Turning a router upside down and mounting it to a table gives a router a whole new level of functionality. By adding the best router table to your workshop, you can take your woodworking to a new level without purchasing yet another power tool.
While a handheld router allows you to do many things without other tools, it does have limitations. Routers are heavy. They require two hands to operate, which limits their use to larger stationary objects. With the router securely mounted to a table, however, your hands are free to control the workpiece.
A router table allows users to accomplish various carpentry tasks including making molding, planing straight edges of boards, and routing precise cuts freehand into small pieces of wood.
- BEST OVERALL: Bosch RA1141 Portable Benchtop Router Table
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Kobalt 1/4-in and 1/2-in Corded Router with Table
- UPGRADE PICK: Kreg PRS1045 Router Table
- BEST UNIVERSAL: Ryobi Universal Router Table
- BEST STORABLE: SKIL MDF Router Table
- BEST CABINET: Bosch Cabinet Style Router Table RA1171
- BEST BENCHTOP: Kreg PRS2100 Bench Top Router Table
- BEST LIFT: Kreg PRS5000 Precision Router Lift
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Router Table
When shopping for a router table, consider both the size of your workshop and your brand of router. Some factors you may want to consider include the table’s size, portability, material, base plate style, and compatibility with your router. Read on to learn about these and other considerations.
Freestanding vs. Benchtop
Many users prefer freestanding router tables over benchtop router tables, and with good reason. Freestanding tables typically have sturdy bases and large work tops, which can accommodate longer and wider boards. Most freestanding router tables measure approximately 32 inches long and 24 inches wide. The downside of freestanding router tables is that they’re heavy, which makes them difficult to transport to work sites.
Since benchtop router tables are typically smaller—they measure approximately 16 inches wide and 24 inches long—they can’t accommodate the same size boards that larger freestanding router tables can. As their name implies, benchtop router tables also require a workbench for support and are not as stable as single-unit freestanding models. The upsides to benchtop routers are that they’re more compact and weigh less, and are thus more portable than freestanding models.
The size of a router table directly correlates with how large a workpiece it can handle. A router table’s work surface ranges in size from about 22 inches long by 16 inches wide, up to 36 inches long by 24 inches wide. A table that is 22 inches to 36 inches long can support boards between 6 and 8 feet long. Likewise, a wider table will provide better support for wider boards.
Router tables can be made of various materials, which impact the tables’ cost and durability. Medium-density fiberboard (MDF), which is rigid and strong, is the most popular material for router tabletops. An MDF top should be at least 1 inch thick so it’s sturdy enough to serve as a work surface. Exposed MDF will soak up water like a sponge and puff up, ruining the work surface. MDF tops with melamine coatings are preferred because a melamine coating will protect the wood.
Some MDF tables have a high-pressure laminate (HPL) surface, which layers protective resins with a melamine work surface for additional strength. A router table with HPL on both sides is a great choice for most users because it is more likely to stay flatter longer.
Phenolic resin is an even higher-grade material than MDF. Phenolic resin is thinner than MDF, won’t be damaged by water, and should maintain its shape for the lifetime of the table. Phenolic resin router tables are among the most expensive models you can buy.
Metal router tables are high end as well. Cast aluminum provides a sturdy, durable work top that will maintain its shape. Pro shop router tables, which are the premium tables on the market, have a cast-iron work surface. There isn’t a router table material that’s flatter, more stable, and more durable than cast iron.
Quality router tables will include multiple base plates that complement different router hole patterns, making them compatible with routers from most major tool brands. It’s best to avoid router tables that have universal-design base plates. The number of holes in these plates can compromise their structural integrity—and create places for dust to accumulate.
A router table has a mounting, or base, plate that attaches to the router and fits into a hole in the tabletop. Since they must support the weight of the router while remaining perfectly flat, it’s crucial that these plates be constructed of a solid, sturdy material, such as aluminum or phenolic resin. The mounting plate must also be compatible with the router. It should have mounting holes that align with the holes on the router.
Since it’s important that the plate sits flush to the router table, a good router table will have a plate-leveling system that consists of four or more leveling screws. It’s also important to consider how easily the plate can be put into place. A router table with a mounting plate that’s difficult to install won’t work for those who plan to use the router with and without the table.
Miter and T-Slots
Most router tables have a T-slot on their surface that allows for the use of a miter gauge and other accessories. A miter gauge holds work pieces at an angle while they are cut, and it has an adjustable fence that the operator can set to virtually any angle.
