Best Router Table & How To Use It
A wood router is one of the most versatile and crucial tools for any woodwork or joinery, and you won't want to live without one. Tools Around The House have provided an extensive information and reviews about wood rooters in this article.
It is possible to carry out a lot of woodwork with a handheld router, but a router table makes the work much easier, and allows you to operate with more safety, and more precision. Essentially, it is easier to work the wood over the router, than it is to work the router over the wood.
The router table actually evolved from the innovation of woodworkers, who cleverly found a solution to the drawbacks of the wood router. They mounted their routers underneath table tops, and used the height adjustment to bring the router bit above the surface.
Many woodworkers still choose to make their own router table, but some commercial tables provide an unmatched quality and accuracy of build, and are well worth considering.
We want to show you some of the best router tables available, to help you to make the right purchase. We have separated the great from the good, and provide details of each choice, so you can understand the pros and cons associated with each.
Top 10 Comparison Chart For Router Tables
What you need to understand, is that a good router table is nothing without a good router. The router is still doing most of the work, and you will need a high quality router if you want the best results. Having said that, not all router tables are a good choice. Some are pretty poor. Others are a cut above the rest.
There are many factors that make a good router table. It needs to be flat, be well made, with a solid base and high quality fence. You will also want to find one within your budget, and suitable for your specific needs. We are here to help! If you are looking for wood router tool reviews, see here.
Using a combination of customer reviews and expert opinions, Tools Around The House brings you the top 10 best router tables. You can find the full review of each product below the table.
|Bosch RA1181||Benchtop||Amazon bestseller, great all-round router table, great value||Some parts not high quality, some customers received warped top||4.3 out of 5 stars|
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|Bench Dog 40-001||Benchtop||Full of features, great Pro Fence design, high quality but compact||Still a compact, higher price than most benchtops||4.4 out of 5 stars206 reviews||See Lowest Price|
|Kreg PRS1040||Stand Alone||Durable stand, high quality table top, great fence design, professional model||Can be difficult to assemble, and some have claimed that smaller parts are fragile.||4.5 out of 5 stars69 reviews||See Lowest Price|
|Skil RAS900||Stand Alone||Very inexpensive. High quality for the price.||Not as high quality as top of the range models||4.1 out of 5 stars|
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|Rockler Trim Router Table||Benchtop for compact routers||Very inexpensive, great for the hobbyist, very compact.||Only suitable for compact routers, not the best quality (obviously)||3.7 out of 5 stars22 reviews||See Lowest Price|
|Bosh RA1171||Stand Alone Cabinet Style||Cabinet and two dust-ports or dust control, tall fence, inexpensive||Not suitable for professionals, quality control issues||4.3 out of 5 stars166 reviews||See Lowest Price|
|Bench Dog 40-102 ProMax||Table Extension||Top rated for its type, industrial grade, compact, good value, full of features||Not stand alone; must be used as extension for table saw.||4.4 out of 5 stars83 reviews||See Lowest Price|
|Kreg PRS2100||Benchtop||Durable and sturdy, larger than more benchtops||Flawed fencing||4.3 out of 5 stars|
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|Bench Dog 40-300||Stand Alone |
|Durable and functional cabinet, cast iron table, extreme precision fence, packed with features, top quality professional model||More expensive||4.2 out of 5 stars9 reviews||See Lowest Price|
|Festool P00111 CMS-GE Router Table Set||Stand Alone||Advanced system for crazy precision||Very expensive||4.0 out of 5 stars6 reviews||See Lowest Price|
Router Table Reviews
We are dedicated to providing all of the information that you need, so that you are well equipped to make a purchase. Our top 10 router table reviews chart gives you a good indication of some suitable models. Once you have shortlisted some potentials from the chart, you can check out full reviews and specific details below.
Best Bench Top Router Tables
Router tables are a popular choice for DIY enthusiasts. They are capable of doing the same jobs as the stand alone models, but are smaller and more compact. Some offer only a limited router clearance, with can be slightly limiting, and the small size can make more complex woodwork with large panels difficult. For most occasions, a bench top router table will suffice,and they usually come cheaper.
