The best router for router table use is a mix of budget, size of the bits you’ll be using, and the space you have in your workshop. But its also making sure the router will fit a router lift and have features like soft start and electronic speed control for the best router table router. In this article learn what router is best for your projects.
A router table is a must for any serious woodworker. But choosing the right router for your table is a decision worth taking your time on and doing the right research.
Unfortunately, I did this wrong the first time and lived with a non-lift compatible Dewalt DW625 plunge router for a few too many years. But after learning I needed a router like the (market leading) Bosch 1617EVSPK my floor-based router table is much easier to use.
So, in this article we’ll take a look at what the best router features are for a table:
- Horsepower for large bits
- Collet sizes to hold various size bits
- Fit to manufacturer table inserts
- Depth adjustment capability (a frustrating feature on many routers)
- Mixed use routers for router tables that will be used off the table too
- Speed adjustment
- Soft start to avoid snapping on
- BEST FOR BENCHTOP TABLE: Bosch 1617EVSPK features 2.25HP and a body style that fits popular router lifts from a top brand in routers.
- BEST FOR FULL SIZE TABLE: Bosch MRC23EVSK is a soft start 15 amp, 2.3 HP heavy duty router for continuous duty. And, checks the box on fitting router lifts.
- JUST THE MOTOR: Dewalt DW618M lets you buy the router motor and skip bases if you won’t use it out of the table.
- MOST POWERFUL: Makita RP2301 is best for spinning raised panel router bits with a large 3.25HP motor and electronic controls.
- BEST BANG FOR BUCK: Dewalt 616 is a budget friendly router for benchtop router tables.
Why Router Choice Matters
Perhaps you have the budget and are able to leave your router in a router table. While an option for some, many woodworkers will need to transition their router back to “standard” use.
And that’s where a dual-capable table and freehand router like the Bosch 1617EVSPK is arguably the MOST popular and affordable dual-duty router.
Here’s why the router matters:
- Fit with router table lifts like the JessEm Rout-R-Lift is a must
- Optional bases for use out of the router (plunge, fixed, d-handle)
- Adjustable speed control to match bit size and wood species
- Optional dust collection
- Soft start to not “jerk” on when started
Editor: If you plan on starting with or upgrading to a router lift you’ll want to go with a model like the DW616 or Bosch 1617 that is compatible with popular lifts like JessEm.
Fixed Base vs. Plunge Routers
Before taking a look at routers for router tables it’s best to first understand the difference between a plunge router and a fixed base router.
Fixed based routers have a fixed depth, as the name implies, and to make a deeper cut will require stopping the router and making an adjustment.
Fixed Base Routers Are Best for Most Table Mounted Routers (and Most Fit Router Lifts...)
Taking a step back and thinking about a router table what do you think is the biggest challenge?
If you guessed adjusting the depth of the router bit you’re right.
A fixed base router, while adjustable, is by design a bit harder to adjust. And, most models are not as high horsepower as the plunge routers.
But, a fixed based router is MUCH easier to hold and control for off-table uses like routing edges of workpieces that won’t fit on your table. In fact, some plunge routers weigh over 12 pounds and are a beast to manage off the table.
Editor: Look for a 3-1/2″ motor diameter size for the most compatibility with router lifts. These routers usually come with a fixed base and plunge base.
Plunge Routers are Best for Continuous Duty, Large Bits
For maximum clearance and access to your router bits, plus the most horsepower, a plunge router is a contender for a full size floor model router table.
But beware these don’t fit router lifts, making them a choice for (in my opinion) a shop with two router tables.
While you won’t be using the plunge feature, these routers feature:
- 1/4″ and 1/2″ collets
- Wide range of speed adjustments to slow down for large bits and speed up for smaller bits
- Horsepower up to and over 3HP for continuous duty routing
- Slow-start technology to not “snap” on.
Combination Router Packages: Fixed & Plunge Router Kits
If you’re not sure on use, and plan to take your router out of the table, then there’s a great solution: a combination package.
With this package you’ll find:
- Fixed router base for off-router-table projects
- Plunge base for either router table or other uses
- And, lastly, most will feature a D-handle that’s perfect for maximum control in larger projects
Key Features of a Table Mounted Router
After years of changing router bits in a table I know one thing is a must with this type of router: easy access to the spindle for changing bits.
In fact, the ease of bit changing is such a top priority that you might find yourself frustrated with your router table as a whole if you don’t get this part of the purchase right.
