Best Picks / Reviewed
Best-in-class: Kreg PRS1045 Router Table Review
You get what you pay for, and the Kreg PRS1045 bundle is a glowing example of quality. This heavy-duty, expertly crafted table and kit is truly a “cut” above. The wide, smooth, flimsiness-free table is ideal for small hobby projects and large-scale professional endeavors alike.
Everything about this wood router table is geared toward precision, accuracy, and dependability. Kreg describes the tabletop as “high performance”, and we couldn’t agree more: it’s very stable and entirely vibration-free despite its MDF, laminate-coated construction.
What we really love is the adjustable steel stand—while its lack of a cabinet base makes the dust collection ports utterly crucial, the stand allows for a rarely seen kind of personalization. It’s easily adjustable and unerringly stable, and even includes smooth-rolling caster wheels. The fence is top-notch and equipped with bells and whistles that make any project easier.
With this particular Kreg model, you’re investing in not only a router table but a fully-functional, independent router system that leaves you wanting for nothing. It’s perfect for the passionate hobbyist investing in a long-term love or the professional woodworker with scrupulous tastes. Either way, this table is a win-win with very few drawbacks that makes it our top rated router table.
- The micro-adjuster takes all of the guess-work out of fine-tuned fence adjustment.
- The fence moves smoothly and locks securely in place.
- The two-part fence is easily adjusted for dust collection and limitless project potential.
- Kreg goes above and beyond with four plate levelers, which help ensure that the mounting plate and tabletop are perfectly flush.
- Included jointing rods turn the fence into a jointer and edger.
- You have to apply the fence’s measuring tape by hand (it’s adhesive), which can be difficult to get just right.
Best value: Bosch RA1181 Benchtop Router Table Review
A name like Bosch is instinctively trust-inducing, and you aren’t wrong to trust this affordable, fully decked-out table. Not only is its construction solid—there are also no complaints about vibrations or instability from this time-tested table—but it’s equipped with just about all the extras you could expect from a high-end product without the price point.
The Bosch RA1181 includes a two-sided outlet setup, a convenient 6-foot chord, guards and starter pins, an easily-adjustable fence, and a variety of other mind-easing features that make this router table safe, affordable, and versatile.
Solid, rigid, high-quality parts and a price point to beat out most low-end router tables: what else could you want? These factors have earned it an uncontested spot as our best affordable router table.
- It comes with several base plates that make it compatible with most routers.
- The Bosch RA1181 comes with two easy-to-use, adjustable feather boards.
- Its dust port is perfectly placed (and perfectly sized) along the fence.
- Its two outfeed fence shims give you the ease of a one-piece fence with the versatility of a two-piece product.
- Despite its variety of base plates, it doesn’t work with all routers, so you may need to custom-drill a plate for the right fit.
- The aluminum top is a little rough, so more serious woodworkers may want to sand or polish it for a smoother finish.
Also great: Bench Dog 40-001 ProTop Contractor Benchtop Router Table Review
The solidly reputed Bench Dog has created a quality router table in the Bench Dog 40-001 for the hobbyist or DIYer. The materials—like a laminate top and MDF with melamine base—are a little lacking, but still totally workable, compared to the Bosch.
What does it have that the Bosch doesn’t? This router is equipped with an accessory track for easy addition of miter gauges.
It’s also got a totally enclosed cabinet underneath, which serves to lessen noise, minimize the spread of debris, and increase storage space. It’s got other bells and whistles, too, like multiple fence slots, so you can accommodate a variety of wood sizes and work from several angles.
Its construction is comparatively simple and its setup a little more involved, both of which may make this router table less suitable for the serious woodworker. However, the Bench Dog 40-01 is still one of the best router tables available for the casual woodworker.
- The fence is a high-quality, two-part fence, so the infeed and outfeed ends can be adjusted independently.
- The face boards and accessory track are adjustable, so you can customize the table setup.
- The dust collection feature is also moveable, so it’s easy to keep your workstation clean.
- The adjustable fence slots are a huge boon for those who work on a variety of projects.
- The material quality of the base plate—which holds your router—is a bit flimsy. It’s also not totally rigid, and is difficult to keep perfectly flush with the table itself.
Budget choice: Bosch RA1171 Cabinet Style Router Table Review
A nearly unbeatable price, a solid and carefully calculated construction, and an accessory slot capable of accommodating a growing range of tools for the expanding woodworker: all of these features make the Bosch RA1171 our pick as the best budget router table.
The wonderfully smooth table surface, top-notch router mounting plate, and convenient feather boards make this table an excellent choice for the hobbyist woodworker.
The Bosch RA1171 is a simple but versatile tool ideal for the hobbyist, although its simplicity may feel limiting for more experienced woodworkers.
However, its quality and the care taken in its construction are undeniable, making it one of the best cheap router tables available.
- The aluminum base plate is rigid, sturdy, and reliable.
- The cabinet-style base is ideal for noise reduction and dust-collection.
- Two convenient dust collection ports make keeping your workstation clean easy.