If you are looking for a router table that s perfect for amateur woodwork, or for a personal workshop, then the Bosch RA 1181 is a solid choice. It is the number one best seller on Amazon, and with good reason. First of all, for the overall quality of the equipment, the cost is very reasonable, and this is an all-round plus for the market that it aims to please. Professionals might want to look for a bigger table, and one with that extra pin-point accuracy, but for most uses this is fine, and for a small benchtop model, it is very capable of most woodwork.
It is extremely portable, and is durable and sturdy too with a cast aluminum table, aluminum router mounting plate, and a tall aluminum fence backed by MDF. The fence is easily adjustable, as is the router height. The Bosch RA 1181 fits most popular wood routers, which only adds to its accessibility. A 2 ½ inch dust collection port allows the router table to be hooked up to a dust collection system, while the accessory slot allows for additions such as miter gauges.
There have been some complaints from customers about the product arriving warped. A flat router table top is essential for good woodwork, so make sure you check this when it arrives. Customers have expressed that Bosch have sent over replacements where this has happened. However, with more reviews than any other router, most of them positive, you can be sure that you really can't go wrong with a Bosch RA 1181.
Bench Dog 40-001
The Bench Dog is a step up when it comes to precision. Although only a compact table at 16 x 22 inch, it provides plenty of space due to its versatile design, and front offset router location, The fence is one-piece, but is full of features, including dual positioning, sub fences, and bit guards. Whatever woodwork you have going on, the Bench Dog 40-001 is capable, and this includes large verticals. The Pro Fence is made of aluminum, and is extremely flat and square.
The durable design of the router table is unmatched in a product of this price range, and is further enhanced by a dual rail support system. The Bench Dog is very accommodating, and is compatible with a huge range of routers, and a wide number of accessories.
For the keen woodwork enthusiast who wants a serious router table at a decent price, this is an extremely good choice.
Rockler Trim Router Table
Okay, first of all, we are not my any means suggesting that this is the best router table available, but for the price, at an extremely affordable $60, it deserves a place in the top 10. For this amount of money, you might expect a useless piece of junk, but while the Rockler is certainly not contractor standard, it is actually a fully functional tool for compact routers and casual woodwork jobs.
This router table only fits popular compact routers like the Bosch Colt. If you regularly use a compact router, then this table will make your life much easier for jobs like routing round-overs and small dadoes. It easily clamps to the end of a workbench, or any other work surface, and the router itself can be easily attached and detached. It has an adjustable fence, and is even compatible with a dust collector.
If you want a professional router table, then stay away from the Rockler Trim Router Table. If you are a weekend DIY guy who wants to buy an inexpensive, but still functional table, then the Rockler is your dream come true.
This is a fairly new release from Kreg, which solves many of the flaws of their older versions. This table top router table is made from strong and sturdy MDF, suitable for heavy duty work without sustaining any damage. It is larger than your average benchtop, at 16 x 24 inches, providing ample work space. The fence is industrial standard, and full of features, but the fence clamps leave something to be desired, and the plastic system seems very fickle.
A brand new router insert plate gives support to any router, no matter what the size. The holes for the router are not pre-drilled, but this should not put you off; easy instructions are provided, and you can drill the holes to the exact dimensions of your own router. It also has a miter gauge slot.
All in all the Kreg PRS 2100 is a big improvement on past models, but is still highly flawed when it comes to the fencing system. Still, not a bad choice when it comes to high-end hobbyist tables.
Best Stand Alone Router Tables
Stand alone router tables usually provide a larger table area to work on, and can have more features built in. The main difference is that they come complete with a stand, but this can sometimes add a lot on to the overall cost of the product. Most router tables for professionals fall into this category, although those with smaller workshops can still find a professional quality benchtop. There are many stand alone tables available, some of them better than others. Thankfully, you can find the best stand alone router tables in our reviews.
This is one of the best value stand alone router tables out there, and really is made with quality in mind. The stand is made from durable steel, and is very sturdy, and the MDF table top is brilliantly rugged, and is made to reduce vibration and noise. The wood slides over the surface of the router table with ease, thanks to Kreg's patented micro-dot skin.
