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A router table is a specially designed table mounted with a woodworking router.
It allows the user to work the router at a wide variety of angles, including upside down and sideways. The table provides added flexibility for the DIY woodworker, making it possible to perform otherwise impossible cuts.
While there is an art and science of getting the most out of your router table, understanding the basics of working with a mounted router is especially helpful for those looking to take their woodworking or DIY projects to the next level.
What is a Router?
A router is a spinning tool that woodworkers use to hollow out or shape chunks of wood or other hard material, including fiberglass, Kevlar, and graphite. Today, they’re usually power tools, using electricity to rotate a spindle at high speeds. This spindle drills into the wood, leaving a groove. The width of this groove depends on the size of the bit, or cutting element.
As the woodworker moves the router around, he or she can remove the interior of the material while leaving the edges intact. When used on the edge of a piece of wood, the router shapes these edges smoothly, making it far easier to create curved and circular patterns.
There are generally 2 types: plunge routers & fixed base routers. There are also some models on the market that offer both as a combination.
What is a Router Table?
Some routers are hand-held, but others are designed to be mounted to stationary objects. As you might guess, a router table is just such an object.
Woodworkers used to create their own methods of securing hand-held routers, but then manufacturers got wise and started creating tables with routers built in.
The router is actually mounted to the underside of the table, with its bit protruding through a hole in the surface.
When mounted on a router table, a router will function normally, though since the woodworker is facing the tool, the spindle will appear to turn in the opposite direction. Usually, the router is positioned vertically, pointing upwards, but some router tables exist that mount tool horizontally so that cuts can be made from the side.
How it’s used
With a router table, the user will guide the material against the router, as opposed to using the router on the material. Guiding the material gives much more control compared to bringing the router directly to the material.
The use of a router lift can also make essential height adjustments for the perfect cut; since the height of the bit is fixed relative to the surface of the table, the router will create grooves of uniform depth.
A standard router table contains a mountain plate, safety components, miter slots, and an adjustable fence which gives added adjustability depending on your specific needs. Typically there are two types of router tables: freestanding and bench top. Generally speaking, bench top router tables are lighter in weight that freestanding router tables, and thus they’re often much easier to move around when needed.
Though a router table may seem complex when first using it, particularly if you’re used to the hand-held version, it’s an essential piece of equipment for serious woodworkers. Some desirable features to look for in a router table include the size of the table (larger equals easier cutting), detachable baseplates, an easily-adjustable bit guard, and slots for mounting accessories.
Common Uses for a Router Table
A router table is an effective tool for many situations in woodworking. Including but not limited to:
- Trimming and templated woodwork
- High quality and accurate stop cuts
- Joining two pieces of material with grooves and slots
- Dovetail and box joinery
- Cutting and shaping mouldings
- Edge trimming and pattern work
Router tables are commonly used to work on thin, small, or sometimes long materials that might be tricky to work with when using a hand-held router not attached to a table.
One common use is creating raised panel doors. Because of the unique design and specific needs of raised panel doors, a router table helps the woodworker carve grooves of consistent width and depth so the pieces of the door will fit together seamlessly.
Router tables are also very effective at producing the same cut consistently, which can be important when creating commercial furniture where quality control is important.
Once you set up the router table and router to your liking, it’s very easy to replicate the entire process with very minor differences. The tool in itself is very versatile, but a router table gives you even more options for using your router.
There are dozens of uses for the router table, and most woodworking experts will agree a router table gives you significantly more flexibility than a hand-held router.