The ‘best router table’ is one of those things that most woodworkers are skeptical about investing in, at the beginning.
A lot of them (including me twenty years ago) think that it’s too expensive a purchase to justify its utility, especially if you are a hobbyist.
Why not throw in a couple of pieces of melamine and make one instead? I threw a fir plywood and made one that lasted me 8-years.
That works, I tell you.
But only for as long as you take woodworking casually.
The day you start to look it at more seriously, you’ll start to crave for more features like micro-height adjustments, stops and on-board storage and a lift.
Parameters like flatness and deflection that you never knew existed, begin to affect your work.
Eventually, you’ll bite the bullet and start looking for the best router table.
So why not buy one in the beginning and save yourself some hassles down the road?
Today, we will take a look at the best router tables that money can buy you in 2020.
#1 – Bosch RA1181 – Best Value Table
The RA1181 is one of the three Router tables on offer from Bosch, the German manufacturer. The other ones are the RA1141 & the RA1171.
This one is their premium offering and has for long remained a hot favorite with hobbyists as well as part-time, commercial woodworkers like me.
It is a very sturdy, portable router table with a die cast aluminum top, an aluminum fence with MDF faceplates, feather boards, accessory slots and onboard circuit breakers for your electronics.
A dust collection port to hook your shop vac and a storage pocket complete what’s a well-rounded feature list.
Easy assembly and use
The Bosch RA1181 is aimed at beginner woodworkers who want a versatile router table for use around the shop.
Hence, everything from the assembly to the usage is extremely simple.
You’ll do good with an extra pair of hands if you wish to speed up the assembly though. It’s like a mini-puzzle.
Once you complete assembly, you’ll be pleased at the ease of use.
It comes with pre-drilled holes that can be used to mount your router and it is compatible with a whole bunch of them.
Even if your router isn’t compatible, you can easily match the holes and drill new ones.
This might be little tricky for some people. So you may want to ensure compatibility first before you buy it.
The working surface is a capacious 27” x 18”, which more than suffices for most of our tasks.
There are large, round plastic knobs that allow you to make adjustments to the fence and the guide.
In case of a potential misstep, the two feather boards keep you covered.
There are large router cut outs on the bench and underneath that let you make depth adjustments on the fly.
Bit changes are not as cumbersome as what I’ve seen on some much higher priced units.
Great dust collection
Routers are a devil’s creation. The amount of sawdust that these machines manage to conjure is nothing short of witchcraft.
Thankfully, the Bosch RA1181 has a very efficient dust collection port that manages to absorb almost 90% of the sawdust that your router will produce.
All said and done, will the Bosch RA1181 suffice for most basic woodworking tasks?
Absolutely, it will.
Is it the best one that money can buy? Definitely not. There are much better routers out there. But at this price point, this is one of the best ones.
Features that I liked the most
- Sturdy metal top
- Die cast aluminum work surface
- Aluminum fences with MDF faceplates
- Easy to use
- Feather boards to keep you protected
- Pre-drilled Aluminum mounting plate
- Accessory slot
- On-board storage cavity
- Excellent dust collection port
- On board circuit breaker to protect your router
The ones that I didn’t
- Plastic legs. Never a fan of it. What makes it bad is that the RA1171 comes with metal legs and it has more plastic on top than this one.
#2 – Kreg PRS1045 – Best Router table in 2020
The Kreg PRS1045 is a cabinet-styled router table that’s designed for the serious woodworker.
This is a heavy duty table with a steel frame, steel legs (grinning), a reinforced MDF table top that’s practically warp-free, and an easy insert plate that will be compatible with most modern routers. (Including monsters like the Triton TRA001)
It does cost a pretty penny, especially if you compare the price with some of the other router tables in the market.
But if you seek precision in your woodworking tasks, this will be worth every penny that you spend on it.
And it will more than repay your initial investment in just one project.
Auto-squaring fence and an easy slide surface
You’d be amazed at how heavy and sturdy this best router table is once you begin assembling it.
It has a lot of metal on it and that steel frame makes it as sturdy as a rock. Thankfully, there are four lockable casters on the legs that let you push it around the workshop if need be.
Each of the legs can be height adjusted from 31” to 36”, which is useful if you work in a man-cave with an uneven surface.
On top, you have a butter smooth, microdot MDF work surface and moving your work pieces is so easy.
It comes with a T-square aluminum fence that’s designed for precision. It stays exactly parallel to the miter slot and takes the guesswork out of making micro-adjustments.
There’s a wheel that allows you to adjust it in millimeters.
Since it rests and moves on tiny sliders, there’s no scope for sawdust to hinder the movement.
Once secured, everything stays wobble-free.
Great levelling system
The Kreg PRS1045 comes with a very efficient insert system that allows you to mount your insert plate flush with the working surface.
It does need to be drilled to match the router though. The phenolic plate that it comes with has a printed template of concentric circles that will help you center it.
If you are unsure about this, buy a pre-drilled plate which is available for most common routers.
Now for a design flaw, without which, this best router table could have been a lot better.