However, there are other features, including:
- Router lift compatibility to allow your router to be mounted in the table (somewhat permanently)
- Spindle lock that is accessible above the table
- Slow start to prevent the router from jumping to full speed immediately
- Adjustable speed to slow down for large bits and speed up the bit for smaller ones
- Integrated lift mechanisms are found in some routers, but may or may not have an easy spindle lock
Best Router for Benchtop Table Mounted
If you’re using, or thinking about, a benchtop router table then your projects are likely small, your workshop is limited in space or you’re just getting started.
And, while a benchtop router table lacks the larger table of a professional floor model it doesn’t mean the router should be smaller or any less quality.
First, though, there are a lot of top brands and a few generics in benchtop routers:
- Dewalt fixed based or combination plunge and fixed base
- WEN plunge router
- Skil combination plunge and fixed base
- PorterCable combination plunge and fixed base
- Metabo plunge router
- …and the list goes on for small, fixed based routers
Bosch 1617EVSPK Wood Router Combo Kit
- Versatile: This versatile kit can be used for a broad range of…
- Durability: Aluminum construction makes this one of our most durable wood…
- Ease of use: Rounded hardwood handles maximize user control
- Convenient: With the built in constant response circuitry, our 1617EVSPK…
Last update on 2021-06-16 at 16:41 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Bosch is a top brand in professional tools and their router lineup is one of their key products.
In fact, their router table is a top seller and partly why they have targeted a router to match it.
All of that means if you’re not sure on a fixed base or plunge router, won’t be using raised panel bits (honestly, they are out of style in most new cabinets!) and want a name brand than Bosch is a great choice.
But to the point, here’s what makes this worth a look:
- Combination kit
- Constant speed circuitry to maintain speed in tough cuts
- 1/4 and 1/2-inch collets
- Chip shields
- 2.25HP motor for up to medium sized bits
- RPM range of 8,000 to 25,000
- Top brand = top router table compatibility (including Bosch’s own router table)
- Dust sealed router switch for longevity
- Carrying case included for portability and storage
- Tool-free conversion between bases
- And lastly, this router features the #1 feature on my list: above table height adjustment
- Benchtop router table design – Features a large aluminum top for extended…
- Rigid aluminum mounting plate – Pre-drilled for compatibility with a…
Last update on 2021-06-19 at 14:22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Best Router For Large Bits and Continuous Duty
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I’ve been using a Dewalt plunge router in my Rockler router table for well over a decade.
But first, if you are looking for a full size table because you have the room, but need to use the router off the table more than on it I’d recommend going back to the Bosch in the benchtop review.
However if you want a fixed router that stays in the table and needs to work for larger bits in sustained duty then let’s take a look at these size routers.
ISo, targeting high horsepower routers of 3HP or more, these are the key manufacturers:
My choice in a plunge router? The Makita 3-1/4 HP plunge router is a top brand with the best features for the most power in a router table.
Makita RP2301 Plunge Router
- Power Tools and Accessories
- Country of manufacture: Japan
- Manufacturer: Makita
- Oversized ball bearing construction for longer tool life
Last update on 2021-06-20 at 20:21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
While this Makita is designed for high horsepower plunge routing off a router table, it’s features make it attractive if you’re looking to use a router table for larger projects with bigger router bits.
The biggest drawback of any plunge router in a router table? They won’t work with a router table lift. But I’ve worked around that for a long time.
Here’s what to like about the Makita:
- 3-1/4 HP motor (15 AMP)
- Variable speed of 9,000 to 25,000
- Electronic speed control
- Soft start
- Electronic brake
- Adjustment range of 0 to 2-3/4″
- 1/4″ and 1/2″ collets
- And oversized ball bearings for longevity
So why would I pick this over the Dewalt I own now? The Makita RP2301 offers up the same features and ADDS the electronic brake and oversized bearings.
Frequently Asked Questions
What's the best router for a router lift?
While a router lift is the most desired feature in a router table, they don’t fit all routers. The best router for a lift will have a detachable base that allows it to be installed directly in the lift. The most popular brands for lift installation are Porter Cable, Bosch and Makita.
Can you mount any router to a table?
Almost any fixed base or plunge router can be mounted to a router table by drilling holes in the router table insert. While this excludes the compact routers like a trim router, this flexibility allows for older routers to be mounted in a table.
How do you adjust router table height without a lift?
If you install a router in a router table without a lift you’ll still have the option of adjusting the height. The best way to do this is to turn the power off, disconnect from the power supply (safety first) and then adjust the bit up or down (from underneath the table).
While there are dozens of options in a router for a router table, the best option is the router that fits your table, projects and of course budget. Looking for a router table too? Be sure to check out our guide to router tables to help decide on your package.
Last update on 2021-05-31 at 07:03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API