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Thursday, October 10, 2019

The 5 Best Router Tabletops for Woodworking

A Bosch Router table and router mounted on a wooden base.
Josh Hendrickson

If you already own a woodworking router, you probably want to make the most of it. While you can use the tool freehand, for greater precision, you should consider a router table. You’ll have an easier time with intricate cuts.

What to Look for in a Router Table

Before you purchase a router table, you want to check some of its key components. The shape, size, materials, fence, and accessories vary from table to table, and those things make the difference between a poor option and an inexpensive but good choice.

  • Flat, Rigid Top: The top of your router table should be very flat and rigid. You don’t want a table that bends as you push material across it—that could ruin the cut. Most routers use either melamine (or MDF), cast aluminum, or in some rare cases, cast iron. All three are good options, though the latter two are more durable.
  • Flat, Metal Base Plate: Nearly every router table includes a base plate for attaching your router. The plate should be flat, very rigid, and made of metal. The table should also include a way to level the plate to the rest of the top.
  • An Easy to Adjust Fence: For many of your router cuts, you’ll want a fence to guide the material along the router bit. The fence should be easy to adjust and tighten down with two to four large knobbed screws. Nicer tables will include a two-piece split fence that lets you adjust the hole in the middle. You can also set split fences to join wood.
  • Dust Ports: Routing wood creates a ton of sawdust, and if you don’t do something about it, you’ll quickly have trouble sliding your material along the tabletop. Dust ports let you connect a shop vac or other vacuum solution to suck the sawdust out. Look for one at the fence and maybe a second beneath the table by the router.
  • Sturdy base: The last thing you want is your table to shift while you’re pushing the wood through the router bit. Shifting will cause your cut to drift and potentially ruin your piece. A sturdy base should prevent shifting.
  • Miter slot: Similar to a table saw’s miter slots, the router tabletop should have at least one slot cut into it, running parallel with the router and fence. You can attach feather boards and miter gauges as needed for a safe cut. Some routers may have additional slots for additional accessories.

Best Overall: Bosch Benchtop Router Table RA1181

A blue Bosch router table with aluminum top.
Bosch

If you picked the best overall router we recommend, then the Bosch RA1181 Table is a no-brainer. It has a cast aluminum tabletop with a miter slot. The included base plate has pre-drilled holes for many standard routers, and you can drill more if necessary. It also comes with a split fence and quite a few accessories, including multiple feather boards, three mounting plate rings, and shims for jointing wood. This table is benchtop sized, so you’ll need to place it on another surface to get it to a comfortable height. As a bonus, this unit includes two plug spots, one for the router and one for a vacuum. Flipping the main switch engages both.

If you do have the Bosch 1617EVS router, you may want to consider picking up the optional under table base. The router will slip in and out of this base without having to unscrew it every time.

Best Overall

Bosch Benchtop Router Table RA1181

A good solid router table, this unit’s table is made of cast aluminum and includes a miter slot, several accessories, and supports mounting to a table permanently.

Best Budget: SKIL RAS800

A SKIL RAS800 red router table with storage pouch.
SKIL

The Skil router table goes for minimalism while still offering plenty of features. It comes pre-assembled (which is a rarity) and includes a handy attached storage pouch for all its accessories. You do give up something for the low cost, though: MDF is the material of choice here. And it doesn’t have a dedicated table plate, relying instead on clamps to hold your router in place. So doublecheck that your router fits first before buying. When you’re not using it, it folds up to a somewhat compact size. As a benchtop router, you’ll need to place it on another surface to use it.

Best Budget

SKIL RAS800 SKIL Router Table

This is the little router table that could. It uses an MDF tabletop with no separate plate. Helpfully it comes pre-assembled and folds down to a smaller size when you’re done.

Premium Pick: KREG Precision Router Table System

A Kreg Router table, showing blue full sized legs and upgraded fence.
Kreg

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