The fence is made of extruded aluminum tubes with faces that are ¾” thick. Surprisingly, these come with Philips screws for adjustment that are approximately 1” long.
This mismatch makes it possible to over loosen one of these screws so that it comes out of the nut inside the track. If this occurs, you’d have to remove the entire face of the fence and reassemble everything back.
A through bolt with a knob and slots on the fence faces would have been so much better.
That’s just a tiny quibble though.
Overall, this is a phenomenal router table for the price. It can get you even the most precise tasks done.
Features that I liked the most
- Sturdy steel frame
- Excellent build quality
- Self-squaring T-square aluminum fence
- 1” Thick MDF Table top
- 24” x 32” capacious work area for large stock
- Phenolic insert plate
- Compatible with a variety of routers
- Well suited for advanced tasks that demand precision
What I didn’t
- The Philips screws on the fence faces for adjustment
- The VAC port is off centered. Wish this was more centered.
#3 – Skil RAS900 – Budget-priced pick
If you are among the ones who feel that a standalone router table isn’t worth spending hundreds of dollars on, then here’s a pocket-friendly option.
This is the Skil RAS900 and it is a full-sized router table that comes with almost all the bells and whistles that bigger, pricier router tables boast of.
Onboard storage, large laminate work surface, feather board, miter gauge, and a quick-clamp system for fast router mounts.
Can’t ask for more at this price point. And definitely beats making do with a rudimentary, self-made excuse for a router table.
Sturdy little folding router table
The Skil RAS900 features plastic legs on a sturdy pressboard that’s topped with a glossy MDF work surface.
That doesn’t sound to assuring. But it’s pretty stable and doesn’t get bogged down under the weight of a heavy router and stock.
It weighs just 32 lbs. and is clearly designed for portable use. To this end, it features a folding design which self-accommodates all the accessories on the table for storage.
It comes with a router mounting plate that’s compatible with most modern routers. A quick clamp on the underside allows you to mount the router in the blink of an eye. This is one of the best features, as the metal and plastic skirting on the table requires you to remove the router for bit changes.
You can adjust the height of the router using the router for a change, rather than the table. There are two knobs, one for fast adjustments and the other for fine tuning the height.
Multiple guides to hold the stock in place
To prevent sway and inconsistent results, Skil has thrown in both horizontal and vertical guides that will keep your wood secure and in place.
We highly recommend that you install both these, especially if you plan to make complicated routes.
In addition to this, it ships with a whole bunch of accessories that include two feather boards, a bit height gauge, a starter pin and guard combo for curved work pieces and a miter gauge.
When not in use, everything folds neatly and becomes compact enough to fit on a standard-sized cabinet shelf. The guide rails disappear under the legs while there are compartments in the legs to store the accessories.
Like we said, it’s a value for money package.
The only quibble that we have with the Skil RAS900 is the quality of the plastic legs. We noticed some play on the legs vertically. An easy workaround is to clamp the legs on to a ply or any flat, stable surface.
Features that I liked the most
- Full-sized router table for a fraction of the cost of big brands
- Glossy MDF work surface
- Easy router mount and removal with quick release clamp
- Tall fence
- Horizontal and vertical guides to hold the wood
- Two feather boards, bit height gauge and a starter pin
- Perfect for hobbyist use
What I didn’t
- The plastic legs. But at this price point, we can’t really expect an all-metal design. Also, it’s not really a deal breaker since there’s an easy workaround for it.
#4 – Jessem Mast R Lift-II – Professional’s choice
While I was speaking to some old woodworker pals about the best router table these days, they expressed surprise that there was hardly any mention of brands like Jessem and Incra on the internet.
Are people just looking to cut corners these days? Or is it just about the price tag?
Well, having worked with woodworking tools for more than two decades, I can vouch for Jessem as being one of the best brands of router tables that I have ever used.
The Jessem Router table is one of their oldest offerings that still manages to tick on, after almost a decade.
This is a heavy duty router table that comes bundled with the Mast-R-Lift II, Jessem’s bestselling router lift.
Built like a tank
The Jessem best router table comes with a heavy duty steel stand with independently adjustable rubber feet on all the legs. If you have an uneven floor, this has you covered.
The work surface is a capacious 32″ x 24″ phenolic one. Some people are of the opinion that Phenolic is better than MDF for a router table surface. This one fits the bill perfectly.
It is smooth enough to easily move your wood pieces and sturdy enough to stay warp and bend-free even with heavy stock.
The fence is an Extruded aluminum one with fully adjustable faces. There are tons of tracks that let you use homemade jigs and it stays in perfect alignment. So no complaints.
There are two power plugs, one for the main control and the other one for the dust collector, and it also comes with 4 feather boards that can be stacked if need be.
The best router lift thrown in
The big draw of the Jessem router table is of course, the Mast-R-Lift II. It is one of the best router lifts in the market. Compatible with 18-routers from different brands. Can be clamped to the router using the four jaws, so there’s no need to buy an additional sleeve.
Comes with a spindle that has double sealed bearings. This means that you can lift just about any router with just a fingertip.
You can adjust the height and make bit changes above the table.
