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Best Router Table 2016 – Best Router Table For Diy Woodworkers

Adding the best router table to your workshop can take your woodworking up a notch without the need to purchase another power tool.

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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.

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Size

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.

Material

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.

Router Compatibility

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.

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Mounting Plate

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.

Fence

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.

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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.

Additional Features

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.

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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.

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