Router tables are one of those DIY products that you don’t realise you need until you use one and realise how much easier they will make all future woodwork jobs!
- 1 Only got 5 minutes?
- 2 What is a router table?
- 3 Why should you have a router table?
- 4 Things to consider when purchasing a router table!
- 5 Router Table Safety Tips!
- 6 Which Router Table Should I Buy?
- 7 Frequently Asked Questions
When searching for the best router table to accompany your router, it can be a bit of a minefield! There are so many advertised features – some of which you need and others can just be a waste of money! Our router table buyer’s guide aims to tell you; what to look for, what to avoid, router table safety tips and much more! So that you can be sure to purchase the best router table for you!
Do you know your fence from your mitre gauge? There’s a lot of new terminologies when it comes to router tables. You don’t want to go spending a fortune on something you don’t need and so in this buyer’s guide, we will demystify terminology, what you need and what to avoid. We also have our best pick and best budget models to help you on your way.
Only got 5 minutes?
Looking for information to help guide your purchase, and quick? Then this part of the article is just what you need. We have made sure that all the most important information you could need is right here for you to read and find a router table that is right for you.
What is a router table?
A router table is basically a table that can hold a hand-held router upside down, under the table so that the blade or bit sticks through a hole in the tabletop. This then leaves your hands free to be able to move the material along the tabletop towards the blade/bit so that it can be shaped or cut as you desire. In general, this will leave you with more options for types of cut and also more control when cutting or shaping pieces of wood.
Why should you have a router table?
To explain why you SHOULD have a router table, it is important to also discuss the downsides to a hand-held router. Whilst a router is a tool in its own right and you can do a whole lot of tasks using one freehand, there are a lot of limitations. Firstly, you gain greater control when using a router table, as you can use both hands to guide your piece of wood around the router, which makes more detailed and delicate cuts possible.
There is also the safety aspect to consider; whilst a router table doesn’t all of a sudden make a cutting device safe, there are various safety features that a router table brings. Along with the fact that you can’t just drop the router, or drive it over your fingers, you can hold a piece of wood from the other end as you guide it around the router. This means that if something does go wrong, the worst you are likely to end up with is a useless piece of wood – instead of a useless hand! Which as far as we’re concerned is a much better outcome!
Another advantage of a router table is the stability it brings. When shaping pieces of wood with a router, pressure is required, applying this pressure free-hand can increase the risk of injury and also reduce the accuracy as you are working with one hand on the router and another on the piece of wood. Having both hands free to control the piece of wood not only increases the pressure you can exert, but also pretty much doubles the control that you can have over the movement of the wood.
Things to consider when purchasing a router table!
One of the first considerations you need to make is will the router table be compatible with any existing routers you have or indeed intend to purchase?
Unfortunately, it’s not a case of one router fits all, so you need to ensure one of two things. If you already have a router or several, make sure that when you are buying a router table, your router is listed on the models that it will work with. If you are purchasing a router and router table for the first time, then ensure you choose ones that are compatible.
It is worth noting that some router tables support a wide range of routers and varying sizes, including supporting different base plates. The question needs to be are you looking at a router table for a one-off router that you have or are planning on buying. Or do you see yourself having several routers going forward?
Whilst price isn’t directly associated with how many routers the table supports, it does tend to be that if you want a router table that supports many models you will need to opt for a more premium model.
It sounds obvious, of course, you want the best quality table and nothing less! The issue, as always, is cost. Router table tops come made from a variety of materials in different qualities.
If the table is slightly uneven this isn’t the end of the world, most come with a series of washers and shims to allow you to adjust them and their legs to make them level. It is very hard to manufacture something that will be even and perfectly balanced in everyone’s home/garage.
What you are trying to avoid is a table that is warped – if your table is warped upon arrival, don’t try and make do or counter it, ensure you send it back. This can happen from time to time even with premium brands and it will make all of your cuts inaccurate.
MDF is the material most manufacturers tend to opt for as it is cheap and provides a good solid base for your tabletop. One thing that is an added bonus is that some manufacturers coat the MDF in an HPL High-Pressure Laminate, which increases durability and makes the router table last longer.
There are numerous sizes of router table available on the market. As the saying goes – bigger isn’t always better – however, with router tables this is debatable. The bigger the router table, the larger the pieces of wood that you will be able to work with and the more accurate the cuts will be that you get in these pieces of wood.
However, a larger table can sometimes be more of a hindrance than a help! If working with a smaller piece of wood then it is better to be closer to the wood that you are working with so that you can have better control over the direction and way in which it is moving past the bit. Fear not! There are many router tables that have two adjustable or removable sections that can be mounted to a central frame. This means that you can change the size of your router table depending on the size of wood that you are working with.
Benchtop or Freestanding?
The two main types of router table that are available on the market are benchtop and freestanding models.
As it says in the name – benchtop router tables will secure to a work surface that you already have, whereas freestanding models will either have legs that can be secured to the tabletop, or be in a “cabinet” type design.
Which you purchase depends on the space you have available in your workshop. If you are lucky and have a woodworker’s dream workspace then a cabinet model will arguably give you more stability and a larger surface to work with. Whereas, benchtop models require you to already have a suitable work surface (which presumably you do if you already have a router?!) but offer more flexibility as can be put away when you have finished work.