Where the PRS 1040 really stands out, is the fence. The fence is very reliable, and extremely accurate, especially if you purchase the micro adjuster too. It is made from tough aluminum, and is an innovative t-shape design that always stays square to the miter slot. The design of the fence is pretty much unparallelled within the mid-range stand alone router tables; its enclosed extrusion allows for better dust extraction, and for any size work piece to be handled with ease.
The insert plate is precise, and suitable for pretty much any router. You drill your own holes, but this process is easy enough, and detailed instructions are provided. The odd customer has made complaints about the router table being difficult to assemble, and the smaller parts being somewhat fragile, but all in all there really aren't many worries with the Kreg PRS 1040. A great choice for amateurs and professionals alike.
The first thing you have to realize with the SKIL RAS900, is that it is not supposed to be a top of the range router table like the Kreg. It is about a third of the price for a start, and for the money it really is a good deal. So what is the SKIL good for? Well, anyone who is looking for a stand alone starter table for woodwork at home will find this router table to be a treat. It is of very high quality for the money, and is extremely easy to set up and use.
It comes ready assembled, the legs fold out or in for compact storage and easy maneuverability, and it even features two storage compartments for the accessories, such as the fence and router bits. The RAS900 also comes with featherboards, a miter gauge, a guard, and bit inerts. It falls short on quality compared to top of the range models; it has plastic legs and lacks true durability, for example.
So long as you keep in mind that this is not a professional router table, and keep your expectations where they should be, then you will find that the SKIL RAS900 lives up to its intended function in the marketplace; it is a great router table for the hobbyist. Anyone who does a lot of woodwork, might want to consider a more expensive model.
This stunning router table features a cabinet style design which helps to regulate dust. It will certainly help to keep your workshop clean and tidy! This is further helped by the two dust collection ports (most router tables have a maximum of one), which take industry standard vacuums. The emphasis here is clearly on the dust collecting abilities, but this is not the only card that the Bosch RA1171 has to play.
The table also has a tall aluminum fence, along with adjustable MDF face plates that are capable of taking on tall stock. Accessory slots allows for the use of featherboard and a miter gauge, though you will have to buy these separately. The cabinet stand is surprisingly sturdy, and the metal router plate is durable and flat.
The Bosch RA1171 is a very high quality router table, and pre-drilled for use with many routers. It may not be the wisest choice for the professional, as it is not the most durable on the market, but the Bosch represents great value for money, and is a great choice for hobbyists and DIY enthusiasts.
Bench Dog 40-300 ProMax RT Complete
This is not a router table for the amateur; this is a beautiful cast iron table top, and a birch wood cabinet stand, complete with a professional and perfectly accurate fencing system. Everything about the Bench Dog 40-300 oozes quality. It is the only full-sized cast iron table on the market, and provides a massive 5ft square of working space. It is also very heavy, but the stand can easily hold the weight, and this only adds to the long term durability of the table.
There is an integrated dual slot for milter gauges, and the design fits a wide range of accessories. The 40-300 also features a 12-point locking and leveling system, for the ultimate in precision woodwork. A 4 inch dust collection point allows for easy dust extraction. The cabinet itself is no gimmick, and is actually extremely functional, allowing for easy storage of all components.
This really is a picture perfect router table; exquisitely designed, built to last, and functions perfectly. You pay the price for these displays of pure quality, but for a professional who's work demands stunning precision, the Bench Dog 40-300 might be the best out there.
Festool P00111 CMS-GE
This router table set looks like it would be more at home in a spaceship than in your workshop! Its high-tech design gives way to a supreme quality router table system. It is built to be the most precise router table on the market, and it accomplishes this by providing unmatched adjustability to a micro level, as well as giving you an exact miter gauge, feather board and hold down options, and independently adjustable fences. The table is extremely smooth, so the wood glides almost effortlessly over the router, while the dust extraction system (sold separately) ensures that there is almost no mess.
