Best router tables: portable, benchtop, combo

A router, along with a table saw, is one of the essential tools in the early modern workshop.

I believe some of the sophisticated jigs and equipment passed unto by the old-timey woodworkers. However, they would have given a proper evaluation of the best router that can handle anything from creative cutting outlines to accurate carpentry, whether it’s a portable, benchtop or combo option.

Carpenter

Thus, they are among the most versatile tools in the shop. And with the perfect accessories, you can truly maximize their capabilities. And the best router table is one of the accessories you can give to your equipment.

It not only offers a large flat surface to handle your workpiece but also serves as a mounting point for a wide range of additional accessories and attachments. Such accessories include a mitre fence slot, guard, fence, and insert plate. However, some of the accessories may be purchased separately if not included.

They are compatible with the same basic components. However, the actual placement of the pieces varies between models. The manual instructions given by the makers include specifics on how to assemble the table.

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What is it and how does it work?

Wood worker

It is a unique table in which a router is attached upside down to the underside of the tabletop, allowing it to function upside down for added versatility. After the reversed router is secured to the table, the user may run wood over the machine, not the other way around. Because the machine operates in reverse, the bit spins counter-clockwise. As a result, except for oversized materials, every workpiece fed into the device is well supported on a level surface.

Set up: To set up it up, fasten the handheld router to the table’s underside. And be sure to secure the bolt’s stability. The guard will then fit the bit over it to not pop off. Otherwise, it will cause injury. Now, tighten the collet that holds the bit beneath the guard so that the bit becomes immovable.

Usage: clamp the table tightly to the benchtop or workbench before cutting. Because cutting causes vibrations and motions, this helps the table to remain in position. But, before securing the table, disconnect it first. After everything is in place, plug it back, switch on the power, and position the wood against the fence. Finally, pass the wood through the router bit to make the grooves and edge profiles.

Understanding the types

craftsman

They come with two main types; the free-standing model and the benchtop model. And yet, other types, such as the portable/convertible options and the combination ones, were already hitting the mark in the woodworking industry.

Free-standing or floor-standing ones are often larger and have a longer fence. Tabletops for free-standing types are typically 24 by 32 inches in size, which provides more significant support and a larger work surface for larger works. That means it could take up considerable space in your shop. The only downside is that it is heavy enough to have a bigger footprint and be less portable. Some versions include detachable legs that you can convert into a benchtop table.

The best benchtop model, in comparison, is smaller and lighter, making it highly portable. It can be installed atop another table or workbench and often held in place by their bracket support. A benchtop model is ideal for smaller workshops or those with limited workspace. The best thing is that it is pretty portable, so you can store it away when not in use. However, despite its smaller size, it features some of the functionality of the larger ones. It is perfect for DIYers, fine woodworks, and finish carpentry. Except that it cannot handle big jobs, it also has the same components, functions, and results as the free-standing type. A benchtop one has a smaller footprint and a cheaper price point, definitely an excellent tool to have.

The unit described above are what we call “store-bought.” Of course, you can always build your version. The same concepts apply, and you may keep it as simple as you like or fill it up with additional features. It is known as a combo unit.

Basically, the best type is a piece of plywood and a router below it, and a 2×4 wood for the fence. It is also equipped with the same accessories and components as a commercial one.

A combination unit features a tabletop, just like any other regular option. But what’s underlying is the key to holding the top together. Most woodworkers displayed their unit with a heavy-duty cabinet made of MDF boards. This storage compartment below allows you to keep virtually everything you need for your operations.

A convertible option is another unique version of a fully-equipped model to look out for. It may be used as a benchtop tool or mount on a wall to improve storage in your shop. It organizes your workspace by being useful when you need it and folding up when you don’t.

Aside from being small and hardy, the tool has all of the functionality you’d expect to find on a full-sized unit. Furthermore, it folds flat for convenient transport and storage. It also provides solid and safe routing when placed on a wall and folds flat when not in use, making it ideal for small shops.

