a sign-making system that guides you when doing plunge routing. 

4) Make Grooves, Stopped Dadoes, and Flutes

Using a fixed-base router, you might find it hard to accomplish perfect stopped dadoes and grooves because the fixed-base router might veer off track. However, you only need to clamp a straightedge on using the plunge router or simply use an edge guide. You can add stops at every end.

5) Use the Plunge Router for Interior Pattern Routing

You can use the plunge router for routing various closed patterns in the workpiece’s interior. You can’t use a fixed-base router for this purpose without tipping the router away from the needed routing cut. Such tipping of the fixed-base router is risky and can cause damage to your workpiece. 

When making interior pattern routing, you can use a top-bearing pattern or a guide bushing. Besides, you can utilize a collet extension when making cuts deeper than what the bit can cut.

6) Engage in Circle Routing

Another thing you can do with your plunge router is to engage in circle routing. You can create perfect circles using the plunge router. You only need to mount the router to your trammel arm. This trammel arm should rotate around a specific fixed point.

7) Inlaying

You can also use the plunge router to engage in inlaying. You can route inlay recesses without using a guide, but it will be challenging to achieve perfect inlays. However, you can use templates equipped with guide bushings or bearing guided bits to keep the router steady.  

8) Making Keyholes

You can also use the plunge router to make slotted keyholes. If you don’t want to use a wire or hanger bracket for hanging things on your room’s wall, you can use the plunge router to make keyholes. These keyholes can be excellently done using the plunge router with no screw heads protruding. 

You can use a router bit that gets manufactured explicitly for this purpose. You will find several sizes of these bits. Moreover, you can select the one that suits the project you have at hand. 

The technique for making keyholes is the same. You only need to plunge your plunger back to its preset depth. Afterward, rout about a two-inch slot. Besides, you can turn off your router. Then, go back to the spot where you’ve started routing.

9) You Can Use the Router with Specialized Bits

You can use the router and equip it with specialized bits. Some of these specialized bits suit well the plunge router than the fixed-base routers. For example, you can’t simply make a keyhole or a picture-hanging groove using a fixed-base router. You would need a plunge router with a specialized bit to accomplish this task. 

The plunge router can plunge onto the stock and slide sideward to make the groove. Afterward, it will reverse-plunge to make the keyhole on the other end. The specialized bit for this task usually comes with cutters on its bottom, side, and top.

10) Route Using Jigs

You can use the plunge router along with specialized or sophisticated jigs to accomplish various routing tasks. These sophisticated jigs can cut tenons, mortises, dovetails, etc. Yet, these specialized jigs are useless without the plunge router.


The plunge router has many uses in woodworking. You can use it for various applications, and if you already have a fixed-base router, it will be best to invest in and own a plunge router. Remember that a plunge router is a worthwhile investment. It is also a perfect addition to your woodworking tool arsenal.

Equipped with the appropriate router jig, the plunge router becomes a formidable tool, allowing you to achieve spectacular cuts and projects. If you want to raise your level of woodworking activities a notch higher, it will be best to get yourself a plunge router.

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