What Is Best Router Table & Size?
Please help me in determining which Router Table Top is considered best, if there is a specific brand or brands better than others, which material for the table is best, router lift system, router table fence, and shape and size is considered best or ideal for a router table. My router is a Bosch 3.25HP router, and I have a Bosch smaller cast-metal table that I will use with a smaller 2.5HP router. Thank you.
Nothing smart-alec intended but by far the best table is the one you make yourself. Take a look at all of the tables you can find and put together a list of the best things from each and make it. Depending upon what you choose, it can range from less than 50 bucks to several thousand dollars. Here is a link to where many of our members have posted pictures of their tables.
If you want to buy one, it will depend upon how much you want to spend, as they range from about $100 to a thousand or more. Probably the singularly most commonly owned table here is the Oak Park table, as used by Bob and Rick of "The Router Workshop" on PBS. That link is Oak Park Enterprises Ltd. - Router Table, Router, Router Bits, Router Jigs, Router Accessories: Home.
Beyond those two, it's like asking "What is the best car?". It starts with Ford vs. Chevy vs. Dodge, throw in Toyota, Nissan and the others.. Oh, and don't forget Ferrari and Lanbourghini. You'll find most of the popular models are owned (or have been owned) by various members here.
For material, I prefer two 3/4" layers of MDF laminated together with Formica on both sides and either edging or a sealant (to control the rate of moisture absorption with changes in the seasons). Different variants on that are used, with some using plywood, cast iron, sheet steel and others. I like MDF because it's notoriously flat and it for some reason a cutter hits the table top it cuts into it rather than ricocheting off.
You don't have to have a lift system (but I choose to) as many will argue that cutting wood doesn't require the tolerances of steel and its easy for them to set it with the router mounted in a plate (especially since many routers have "lifts" built it.
As for commercially purchased high-cost lifts for a fixed base router (I have a 3.25hp PC 7518), Jessem's Mast-R-Lift and Woodpeckers PRLv2 are popular choices. The differences between different lifts often come down to preferences on the number of sizes of insert rings available (to take the gap around the bit) and how those are held in (screwed from below, from above, clipped in or held by rare earth magnets).
Opinions on this are like noses.. everyone has one, and I'm sure you'll hear opinions from others. Mine are nothing special.. just something to get you started.
Jim gives sound advice, as long as you have the time, skills and tools required to produce the table. Just as important is the experience of use, If you're new to woodworking and or routing, what you think is a plus "NOW" for the table may not be down the road, (don't use it, could be in a better position, factory option better all around).
Everyone developes their own way of approaching a puzzle, in general all RTs do the same thing, some are fancy some basic, but still do the job. You can buy a table or a kit, but more often than not if you have the skill and tools you can build your own for much less.
A few guys here have more than one RT maybe the ones that have a factory and hand made will chime in for pros and cons.
As mentioned, glue 2 pieces of 3/4" MDF together, build a box under it, rout out a hole for an insert, and install the router. Really nothing to it.
this is the one i have I can do anything i want to do I got the one with dust collection on it the link Oak Park Enterprises Ltd.: Catalogue
The short answer is, it depends...on what you need and what you intend to do with it.
Are you planning to just route profiles on small stock or will you be building cabinets, bookshelves, etc.?
A small table can do many jobs well, but a larger table can handle larger stock without tipping. That is why many of us choose to build our own after gaining some experience in the types of woodworking we do. BobJ has numerous routers and tables that handle all sorts of tasks, but he has been working with wood for a long time and knows what he needs. I would recommend building one of the simpler tables as has been suggested and see how it goes. As you gain experience your next table will be closer to your needs...that is the path I took and it has worked well for me so far.
I just got a 32" x 27" table with a 3.25 hp router. It has an above table bit adjustment. When I need to have a larger work area, I attach it to my work table which is the same height and adds an extra 6 feet of work area for longer pieces.
For a 3.5 HP router I think I would prefer to use Birch or another type of hardwood ply for the table top with an aluminum or steel insert plate. As already described making your own table is as complicated as you want it to be. But all in all its pretty simple. Making your own can accomplish more then just saving a little money as well. Its a skill builder. If you have never, you will learn how to use patterns, and pattern bits, as well as how to cut a dado, and how to perform certain joinery tasks when building your cabinet.
It really just depends on you as the end user though.
You could buy a Ryobi intermediate router table for $99, and install a steel or aluminum plate for $50.00 with an aluminum miter track for another $15 like I chose to ( because I used what I had mainly and its very portable ). The router was $59, table was $99, plate was $50, miter track was $15.00 so $223 later I had a good portable table with vacuum port, shimmable fence for jointing, T-trac and feather board, bit guard, miter gauge, Lam' MDF top, a power switch with two outlets, and I can change bits or adjust height all from above the table. For me, going that route was much cheaper then buying the OP table, or any other on the market right now, even buying the materials to make one from scratch.