Considering the price point, portability, ease of use, and practicality, I would consider the best router table is the benchtop one.

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What to look for

woodworking work shop

Before making a purchase, you should be aware of the many important things to look for. I’m going to take a quick tour of each part to help you understand it.

What to look for
Tabletop Baseplate Miter fence slot
Fence Top guard

Tabletop

Accuracy is essential in all operations. Hence, you must have a flat, solid top. Minor surface irregularities can cause uneven edge profiles, misaligned joints, and other issues. A jumpy and bent tabletop will not make a precise cut and, worse, will damage a profile on the board’s end. That is why a tabletop’s rigidity is crucial. In addition, the table must be able to support the machine and lift without bending.

A high-quality MDF board or HPL board is ideal for a tabletop because it provides essential flatness and rigidity. However, if you want maximum precision and long-term durability, consider investing in one made of cast iron.

Baseplate or insert plate

Because the baseplate holds the unit in place, its quality and layout can significantly impact your operation. It must be strong enough to sustain the weight of the machine. Baseplates made of solid phenolic and machine metal are both excellent choices.

Aside from being flat, the base plate must be precisely level with the table’s surface. As a result, the table or plate must have a plate-leveling mechanism.

Miter fence slot

These grooves will accommodate a miter fence and conveniently move across the table. It runs parallel to the table’s edge. Some oversized tables have more than one groove. A miter fence is an attachment that goes with the machine. And this slot may also be used with other guiding accessories, such as finger pressures, side, and top pressures. Slots allow these guides to be slid across the table and fixed in place. Obviously, you will need one with a miter slot.

Fence

When using the machine, you need a fence that can handle the job. A fence is a narrow, straight piece of wood that serves as a guide. To use it effectively and ensure the perfect adjustment so that it does not shift when fastened down, place it horizontally across the machinee. It may be slid across the table in various positions to accommodate items of varying sizes. It maintains a parallel setting of a workpiece as it passes through the cutter, allowing the form and cut profile to be controlled.

Top guard

Every routing operation prioritizes safety, particularly hand safety. The top table guard is often a plastic cover that fits right over the router that protects your hands from going too close to the cutter. Aside from that, it also helps to keep the material flat against the surface. Some tables include a dust extractor. What’s more, the table guard sends wood chippings behind the fence or beneath the table, where the dust extractor is.

Aside from the basic parts, high-end options also come with accessories and other components to assist in various tasks. However, they may come as an additional expense when not included as you purchase the one you choose.

Accessories:

  • Lead on pin
  • Miter fence
  • Table pressures
  • Insert rings
  • Stop blocks
  • Push tools
  • Collet extension

Is a router table worth it?

A router table is one of the most important and flexible shop upgrades you can make in your shop. Both hands will be free for maximum work control during the cut when you secure the router. It also allows you to do things that you couldn’t do safely with a handheld option. Working on thin boards, cope and stick joineries, stiles/rails, raised panels, and much more becomes simple with the use of this piece of machinery. So, the answer to whether a router table is worthwhile is resounding YES.

Do all routers fit all tables?

Although it appears that virtually all portable routers may be mounted on any router table, some fit better than others. Every brand has different versions of tables regarding modifications, amount of slots, and a unique mechanism. They are generally the same size; however, the inserts and lift’s size vary. What is the reason behind this? So, you’d stay with a single brand; otherwise, it won’t fit.

How to use one

Keep in mind that it is still a powerful tool. Therefore, use proper PPE when operating it. In addition, use table guards at all times. And when adjusting anything or changing the bit, make sure that the machine is unplugged.