- It comes with everything you need to get started, including two feather boards, mounting plate rings, a starter pin, and fence shims for increased versatility.
- The tabletop is made of laminated MDF, so it’s smooth but not nearly as durable as higher-end options.
- The table’s size may limit serious woodworkers from taking on larger workpieces.
2. What are the benefits of a router table?
Chances are, if you’re in the market for a router table, you already own a wood router. Those are used to make cuts or designs in wood, including everything from joints and rabbeting to decorative patterns.
Router tables take things a step further for the serious woodworker by allowing for greater versatility, precision, stability, and safety. They’re not just surfaces: you actually mount the router to the table. The aforementioned qualities are key to a good router table:
With handheld operation, you only have one hand free to turn and feed the wood. When you mount your router to the table, you no longer move the router by hand. Instead, you have both hands free to manipulate the wood itself, allowing for far greater control and more project options.
Speaking of control, having both hands free makes precision-oriented wood router tasks much easier: namely, edging, cutting designs, doing groove and trim work, and other intricate tasks.
Of course, you could argue that any surface can be cut upon, and you wouldn’t be wrong. But a well-crafted router table allows for a level of stability that can’t be obtained using an everyday table.
Other surfaces allow for irregularity, movement, and uneven surfaces; these risk errors, imperfections, or outright danger in your work.
Working on a large piece of wood for simple cuts without a router table is fine. However, some wood routing tasks can’t be completed safely without a high-quality surface to cut on.
If you’re working on small or narrow pieces, making slots, making joinery cuts, or creating panels in a door, however, there’s a lot of room for slippage that could both ruin your project, destroy your machine, or harm the operator (you) if you’re not careful. A routing table reduces or completely eliminates these risks and allows you to work with peace of mind.
3. When to use a router table
In a nutshell, router tables can be used for anything a free-standing router can, but with more safety and accuracy. They’re especially useful for projects involving:
- Stopped cuts
- Creation of molding or intricate design work
- Slots and grooves
- Joinery work
- Small, thin, or narrow wood
- Box joints
4. What to look for in a routing table’s surface
The foundation of a router table isn’t actually the foundation. It’s the top of the table. You need two main elements for a tabletop conducive to precise woodworking: a perfectly flat top and a perfectly firm top.
Flat-top router tables
If you’re doing anything other than cutting a straight line, the slightest irregularities in the top of your router table can lead to irregularities in your wood. Unnecessary grooves, imperfections in the material, bumps, and similar flaws in the tabletop can easily affect the quality of your cuts.
Imagine you’re drawing on your kitchen table. Your pencil encounters a crumb under the paper and jolts to the side, creating a tiny “bump” in the line you drew. That’s what happens when the bit of your router encounters an imperfection in the table.
Choose a firm-top router table
A firm tabletop is similarly important. You must apply pressure to feed wood into your wood router. If the material upon which you’re pressing gives under pressure, if will affect your cut—because both the wood and the router will move as the table does.
Imagine you’re drawing on a soft-cover book. The book is thick, but it bends slightly as you press down with your pencil. Is it possible to get a perfectly accurate line? No. The same is true of the firmness of your router table.
Firmness—as well as flatness, stability, and a range of other crucial features—are also affected by what the routing table is made of, we have listed the best materials in the next section.
5. Best tabletop materials
Router tables can be made from a range of different materials. The material you need, in part, will depend on the types of projects you’re doing and how much you’re willing to spend. Three main materials have moved to the forefront of router table construction:
1. Cast iron router tables
Iron router tables are typically made of cast iron, an alloy of iron and carbon. It’s a top of the line material in many operations because of its firmness, stability, and superior flatness.
As a bonus, it’s also the best router table material for absorbing vibrations from your router, which reduces the possibility of those vibrations affecting your cuts.
Note that, while less high-end, other metals (like aluminum) are also solid, reliable choices.
2. MDF router tables
MDF (medium-density fiberboard) is the most cost-effective option for your router table material. That doesn’t mean it’s poor-quality; however, on its own, cutting wood on wood would leave too much room for bending and instability.
That’s why MDF tables must be finished with something—typically a laminate or melamine. Budget options typically use melamine, which provides basic protection and a functionally smooth surface.
Higher-end MDF tables will use a high-pressure laminate, or HPL, which is stronger and more resistant to damage than melamine-coated tables. HPL is a resin-based coating coated in melamine, so it provides an extra layer of protection and durability.
3. Resin router tables
If your budget is somewhere in the middle of MDF and cast-iron, resin router tables are an excellent choice. They are extremely rigid, offer more stability than MDF, and are highly resistant to impact, damage, and moisture.
6. A stable router table base is crucial
The slightest movement or unexpected jerk can ruin an entire woodworking project. Fluidity and control are key to getting a good cut. But, no matter how experienced a woodworker you are, it’s impossible to achieve this if your base moves. A stable routing table has a few basic qualities.
The base is attached securely to the tabletop:
Make sure there’s no give between the two when wiggled or pressed. They should feel inseparable, as movement between the two can cause vibrations and ruin your project.