In short, this is a truly professional grade router table. Festool has something of a cult following. They provide consistently high quality tools and integrated systems that make woodwork that little bit more precise, more accurate, and more effectively executed. The drawback is that you can only use the P00111 with Festool routers, and other Festool equipment. Kind of like Mac, but in the world o router tables.
At a cool $1600+, you won't find many hobbyists harboring one of these in there garages, but for a professional workshop it is a cut above most of the other router tables that are out there. It is a close call out of this and the aforementioned Bench Dog; both are valuable options.
Best Router Table Extension
There is a third, more unusual category of router table available, known as the router table extensions. They can be attached to table saws to provide a router table, and are great for anyone who is looking to save space. There are not that many great models to choose from, so we have only awarded one router table a recommendation for this category:
Bench Dog Tools 40-102 ProMax Cast Iron Router Table Extension
This table extension is suitable for contractor grade table saws that have dimensions 27 x 1 ½ inch deep cast iron tables. It mounts on the side in place of the extension wing, and provides an industrial grade router table that really pack a punch. This is a great choice for anyone who lacks space in their workshop, but still wants a professional grade router table for woodwork.
It features a Pro Fence which is sturdy and sits perfectly square and true. The system is double slotted for versatility, allowing you to work from the other side of the table. The fence can be easily dismounted when you want to flip back to using your table saw. The router table also features a heavy duty plate bit guard, T-slot, and miter slot for accessories, as well as a dust collection port. You will have to order your router plate separately, and you can specify the dimensions needed to fit your particular router.
If you are looking for a compact but professional solution for a router table extension, then the Bench Dog 40-102 is a no-brainer. With a steady 4.6 rating, customers tend to agree.
What Does A Router Table Do & Why Would I Need One?
A router table is a bench that is designed to allow for the fixture of a router. The wood router is mounted in the base of the table facing upwards. You can adjust the height of your router, and attach whatever rooter bit that you need for the work. The table holds the router in place, and allows you to work the wood over the surface of the table, and over the router. As you feed the wood, the protruding router bit mold the profile.
This makes work easier and faster, as you don't have to clamp the wood you are working on. It also allows you to work with a much greater amount of control, especially when it comes to shaping narrow or small pieces that would otherwise be difficult with a handheld router. The router tables also have a fence which sits plush to the router bit, to guide the wood along, and allows you to control the horizontal length of the cut.
Much like the wood routers themselves, there are pretty much endless possibilities when it comes to what you can do with a router table. You can do most of the techniques that you can do with a router, only more effectively. You can simply change router bits to adapt to the function that you require.
Most fixed-base, and only some plunge base routers fit to a table. The fixed base router provides fixed height, and is generally the router that most people choose for their rooter table. A plunge router is better adapted to handheld work. A router table can help you to achieve better results when it comes to woodwork such as:
- Shaping board edges
- Cutting grooves, slots, and dadoes
- Router tables allow easier work with long, narrow, or small pieces.
- Template work
- Edge trimming
- Making Raised panels
- Dovetail and boxed joinery
- Much more...
Factors To Consider When Buying A Router Table
When you make any purchase of a tool, there are always some factors that you need to consider. Some router tables score better than others in a lot of measurable ways, but what might be the best router table for one person, might not be the best for someone else. It all depends what you are looking for.
A router table is supposed to make woodwork easier than it would be with a wood router alone. A flawed router table will not accomplish this goal, and may even result in a botch job! By considering the following factors, and choosing a solid and highly rated router table, you can make sure that you make life easier for yourself.
You can consider these factors personally, and decide for yourself what is important for you. All of the router tables that are included in our top 10 review score pretty highly, and won't cause you any problems.
Will Your Router Table Accommodate Your Router?
This is perhaps the first and most important question to ask yourself when buying a router table. Is it compatible with your router? If it isn't, you will have to fork out for a new router, or send the table back for refund. Most router tables do not fit ALL routers. Some fit many brands and types, while others, such as the Festool, is only compatible with a Festool router. Check out the product fully for compatibility before making a purchase.
