By adding the best router table to your workshop, you can take your woodworking to a new level without purchasing yet another power tool.
While a handheld router allows you to do many things without other tools, it does have limitations. Routers are heavy. They require two hands to operate, which limits their use to larger stationary objects. With the router securely mounted to a table, however, your hands are free to control the workpiece.
A router table allows users to accomplish various carpentry tasks including molding, planing straight edges of boards, and routing precise cuts freehand into small pieces of wood.
Types Of Router Tables
Free-standing router tables are often bulky standalone units having a rigid base, massive worktop, and removable legs. We would recommend them if you have a large workspace and frequent big projects. The tables can accommodate wide and long wood pieces.
Mobility, however, is a downside. Fortunately, many versions such as the Kreg PRS1045 we would introduce later here support the casters and caster locks to ensure transport and stability at a time.
Otherwise, go for the benchtop router tables if you want a smaller and portable tool for DIY or small cutting projects. They are often just half of the free-standing versions’ sizes and with shorter legs. Cutting power is often more limited but acceptable.
Despite being less popular, extendable router tables are in-between. They normally work as a benchtop model, yet you can stretch the two sides to enhance the working space.
The drawback is that extendable versions are often less sturdy and easy to wear if you adjust the sides frequently.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Router Table
When shopping for a router table, consider both the size of your workshop and your brand of router. Some factors you may want to consider include the table’s size, portability, material, base plate style, and compatibility with your router. Read on to learn about these and other considerations.
The size of a router table directly correlates with how large a workpiece it can handle. A router table’s work surface ranges in size from about 22 inches long by 16 inches wide, up to 36 inches long by 24 inches wide. A table that is 22 inches to 36 inches long can support boards between 6 and 8 feet long. Likewise, a wider table will provide better support for wider boards.
Router tables can be made of various materials, which impact the tables’ cost and durability. Medium-density fiberboard (MDF), which is rigid and strong, is the most popular material for router tabletops. An MDF top should be at least 1 inch thick so it’s sturdy enough to serve as a work surface. Exposed MDF will soak up water like a sponge and puff up, ruining the work surface. MDF tops with melamine coatings are preferred because a melamine coating will protect the wood.
Some MDF tables have a high-pressure laminate (HPL) surface, which layers protective resins with a melamine work surface for additional strength. A router table with HPL on both sides is a great choice for most users because it is more likely to stay flatter longer.
Phenolic resin is an even higher-grade material than MDF. Phenolic resin is thinner than MDF, won’t be damaged by water, and should maintain its shape for the lifetime of the table. Phenolic resin router tables are among the most expensive models you can buy.
Metal router tables are high end as well. Cast aluminum provides a sturdy, durable work top that will maintain its shape. Pro shop router tables, which are the premium tables on the market, have a cast-iron work surface. There isn’t a router table material that’s flatter, more stable, and more durable than cast iron.
Quality router tables will include multiple base plates that complement different router hole patterns, making them compatible with routers from most major tool brands. It’s best to avoid router tables that have universal-design base plates. The number of holes in these plates can compromise their structural integrity—and create places for dust to accumulate.
A router table has a mounting, or base, plate that attaches to the router and fits into a hole in the tabletop. Since they must support the weight of the router while remaining perfectly flat, it’s crucial that these plates be constructed of a solid, sturdy material, such as aluminum or phenolic resin. The mounting plate must also be compatible with the router. It should have mounting holes that align with the holes on the router.
Since it’s important that the plate sits flush to the router table, a good router table will have a plate-leveling system that consists of four or more leveling screws. It’s also important to consider how easily the plate can be put into place. A professional router table with a mounting plate that’s difficult to install won’t work for those who plan to use the router with and without the table.
Miter and T-Slots
Most router tables have a T-slot on their surface that allows for the use of a miter gauge and other accessories. A miter gauge holds work pieces at an angle while they are cut, and it has an adjustable router table fence that the operator can set to virtually any angle.
The gauge is attached to a long metal guide that slides through a T-slot, which is a long groove that runs the length of the table. Though the fence will get the lion’s share of work on a professional router table, there will be occasions that call for a miter gauge.