The base itself should be immovable:
Even if it’s portable, it can’t move when you’re working. So, it either needs to be heavy and sturdy enough not to move with the pressure of you and your machine, or it needs to have a mechanism that allows you to fasten it down. If it moves unexpectedly, the sharp bit of your router could ruin your project, your router, or even your fingers!
7. Which router fence system to choose
The “fence” isn’t just the border to the main attraction in this case. The fence acts as a guide or a support for cutting straight. You’ll keep your wood pressed against the fence as you push it into the bit to avoid shaky lines that might otherwise result from movement.
Like router tables, the fence itself comes in a range of types and on a spectrum of quality. Some fences are immovable chunks of material that are just straight and firm enough to get the job done; others incorporate high-quality materials and state-of-the-art measuring systems for the serious, precise woodworker.
Regardless of quality and versatility, there are two main types of router fences:
Split router table fences, or two-piece fences, (predictably) come in two sections on either side of your router bit. That means that you can position them either offset or in-line with each other. You can also move them closer together or further apart around the bit.
However, while more sophisticated than one-piece fences, split router table fences come with one challenge: the two pieces must be in near-perfect alignment, or they’ll cause you to create an uneven cut because you’re pressing against an uneven surface.
One-piece router fences don’t have this problem. However, they can be less sophisticated: because they’re not adjustable, the clearance hole in the fence has to be large enough to accommodate your largest bit.
They can also be limiting in the kinds of projects they enable: for example, only split router table fences allow for joining two edges together, and one-piece fences don’t support zero-clearance work.
If you don’t want to deal with the alignment issue but do want to joint edges and complete zero-clearance work, some routing tables include (or can have added to them) fence faces that act as shims to offset two sections of a one-piece fence without requiring extensive alignment work.
8. What makes a high-quality base plate?
To use a routing table, you need to fix your wood router to the table. That’s done using the router table’s base plate. Several factors can determine whether the base plate makes your setup and routing experience smooth or nightmarish.
- Material matters: Choose a base plate made of aluminum or resin. They’re the most strong and solid options.
- Alignment is key in all things routing, and the base plate is no exception. Make sure your router table incorporates a leveling system for the base plate (usually, that consists of adjustable screws) to keep the base plate perfectly flush against the table surface.
9. Accessories for your router table
The wood router and the table themselves aren’t the only things that define your woodworking experience. Router tables come with (or can be upgraded with) a variety of awesome accessories to help you tailor your table to your needs.
- Fences with clamps: Some fences are built with clamps so they can be locked onto your table in exactly the right spot. Bonus points if they include shims, which help you adjust the outfeed portion of the fence for jointing work a two-part fence.
- Feather boards: These hold your workpiece down and/or against the fence for a firmer grip and more hands-free operation while you work.
- Dust collection port: Some tables come with these; they can also be installed manually. They connect to your Shop Vac or vacuum system to suck wood chips and dust off your table.
- Mitor gauge: These handy tools hold your wood at an angle of your choosing while you feed it into the bit.
- Outlets: A self-explanatory must-have, these provide power to your router, a place to plug in any necessary lights, and an easy way to power anything you need nearby. Bonuses include a lock key to keep your tool safe from unauthorized use.
- Adjustable stand: Some tables are set on a sturdy metal (or wood) stand instead of a solid table. In this case, an adjustable stand is a must-have to get your table at just the right height.
- Table drawers: If you choose a router table set on cabinet, many come with a handy storage area underneath so you can keep all of your woodworking accessories in one place.
- Jointing rods: These can be added behind the outfeed fence (or the back end of a single-piece fence) to turn the fence into a jointing tool.
- Micro-adjust: Some routers come with a built-in (or accessory) micro-adjust tool. It allows you to make tiny adjustments to fence positioning (1/32 of an inch, for example), often from either side of the fence.
10. Router table buying tips
Luckily, there are very few router tables on the market today that don’t “get the job done”. Sometimes that’s all you need to do; but, sometimes, you want a little extra versatility. And, sometimes, you want the best router table around.
We broke down the many router table features into must-haves for a quality budget router table, good-to-haves for a superior experience, and bonus bells and whistles for a router table with ultimate versatility.
Must have features when buying a budget router table
- A flat, firm top is crucial to avoid slippage and inaccuracy in your cuts.
- A good fence is one of the keys to a router table being worthwhile.
- A melamine-coated MDF table will provide the smooth, sturdy surface you need.
- An aluminum or resin base plate is a must-have for any budget.
Good to have features for a great-value router table
- A resin router table is a step up from MDF for stability and strength.
- Choose a split router fence for total versatility.
- Router tables that come with (or are compatible with) feather boards and fence clamps and shims provide for better stability, hands-free operation, and versatility.
Great to have features for a high-end router table
- Cast-iron router tables are the uncontested winner for stability, vibration absorption, and firmness.
- Tables with a one-piece fence and jointing rods provide the best of both worlds.
- A micro-adjust tool is a sophisticated must-have for the scrupulous woodworker.