Type Of Router
The two main types of router available are the stand alone, and the benchtop varieties. The stand alone comes complete with a frame, and as you guessed, stands alone as a functioning piece of equipment. The benchtop has to be mounted on a stand at workbench height. A benchtop model is usually much more portable, and often cheaper, but do not provide unlimited router height clearance.
The benchtop is a great choice in many cases, and is capable of the same work, once it is properly mounted. Larger and more advanced tables are usually stand alone, and so professionals will usually prefer a stand-alone. The table extension router tables, of which there is one included in our reviews, provide a router table extension that can be attached to your saw table. They are great for saving space in a small workshop.
The flatness of the router table is extremely important. In fact, if there is one factor that will guarantee an accurate finish more than any other, it is the flatness, and rigidity of the top. Even minor irregularities can affect the accuracy, and create an uneven edge or a skewed joint. In woodwork, precision is crucial.
When you feed the wood you will apply a downward pressure. It is imperative that the table be able to handle this pressure while remaining perfectly flat. It must also be able to bear the weight from the wood router itself from underneath.
This need for flatness and stability is usually satisfied in the use of a rigid material. MDF is a popular choice, and for many hobbyist or amateur woodworkers, this is the standard option. It provides a flat enough top for precision, but is reasonably inexpensive. Some router tables are made from phenolic resin, which is even more rigid and durable.
Along with a flat top, you will want a sturdy base to ensure not only precision, but also safety. Remember, your router is spinning a dangerously sharp bit around at high speeds, so you do not want the table to topple. Also, the wood needs to stay in contact with the router bit, and the rate that you advance the wood must be kept steady. Any wobbles may disrupt this delicate process.
If you choose a benchtop router table, make sure that it is easy to attached, and well supported. The product itself should be well equipped to allow you to do this. If it is a stand-alone router table, then the product should be sturdy and have a high quality base built in.
Size does matter when it comes to router tables, but it not really a huge consideration when it comes to the quality of the woodwork. If you are working with larger pieces of wood, then naturally you will need a larger router table to accommodate, and to provide the accuracy for this kind of work. Size is restricted by the availability of space in your workshop, and smaller, benchtop tables are often cheaper. If you need more room to work on, then you will need a larger router table.
What is perhaps more important for overall functionality, is the size of the insert on the router table. Some router tables can only handle ¼ inch router bits. If you think you will need ½ inch bits for more heavy duty work then you will need to make sure the width of the table's insert can handle it.
The main feature of a router table, other than its ability to secure a router, is the fence. For most jobs you will press the wood up against the fence while you make the pass. Not all fences are well made, especially on less expensive tables. Some of them are very simple, while others offer complex features, such as incremental positioning mechanisms.
What is more important is that they are straight, plush, and rigid, and won't budge an inch once they are locked down!
There are two main types of fences: the one-piece, and the two-piece split. The once piece is a simple end-to-end, infeed to outfeed fence, offering one alignment for the work. The infeed cannot be offset against the outfeed, which does limit some work, but is more than suitable for more. The one-piece fence also leaves the biggest clearance hole for the router bit, especially if you are using a ¼ inch.
The two-piece fence solves this problem, by allowing you to leave almost no gap between the fence and the bit; offering better, and even zero-clearance support. It is also possible to offset the infeed, which allows you to to use the router table to joint a straight edge on a board. The drawback is it can be frustrating to get the two sides of the fence into perfect alignment; which is needed for most jobs.
Whether you decide that you need a two-piece, or if a one-piece fence is quite enough, you should also make sure that the fence is high quality, and can remain sturdy during routing. Even high quality routers often choose a one-piece design, usually opting for a dual fence slot for versatility, to avoid the problems of dual fencing.
You might be looking for certain features for your router table; specific requirements that suit the sort of woodwork that you are doing, or the sort of workshop that you are working in. A dust port is a pretty standard feature, though not all router tables have them. It allows you to attach a vacuum pipe to extract the dust from the system.
Most woodwork is carried out by pressing the wood against the fence, but miter gauges allow you to explore other functions, such as cutting a dado in a long, narrow piece of wood. You can also use the miter slot to attach featherboards and other accessories. Some router tables also feature added T-slots, which allow you to add attachments on other parts of the table. More slots equals more versatility.
