Recommend: Router and table

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Forum topic by Pyro posted 02-08-2018 04:50 PM 1678 views 0 times favorited 22 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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90 posts in 939 days

02-08-2018 04:50 PM

Hey guys,

I’m buying my first router. I’m not opposed to buying a palm router and a router that mostly sits under a table if you all think that’s best, but I’d like versatility without too much grief.

I’ve heard great things about Bosch routers and I like Bosch tools in general. What do you guys think about them? I know there was a model with wooden handles that has been very popular and then an updated version that I’ve heard some mixed reports about. Any guidance here is appreciated.

In terms of a table, I’m concerned about MDF warping down the road. Is that a valid concern? Should a beginner like myself try building my own table or buy something first and become more familiar? I’ve heard Benchdog makes a pretty good one but am confused about which model is worth the money.


22 replies so far

View Dustin's profile


707 posts in 1518 days

#1 posted 02-08-2018 05:16 PM

Well, I think this comes down to a couple of questions:

1) What’s your budget?

2) What are you looking at doing immediately?

I’ve been working with the Bosch 1617EVS (plunge and fixed base) for several years as my only router, and it’s been exceptionally good to me. The fixed base stays under a router table top mounted in the wing of my table saw, and I use the plunge base for everything else.

Now, if I had my druthers, I’d have a larger router mounted in a nice router lift in a dedicated cabinet, a palm router like the Dewalt or the Bosch Colt that would be used almost exlusively to round things over, and use the 1617 for everything in between those two operations. But as a middle of the road router in terms of size, heft and power, it has worked very well at a very reasonable price point.

-- "Ladies, if your husband says he'll get to it, he'll get to it. No need to remind him about it every 6 months."

View ChrisK's profile


2046 posts in 3859 days

#2 posted 02-08-2018 05:20 PM

First I am a DeWalt guy. Second I have four routers. One 3HP plunge under the router table, A 2-1/4 HP hand router with fixed and plunge base and two palm routers. It just takes to long to pull the router from under the table and 3HP is big to run by hand, heavy and you can only use the smaller bits anyway. The 2-1/4 is used for circle cutting, edge routing with large bits, the palm routers are used for template cutting and smaller bits for rounding edge etc.

My table is 1-1/2” of MDF covered with Formica and edged with poplar. It has not warped in the over 18 years since I built it. If MDF gets wet it will bulge and be useless. It is used for desks and counters, etc. because it does not warp when kept dry. Humidity does not make it move, just don’t spill a drink on bare MDF. All of my work surfaces are polyurethane covered MDF, easy to clean and refinish when they get real dirty.

-- Chris K

View Pyro's profile


90 posts in 939 days

#3 posted 02-08-2018 05:28 PM

Chris this is great info.

Can you recommend specific models you like for a fixed and a palm? Is there some kind of palm/plunge hybrid worth looking into as well?

Are there simple plans out there you would recommend for a table?

View msinc's profile


567 posts in 1281 days

#4 posted 02-08-2018 05:41 PM

I have a Bosch 2.3 HP variable speed router. It has soft start and it also has a neat feature I had never seen on others. maybe they all have it now. If you want to change bits you loosen the big nut and it hits a stop. You continue to loosen a little more and it kind of gives way. At this point the bit is set completely free of the collet and you just lift it out, no tapping on it to get it loose.
I have the RA1181 aluminum top router table and it works just fine. It’s not the best set up and it’s not the most expensive, but if I feed it good, straight, flat stock it sure does work nice.

View Lazyman's profile (online now)


5449 posts in 2165 days

#5 posted 02-08-2018 06:03 PM

I have a Porter Cable 690 and a Dewalt DW618B3 and both are very good. The Dewalt is the newer and the nicer of the the two and and my favorite for using by hand (I don’t have a palm router yet). If I was only buying one I would get the Dewalt. I bought the Porter Cable at a garage sale cheap. It came attached to a Rocker bench top router table.