Hi Big Jim (you lookin a bit furry in your picture);
Thanks for your wonderful help. It is greatly appreciated. Initially I thought making a table might be ok, but then read about how much pressure and types of heated glue used by professional companies making their tables so they are absolutely flat, I felt a homemade board was problematic and less than accurate being unsure it remains flat.
Is there a reference site where it might explain what to make the table top out of? I don't want to spend unnecessary money but will spend what it takes to get exceptional table, lift, fence, and miter... which I seem to be looking at the JessEm complete best system they offer although it does look some what a space-age unit. It's very pricey but from what I've read is well worth it. When I began assembling a workshop, I never realized how much variety of work is performed with a router and table set up. I thought I would use my Bosch 3 1/4 router fixed in the lift with the table and the Bosch 2.5HP router as the plunge portable router used with the Leigh D4R dovetail jig and the Leigh FMT Pro Motice & Tenon jig. That way I have maximum power available at the table unit and strong power available for joinery done with the plunge router. Do you think that I am thinking clearly on these applications? This is all new to me and I have no mentor or friend who is interested in woodworking like I am. My goals is to make furniture and cabinetry as I can furnish a couple investment houses with new cabinets and some furniture as they are made. At least I have a place for them to seem more practical in the eyes of my wife. Please advise with any help you might think of. As I said, it is greatly appreciated. This is the only forum which I have received a warm welcome and people have reached out offering answers without getting into tit for tat arguments themselves on an answer someone may have offered. I will also need to purchase cabinet door and drawer front router bits to get the raised panel look of nice cabinet doors. I'm finding router bits to be all over the place when it comes to price. Each claim to be the best quality and brand, but each fight against price never realizing if there is a good value for the price or if we suffer in quality?
* you lookin a bit furry in your picture *
Yea... well, I just woke up briefly from hibernation and hadn't had a chance to shave. All that hair was making me itch. :D
As for what to use for table material, this is another Ford vs. Chevy kind of thing, as people here have used particle board, MDF, plywood, cast iron, cutting board material, sheet steel and marble (and probably some I've missed).
When I was starting out here, I asked the same question and "two layers of 3/4" MDF with Formica on both sides" seemed to get more recommendations that day than anything else, so I decided to go with it. When I actually went to my supplier, they made me a super-deal on a damaged piece of 1", with a 1/2" for the second piece, saving me some $$$. I didn't care for the laminates I found at HomeDepot, so found a place to buy Formica. Others may have exactly the opposite preference.
For the edges, again some use laminate, some hardwood and some apply a vapor-resistant finish such as polyurethane or wax. I chose hardwood, simply because I preferred the appearance and mitering the hardwood for the corners would be a new experience for me.
I built mine last summer and it's been suspended between 2 sawhorses since then, with my 3hp router installed in a cantelevered end the whole time, with no sagging. About Thanksgiving I added a second 3hp router to the table, still supported with 2 sawhorses and its still flat. I do however have a router cabinet that is <very slowly> under construction.
As for the best site to find material recommendations, I'd have to say that the cumulative knowledge of the gurus here (and I"m not one of them) greatly exceeds any book or online source I've seen. You won't always get a consensus here, but you'll hear different people describe what they like and why... and can come to your own conclusion.
You're starting to realize just how versatile the router is but I"d have to say that I often find new uses for it here that I didn't know existed. Members here come from incredibly diverse backgrounds including machinists, millwrights, pattern makers, carpenters, cabinetmakers, and many, many more. Heck, they even let a few *engineers* (like me) in here! <g>
In my opinion you are thinking completely clearly on those applications. I too started out with a 3hp plunge... then got a 3hp fixed base for my lift.. then a laminate trimmer (Bosch Colt), and then a couple of dual-base units in the 2+hp range.
I came here with the Tim Allen mentality but have come to learn that routers are like Crescent wrenches. Sometimes you need a 15-incher, usually a 6-10" wrench is fine and occasionally you need a 3-incher.
As for bits, I recommend ignoring HSS bits, only going for carbide tipped or solid carbide as the HSS bits will burn too easily. As for bit quality, the top tier includes Whiteside, Freud and CMT, mid-range includes the Bosch's, Lee Valley, MLCS and others, and the third tier are the HSS and <generally imported> bit with poor quality control, where one bit can be A_OK and the next iffy.
As for me, I have some of most of those and a few others and I think they each have a place. My personal favorite is Whiteside, though they're also one of the most expensive. I've had the worst luck with Porter Cable but it may just be me... and they're often in sale.
Although I've never bought anything on ebay, many here do and have good results, especially from companies that others here have had good results with. One ebay company people here seem to like (correct me if I miss-type this folks!) is "Super Carbide".
I haven't made any raised panel doors yet, but will be making some by the time I finish my RT. I've had others strongly recommend the video tapes from Marc Sommerfeld's New Expanded DVD Collection for learning the process. They also brag about their match rail and stile bit sets but I haven't thought that through yet. I'll start with the videos myself! :)
Hey BJ, Harry, Mike, Curious and others who have extensive experience here.. please fill in any holes I've left and correct any mistakes I've made!
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