The fences on the best router tables are also packed with features, including micro-adjustments for accuracy, bit guards, and high-designs to handle tall stock. Cabinet designs help to keep dust down to a minimum, while also providing extra storage space for components and accessories.
What matters the most is the quality of the router you are using, and the quality of the router table that you mount it to. All of the tables we feature here provide a good level of quality for their price range, so often the deciding vote can come down to the features that interest you the most.
Your budget is the major balancing factor when you are buying any tool. It is important to consider what you need the router table for, and whether you need a professional model, or a more basic table for simple routing and edging jobs. A router table can open up a whole new world of woodworking to you, and you probably can't wait to get one. However, consider that you might quickly outgrow a cheaper model, if your work will demand a finer level of accuracy.
How To Use A Router Table (Router Table Basics?)
When you receive your router table, you will first need to proceed with setup. This will be covered fully in the manual, and will vary dramatically depending on the model. Generally speaking, the more professional stand alone models will require a little more work to start with, whereas more compact tables will come semi-assembled, or even ready to go.
You will then need to tighten the router bit into the router, and mount your router into the base of the table. If you are using the fence, then you will need to get it tight and square to the table. It is much easier to attach and use a fixed-base plunger. Remember, you will need to check the compatibility of your chosen router table with your router.
For safety, always use the guard, and wear good eye protection to avoid splintering your eyes. Always unplug the router when it comes to changing the router bit.
You must feed the wood from right to left. This is because the router bit spins counter-clockwise, and you must not push against it. It is possible to do routing work from right to left, but it is a bad idea that will often ruin the wood, and can result in jarring and kickback.
Every technique is different when it comes to woodwork, and the possibilities of a router table are as extensive as the possibilities of a router; it just makes the work a whole lot easier and more precise. Apply the correct router bit for the job, and proceed with the correct technique to get the desired results.
Just to be sure, take a test piece of wood and run it through before going to work on your real stock. This will prevent error, and you will be able to ensure that you know exactly how to pass the wood. Check out below video if you want to know more:
Router Table Accessories
A basic router table setup consists of nothing more than a fence and a protruding router bit, and for most applications, you don't need much more than that. However, there are an array of router table accessories available that can further increase the functionality and versatility of a table. Router tables sometimes come with accessories, and if not they nearly always accept them as add-ons. Here are some of the most useful:
- Insert plate: A plate which the router is attached to, slots into the table. This provides stability, but mainly it allows you to make adjustments, and change the router bits, by simply popping the plate up, rather than having to work under the table. This is extremely useful and timesaving.
- T-Tracks & Miter Tracks: T-tracks are metal channels that sit attached to the top of the fence, and allow you to add accessories like featherboards and bit guards to improve the safety and precision of your work. You can attach a miter guage to the miter track to add more featherboards, or for complex operations such as dados
- Featherboards: It can be a nightmare having to hold a small piece of stock against a dangerously fast router bit. Featherboards provide extra pressure on the wood, helping to keep it pressed securely against the fence, while still allowing it to move smoothly in one direction. This prevents any kickbacks. They can also be used if you need to stop the cut at a certain length on the wood.
- Dust Extraction: Routers create a lot of sawdust and chips, and they chuck them all over the place, even when attached to a router table. Dust extraction can solve this. A simple vacuum is attached to the table's extraction port, and sucks the dust away. Not very expensive, and save a lot of hassle.
- Power & Speed Switches: It is easy enough to have an auxiliary switch installed to allow you to access the power easily, and importantly turn it off quickly should a problem occur. A speed switch can also be installed to allow you to vary the speed of the router while you work. Some routers already have this function, but a switch allows easier access, for better control.
- Bit Guards: A bit guard attaches to the T-track on the fence of your router, and simply helps to prevent any accidents. It makes you aware of where the bit is, and protects your hands from going anywhere near it.
Congratulations! You made it until the end of this massive post. We believe we covered all there is to know about router tables and hope you found it useful. If you feel we missed something, feel free to leave a comment in the section below. And feel free to share as well!