Portable free-standing models tend to offer the best of both worlds – you don’t need to have a surface readily available to attach to, but equally, your table can be put away when you are not using it.
A fence is essentially a barrier for pieces of wood that you are working with, used to guide your cuts to keep them completely straight. This is important for almost all pieces of the woodwork as if one piece is not straight, it is bound to affect how the other pieces of wood connect together and could affect the overall project!
Most router tables will come with at least one fence, some are split and others are just in one piece, which you prefer is really down to you.
The importance of purchasing a router table with a mitre gauge really depends on what jobs you are going to be completing, the level of woodwork jobs that you undertake, and also whether you even have a mitre saw!
Many router tables come with a slot to secure a mitre saw too. This is a fantastic advantage if it does – as means that your router table has then doubled in use to use! A mitre gauge would then add to this use as would allow you to set the angle for the piece of wood that you are going to be working with. This is ideal for anyone who struggles with having perfectly steady hands or struggles to “see” exactly where they need to cut when completing woodwork jobs.
The level of portability that you need really depends on how and where you are planning on using your router. If working from home then this is something that you can probably place further down on your tick list. But, if you are wanting to be able to use your router in different places, or only have a relatively small workplace so need to pack your tools away at the end of the day, then portability is an important thing to consider.
Some models come with quick-release mounting brackets for your router, and easy to release legs so that your table can be packed away when not in use. Whereas other models form more of a “cabinet” design that cannot easily be stored away – although this can offer more stability when working.
This is essentially what your router will be attached to – so is arguably one of the most important parts of your router table. A router that is suited to many different router models is beneficial if you have multiple routers, however, this can mean that it will provide better fits for some more than others (unless buying particularly high quality!).
Choose a base plate made from high-quality material, such as aluminium, as this will be strong and capable of completing the job, but also you will still be able to drill your own holes into this to adjust it to your individual router if necessary.
Router Table Safety Tips!
- When working with a small piece of wood, make sure to use a feather board and push stick to move the material, instead of using your fingers. This avoids having to put your fingers too close to the moving parts of the router.
- Make sure that the router is secure in the base and the bit is tightened into the router before every job. Vibrations from the machinery can cause parts to loosen, so this is essential to ensure not just safety but accuracy, every time.
- Make sure to not get complacent when changing the bit – always unplug the router first!
- Cover the bit with a guard when not in use
- Always consider eye safety and hearing protection as dust and noise can be considerable when completing woodwork.
Which Router Table Should I Buy?
We’ve scoured the internet, read the reviews and added that to the teams DIY experience and found a number of Router Tables that stand out from the crowd..
Our Top Pick – Lumberjack RT1500 Router Table
Our Budget Pick – FERM Router Table
- Max. base plate diameter router: 162mm
- Robust aluminium table
- The PRA1011 comes with a mitre guide for precise and perfect results.
- The router table is equipped with a dust proof switch, a dust extraction adapter and rubber anti-skid feet
- Table size: 455 x 330mm
Runner Up – TooTronix 1800W Router Table
- The Tooltronix Router Table Accepts Routers Up To 1800W: ToolTronix Router Table will accept all brands of up to 1800W routers with a maximum base diameter of 157mm. Four steel clamps rigidly secure your router to the underside of the table. Once positioned you then plug your router into the no volt release switch.
- Machined Aluminium Table for Strength And Rigidity: The main table is manufactured from machined aluminium and measures 460mm x 335mm. Two pressed steel extension tables extend the overall table length to 870mm. The table has machined grooves to accept the mitre gauge when routing at angles.
- Supplied With Safety No Volt Release (NVR) Switch: The NVR switch ensures that in the event of a power cut your router will not automatically switch back on when the power returns. The positioning of the NVR switch also allows for fast and easy access to main on/off button.
- Feather Boards Keep The Work Piece Pressed Against The Fence And Table: Three feather boards are supplied to ensure that the work piece is pressed firmly against the table and fence resulting in a smooth, controlled movement. The left hand fence can be stepped forward toward the front of the table to act as a work piece support when making large cuts. Mounted on four pressed steel legs this router table should be screwed to the workbench.
- Large 100mm Tall Fence with Dust Port: The one piece fence is 100mm tall and made from a hard polypropylene which is ribbed for strength. To the rear of the fence is a dust port for connection to a vacuum.
Runner Up – Silverline 460793 – DIY Router Table
- Easily Assembled & configured router table using a standard hand-held router
- Capable of shaping, planning, rebating, trenching, moulding, jointing & grooving
- Cast aluminium table for Accuracy with twin measurement scales
- Non-latching 230V switch box & router trigger clamp for controlling router power
- Includes feather boards, table extensions, Fence, protractor & fittings
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I really drill my base table?
Yes! It may be that you don’t need to drill your base table (if your router table is already compatible with your router), but if it is not then it is very straightforward to drill your router table so that it works for your router. Remember, this does depend on the material used for your base table, and for each individual model, as some may already have considerable parts drilled to make way for other routers, so this could affect the stability of any jobs you want to complete.
Should I buy an additional dust collector for my router table?
If you have enough money left in your budget then we would always recommend purchasing a compatible dust collector system for your router table. Woodwork can create a considerable amount of dust, made worse if working indoors when using your router table. A dust collection device can be connected to your router table to remove most of the dust – making your workspace more comfortable to work in, and avoiding unnecessary wear to your device.
Last update on 2020-05-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API