What Is a Router Table?

Whether you are a professional woodworker or amateur do-it-yourselfer, chances are you’ve used a wood router or at the very least heard of one. Assuming you have a modicum of knowledge about wood routers and how you can use them to carve detailed designs into wood, have you ever used a router table? If not, do you know what one is? While many woodworking veterans out there may shake their head at such a question, there are plenty of folks that are just getting started and have some questions. That is who this piece is aimed at; the guys that have barely gotten their toes wet in woodworking and want to know what’s what.

Safety and Ease of Use

As you probably know, many wood routers simply require you to hold the router, suspending it over the wood on which you are working by holding onto the handles. While this old style of routing is tried and true, there is an easier way. Some may scoff at the idea, but there is an adage that says, “Work smarter, not harder.” That’s what we’re talking about with router tables. They take the burden of labor off you so you can focus on your craft.

The Mechanics of a Router Table

A router table simply takes the wood router and flips it upside down. The router is mounted underneath the router table, with the bit sticking out through the table so you can mount the piece of wood you want to route on the top. That is the basic premise, but there are different types of table that allow the router to be mounted in different positions for different types of cuts. There are also additional precision and safety features that make router tables easier to use.

The “fence” is the piece on the router table that often runs lengthwise along the top of the table.

The fence allows you to keep the piece you are working on steady and allows for more precise cuts. Precision is very important when you are routing wood, so here are a couple of other things to ensure before you buy a particular router table:

  • Make sure it’s made of heavy material
  • Test it’s rigidity

What does this mean? Essentially, you have to consider that you will be putting considerable pressure on the piece you are working on and the actual router table. If the router table bends ever so slightly, the piece you are working on will as well and your cut will not be straight. If you are doing multiple cuts on multiple pieces of wood, chances are your cuts will never match up if the cuts are not precise. So it behooves you to get a good solid cast-iron (or similar material) router table. The weight of such material helps with precision as well, as there won’t be as much jostling around to mess up your cuts.

This is just the basic information to get you started on choosing a good router table, but there are many more resources you can call upon online and at your local hardware store or woodworking shop. Talking to a professional face-to-face is optimum, but if that is not an option for you there are plenty of people online that can really give you a hand.

About the Author: Mike Rocha is an engineer from Florida with a passion for woodworking. As an engineer and hobbyist woodworker, he uses wood routers regularly and recognizes the ingenuity and versatility that they represent. Being an electrical engineer who designs and develops medical imaging systems, Mike appreciates more than most the ingenious simplicity of these tools. Check out his website if you are looking for wood routers or router tables for your project.

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