5 Best Router Tables You Don't Want to Miss Out
Trying to find the best router table can be a challenge given the number of options available. If this is your first time to buy or use this woodworking tool, picking the right one might seem difficult. That’s why we created this guide – to help you find the right solution for your woodworking needs. We’re going to review 3 of the best, and we’re also going to take a look at the various types you can choose from, what features to look for and compare the variants.
Top rated: 7 of the best router tables
|Bench Dog 40-001 ProTop||Benchtop||$$$|
|Kreg PRS1045 Precision||Standalone||$$$$|
|Bench Dog Tools 40-102 ProMax||Extension||$$$|
|Bosch RA1171||Benchtop-cabinet style||$$|
|Craftsman Router and Router Table||Router and table combo||$$|
Types of Router Tables
- Benchtop router tables are used on tables or similar contraptions, and they’re among the most compact types available. These are perfect if you’re just starting and want to hone your woodworking skills.
- Standalone router tables are larger than benchtop router tables and more expensive. However they do have more features and handle vibrations better and more flexible.
- An extension router table is a table that increases the workspace for your existing table saw. This is a nice accessory that will come in useful if your woodworking needs are growing. If you already own or looking to get the table saw in near future and you don’t want to splurge on a router table combo, it makes sense to buy an extension instead.
- Router and table combo is self-explanatory. These are the most obvious option if you’re in the market for both router and table. It will certainly save you some money. It’s ideal for those who want the best wood router and table for the money.
What to Look For to Get the Best Router Table
Here are some of the features you should look for when buying one of these tables:
Router Table Top needs to be flat. The simple fact is that if the surface is not flat enough, there will be irregularities and this will affect the output, resulting in uneven edges, skewed joints and other issues. Anytime you make a list of features to look for in a router table, this will be near the top and deservedly so.
Flatness and rigidity are very important because your router table must not flex when there’s downward pressure as it will affect the accuracy of the cut. In fact, a board that’s less than flat is going to damage the molding or a board’s edge. For these reasons, a flat router table top is of the essence.
Router insert plate has to be flat and rigid because it’s going to affect the layout and the table’s functions. The insert plate also needs to be flat because the cutting portion of your workpiece will be going through that any uneveness will deter the quality of the cut.
It also goes without saying that the insert plate has to be compatible with your router. The good part is this doesn’t have to be an issue with most router tables because most systems provide several types of plates that have been pre-drilled for at least a couple of router models and makes.
Router Fence is very important, as it will guide the workpiece through the router bits, so it needs to be precise and easy to position. In the majority of router table projects you will manage the cut by having the work piece set on the fence as it advances on the bit. Because the fence plays such a vital function you’ll want a high quality version.
On one end are the basic fences that are made up of a simple piece of lumber that’s attached on the table. At the high end are fences equipped with incremental positioning. In the end it’s up to you, but make sure the fence is straight, rigid and square. They must also be easy to position and with a wide adjustment range.
Steady base. This one is self-explanatory because for precision woodworking, a stable base is essential. A steady base is also paramount if your project requires crisp and clean cuts. Another benefit of a stable base is your work piece will be in constant contact with your cutter.
The end result of all these is you get smooth, fluid motion, and this is impossible if the base is wobbly or keeps on shifting. Most importantly, an unsteady base can be dangerous: if you’re using a router to spin a bit thousands of times a second and it topples over, it could have dangerous consequences. In other words you need to be careful and make sure the router table is balanced.
Dust collection port: the dust collector needs to be of sufficient capacity so your workspace remains clean. This is one of the more neglected aspects of router tables, but it should not be ignored. If you’re just starting out, saw dust may not be much of a problem, but the more you work the more it will become apparent that a generous dust collection port is essential.
Occupy less space. The best router tables are not only powerful but space savers as well, and this is crucial if your workspace is limited. A lot of today’s router tables put emphasis on space economy in response to the requests of customers, and if don’t have a lot of room, then this will really come in handy.
What it all boils down to is this: if space is limited, get a compact router table but make sure there’s no compromise when it comes to performance. Fortunately this won’t be as big of a problem as it used to be thanks to the way new router tables are made, with emphasis on features and quality without occupying too much space.
Buying the Router Table vs. Building One
Any time you do research to find the best router table, you’re going to come across the build vs. buy debate. Let’s look at the situation more closely to answer the question which is better.
The biggest advantage of building a router table is you can customize it to suit your needs. You can buy and install other components, and you can add or remove the accessories as you see fit. But you will only get to know your needs if you had worked on router table extensively.
The advantage of buying a router table is you don’t have to go through the complex process of creating a router table. Unless you’re an expert, the DIY approach is going to take a lot of time. In addition, buying separate parts can be costly. But more than anything else, today’s router tables are feature packed and come with virtually everything you need.
If you’re just starting out there’s a very good chance the features you need are already available in entry level router tables, and there are even advanced models if you’re a high end user. As we’ll show in the reviews later, these router tables are fully functional.
The bottom line is, there’s reason why more woodworkers prefer to buy router tables which are already made. They’re simpler to use, won’t require any DIY knowledge on your part and as pointed out earlier, it’s cheaper in the long run. Unless you’re experienced enough to build a router table, it’s more practical to simply buy one and get on with your woodworking activities.
Benchtop vs. Standalone
The best router table for the money depends on your needs.
The benchtop is smaller and must be placed on tables, but they’re great for small tasks especially if properly built. If you’re just starting out and getting a feel for how a router table works, a benchtop will do nicely and should more than suffice for now. They’re also less expensive and would do well for a start.