Router tables don’t have to be complicated. They can be as simple as a piece of plywood with a fence clamped to it. I made one 30 years ago using plywood and 2×4s from Woodsmith magazine plans (March 1982) that just clamps to the edge of a work bench (or on top of a Workmate bench) that I still use from time to time. To make it easier to attach and detach the router from the table I leave the base plate on and use toggle clamps to attach it to the underside of the table. Nice thing about it is that it doesn’t take up much room when not in use. A table with a lift is nice if you use it a lot but for occasional use, it is not necessary.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View EarlS's profile


3736 posts in 3126 days

#6 posted 02-08-2018 06:04 PM

The Bosch 1617EVS is a good middle of the road, 2.25 HP router that comes with a fixed base and a plunge base. I have one as well as a Dewalt laminate trimmer, and a 3 HP Porter Cable that is in the router table base. Of the 3 routers, I use the Bosch the most. It works well with the Leigh dovetail jig and the Leigh Mortise and tenon jig, plenty of power. For profile stuff I use the router table. I don’t remember the last time I pulled out the laminate router.

As for the table, I had a homemade table with a melamine top that was OK, but not great due to nicks and scratches in the melamine. Then I upgraded to a cast iron table. Solid but missing a lot of features that would have been really useful. I’d suggest taking a look at a bunch of different tables and accessories (fence, lift, micro adjustment, miter bar channels) that can go with them before you settle on one. Part of the reason I don’t use my router table as much as I could is the inconvenience of the set up and the general hassle to get it dialed in so I can use it each time.

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

View LesB's profile


2559 posts in 4221 days

#7 posted 02-08-2018 06:59 PM

A good combination, hand held and table mount, router would be the Porter Cable 892PK. It comes with a fixed base and a plunge base. The motor size (diameter) is common for most router lift mechanisms used on table routers.
The smaller model 690 has the same size motor diameter making the bases interchangeable. If you become more involved in wood working you will undoubtedly want at least one more router leaving the larger one mounted in a table….I have 5.
I would suggest making your own table mount. I don’t think MDF would be a problem and you might want to start with that because it is inexpensive and if you don’t like the results you can start over. Coat the top with poly to seal it agains moisture and dirt. Basic mounting plates for the router are available from several sources. Kerig makes some good ones. I suggest getting a metal one over plastic.
There are also several table mounted lift mechanism for a table mount if you have the funds, they run $180 to $370. JessEm makes two and also makes the Incra. MCLS has also come out with a new one to check out. After many years of working with out one I bought the high end Incra Master lift (mainly for the metal in insert feature. It accepts most of the popular router motors. Should have done it a long time ago.
After this you will start collecting bits for it. The desire for new tools never seem to end…..LOL

-- Les B, Oregon

View pintodeluxe's profile


6158 posts in 3591 days

#8 posted 02-08-2018 07:00 PM

I like the Dewalt 618 and Bench Dog router table tops. You can build your own base cabinet.

I have the Bosch 1617 and I don’t care for that one.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View ChrisK's profile


2046 posts in 3859 days

#9 posted 02-08-2018 07:25 PM

View bondogaposis's profile


5791 posts in 3129 days

#10 posted 02-08-2018 07:33 PM

Should a beginner like myself try building my own table or buy something first and become more familiar?

Absolutely, a router table is a great beginner project. There must be thousands of router table plans out there, pick one and build it. Bosch routers are great, I have one in my table. Once you put a router in a table it generally too much trouble to take it out and you’ll wind up buying another one, that’s how it goes.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View DMiller's profile


537 posts in 1250 days

#11 posted 02-08-2018 07:59 PM

I would highly recommend buying a D handle trigger controlled router if you ever plan on doing much with it off the router table. I have the Makita 3601B 1-3/8 hp router, which works great. I would highly recommend it. Being that it is an older model, they are a little pricey new; if you watch eBay for them the commonly sell for around $75-100. I was able to purchase mine in almost new condition for $65. I would highly recommend a Makita….hope this helps!

-- Dale Miller Modesto, CA "I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me." Philippians 4:13. "Woodworking minus patience equals firewood."

View RichBolduc's profile


1324 posts in 894 days

#12 posted 02-08-2018 08:01 PM

For a router, I’d suggest one with a router height adjustment that you can access from the top of the table. For this reason, I went with the 3 1/4 HP Triton that I picked up for $250. I also have a Dewalt DW616 with plunge and fixed base for handheld stuff.