An easy-to-use, adjustable fence is critical on a router table. In most situations, the router’s operator will guide the material through the router blade by pushing it up against the fence. Whether the router table fence is made of wood or metal, it should be sturdy. When making precise router cuts, it’s important to have a solid base against which to push workpieces.
There are two types of fences on router tables: those that are a single piece, or split fences. Two-piece fences are more versatile, allowing the user to set the infeed at a different level than the outside. With this kind of fence, the router can execute complicated jointer cuts.
The downside is, it can be challenging to perfectly align a two-piece fence for regular cuts. A single piece won’t allow you to join the straight edge of a board, but alignment isn’t an issue if the router table fence is one solid piece from infeed to outfeed.
Our Top Picks
Below are some of the best router tables from respected manufacturers in the tool market. Read on to find a model that’s suitable for your projects.
Affordable, stable, and flat, this is a good router table that can become great with a little TLC. It’s easy to put together and comes with a dual switch outlet that in itself makes it worth the price of admission. This table might be best suited for beginners as the 8” x18” surface won’t be the best option for larger projects. But if it’s compatible with your router it might just be the budget solution you’re looking for.
That said, keep in mind that if your router is not compatible with the preset screws you’ll have to improvise an adapter and if you’re planning on putting more serious weight on it you’ll find that the sides of the extensions need reinforcement. That said, it’s a great option for someone who hasn’t progressed to heavy-duty projects and it will give you additional flexibility in using your router.
With the Ryobi Universal Router table, versatility is the name of the game. This table will work with most major brands so you’ll get no headaches trying to improvise adapters. From the fence to the functional guard, everything is easy to adjust and simple to work with. You’ll see a real difference if you’re upgrading from a lower-budget version, as your workflow and ease of maneuverability will increase significantly.
The table comes with an integrated power station that will make room on the table for one additional power tool. The legs are very sturdy and the work surface is true and steady. It’s definitely a long-term investment that will impress with its robustness and quality.
This router table is a dream. It’s stable, it’s flat, it’s easily adjustable. The MDF tabletop is large enough to handle whatever you throw at it and at 24”x36” you’ll find yourself gliding around your workspace swimming in options.
It’s adaptable and will allow you to drill your own holes and install your router of choice. The fence remains true through use and it’s stable enough that no juggles or vibrations will affect your precision. Attaching accessories is a breeze with the slotted channels and the quality and durability of this table will make projects more comfortable to undertake and quicker to complete.
The Rockler trim router table is a perfect compact router table for small applications. This mini router table is lightweight and can be transported and stored easily. It features an acrylic base and it is pre-drilled to fit the most popular trim routers. With the use of clamps, the router table can swiftly be secured on a workbench or even the tailgate of a truck. A happy buyer wrote, “I needed a basic router table, not a cabinet or anything too cumbersome or ‘feature rich’, and this small table has been perfect for me. I like that it’s got a captive fence and great dust collection when using the vacuum port accessory.”
With the Bosch RA1181, you get a larger work surface, which is suitable for versatility and precision. There is an aluminum surface for durability, making it a portable router.
In fact, it fits many routers, so it can go in almost any woodworking shop. The aluminum router mounting plate is quite rigid, but it’s also pre-drilled to be compatible with many routers.
Above-table height adjustments are allowed with the built-in bench dog. There is a 2.5-inch dust collection port, which offers an even better collection. You can also use the dust collection system in conjunction with a shop vac if necessary to keep your workspace clean.
Of course, this is because of the dual outlet switch. There are two sockets now, which allow you to plug the router and another tool into it.
When it comes to router tables, you may want to consider the Skil RAS900 router table. It features accessory storage containers to help store and protect your accessories. Keep everything together because it comes with the two containers. Plus, there is a quick-clamping system you can use, as well.
This router table comes with two feather boards to help guide the piece you’re working on for more accuracy when routing. Of course, these two feather boards are part of the system.
One thing you’re sure to like is the bit height gauge. It helps set things up quickly and improves the accuracy of your cuts.
With the pin and guard support, you can work around those curved edges with ease. Plus, you don’t have to worry about leveling with your bit changes thanks to the router mounting.
