Three best router tables
A good router table allows you to work quickly and accurately on a tremendous range of woodworking tasks, and it can turn your workshop into a high-capacity, precision machining center. There are plenty of router tables to choose from, which is great but can also make shopping complicated. What size is best for your needs? What features should you look for? We've put together this guide to give you the answers. For the easiest buying, we've also included our picks for the top three router tables on the market.
Considerations when choosing router tables
Router tables come in two types: floor-standing and benchtop. Both provide the rigid platform necessary for accurate woodworking, but there are major differences.
Floor-standing router tables
Floor-standing router tables offer a large work surface, up to 24 x 36 inches. They have a steel frame and legs. Some have rubber feet, while others have wheels for easy mobility. They require a permanent workshop space. Floor-standing router tables range in price from $180 to $1,000. At the low end, you'll only get a very basic router table.
Benchtop router tables
Benchtop router tables offer a smaller work surface, but that's sufficient for many jobs. They have steel, aluminum, or plastic frames. The legs should have holes to allow you to fix the table to a bench. Benchtop router tables are lightweight and only require a temporary bench space. The folding models are easy to store and easy to transport for site work. Benchtop router tables range in price from $100 to $400.
There's no doubt a good floor-standing router table allows you to undertake a huge number of projects, but for most keen amateurs--and many pros--a quality benchtop model is perfectly adequate.
A router table's work table has a central insert where your router is mounted. The work table should also have a keyway for a sliding miter, featherboards, or other guides.
You have a choice of three work table materials. Aluminum is light, strong, and rigid. Laminated MDF is strong, rigid, and smooth. It can be drilled for custom jigs and is relatively easy to replace if damaged. Phenolic resin is very smooth and rigid but very expensive.
Inserts are usually pre-drilled into a router table and can accept a range of routers. That said, some high-end models are not drilled at all--you do the drilling to suit your router. But aftermarket pre-drilled options are available if you don't want the hassle.
Most inserts are screwed into place, which makes changing them relatively slow. Better ones lock in with a quick twist. Some tables come with multiple inserts. The size of the center hole varies to provide clearance for different cutters.
The fence must be rigid but easy to move. Those with a single clamp are particularly user-friendly. Aluminum is preferred. Some fences are pre-drilled to accept MDF faceplates, which can be adjusted very close to the cutter (for better control) and simply discarded if damaged.
Featherboards apply gentle pressure to the workpiece. They keep it steady against the table and fence. They maintain accuracy and safety but still allow the work to be pushed through easily.
Set-up bars or shims allow you to set the outfeed fence quickly for different depths of cut.
Clear, adjustable guards should be fitted and must always be used. A push stick is another handy safety feature, though it's easy to make yourself if it doesn't come with your router table.
Ease of use
Easy access to the power button is convenient. Dust ports are a good addition so you can attach extraction.
Q. Should I fit a plunge or fixed-base router to my router table?
A. Plunge routers are great for freehand use, but the plunge mechanism is a disadvantage when inverted. You can fit a router lift, but that's an extra expense. Fixed-base routers are usually quick and easy to fit, so they are the most common choice.
Q. What's the biggest cutter I can use with a router table?
A. There's no easy answer. Router table fences can be set or modified to take a huge variety of different cutters, but it's your router, not your table, that defines maximum size. A 1/4" router is a light-duty tool with limited capacity. A 1/2" router will take much larger cutters.
There's also the question of the type of cutter and the power output of your router. You'll need to look at the router's specifications (or your router owner's manual) for recommendations.
Router tables we recommend
Best of the best: Kreg PRS1045 Floor-Standing Router Table
Our take: Not just a router table, this is a comprehensive, professional-standard routing system.
What we like: The robust wheeled stand provides great support. This massive table has a wide range of precision components and a fast-set fence. Nobody builds a better router table.
What we dislike: It's expensive, and you need to drill the router inserts yourself.
Best bang for your buck: Bosch RA1181 Benchtop Router Table
Our take: A compact, well-built router table for accurate work without breaking the bank.
What we like: This large table has a rigid frame, despite being plastic. The replaceable MDF faceplates make for a smooth feed. The quality components throughout mean this table is a superb value.
What we dislike: The assembly is a little complex, and the work table has a rough finish.
Choice 3: Skil RAS900 Router Table
Our take: A space-saving entry-level router table with a full range of accessories.
What we like: The clever folding design makes storage easy. The legs double as useful containers. It's got everything the occasional router user needs.
What we dislike: It could be sturdier. This table is not the best fit for those who use a router often.
Bob Beacham is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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