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. Just starting into woodworking and want a multipurpose router for a benchtop table? Or maybe you’re looking at a floor-based table and want a dedicated plunge router. Whatever your purpose, we’ll cover each in detail and what router best fits in a table mount.
The first router I used in my router table was a massive Dewalt DW625 that powered through many kitchen projects.
And, after it took years of abuse on large raised panel bits the bearings went. So, for the price and heavy use, I replaced it with the same model.
Why is that part of the story important? Well, a few things:
- Routers in a table will take a beating
- It’s important to match the router to your projects
- The larger the bits you’ll be using, the larger the router you will need to spin them
- But the feature I didn’t have was compatibility with a router lift…
In this article we’ll review key features like the following to help you decide on the best router:
- Collet sizes
- Fit to manufacturer table inserts
- Depth adjustment
- Dedicated to the router table vs. need to be on/off
- Speed adjustment
- Type of router table
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.
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 the best choice for a full size floor model router table.
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
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…
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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
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.