More importantly, there’s no free play and you can fine tune the adjustments to 0.001” or even lesser.
Overall, I would recommend this best router table in a heartbeat to everyone from beginners to seasoned woodworkers.
Features that I liked the most
- All-inclusive package
- Heavy duty stand, phenolic 32” x 24” work surface
- Extruded aluminum fence with adjustable fence faces
- Tons of tracks for using homemade jigs
- Two power plugs
- Four featherboards
- Jessem’s bestselling lift Mast-R-Lift II included
- Easy bit changes and height adjustment
- Can make micro adjustments on the fly
- Ample room for a cabinet on the steel stand
- Adjustable rubber feet
What I didn’t
- When you pull the plug for the dust collector, it inadvertently switches off the main. I don’t know how someone at Jessem didn’t spot this earlier. So, you’ve got to be a little more careful when you do this.
- I spoke to at least four people who confirmed that a couple of parts weren’t included in the package. So you’d want to double check that before you order.
Do you really need a router table?
First things first, do you really need a router table?
The answer to this perpetual conundrum faced by beginner woodworkers lies with yourself.
You are the best person to answer it.
No, a router table is not going to make you a better woodworker, just like buying a swanky baseball bat won’t make you a good player.
As someone who worked without a router table for 8-years and then later switched to using them, I have seen both sides of the grass.
I’d say go for it.
It eases up so many things that can get really cumbersome otherwise.
- You can do perfect edge work and profiling, like a round-over or a chamfer on smaller work pieces
- You can do the same task repeatedly and get consistent results
- You can cut templates
- You can build raised panel doors
- You can make precise height adjustments, especially if it comes with a lift,
- You can make dovetails
- You can store everything in one place and work with really cool jigs.
- The featherboards will keep your fingers in one place
- You can hook up a store VAC and be done with the sawdust
That’s all that I can think of at the moment. But am sure there are tons more to add to this.
Should I buy a router table or build one?
I’d be lying to you if I said that you cannot build a good router table. I have done it myself and it worked beautifully for a while. But I just outgrew it.
I needed something that offered everything that out of the box rather than making additions one at a time.
Many a seasoned woodworker has started with a self-built router table.
Many that I know of, still use self-made ones which they scale up depending on their needs for a particular project.
Basically, a router table is nothing but a flat surface that has a hole that the bit can stick through. Everything else is a feature that you may or may not find useful.
Similarly, the fence on that table is nothing but a straight edge that has a cut out for the bit.
A melamine coated particle board can suffice to make a basic router table. But you’d still have to add a fence, feather boards, T-slots and a cart with some drawers.
The advantage to building the best router table is that you learn a lot as you make repeated changes. Also, it’s fun provided you have the time and the patience for it.
On the other hand, if you are a weekend woodworker who’d rather not spend a few days building a table and a lot more honing it, go for a premade one.
You can find one that fits your budget and your intended use.
How to select the best router table
The best router table is the one that fits your budget and lets you accomplish your most frequently repeated tasks in a safe, consistent and efficient manner.
That’s the best tip that I can give you.
Having said that, if you are looking for a guide that can help you with your selection process, then here’s a brief one.
Select the type of the best router table
The best router tables can be categorized into three main styles.
- The benchtop router table is a great choice if you are a weekend warrior who only uses the router table occasionally. It is also a terrific choice for small workshops with limited space.
- A mounted router table is not really recommended unless you have a thumbnail-sized work area.
- A stationary router table is your best bet if you have the room to spare and are looking to hone your woodworking skills.
The table top
You need a work surface that’s rigid, doesn’t deflect when you mount your router on top of and is flat. Over a period of time, it may be exposed to moisture and temperature changes. You need a surface that doesn’t warp.
Router table tops are typically made of three materials.
- MDF: The commonest and most economical choice, MDF works very well despite what you may have read or heard.
- Phenolic resin: This is the middle-ground. A little more durable than MDF but pricier.
- Metal: Steel, cast iron and aluminum table tops are the least prone to deflection and warping. These usually cost in excess of a thousand dollars though. So it’s not the ideal choice for everybody.
The router fence is one of the most crucial variables that I look at while selecting the best router table. It has to be precisely square to the surface, easy to make adjustments and lock, and should be as steady as a rock when locked.
The taller the fence, the easier it is to support bigger stock.
If you wish to mount accessories, like featherboards or stops, then you need to look for one with T-slots.
Ease of use
One of the reasons why I recommend a router table is because it will improve your efficiency and save time otherwise wasted performing repeated tasks.
So any table that you select has to have easy accessibly accessible power switches, easy bit changes, above-the table height adjustment, or a router lift, easy mounting and removal of the router and an integrated miter track.
The table should have leveling or adjustable feet that lets you work safely without wobble hindering your accuracy.
If you prefer a table that you can move around the shop, look for one with lockable casters.
That sums up our list of the best router tables in 2020. We hope that you had a great time reading this and that it serves as a guide during your research process.
This is not by far the most exhaustive list of options you have. But it does give you a fair bit of choices at different price points and configurations.