Best Router Table
Router tables transform any router into a shaper for cutting molding edges onto boards, rabbeting and dadoing. This is much more convenient than hand-holding the router, especially when cutting small to medium sized pieces.
I've used a router table for years. In fact, I have one router (fixed) permanently mounted to my router table, while a second plunge router is available for the rare times that I actually need a hand-held one. As my home is somewhat antique styled, pretty much everything I make has extensive routing on the edges. With a router table, I am able to do this quickly and easily, without risk of injury.
Router tables vary extensively in their design and manufacture. While most are tabletop units, there are some free-standing units on the market. With the right router mounted to them, these rival any shaper I've ever seen for capacity and accuracy.
There are a number of important things to look at, when looking at a router table. First of all is the size. How much room do you have in your workshop for a router table and how big a work-piece are you going to be cutting? While a small router table can be used with large work-pieces, it’s difficult to maintain accuracy. While looking at size, be sure to look at the size of the insert in the table. If you are planning on using large diameter bits, such as those for making raised panels, you’ll need a router table that is designed to handle that capacity.
The flatness of the table is extremely important for maintaining a consistent depth of cut. The cut made by many bits, such as beading bits will look extremely bad if the depth isn't consistent. Some of these router table manufacturers go so far as to provide a leveler for the table inserts to help with maintaining flatness. Some also provide special coatings to the table top, in order to reduce friction.
The second thing to look at, after the table top itself, is the fence. If you are working on a lot of curved pieces, you may not use the fence much, but if you are cutting profiles on straight edges, you’ll have to have a good fence. Just like a table saw, the fence on one of these can make or break it. Fence styles differ widely, with some better for one thing and some better for others. I personally like a high fence, as it gives me the option of standing the board vertically for a different sort of cut.
Finally, the miter gauge is important, especially for cutting profiles across the grain. There are times where you will use the miter gauge in conjunction with the fence, holding the piece as square as possible to cut the edge molding or for cutting a slot to be used as a drawer slide.
Although you can do a good job with a low dollar router table (I do), a more expensive model will usually provide you with features that make it easier to work with, especially for ensuring that your profile cut comes out exactly like you want it.
Bench Dog 40-001, ProTop Contractor Benchtop Router Table
Bosch RA11811 Benchtop Router Table
Craftsman Premium Die Cast Aluminum Router Table
Skil RAS900 Smart Design Router Table
Kreg PRS2100, Precision Benchtop Router Table
Festool P00111 CMS-GE Router Table Set
Woodpeckers Premium Precision Router Package (PRP-4)
Bench Dog 40-300 ProMax RT Complete Router Table
Kreg PRS1045 Precision Router Table System
Grizzly G0528 Router Table
Wolfcraft 611340 Router Table
SKIL RAS800 SKIL Router Table
Craftsman Router Table (37599)
Rockler Trim Router Table
Dremel 231 Shaper/Router Table
Bench Dog has won a number of awards with this hardwood plywood router table. The top is covered with plastic laminate, just like a kitchen countertop, to offer a flat and smooth surface with low friction. The router itself is supported by twin steel rails to ensure strength. Although small, this router table provides lots of capability with its 24-by-16 inch top. The router is mounted off-center, towards the front of the table. However, if you flip it around, the router is mounted to the back. Dual slots for the fence allow this switch to be made quickly and easily. The fence itself is machined aluminum, to ensure that the front and bottom faces are exactly perpendicular to each other. The front face is then covered with MDF for long life. A 2-1/2-inch dust collection port connects to most dust collection systems or shop vacs. Finally, there is an extruded aluminum T-slot miter rail mounted to the front of the table, rather than a simple slot cut into it.
Bosch's router table is a little larger than the Bench Dog one, measuring 27-by-18 inches. It is made of die-cast aluminum for greater durability and long life. The router mounting plate is aluminum as well, providing a rugged mounting for the router. The aluminum fence is a full 4-7/8 inches tall and faced with MDF for longer life. The miter fence is a 3/4 inch slot, as opposed to a T-slot and will also accept either of the two included feather boards. This one also has a 2-1/2 inch dust collection port, along with a storage picket for holding router accessories.
Skil actually produces more than one router table, and this is the larger model. The thing that makes this table stand out is that it is collapsible for easier transportation and storage. The router is held in place by a quick clamp system, which releases the router in seconds, as opposed to other router tables where you have to remove screws to remove the router form the table. The table and fence are covered in plastic laminate, like the Bench Dog. The table comes with a miter gauge two feather boards and starter pin and guard system for routing curved pieces. There's also a bit height gauge included for faster and easier setups. The table has built-in storage for bits and other accessories.
This table by Kreg is designed for professionals to take to the jobsite. It measures 16-by-24 inches and is topped by an impact resistant easy-slide micro dot work surface for reduced friction and easier control of your work piece. The fence is extruded aluminum and features independent sliding faces, allowing the table to be used as a vertical jointer. The 3/8-inch thick phenolic insert plate features eight adjustable points of contact so that the router can be trued exactly perpendicular to the table face.
Like all of Festool’s products, this one is an engineering marvel with the table designed to provide precision work, no matter how it’s used. The table itself is milled from a solid chunk of aluminum, providing incredible strength and flatness. It’s so smooth, wood slides across the face like glass.
If that isn’t smooth enough for you, there’s an optional sliding table, which is excellent for small or thin workpieces while the miter gauge is definitely the best on the market (it’s also sold as an accessory). There are also optional in-feed and out-feed table extensions.