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View CaptainKlutz's profile


3203 posts in 2272 days

#13 posted 02-08-2018 08:51 PM

I had the same questions when i decided to get more serious about using a router and trade up from a hand-me-down Craftsmen router many years ago.
There are many different/right answers, especially when you ask about best value!

FIRST: “What will YOU be building?” The answer to this will have greatest impact on which router. Specifically:
Will you OFTEN be using large diameter (2”+) bits to shape door panels, or table tops; or will you regularly be machining 8/4 lumber?

If yes: You will learn quickly that more HP is better. The big bit applications work best when you have top end 3HP router (Porter, Milwaukee,Triton, etc). You can certainly run larger diameter bits on mid-range 2HP router, but feed rates are slower, takes more passes, and it takes finesse to learn proper techniques to keeping router happy hogging out large cuts.
If No: You can use most any 2HP+ router and be successful.

SECOND: Router tables
If you have never had a router table, then you do not know exactly how much you will use it. With no experience, there are 2 directions to suggest:
- Buy best you can afford.
- Buy/Make basic setup with features you think you need and upgrade after you learn more about your real needs.

My decision on 1st new router resulted in me buying a Bosch 1617 combo. I liked the comparable Porter Cable & Dewalt combo, but the Bosch fixed base had thru table height setting for router table that sold me. I was able to pick up a used Dewalt 618 Combo for hand work shortly after getting my Bosch. Despite being a huge fan of Dewalt tools, I reached for Bosch more often as it fit my hands better, that when I bought a cheap Bosch 1617 via Craigslist, I eventually sold the Dewalt.

My 1st router table; I bought a simple phenolic router plate and built a router table extension for my table saw out of (2) layers of 3/4 MDF covered with laminate.
Over time I realized I wanted improvements to simplify set-up: 1st upgrade was replace the basic Rockler fence, where I grabbed the Peachtree extruded Al rail fence on sale. 2nd upgrade was to buy a 2nd stand alone Jessem router table with lift, 3hp porter router, and extruded fence rail (which I had to recently sell due reduction in shop floor space during a move). My latest upgrade was to replaced Bosch in table saw extension with a dedicated Milwaukee 3 HP router and new aluminum plate.

I still use a Bosch 1617 for all large bit hand held work. But routers (and other wood tools like planes?) can be a virus after you get infected? I bought a used 1.75 HP Porter Cable 693 for $40, and dedicated it to mostly round overs as I found myself constantly switching to use round over bits between other router operations. [Changing bits often is pain] Most recently splurged and bought a smaller Dewalt 611 as I really like it for more control with smaller bits. The Dewalt 611 seems to have replace the Porter 693 for me, and probably need to sell it now. (not often I need 5 different bits set up for project at same time).

Only defect I have had on Bosch 1617 was to replace on/off switch after ~8 years. There are threads here on LJ and other forums about problems with unsealed switch design prior to 2005.

If I had to do it over again; would have built my 1st router table with thick Al plate and extruded fence rail initially. I would still want the mid-size 2HP Bosch for router table IF I could only have one router for everything, as a 3HP router is a beast to use/control by hand. If you can afford more than one router; I really like having 3 routers at my disposal (large fixed in table, med & small for hand work).
Having a dedicated router table is awesome if you have space; but the smaller table saw extension with 3HP router and solid fence works really well.

Best Luck.

-- If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all, - Albert King - Born Under a Bad Sign released 1967

View Pyro's profile


90 posts in 939 days

#14 posted 02-08-2018 09:57 PM


I don’t want to spend too much on a table right now because I’m really not sure how much I’ll use it yet. What I need to do at the moment is put details on the edges of table tops and mortise things out. Kind of why I’m thinking a plunge/fixed combo is the way to go right now. What do you think?

View runswithscissors's profile


3099 posts in 2803 days

#15 posted 02-08-2018 10:31 PM

+1 for the D handle. Mine is PC, but they all seem similar. The trigger switch in the handle gives you control over the startup torque, and better control all around.

Nobody seems to ever mention Grizzly’s nice little palm router/plunge router combo. Has 6.5 amps, and sells for $84 in the current catalog. Has variable speed and a shaft lock for bit changing. My only gripe is the base won’t take the PC guide bushings for template routing. I had to make my own—easy enough to do.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

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