The gauge is attached to a long metal guide that slides through a T-slot, which is a long groove that runs the length of the table. Though the fence will get the lion’s share of work on a router table, there will be occasions that call for a miter gauge.
An easy-to-use, adjustable fence is critical on a router table. In most situations, the router’s operator will guide the material through the router blade by pushing it up against the fence. Whether the fence is made of wood or metal, it should be sturdy. When making precise router cuts, it’s important to have a solid base against which to push workpieces.
There are two types of fences on router tables: those that are a single piece, or split fences. Two-piece fences are more versatile, allowing the user to set the infeed at a different level than the outside. With this kind of fence, the router can execute complicated jointer cuts.
The downside is, it can be challenging to perfectly align a two-piece fence for regular cuts. A single piece won’t allow you to join the straight edge of a board, but alignment isn’t an issue if the fence is one solid piece from infeed to outfeed.
Many router tables have additional features that add functionality, storage, and even help keep the work space clean. Router lifts are devices that allow for micro adjustments of the bit height, enable easy bit changes, and offer easier to access lift handles. If the router table doesn’t have router lifts, they can be purchased as add-ons.
Those who like having all their accessories within easy reach should consider router tables that have convenient storage bins built into the body. This extra storage space is ideal for holding extra base plates, miter gauges, and router bits. Routers with exhaust ports allow the user to hook up a hose that siphons sawdust out of the table and into a waste container.
Our Top Picks
Below are some of the best router tables from respected manufacturers in the tool market. Read on to find a model that’s suitable for your projects.
With its sturdy construction, portable design, and long list of additional features, this router table from Bosch is a worthy addition to any home workshop. It features an ample 26-inch by 16.5-inch work space, which can capably handle boards up to 6 or 7 feet long. A 1-inch-thick laminated MDF top provides a sturdy place on which to work. Its tall fence with two adjustable featherboards serves as a stout guide when running material through the router.
The base plate uses a click-mounting system that attaches to the router in seconds, and it’s compatible with most major tool brands, including Craftsman, DeWalt, Hitachi, Ryobi, Milwaukee, Makita, and Bosch. A T-slot runs the length of the table and works with the included miter gauge. This table has bins integrated into its legs for storing extra bits and base plates. Foldable legs make this 33-pound router table portable.
Routers and router tables tend to be expensive, but this Kobalt router and table package is a high-quality exception. The router runs on a powerful 12-amp motor, with a durable aluminum-cast body and precise depth adjustments. Included with the power tool is a sturdy yet light router table, with strong plastic legs offering additional stability.
When used as a unit, this Kobalt router and table weighs less than 20 pounds, so it’s easy to tote to a jobsite when necessary. You don’t have to worry about compatibility issues—or color-coordinating—because the included router fits seamlessly with the matching base. Other useful features include a dust collection port and adjustable fences.
Kreg’s router table stands apart from its competitors as one of the sturdiest on the market. Unlike other tables that require a workbench or other surface for support, four steel legs steady this router table and provide an exceptionally sturdy base for its generously sized 24-inch by 36-inch MDF tabletop. High-pressure laminate covers the tabletop, providing a near-indestructible work surface.
This router table’s other highlights include an aluminum T-slot that works with various accessories, a sturdy L-shaped aluminum fence, and heavy-duty caster wheels. Kreg’s innovative design also allows users to drill holes in the base plate to suit the router. This system makes the table compatible with virtually any router. Kreg’s precision router table is an excellent option if you’re looking for upmarket equipment.
A router table is only as good as its ability to work seamlessly with your router. Ryobi’s table works with all major router brands, including some older brands and models. In addition to impressive compatibility, this table offers remarkable durability and performance.
A large, laminated MDF work top and sturdy plastic legs provide a smooth and steady work surface. Other quality features include an adjustable fence, five different sizes of throat plates, and an aluminum T-track for mitered router cuts.
An integrated power station on the Ryobi includes enough room for the router and another power tool, such as a shop vac. To keep sawdust mess under control, this router table is outfitted with a built-in vacuum port that supports 1¼-inch and 2½-inch attachments.
You can complete essential routing jobs with this SKIL router table, fold it up, and store it neatly when you’re done using it. SKIL’s router table sets up and breaks down fast with a quick-mounting system that attaches and uninstalls the router in seconds, and legs that conveniently fold into the body. The tabletop is constructed of a sturdy MDF, and the base is a durable molded plastic.