Bit height adjustment is accomplished from above, which is much simpler and more accurate while the fence is very high which is nice if you have to edge cut a board. Like all Festool’s products, this one is designed to integrate perfectly with their dust collection system, even though it is a portable unit. The only thing wrong with it is the price, which is a bit steep.
Bench Dog’s full sized router table is the only one on the market with a full cast-iron table. While the fixed part of the Grizzly unit is cast iron, the sliding part of the table is aluminum. This one-piece table provides incredible stability and flatness for precision cuts. There are two miter slots in the table, a standard one and a T-slot, allowing you to use it with a wider range of accessories.
The table insert has 12 height adjustment points, so you can align it perfectly with the table top, ensuring a smooth surface all the way. This unit comes with a nice birch plywood cabinet, which will look good in any workshop.
Kreg’s router table is a little different as it features their micro-dot coated MDF top which absorbs vibration and noise while providing an extremely slick surface for the workpiece to slide across. The fence is probably the best part of this table with a T-square type design to ensure it’s always at 90 degrees to the miter slot. The fence is also made from an enclosed aluminum extrusion which creates a full-length vacuum chamber for dust collection.
The two faces are independently adjustable, so that the router table can be used as a vertical jointer as well. The table insert is made of an incredibly durable phenolic, which can be customized to match your router. The bit inserts are replaceable, allowing you to use a ring that is appropriate for the bit size.
This Grizzly router table is truly well designed and the thing I like the most is it comes with a sliding table, standard. That makes shaping parts much easier, especially small parts, or when cutting end grain. With the sliding table, there’s really no need for a separate miter gauge, as the table performs that function.
There’s a toggle clamp on the sliding table, for holding the workpiece in place, along with hold downs on the fence. The solid part of the table is cast iron, and tilts 45 degrees for installation of the router. Like the Festool table, this one is designed for direct connection to a dust-collection system.
Wolfcraft’s router table is made of medium-density fiberboard (MDF) with a laminate top. The top is nicely marked, making it easier to set up the table for your cuts while the bit guard is also much nicer than the one on the AirHead table.
The problem with this table is that the fence is actually two separate pieces, each of which are held in place by two thumbscrews making it extremely difficult to set up. Of course, you could always make your own one-piece fence and eliminate that problem.
Skil has taken a little different approach to the router table, making one with folding legs and that's great for someone who has limited workshop space; the folding legs don't make this router table any less sturdy or capable though. It comes with a laminated medium-density fiberboard (MDF) top, so you get the combination of smoothness and rigidity.
The 18 x 29-inch top is slotted for a miter gauge and comes with various different sizes of inserts for the bit. The fence has a built-in dust collection port, as well as guards to protect your fingers from the bits. Two fingerboards are provided, which will mount to the fence or into the miter gauge track. A tool bag holds all the included accessories as well as extra bits.
Craftsman Router Table (37599)
This is Craftsman's smallest router table, featuring a laminated top and molded plastic legs. The best thing about this router table is that depth of cut adjustment is made from the top of the table. The top provides a 23-5/8-inches long by 14-inches deep work area. A multifunction fence runs the full length of the top. Two fingerboards are provided to hold the workpiece in place, as well as a miter gauge and safety cover for the bit.
The table is cut to handle router bits up to 2-inches in diameter, with inserts for use with smaller sized bits. Craftsman has provided two electrical outlets on the switch, so that you can connect both the router and a dust-collection system together and control them with one switch.
Rockler makes a number of router tables, but this one is unique as it’s designed to work with a compact router, rather than a full-sized one. It also comes without legs, with the intention that it can be clamped wherever it is needed, such as to a workbench or the tailgate of a pickup truck. Of all the routers on this list, I’d say that this one has the best fence system, although it can still be hard to adjust. The fence is also dust-collection ready, with a built-in dust port.
This is the smallest router table on the market, and in fact so small that you can’t use it with any normal, compact, or trim router. Instead, it’s designed for use with any of Dremel’s corded rotary tools, allowing them to be used for routing small wood parts. Even so, it is a complete router table, with an adjustable fence and a bit guard. The table itself measures 6 by 8-inches and is intended to be mounted to a workbench. If you need to do detail work, Dremel has you taken care of.
Before embarking on the current stage of my life, I spent 15 years as a Manufacturing Engineer in both the medical equipment field (medical electronics) and automotive engineering (city transit buses). After that, I owned a small construction company, mostly doing residential remodeling and commercial tenant finishes. I am no longer in either of these fields, but still get my hands plenty dirty as a consummate do-it-yourselfer; working on everything from remodeling my own home to rebuilding my car’s engines. My hobby (when I can find the time) is woodworking; making everything from toilet paper holders, to shelves, to music stands for my own home. My wife long ago gave up the idea that a two car garage is for parking two cars; it is my workshop.
While I cannot claim to having worked professionally with all types of tools, I have worked professionally with some. This comes from my previous careers, where I had to specify, buy and at times live with those decisions. Additionally, I would have to say that my engineering background has given me a thorough understanding of the construction of such tools. So, while I may not have used a particular type of tool personally, I have the knowledge to cut through all the advertising hype and statistics; in order to get at the truth of how well a tool will operate and last.
In my current career as a writer, I've written over 90 books. This includes my own titles and those I've written on contract. I've also written a complete website on how to build your own home.