Our final suggestion is the MLCS 2394 Extension Router Table. This is a router table that is designed to be an extension of a table saw with a standard fence. Unfortunately, what many customers find is that it doesn’t always fit the “standard” fence. It can be mounted on either the right or left as long as it has a 27” deep top. The extension table itself is 1 ⅜-inch thick and 23½” X 27”.
The MLCS has a melamine surface that is not as durable as we would like, though it has MDF core and polyethylene edges. It also has an aluminum T-track slot and a miter slot. You can use them to attach feather boards or jigs to the fence. Again, it’s important to note that the T-slots are not durable nor sturdy. You will find a dust-port with a shop vac hose adapter, however.
This model attaches with hex screws with a magnetic insert to the top. With that being said, it has been known to not only be off-kilter but in some circumstances, fall off completely. Overall, the durability is not good nor is it a stable option. This table has a high split fence for vertical routing and a durable plastic safety guard. Unfortunately, these things are not effective when the entire table is not secure. Unless you make modifications, this is not the safest option, and it is our least favorite option.
The second to last option we found is the Grizzly Industrial T10432 Router Table. This is a 31⅞” X 24” tabletop that is made in an A-frame design. It has a steel stand that is, unfortunately, not always level. What’s more, this model has a considerable amount of vibration and is consequently not as sturdy. Besides that, however, it has a large adjustable fence with T-slots and a universal router mounting plate.
You will also find the Grizzly has a 2½-inch dust port. What you will discover is the dust port is not as effective as it should be. On the other hand, the split fence can be shimmed for jointing, plus it has two removable inserts. What’s more, it has a starting pin for freehand routing. Be advised, the starting pin is not durable and can malfunction.
To table has melamine laminate and polyethylene edges, and a 33-inch anodized aluminum mounting bracket. The T-slots are great for mounting feather boards and jigs, but the measurements can be off. The pieces will not always fit. This router table also has a measuring tape that can be read from left or right.
The Dremel 231 Portable Rotary Tool Sharpener and Router Table is a multi-functional option for the all-around craftsman. It is a large 8” X 6” tabletop that can be mounted on any tool bench or table. It’s easy to set up and take down for the on-the-go- handyman. This option is also durable, lightweight, and can be used as a wood sharpener.
As noted, this model is only designed for light work such as making slots, grooves, or sanding items. That being said, you can easily accomplish this on both conventional and irregular shapes. The Dremel has an adjustable face you can make use of, as well. It is also great for precision work.
Something else to note about the table is it’s compatible with only Dremel corded routers and one cordless option. Not only that, but it also doesn’t have a dust-port to help keep your work area clean. Beyond that, it has predrilled holes for a secure connection to the surface of your choice.
You won’t have to worry about dust if you choose this cabinet-style router table from Bosch, which contains two dust-collection ports that keep your workshop sawdust-free. The table has two easy-to-use featherboards, which provide extra guidance and protection against kickback and are fully adjustable to fit a variety of workpieces.
This cabinet-style router table table’s large 25-inch by 15.5-inch laminated workbench top has an aluminum mounting plate, which is predrilled for use with various routers and allows you to make above-table height adjustments. Other reasons this router table is worthy of consideration: It has a large aluminum fence, a dual-outlet power switch, and can be mounted to a workbench via four predrilled holes. The cabinet offers additional storage space for router bits and accessories.
How To Use A Router Table
What does a router table do?
A router table flips your router upside down, enabling tons of tasks that are difficult or unsafe with a handheld router. They’re extremely versatile but are most often used for moldings, joints, and rabbets.
Can I use a router table as a jointer?
Yes, although there will be limitations to board depth based on bit size. For small stock, a router table is every bit as convenient as a dedicated jointer.
Do I need a router lift for my router table?
While you don’t necessarily need a router lift, it’s a worthwhile upgrade to any router table. JessEm makes excellent lifts, but make sure they fit your router and router table before purchasing.
What kind of table router surface is best?
All surfaces are viable as long as they are perfectly flat. However, aluminum and cast iron are preferable, as the metal is more durable and less prone to warping than MDF and laminate materials.