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The Best Router for Router Table And Lifts (2021)

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.

Buying the wrong router for your router table is a costly mistake.

Because a router table for woodworking is best when used with a router lift, the router you choose must be compatible with a lift for maximum flexibility and precision.

In this article we will review key features such as:

  • 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
Before we begin, the best choices for table mounting a router are to stick with a 3-1/2″ motor base (and not a plunge router). Because chances are good you’ll be buying a router lift next.
 
RouterProduct Desc.Shop
Best router for table mounting - overallBEST OVERALL: Bosch MRC23EVSK routerCHECK PRICE
Best router for table mounting - valueBEST VALUE: Bosch 1617EVSPK routerCHECK PRICE
Best router for table mounting - motor onlyJUST THE MOTOR: Dewalt DW618MCHECK PRICE
Best router for table mounting - most powerMOST POWER: Makita RP2301CHECK PRICE
Best router for table mounting - router liftROUTER LIFT: JESSEM ROUT-R-LIFTCHECK PRICE

Why Router Choice Matters

Purchasing for Double Duty (Table & Hand Held)

Routers are a big investment for most small woodworking shops. 

And, with budget in mind,  most woodworkers will face the choice of (1) leaving the router in the table for speed of setup or (2) taking the router in and out of the router table for using hand-held tasks.

So how do you buy a router that can work well in both situations, but WITHOUT a headache of a painful conversion? Look for a router, like the Bosch 1617EVSPK, that has a motor that mounts in a router lift and slips out for use in your plunge or d-handle base.

The Best Features

Best Router For Router Table Features

Beyond ability to convert to your hand-held operations, you’ll also want to consider the key features of router table mounted routers:

  • Fit with router table lifts
  • Adjustable speed control to match bit size and wood species
  • Dust collection
  • Soft start to not “jerk” on when started
  • Horsepower for large raised panel bits

Fixed Base vs. Plunge Routers

Plunge Router vs. Fixed Base Router

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.

Plunge routers allow you to set a starting depth and then push the router down into the wood further (plunge) to cut deeper.
 
Sounds simple, right? 

Fixed Base Routers Are Best for Most Table Mounted Routers (and Most Fit Router Lifts...)

Router Table Cutting a Wood Rabbet

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

Plunge Router With Router Bit

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

Combination Fixed and Plunge Router Bases

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
While the horsepower with these units is often less than a stand-alone plunge router it is usually enough if you aren’t planning to spin raised panel bits.

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

I don't believe in random lists not matched to your need or budget. So for each of the 3 types of router tables (benchtop, basic floor models and professional models) I've researched dozens of routers to find options for your type of router table.

Best Router for Benchtop Table Mounted

Entry Level Routers for Router Tables

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
But the router that stands out from the pack both standalone and as a companion for your benchtop table? The Bosch 1617EVSPK.

Bosch 1617EVSPK Wood Router Combo Kit

Best router for router table use - Bosch 1617EVSPK

Combination kits like this Bosch offer the best bang for the buck in small router tables. With two bases you can switch from handheld to a plunge to a router table in minutes.

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

Review

Pros

Cons

Best Router For Large Bits and Continuous Duty

DIY Full Size Router Table

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, and 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:

  • Dewalt 
  • Makita
  • PorterCable
  • Metabo 
  • WEN
  • Triton

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

Makita RP2301FC 3-1/4 HP Plunge Router, with...
293 Reviews
Makita RP2301FC 3-1/4 HP Plunge Router, with…
  • Powerful 15 AMP motor delivers 9,000-22,000 RPM for smooth routing
  • Electronic speed control maintains constant speed under load
  • Variable speed control dial enables user to match the speed to the…
  • Soft start feature for smooth start-ups

Last update on 2021-12-04 at 19:23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

In the debates on the best tool brands there are constant exchanges on Makita vs. Dewalt vs. Milwaukee (we'll leave Festool alone). This Makita offers a few edges in large routers that make it worth a look for the most powerful router table router.

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.

Review

Pros

Cons

Frequently Asked Questions

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).

Summary

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 2021-12-05 at 09:55 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

4 thoughts on “The Best Router for Router Table And Lifts (2021)”

  1. Surprised no mention of the Milwaukee 3.5 hp. I have it in a Jessem table and lift . Amazing machine.
    The Bosch 2.5 ho is in a Bosch table and is fine for smaller work but it doesn’t have enough Hp to cut raised panel doors.
    You have to make numerous passes at a 1/16 inch cut .
    As you say , depends what you are doing

  2. Hi Lorne,
    I’ll check this router out and appreciate the submission. I’m a fan of Milwaukee and own many of their tools but their routers aren’t as popular vs. Dewalt and Bosch.

    Thanks,
    Eric

  3. I use a Porter-Cable 7518 -3-1/4hp router in a Jessem Master Lift & a router table that I built myself from extruded aluminum. I’ve been using it for over 5 years & it really works good!! The 7518 is big enough for any size bit & is a 5 speed soft start.

  4. Dale, the Jessem Master Lift is indeed a great lift with its support for routers up to 4.25″ in diameter. And the 3+ HP is great for larger raised panel bits.

    Thank you for sharing.

    Eric

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