You took the plunge and purchased an excellent router. You’ve been using it for some time and realize that you need something more. Now you are looking to purchase the best router table you can afford.
Undoubtedly, you have looked at some router table reviews. Maybe they’ve left you more confused than you were when you started. That’s what we’re here for. We want to present you with a comprehensive guide that is going to help you understand what things to consider when purchasing a router table.
After reading this guide, you will clearly understand the difference between purchasing a mediocre router table and purchasing something of quality that is going to last and improve the results you get from your woodworking.
- 1 What Is A Router Table?
- 2 Types of Router Tables
- 3 Benefits of Using a Router Table
- 4 Best Router Table Reviews
- 5 Buying the Router Table vs. Building One
- 6 Safety Tips. What to Do and What to Avoid
- 7 What to Look For When Buying A Router Table
- 8 Tips on Choosing the Best Router Table
- 9 Router Table FAQ
- 10 Where to Buy the Best Router Table
- 11 Making The Decision
What Is A Router Table?
Before you can purchase the best bench top router table, you need to know what a router table is. Basically, a router table is a stationary woodworking machine. It allows you to connect your router to the base of the table. The spindle of the router protrudes from the table and can be activated to spin at the desired speed.
A wood piece is then fed into the table. On one side of the table there is usually a fence. This fence is designed to keep the wood piece you are working on straight and to control the horizontal depth of the cut.
The side of your wood piece that is not against the fence is the side that is molded by the router bit.
A router table can drastically increase the versatility of your handheld router. In some cases, the router table makes it easy for you to consistently shape a large piece of wood.
In other instances, a router table provides the surface and the stability needed to accurately shape smaller pieces of wood.
Some of the common uses of a router table include:
- Edge Trimming and Template Work
- Using a Router As a Jointer
- Performing Stop Cuts
- Dovetail and Box Joints
- Locke Mitre, Drawer Lock, and Finger Joints
These are just a few of the benefits of using a router table. Really, the possibilities are endless. You are only restricted by your imagination, the amount of time you want to practice, and the bits you purchase for your router.
Router Table Parts and Accessories
Even the best router table top is only going to be as good as the accessories you purchase for it. The following is a quick overview of some of the accessories that will improve the results you get with your router table.
These are the most important parts of your table. You can purchase them with shanks that are either 1/4 inch or 1/2 inch. Most people are going to use 1/4 inch shanks for the majority of the projects they do. Half inch bits are designed for heavy duty construction projects, like making doors or windows.
At the center of your table, there is an aluminum plate. This is where the bit is going to protrude through the table. It is important that the hole at the center of the plate is large enough to support the diameter of the bit you are going to use. The plate should also have a reducer, making it possible for you to use smaller size bits.
Most tables will have a ring set. It will have openings that range from 1 inch to 2 5/8 inch.
This is one of the most important features of your router table. This is what is going to keep the cut board straight. As its name suggests, the fence acts as a barrier or as a guide so that your wood piece does not move as you are pushing it along the table. In most cases, the only time you would remove the fence is if you were using a template.
Miter Gauge Trac
This is designed to allow you to better control the movements of your fence, increasing the precision of the cuts for your project. It is not something that is always used, but it is recommended that you purchase a table that has a miter gauge track.
These will be mounted on top of the router table track. Their purpose is to keep the wood you were working with tightly pressed against the table and the fence. They are able to accomplish this task thanks to multiple flexible fingers they have on the edge.
In addition to improving the accuracy of your cuts, featherboards will prevent kickbacks. You can also use them to keep your fingers out of the way when you’re working on smaller boards or as a way of running wide boards through the machine.
The router base is the table the router is mounted on. It is essential that the stand or base is solid. You do not want it to be wobbling around while you are working. However, you want to be able to easily move it across the floor.
Dust Collection Ports
These are also a key part of your router table. They allow a vacuum cleaner to connect to your router table in order to get rid of any wood dust, wood shavings, or wood chips that are created.
Types of Router Tables
Trying to find the right router table can be a challenge, especially because of the number of router tables and router table reviews that are available. If this is your first time looking at a router table, this quick overview of the router table styles that are available will be beneficial for you.
Benchtop Router Tables
These router tables are actually used or placed on top of a table or something that has a similar shape. They are very versatile and compact. They are designed to be used by individuals who are just learning how to use a router table.
Standalone Router Table
While these do share some characteristics with the benchtop router table model, standalone router tables are larger and more expensive. One of the nice things about a standalone router table is that it is designed to handle vibrations better than even the best portable router table.
Extension Router Tables
These have been designed to work in conjunction with your table saw. Their purpose is to increase the work space you already have on your table saw. This is an awesome tool if your woodworking needs are expanding, but you’re not ready to spend the money on a router table combo. The extension gives you the space and versatility you need without the extra expense.