  1. Face front the “bit” when working on it.
  2. To avoid slope cutting, always feed the workpiece from right to left as the bit turns counter-clockwise.
  3. When adjusting the fence, fasten them securely before each pass. Otherwise, your hands may wind up somewhere you don’t want to happen.
  4. When employing a bit with a bearing in the fence, use the straight edge to align the two.
  5. When you don’t have a fence, always use a bit with a bearing and a pivot pin to slowly pivot the piece into the bit.
  6. Always spin your workpiece in front of the table, not around the bit, during pattern-rounding.
  7. Before altering the height, make sure the base or lift is secured.
  8. When replacing bits, keep the sharp carbide edges in mind.
  9. When inserting the bit into the router, bottom out a little and then lift around 1/16 inch.

Best manufacturers & Options

Options
Bosch Kregg Ryobi
Craftsman CNC INCRA
Jessem SawStop

Bosch RA1181

The Bosch benchtop router table ra1181 is a handy small option for the job site or workshop. It is very light and convenient to have. Its metal tabletop is 27 inches long, 18 inches deep, and sits at about 14 3/4 inches.

You can use this unit over a bench or worktable as well. And it features screw holes for slipping it into a table or mounting a block of wood on it. It is so adaptable that you may use it in a variety of ways in your workshop.

The Bosch RA11811 is the best benchtop option with an expansive work area for precision and versatility. It can fit a variety of different models.

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Kregg

Kregg has been in business for almost 30 years. They are talented woodworkers who believe in integrating the brain, heart, and hand in every job. That is how they were able to create one of the world’s finest router tables. They were very dedicated to creating instruments that give all building undertakings a sense of achievement.

Kregg’s precision models are multi-purpose, high-performance, and heavy-duty with unmatched versatility and incredible adjustability.

Ryobi
The Ryobi intermediate model can accommodate several older brands, such as the Craftsman ones. It can quickly complete several tongues and groove jobs. Moreover, the unit is simple to put up, and the fence works great for making adjustments. Ryobi’s model leaves no clutter in the workplace since the vacuum dust collector works flawlessly with simply a shop vac connection. With a few minor adjustments and double-checking before starting a job, this is a fantastic table for the money. It looks fantastic in the shop with the rest of the matching tools.

Craftsman

The Craftsman combination table allows for precision edge cutting of numerous wood kinds. It has a wide range of applications in any workshop. Its larger table surface gives you plenty of space to work on and effortlessly manages items during operations. The fence is completely flat on the opposite side of the router bit to finish the edge without deflection. This tool is also safer for users since it has safety locks and a dual-power outlet switch.

The Craftsman combo model’s flexibility enables any woodworker to advance to a new level of professional work.

CNC

CNC Machines took a foothold in the internet business in 1969. CNC options are one of their most significant and possibly most sought-after items. They made sure that they stressed the design aspects that are in their products.

INCRA

Taylor Design Group, Inc. has formally licensed the brand name INCRA as a trademark. INCRA was created in 1987 by Chris Taylor, who quickly introduced the INCRA jig and the INCRA gauge after his first two inventions. Since then, INCRA tools have proven valuable for woodworkers and regularly introduce new products such as the INCRA and accessories.

Jessem

In 1999, Jessem Tool Company created a router lift. For 25 years, it was regarded as one of the best breakthroughs in the business. Jessem’s creations bring in a completely new category of woodworking tools. The brand is dedicated to creating the most outstanding products possible, including router tables.

SawStop
SawStop manufactured the high-quality and fully-featured models on the market. SawStop is the leading manufacturer due to the combination of safety and unmatched design and craftsmanship.

A SawStop benchtop option table is both practical and effective. It has a fence assembly with two shim-adjustable faces. Furthermore, the unit also has a dust port and adjustable scales. The unit is compatible with various attachments such as feather boards, flip stops, and more. Its power switch enables simple remote router control—a fantastic tool to invest in.

Among the leading brands on the market today are:

  • Dremel
  • Woodpecker
  • Kobalt
  • Festool
  • Makita

My Conclusion

Free your hands from maximum work control in your routing operations. Don’t stress yourself any longer; invest in a nest router table, portable, benchtop, or combination in your workshop. Use the information provided above for your convenience.

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