That being said there are benefits to using the larger standalone router tables: for one thing the larger workspace means you will be able to do more stuff without having to worry about the space. As pointed out earlier, these router tables are designed to better handle vibrations without causing any distractions.
Even if you’re just starting out but serious about honing your craft and want to tackle complex projects in the future, it might be a good idea to invest in a quality standalone router table. Regardless which you decide to buy, it is imperative you research the product thoroughly. Aside from checking the manufacturer’s website, it’s a good idea to get feedback from other users on the Internet.
As you can see, both the benchtop and standalone have benefits, and it’s really dependent on your requirements. If this is your first time to use a router table and will only use it on occasion, a benchtop router table will be enough, but if you’re into large woodworking projects the standalone is better suited for you.
Professional vs. Hobbyist
For professionals you will want only the best rated router table and those with the most number of features so you don’t have to purchase additional accessories. If you’re a pro, a standalone router table or table and router combo will do fine and should be able to handle your needs.
Also keep the size and capacity of the router table in mind: as was mentioned before you can always buy an extension if necessary, but it’s always a good idea to provide an allowance when buying a router.
If you’re a hobbyist there’s no need to splurge on an expensive unit as there are entry level options sold online. These are all ready to use and have enough features to get you started. If you’re searching for specific products, check out reviews below of the top 3 router tables available today. Whether you’re a pro or a hobbyist, there’s something here that will satisfy your needs.
Reviews of Top 3 Best Router Table Types
Best Benchtop Router Table:
Bench Dog 40-001 ProTop is one of the best benchtop router table at present, the Bench Dog may be compact in size but it’s packed with a lot of features that will satisfy the needs of the hobbyist and the professional. One of the distinct elements of the Bench Dog is it use of a forward offset router setting, and its dual-position ProFence provides an extensive work surface for handling various tasks and projects.
The Bench Dog ProTop has also been constructed to offer maximum stability without compromising durability. If you’re working on a complex project or mobility is a must, the table’s portability (just 35 lbs.) will come into play.
The ProTop was built with versatility in mind and should satisfy the requirements of a serious DIY or a professional craftsman. One of the more important features on the ProTop is its high quality fence: it is a one-piece aluminum frame built for heavy duty use, and it is machined to the bottom and front surfaces so they’re flat.
The ProTop also comes with adjustable sub-fences and a bit guard for zero tolerance, and the setup is easy and drilling on the table should not pose any problems. The ProTop also comes with an aluminum miter track so you can use different miter gauges on the unit.
- The plate is solid and doesn’t flex
- The aluminum fence is well made
- Sub fences are easy to adjust
- You have to read all the instructions to get the unit running
- Some reviewers complain the table is too low and difficult to install a motor without adjusting the plate
Best extension router table
Bench Dog Tools 40-102 ProMax is our best pick for extension table. Even if you have the top performing router table with limited working space it’s not going to produce the top notch quality and efficient work you crave for. That’s what the ProMax is for, as it’s going to increase the function of your table saw and make it easier to use.
This is an industrial grade extension and when installed, adds a great deal of functionality to your table saw without eating up too much space. The ProMax also comes with a miter gauge track so if you need to make adjustments to your project, it will always be accurate.
The ProMax was created with workspace in mind, and if it’s limited you don’t have to sacrifice functionality at all. Thanks to its dual fence slot configuration you can turn the fence and work from whatever table side you prefer, making it easy for you to adjust the surface area.
The ProMax also comes with an extra miter slot so your table saw can better handle crosscut sleds. It can handle router table insert plates measuring 8-1/4″ x 11-3/4″ and when properly set up the ProMax should fit your router and work without a hitch. The outer fence is as good as advertised and its mobility is certainly a plus. Finally, the unit comes with a dust collection port so your work area remains clean.
- Fits a rigid table saw
- Fence is adjustable
- The dust collection is efficient
- Heavy to move around
- Does not include a router mounting plate
Best Budget Router Table
The Bosch RA1181 proves that a quality router doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. In spite of its low price, the Bosch RA1181 provides you with a sizeable work surface for routing and woodworking. Another benefit of the Bosch RA1181 is it compatible with a wide range of routers, so if your project requires a different approach or setup, it won’t be an issue.
The table comes with a 2-1/2 inch dust collection port, and this is an important feature because it goes a long way towards keeping your environment workable. As many reviewers have noted, balance is one of the keys to successfully using a table router, and that’s what you get here thanks to the aluminum top. Even if you mount a router it won’t bend in, and the screws let you mount the plate properly.
When you buy the Bosch RA1181 it will be bundled with the required mounting hardware so setting up the router won’t be a problem. The storage area, while not that big, gives you room to store some of the stuff you’re not using.
Last but not the least, the router table comes with a built-in cord wrap so it’s easy to transport and store. While this is a budget router, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s effective and delivers results.
- The route mount plate is a solid aluminum
- The adjustment screws allows for simple plate mounting on the tabletop
- There are half a dozen mounting configurations for routers
- The power switch has a lockout safety feature
- Assembly instructions could have been clearer
- Majority of body parts are made of plastic
Any of the three products reviewed here should qualify for the title best router table, and they’re all easy to use as well. The bottom line is, you should buy a router table if you’re into any type of woodworking because it just makes your task a lot easier. The good news is whichever of the products we reviewed here you choose, expect your production and efficiency to increase. Even if it’s your first time to use these products, the learning curve won’t be that hard and will be worth it. So what are you waiting for?