Router Table Combo: As the name suggests, this product is a combination of a router table and the router. It is perfect for a person who does not already have a router and who is looking to purchase the best router table for the money.
Benefits of Using a Router Table
The thing that most likely got you interested in purchasing a router table is that you wanted a hands-free experience that would relieve the strain that comes from holding a router for hours. And while this is a benefit derived from all router tables, the best router tables will provide you with so much more.
Router Tables Increase Precision and Speed
Even if you are using the best rated routers, you will notice that high precision comes from using a mounted router in a table set up. The table set up allows the wood to pass along without moving one way or another in any direction.
Router Tables Allow You to Do Complex Cuts and Inlay Work
When you read router table reviews, one thing that you see over and over again is how the table allows the woodworker to create intricate patterns and maneuver the wood to their liking. This is because handheld routers are primarily used to make generic straight lines.
Depth of Cut
Most people assume that if they have a good router, they will be able to best customize the depth of their cut if they are not bogged down by a table. And while this may be true when dealing with simple cuts, more complex situations where you need to pass the router over the same area multiple times can leave you with edges that are jagged and uneven.
Improved Safety and Maintenance
While it is true that a router table requires maintenance, the maintenance needed is little when compared to the maintenance a handheld router needs on its own. With a router table, dust and wood chips that could interfere with a router’s function all end up on the table.
Best Router Table Reviews
Buying the Router Table vs. Building One
The odds are that if you are sufficiently interested in carpentry and you are reading this guide, it is likely that you’ve asked yourself whether or not it would be better to simply build a router table as opposed to purchasing one. While the idea sounds novel at first, when you take the time to seriously examine the situation, the better of the two options becomes apparent.
The biggest upside of building a router table is that you can customize it for you. Whatever components you want and whatever height you want, you can make the table exactly how you need it.
The biggest upside of purchasing a router table is that you do not have to go through the trouble and the complex task of building a router table.
Unless you are an expert carpenter, welder, or construction professional, the do-it-yourself option is going to take a lot of time. Additionally, buying all of the parts that you need to build your own table can be extremely expensive. In fact, building your own table is often times more expensive than just going online and looking for the best table router.
As you have seen in our guide, the majority of the table routers offered today have all of the features you need. When you read router table reviews, you see that this is even true of entry-level models.
There is a good reason why even professional woodworkers opt to purchase a router table as opposed to building one. Buying a router table that is already made is simple, it does not require any do-it-yourself knowledge, and in the long run it is going to save you a ton of money.
When you buy your router table or a router table combo and you have it sitting in home or in your shop, you are going to be happy that you are spending your time working on projects you want to do instead of wasting your time struggling to make a router table.
Safety Tips. What to Do and What to Avoid
Router and router table safety are exceptionally important. This is because router bits spin very fast. Some spin with more than 27,000 RPM’s. It’s very easy for an accident to happen, and when it does, it’s usually pretty bad.
There are a few very simple things you can do to protect yourself when using a router table.
- If you’re going to use the router freehand, clamp the piece of wood onto the table. If you are working with small pieces, it is better to use a router table.
- Every time you need to do adjustments, maintenance, or clean the table or the router, make sure the router is unplugged. All it takes is you accidentally bumping a control to suffer an injury.
- Never use your router table combo without having safety goggles, a dust mask, and hearing protection.
- If you are using a router table extension, make sure that you follow the manufacturer’s guidelines.
- Protect your fingers at all costs. Use push boards and featherboards.
- Before using the table, guarantee that the fence is stable and that it is well aligned.
- Never start the router with the board already touching the bit. Start the router first, and then advance the wood toward the bit.
What to Look For When Buying A Router Table
As we have talked about multiple times in this review, a good router table is essential. If you purchase a sub par router table, you are not only putting the end quality of your work at risk, but you are also putting yourself at risk for injury. For this reason, we want to talk about a few factors that you should consider when purchasing a router table.
Whether you are purchasing a standalone router or a router and table combo, you want a steady base. If the base is not steady and constantly rocks back and forth, you run the risk of damaging any project that you are working on. Additionally, an unsteady base may cause you to lose your balance as you are working with the wood and could lead to some serious injuries.
As we have considered in our guide, cabinet style router tables do not to provide the same level of stability as a table with four legs. Additionally, a benchtop unit will not be as stable as a standalone unit.
Router Table Top
There are multiple factors to consider when purchasing a router table top. One of the first factors to think about is the material that the tabletop is made from. Some high quality tabletops are made from aluminum. This is an excellent choice because aluminum is a strong and smooth material.
We have also reviewed units made with MDF board. One of the benefits of this material is that it is exceptionally smooth. You will be able to guide the wood you are working on along the table without worrying about snags.
Another factor to consider is the size of the table top. At the end of the day, this is going to determine how big the stock you can work with can be.