Though portable, this table sports a lot of cool features including a replaceable MDF fence, storage boxes for bits and accessories, a bit height gauge to improve the accuracy of cuts, pin guards for routing curved pieces, and two adjustable featherboards. The SKIL router table is compatible with all major brands of routers.
You won’t have to worry about dust if you choose this cabinet-style router table from Bosch, which contains two dust-collection ports that keep your workshop sawdust-free. The table has two easy-to-use featherboards, which provide extra guidance and protection against kickback and are fully adjustable to fit a variety of workpieces.
This table’s large 25-inch by 15.5-inch laminated workbench top has an aluminum mounting plate, which is predrilled for use with various routers and allows you to make above-table height adjustments. Other reasons this router table is worthy of consideration: It has a large aluminum fence, a dual-outlet power switch, and can be mounted to a workbench via four predrilled holes. The cabinet offers additional storage space for router bits and accessories.
Quality construction and materials make all the difference when it comes to router tables. Kreg’s benchtop router table has a 16-inch by 24-inch laminated MDF tabletop supported by wide-stance, heavy-duty steel legs. A full-size insert plate supports even the largest routers and has integrated levelers for fine-tuning. Multiple rings enable proper bit sizing.
Other notable features of the Kreg PRS2100 are its miter gauge slot, adjustable extruded-aluminum fence, and dust collection system. Those who are sensitive to router noise can enclose the router via predrilled holes in the table’s base. Kreg’s benchtop router table is an excellent option for those who can swing its steep price tag.
This router lift from Kreg takes a router table to the next level by dramatically improving the base plate’s precision and functionality. The lift replaces the router table’s stock base plate with one that can make micro adjustments to a bit height down to 1/1000th of an inch, allowing for precision router work.
This lift also allows the operator to raise the bit high enough for bit changes so the router doesn’t have to be detached from the table. With the adjuster handle at the top of the table, there’s no need to grope under the table to change the height of the bit. The lift plate measures ⅜ inch thick by 9¼ inches wide by 11¾ inches long, which is compatible with most router table brands. The plate’s mounting pattern fits most routers.
Tips for Using a Router Table
A router table adds a whole new world of functionality to a router, but it can be a little tricky to use at first. Read on for important tips regarding the proper use of a router table.
- Clamp it down. Router benches use a bench top or table for support. Before using a router bench, clamp it securely to the table or workbench to prevent it from sliding.
- Use featherboards to apply down pressure. Most people will use the fence as a backstop on which to apply pressure to the board, but featherboards are just as important. These tools attach to the fence and apply down pressure to the board while it moves through the router bit. This prevents the board from coming up off the table under the pressure of the spinning router bit.
- Tighten all bolts. There are two critical connections to check before using a router: the collet and router base. The collet holds a bit in place. Make sure it is tightly screwed to the router to prevent the bit from coming off while in use. Also make sure the bolts holding the router to the table are tight so the router stays in place while in use.
- Use a push block for end routing. Routing the end of a board will often cause the wood fibers at the end corner to splinter as the blade passes through them. Using a push block that fits flush to the end will solve this problem and keep the wood fibers intact, preventing chipping.
FAQs About Router Tables
If you’re still wondering which characteristics to look for in a quality router table, read on for answers to some of the most commonly asked questions.
Q. What is the best material for a router tabletop?
The best material for a router tabletop is cast iron. This is the flattest, sturdiest, and most durable material. It’s also the most expensive and is therefore used only in professional shops. Cast aluminum and phenolic resin are the best affordable options for home woodshops.
Q. How thick should a router table be?
A good router table should be at least 1 inch thick to prevent sagging. Material is also a factor when it comes to thickness. While a metal or high-quality resin tabletop can be thinner than 1 inch and still be sturdy, MDF must be thicker to resist bending.
Q. Will my router fit the table?
Most router tables include multiple base plates that accommodate all major brands of routers. It’s important to check a specific table’s list of compatible routers before purchasing it.
Q. Can a plunge router be used in a table?
A plunge router can be used on a router table and is just as safe as a fixed-base router.
Q. How do you set up a router table?
Begin by attaching the baseplate of the router table to the router using the mounting screws. For a freestanding table, once the router is installed, it’s ready for action. A benchtop router table requires a steady base. Set the benchtop router table on a sturdy workbench or table, and use clamps to clamp the router base to the table to prevent it from sliding while in use.