What are router tables used for?
Router tables, which harness the power of router tools to shape wood, are used in a variety of wood-working jobs, including cutting lumber for construction, sanding, trimming edges, engraving wood, making furniture, and sawing. At their most basic they are comprised of a tabletop, a fence, and a router plate where you mount your router tool so you can feed stock across the table to make cuts or sand.
What makes a router table useful?
Router tables are crucial if you want your router tools to perform at their best. When you have a router installed in a table, the tool will be a lot more stable than if you were using your hands. You have a lot more control over your work. Doing edge work and routing grooves in particular are much easier to do with the router in a table. Another reason router tables are useful is you can work a lot more safely with your tools. Working with narrow stock can be dangerous if you’re using a handheld router, and many router tables come with locks so the router is rendered useless unless you unlock it, making it safer to have in your garage or workshop where kids might wander in. You can also be a lot more precise and do more detailed work when you have both your hands
What disadvantages do they tend to have?
Router tables have different problems depending on the specific table and built quality, but in general, some issues that are common are instability and an inability to handle heavy stock or projects. Also, when you use a table, you are limited to the router tools that that particular table uses.
What fence features allow me to use additional accessories and table extensions?
The fence on a router table is what you push stock against to keep it level. With many router tables, the fence also has features that allow you to add additional featherboards and accessories to expand your router table for bigger projects and longer stock. One such feature is a T-slot, which allows you to switch in more featherboards and lock in other tools as well like miter gauges.
What features make a fence versatile and secure?
Since router table fences are so important and play such a big role in how effective a router table is, it’s good to have extra security and versatility with your fence. You want to make sure your fence is very straight and locks in place, so it doesn’t wobble around and mess up your cuts. You also want the fence to be adjustable so you can work with a variety of wood stock sizes and shapes. The Kreg PRS100 benchtop router table includes cam clamps which make it easy to adjustment the fence, but are secure when they lock into place. The Porter-Cable 698 uses a split-fence design, which means the fence consists of two independently-adjustable halves instead of one piece of metal.
What is the difference between a split-fence design and a one-piece fence?
When you’re looking at router tables, you’ll notice that some of them have what’s called a split-fence design. A split-fence is a fence with two sections you adjust independently of each other. An advantage with this design is that you can move the fence sections closer to the bit for more support. The issue with a split-fence is that it can be difficult to get the two halves perfectly aligned. A one-piece fence is just a solid piece of metal that goes across the whole table. The issue with this type of fence is that your bits might be too large, so you have to be sure the fence works with larger bits. If you’re a beginner, a one-piece fence is probably more convenient than a split-fence.
What fence design features are ideal for a small workshop?
For a small workshop, you can get a more compact router table (like the The Bench Dog 40-001 ProTop Contractor), but you are not necessarily limited to tables that lack a good workspace. Look for router tables that have fences with dual slot configuration. This means the fence can be swiveled out on either side of the table, creating more efficient space for your projects. This is a clever way to get more workspace without having to feel cramped. The Bench Dog Tools 40-102 ProMax has a ProFence with dual slot configuration.
What kind of design do I look for when I want to use a variety of routers, including big ones?
Since using a table often limits what routers you can use, you want a table that can accommodate a variety of routers, including ones with larger bits. The first thing to look for is router plates. These are where the routers are mounted. The larger the bit holes, the larger routers you can use. The Kreg PRS100 has a full-size router insert plate and allows most routers. Three Level-Loc rings keep the router secure in the plate. Another feature to look for when you’re thinking about routers is the table’s leg height. Taller tables will allow bigger tools. The Bosch RA1171 cabinet-style router table is tall, and also has a pre-drilled plate so you can easily mount different routers.
How do table top materials and table construction affect the lifespan of a router table?
Since you work on projects like cutting lumber and sanding, it’s important that your table have a very durable construction and table top so the table lasts for years to come. If the table has a lot of plastic tabs, screws, or is made from a poor-quality metal or wood, it won’t be able to handle heavy stock or frequent use. The quality of materials is vital. An MDF-table top is a good sign of a high-quality table as MDF helps dampen the vibrations caused by the router, so you can make more accurate cuts. Rubberized feet also help keep the table stable. Laminated table tops like the one on the Bench Dog 40-001 ProTop Contractor (which also has stress-skin construction) are also a sign of table strength and durability.
How much do router tables cost?
The price of router tables varies by brand and features. The more expensive tables tend to have more workspace and accessories like multiple featherboards, miter gauges, and so on. Beginner router tables start at about $150-$300 and include tables like the Craftsman Router and Router Table combo, the Kreg PRS2100, and the Bench Dog 40-001. The next level up is priced around $400-$500, while tables intended for professionals or serious hobbyists can be over $1000.