As we have discussed, the router fence serves as a guide. It guarantees that the stock you are pushing across the table stays straight. You want a router fence that is going to be high enough to provide good support for any size material. In most cases, you would not want a fence for your table that is a less than 4 and 5/8 of an inch.
The more versatile your router fence is, the more types of wood you can work with. It is also important to consider the material that the fence is made from.
Router Insert Plate
You want your router insert plate to be flat and rigid. Any unevenness in the insert plate is going to be seen in the quality of the cut in your material. You want a table that has a versatile insert plate so that it is compatible with any router you want to use.
Dust Collection Port
A dust collector that is not of a sufficient capacity is useless. It will not keep your work space clean. Many times when beginners look for a table, one of the things they ignore is the dust collection port because they do not realize how important it is until they are working in an area that is full of dust.
Occupy Less Space
This is especially important if you have limited work space. Thankfully, a lot of modern router tables have been designed to be space efficient. Something to remember is that getting a smaller table to save space is not always the best idea, especially if it forces you to compromise on quality. You want to find something that is a perfect for your projects and work space.
The importance of having storage space cannot be overestimated. You will find that you are going to spend a lot of time at your router table. You do not want to be walking around looking for tools and accessories. A good storage area is going to allow you to organize some larger size tools as well as smaller accessories in an easy to find and easy to reach way.
The stability of your table is going to determine the quality of your end product. Remember why you are purchasing a router table. You want to be able to use both hands to work on your project in a stable way.
Price is an important factor when looking for router tables for sale. Something to remember is that just because a router table is inexpensive does not mean that it is of poor quality. Make sure that the router table you are purchasing has the features you need. There is no reason to spend a lot of money for features you do not need or will never use.
Tips on Choosing the Best Router Table
The best router table is the table that is going to work best for your needs. There are a wide range of router table tops on the market. While one table may be better for you, it may not work as well for someone else.
First, ask yourself, what type of table do you want? If you have limited space, then maybe a benchtop router table is what you need. It has a compact design and will allow you to hone your skills as a woodworker.
If you are looking to take your woodworking to the next level, then maybe you will want to purchase a standalone router table. It is going to be a little bit more expensive, but it is going to give you the flexibility that you need.
If you do not have a router, then you may want to look at a combination router table.
When looking at your router table top, always remember that it needs to be flat. If it is not flat, you will have uneven edges, skewed joints, and a whole host of other problems.
Also, look for a table that is rigid. A table that flexes with downward pressure is not something that you want. It will have a negative impact on your cutting accuracy.
Router table reviews are a great source of information when it comes to finding a router table that is right for your needs.
Router Table FAQ
How will I know if my router will fit my table?
This is a good question. Thankfully, most tables are designed to work with most standard router models. They have pre-drilled plates, making assembly easy. It is a good idea to check with the manufacturer to make sure that your router is compatible with the table you are thinking about purchasing.
Which company makes the best router table?
The answer to this question is going to be relative. In our guide we have discussed the top router table makers within a certain price range. The question is not what company makes the best router table, but instead the question is, what is the best router table for your needs? Most companies make a range of products to meet the needs and skill levels of their customers.
Who needs a router table?
Anyone who works with wood, especially professional woodworkers. They are a useful way to enhance do-it-yourself projects, and they allow professionals to achieve accurate cuts on different pieces of wood.
Should I use a fixed base or plunge router?
With most tables, you have the option of using either one of the two models. However, it is going to be easier for you to make adjustments with a fixed base router. Changing bits is easier when you use a fixed based router with your table as well.
Where to Buy the Best Router Table
After reading this review, undoubtedly, you are looking for the best cheap router table. But the question is, where should you go to buy it? You have the option of purchasing your router table at a hardware store. And there is nothing wrong with that.
However, we have seen that there are a lot of benefits that come from purchasing your router table online from stores like Amazon.com or directly from the manufacturer. One of the benefits is that the manufacturer often offers discounts to individuals who purchase online.
Additionally, before purchasing your cheap router table, you can read reviews and see what other people who have purchased the same table think about the product you are considering buying. The nice thing is that online there are many router tables for sale. You are able to review them and then make your decision from the comfort of your home.
Making The Decision
We hope you enjoyed this guide to purchasing router tables. As you can see, there are a lot of excellent choices available. Whether you are a professional carpenter or you are a do-it-yourselfer who wants to take your work to the next level, something that we can all agree on is that having a router table is a must.
Do not allow your woodwork to suffer anymore. If you do not purchase a router table, you are limiting what you can do. You are limiting what you can offer your customers. And you are putting yourself and your work at unnecessary risk.
So what are you waiting for? Hop online, read some more reviews, and then pull the trigger. Buy yourself a nice router table. You will be so happy that you did.