Routers are indispensable in any woodworker's arsenal, yet mastering their use can be a challenge. They require your full focus, a firm grip with both hands and considerable strength, given their heft and the potential hazards of improper use. These challenges can sometimes restrict the versatility of a handheld router, leading many to supplement their tool collection with additional power tools to compensate for these limitations. This is where the transformative power of a router table comes into play. By securely mounting your router, a router table overcomes many of the constraints associated with handheld routing. Today, we'll explore the best router tables of 2023, guiding you on where to find them and how to choose the right one for your needs!
Elevating your router to a stationary position on a router table will significantly enhance your woodworking experience. It streamlines your workflow, accelerates your pace, and facilitates the achievement of more refined results. However, there are several considerations to weigh before you upgrade your router's functionality with a table. While factors like the nature of your projects and the specific layout of your workshop will vary individually, there are universal features to look for in a router table that can help you pinpoint the ideal match for your woodworking endeavors. So, let's dive in and discover the router table that best suits your craft!
Premium Choice for Professional Quality
JET JRL-912 Router Lift with Cast Table Kit This Router Table, operating on a 1Ph 120V system, is a standout choice for professional woodworkers and serious enthusiasts. The robust setup combines precision with durability, featuring a high-quality cast iron table that provides exceptional stability and a flat surface for accurate routing. The centerpiece of this model is its precision router lift, which allows for easy and precise height adjustments, making bit changes quick and hassle-free. The lift mechanism is smooth and reliable, ensuring consistent results across various projects. Moreover, the JET JRL-912 is designed for ease of use and efficiency. The table's spacious work area accommodates large workpieces comfortably, and the inclusion of a sturdy fence with fine adjustment capabilities further enhances the precision of your cuts. The 120V power phase ensures steady and strong performance, suitable for continuous, heavy-duty use. This router table kit is not only built to last but is also tailored for those who seek the utmost quality and performance in their routing tasks.
Best Value for Professional Quality
The Kreg PRS1045 Precision Router Table Has exceptional features. The robust tabletop ensures a stable and flat surface for accurate work, while the precision insert-plate system allows for easy router fit and seamless bit changes. Its standout feature is the high-performance fence system, offering unparalleled accuracy with its T-square style and micro-adjust wheel for precise cuts. The built-in dust collection system helps maintain a clean workspace. Additionally, the adjustable steel stand is very sturdy and can easily be turned into a shelf, making it an excellent choice for any woodworking shop.
Top Pick for Budget-Conscious Woodworkers
The O'SKOOL Precision Router Table is a solid choice for woodworkers, offering a blend of precision and practicality. It has an MDF tabletop, providing a stable and flat surface essential for accurate routing. Because it has an MDF core it is advisable to reinforce underneath the tabletop so that it can never sag over time. This router table's adjustable fence system is easy to use and comes complete with auxiliary feather boards for exact hold-down support. It accommodates a variety of routers, enhancing its versatility, and includes an efficient dust collection port to maintain a clean workspace. User-friendly with clear assembly instructions, the O'SKOOL Router Table suits both novice and experienced woodworkers, making it a great addition to any workshop.
Best Benchtop Router Table
If you're looking to conserve space in your shop, the BOSCH RA1181 Benchtop Router Table is an excellent tool for both hobbyists and seasoned woodworkers. One of its key features is the spacious and durable work surface made out of metal. It provides ample room and stability and will never sag. The table's compatibility with a wide range of routers is a significant advantage, allowing for flexible use with different tools. Notably, the RA1181 includes an adjustable fence with feather boards, which contributes to precision and safety, particularly when handling intricate work. The integrated dust collection port is another highlight, effectively capturing dust and debris to keep the work area clean and safe. Ease of use is a central aspect of the BOSCH RA1181, with straightforward setup and user-friendly features. The table is also designed for portability, making it a great fit for workshops where space is at a premium or for those who need to transport their tools frequently. Overall, the BOSCH RA1181 Benchtop Router Table combines functionality, durability, and ease of use, making it a reliable and versatile choice for enhancing woodworking projects.
Best Budget Benchtop Router Table
The SKIL SRT1039 Benchtop Portable Router Table is a versatile and efficient choice for both novice and experienced woodworkers. It is not the best router table by any means, however, it will get the job done and won't break the bank. Its compact design makes it ideal for smaller workshops or for those who require portability without sacrificing functionality. The table has a sturdy enough construction and can be screwed down to a tabletop, ensuring stability and precision during operation. One of the key features of this model is its easy-to-adjust fence, which accommodates various routing tasks with ease, providing both flexibility and accuracy. Additionally, the SKIL SRT1039 comes equipped with a smooth laminated MDF top. Its compatibility with various routers adds to its practicality, making it a well-rounded, budget-friendly option for a range of woodworking projects.
Here's what to consider:
The size of your router table is crucial and depends on your workshop space and usage plans. Smaller spaces or the need for portability may require a compact design. Typically, router tables range from 22 inches long by 16 inches wide to larger sizes of 36 inches by 24 inches. While larger tables offer more working space for bigger projects, smaller tables can suffice for beginners or those working on smaller-scale tasks, as long as they offer good value.
The longevity of your router table is largely determined by its construction material. There are 3 types of tops, MDF, Phenolic (Cast Resin), and Metal. Many modern tables have MDF tops, and it's advisable to choose one with at least a 1-inch thick top. Metal and Phenolic tops are other options, often favored for their durability. These two types will last forever though they usually require a higher budget.
It's essential to ensure your router fits the table. Even universally adaptable tables may not accommodate every model, so checking compatibility with your specific router brand is crucial. Opt for tables supporting multiple base plates for greater versatility.
The Importance of a Flat Surface
A flat, stable router table top is vital for hassle-free operation. An uneven surface can lead to vibrations, affecting precision. Adding extra supports under a MDF table will increase it's longevity.
The Right Fence
Pay attention to the router table fence. A quality table will have a sturdy, easily adjustable fence. Options include a single-piece fence, suitable for beginners and simple projects, and a split fence, better for complex tasks but requiring more skill to align correctly.
Mounting Plate Essentials
The mounting or base plate should support the router's weight and maintain stability. It needs to be securely attached to the table, ideally with leveling screws, and should be easy to attach or detach.
Utilizing a Miter
A router table should have t-slots for using miter gauges, allowing you to cut wood at various angles. While the fence handles most tasks, miter gauges are essential for angled cuts.
Consider extra features like router lifts for easy bit changes and height adjustments, especially with heavier routers. Storage bins can keep your workspace organized, while exhaust ports connected to a vacuum hose help maintain a clean environment.
Types of Router Tables
Router tables come in two main types:
Tabletop Router Tables: Ideal for beginners or those valuing portability, these are affordable and can be quite sturdy, though they lack legs.
Standalone Router Tables: Suited for experienced woodworkers tackling larger projects, these tables are more robust and usually height adjustable, but are less portable, making them better for stationary workshops.
In summary, selecting the right router table involves balancing size, build quality, router compatibility, and additional features to suit your specific woodworking needs and environment.