Routers are great tools but they can be tricky to operate. You need both of your hands on deck as well as all of your attention and strength as they’re heavy and dangerous if not operated properly. These drawbacks limit the functionality of a handheld router and oftentimes introduce the need for other power tools to make up for its limited operability. But a router table allows you to mount this tool and eliminate many of the disadvantages of the handheld approach. So today we’re covering the best router tables in 2021, where to find and how to pick them!
Mounting a router on a router table will elevate your woodworking, streamline your processes, pace you up, and help you achieve finer results! However, there are a couple of things you need to consider before taking the plunge and bringing the functionality of your router to the next level. And while the type of projects you usually work on and the size and setup of your own workshop are particulars that are specific to you, there are some general aspects that can help you zero in on the perfect router table! So, without any further ado, let's dig in!
What Should You Consider Before Buying a Router Table?
A router table is easier to shop for than a router but there are still some key elements that can make the difference between a successful and regret-prone purchase.
The right size for a router table depends a lot on your workshop and how you’re planning on using it. If you have a smaller workshop you will need to sacrifice size. Similarly, if you’re looking to move the router table to a worksite, you might want something lightweight and more portable.
Personal circumstances aside, bigger is usually better when it comes to this aspect. A larger table will offer you more space to accommodate larger boards. Sizes vary from 22 inches long by 16 inches wide to 36 inches by 24 inches. However, if you’re a beginner or you work on smaller projects, you can get away with a smaller starter table as long as it's a great bang for your buck.
The material that the router table is made out of will influence how long you’ll be using it. Most modern router tables have MDF tops. If you’re going for this option make sure the top is at least 1 inch thick.
Alternatively, you can opt for a metal top which some long-term users believe is more durable and less prone to wear and tear. However, keep in mind that deciding on a metal top might mean that you’ll have to up your budget a bit.
An essential point to consider in your selection process, making sure that your router fits your table is one of those things that might seem obvious but it would be very remiss of us to not mention it. Even with some of the most universal tables, the aim to be as adaptable as possible will not cover every make and model on the market. For that reason, it’s always best to check if your particular brand is supported.
A great way to go around this issue is to try to look for tables that support more than one base plate and are more versatile!
Keep it Flat!
In order to execute your project without a hassle, you’ll want to have a router table with a flat and stable working surface. An uneven surface will defeat the purpose of using the router table. What’s more, poor quality in this aspect can result in vibrations that can throw off your accuracy and precision.
Another essential part of the selection process is checking out the fence. A good table has a durable, sturdy fence that is easily adjustable and simple to customize between uses.
The two options in this department are the split fence and the single-piece fence. The single-piece option is great for beginners as it’s best suited for simpler projects.
The split fence, on the other hand, will be helpful for complex tasks but it will also require more precision and skill to work with, as the two pieces of the fence will need to be entirely aligned.
The Mounting Plate
The mounting plate or base plate will need to support the router through a hole in the table. It’s important that the mounting plate is able to support the weight of the router as well as keep it perfectly stable otherwise the integrity of the project and even the safety of the whole process becomes iffy.
The plate should be neatly fixed to the table through the use of leveling screws and it should be fairly easy to attach and remove, especially if you’re looking to also use the router on its own.
Using a Miter
Router tables should have t-slots so that you are able to use miter gauges to cut wood at any angle you need. Most of what you need to cut on a router table will be achieved by simply using the fence. But occasionally you’ll need to hold a workpiece at a set angle and this is where the miter gauge comes into play.
Aside from the basics, there are a few extra features that can make your life easier when working with a router table.
Router Lifts will facilitate changing router bits and adjusting the height of your router.
Storage Bins will make work easier and better organized. An admittedly low-tech feature that can be surprisingly useful by limiting time wasted walking around the shop, looking for various items.
Exhaust Ports make for easy clean-up. Attach a vacuum hose to it and all of the sawdust that would normally interfere with your work, comfort, and visibility will be siphoned away.
Types of Router Tables
There are two major types of router tables to choose from, each with its advantages, disadvantages, and target consumer.
Tabletop Router Tables
They are ideal for beginners who have just started dabbling in woodworking. They’re more affordable and they can be sturdy and durable but they don’t have legs. This can also make them suitable for woodworkers who find that portability is an important aspect of their selection.
Standalone Router Tables
These are better suited for experienced woodworkers who are ready for large-scale projects and want a table that will stand up to scrutiny. These tables are much more heavy-duty, are usually height adjustable, and can last you quite a number of years. However, the sturdier the table the harder it will be to transport, so this is a good solution for someone who prefers working in their workshop.
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.
It comes with a retractable guard and suits most router bits
It’s easy to care for and clean
Give you over 450 square inches of durable aluminum work surface
It may not fit well with some routers – although adjustable
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.
It’s a multi-purpose, self-squaring router table fence system
A 27”x18” table that is large enough for every project and convenient enough to make working on it a dream. The faceplates are a breeze to adjust and you’ll be enjoying the extra precision and feeling of control that this level of customization allows you. The aluminum mounting plate is pre-drilled to fit a good few router models and the dust collection port will facilitate easy cleaning with zero hassle. The metal top offers more durability and, to be honest, more peace of mind, especially for those who are looking for a router table for the long haul.
The two available outlets will make it easy to run the router as well as your dust extractor or shop vac. Assembly can be more complex than some of its price range competitors but the quality is also higher. Our tip is to sort out your parts before getting down to business for maximum efficiency.
Comes with easy-to-use adjustable feather boards
Has a dust collection port
The insert plate is not of standard size
Router Table FAQs
Q: What can you do with a router table?
A: A router table gives you much more functionality out of your router by turning it upside down and mounting it on the table. It will be easier to perform standard tasks but it will also make it possible to shape more narrow boards, plane straight edges on boards, edge trimmings as well as other woodworking tasks. It’s a great way to get more out of your router and even potentially eliminate the need for other power tools.
Q: Do all routers fit all router tables?
A: No, most router tables will only fit certain router models. Although manufacturers do their best to cover a variety of models, you should always check to see if the table you’re looking to buy is compatible with your router.Alternatively, you can research how to create your own adapter, but this is not an advisable solution for beginners as you might find that your efforts do not do the trick and you’re left out of pocket for nothing.
Q: Is a router table worth it?
A: Router tables will increase the precision and efficiency of any work you usually do with a router. What’s more, it will also allow you to perform tasks that would usually require a shaper. You can use a router table to shape the edges, make hinges, and many other woodworking tasks that a router alone would not be able to handle.
Q: Which direction do you push a router?
A: Always work from left to right when routing along an outside edge. This is the direction that goes against the direction of the router bit.
Q: Can you cut a dado with a router?
A: Yes, you can. In fact, the router will likely be the main or only tool you will be using to cut stopped dadoes.
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