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The Best Router Tables For Floor and Bench tops

Updated: October 8, 2022
Router tables are a unique tool that transform a simple hand-held tool to a woodworking alternative to a shaper. But not all tables are the same. In this guide learn about the best router tables for bench top and floor-based uses. And why the JessEm is the clear winner.
JessEm Professional Grade Router Table
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The Best Router Tables For Floor and Bench tops

After browsing all the major brands the clear choice for the best router table was clear: the JessEm Ultimate Excel II Package.

From the best built table stand I’ve seen and precision grade components built for a lifetime of use to a shaper-like lift this table doesn’t disappoint.

While a premium price, when compared to a table saw it’s no different than a high quality contractor saw. And router tables require precision that a cheap table just can’t offer.

In this guide learn about:

  • Router table material and durability
  • Compatibility for router lifts
  • Closed vs. open bases
  • Benchtop vs. floor
  • Size of the table
  • Dust collection ports
  • Fit within a table saw (eg. SawStop)

As with all tools, remember some tools call for a one-time investment to avoid future upgrades.

Our Picks

Professionals pick:

Router table base (only):

Best bench top table:

Budget bench top combo:

Cast iron router table:

Last updated on 2023-01-26 at 18:34 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

Key Features

Having trouble finding the right router table? Woodcraft is a premium supplier of woodworking tools and stocks many of the best router tables.

A router table has a surprisingly large number of features – and especially as you look at professional tables that will need to support high precision routing.

However, not every budget can afford the features. So, we’ll take a look at features in three categories for beginners, intermediate and professional woodworking.

Beginners Router Table Features

Beginner Benchtop Router Table

See on Amazon: Bosch RA1181 Router Table

While a professional table with all of the accessories can cost over $1000, that’s out of reach for most woodworkers. 

Just starting out and want a benchtop table to fit your existing router?

Entry level tables will generally have:

  • Compact size for benchtop use
  • Shorter and narrower tables than a floor-model
  • Dust ports
  • Fit for most plunge or fixed base routers
  • Some may have integrated on/off switch
And, as these are compact additions to your garage and use your existing router, they won’t take over precious space in small shops.

Intermediate Tables

Intermediate Floor Router Table

Stepping up in both size and height, you’ll find an intermediate table offers a larger working surface and ability to use jigs to further enhance your work.

If you have any ambition of making cabinet doors, this is the router table to start with.

And, this intermediate router table offers enhancements like:

  • Leverage stands to be mounted from floor
  • Larger table sizes
  • Longer and better integrated fences
  • Enhanced dust collection
  • Capable of supporting a baby power feeder
  • Above table router lifts
  • Fixed legs typically paired with portable tool bases

While the features are similar to a benchtop model, the key upgrade here is a larger table for making cabinet doors. 

And, my favorite, is a power feeder compatibility that will allow for larger projects with better quality.

Professional Router Table

Professional Router Table

When it comes to a professional router table it’s possible to recreate a cabinetmakers shaper. 

Or, at least come close.

Paired with a heavy duty router a shaper table can do everything from furniture to complete kitchens. But, how would I know? Well, I’ve built large cabinets with raised panels using just a router table and it wasn’t much harder than using a shaper.

Key features:

  • Large, high quality table with low friction
  • Tracks for feather boards and gauges
  • Power router table lifts
  • Oversize aluminum insert

Best Router Tables

Professional Pick: JessEm Excel II

Jessem Router Table

JessEm lift + table in one

The goal of a professional router table is to get as close to a woodworking shaper as possible. And JessEm has done just that.

Top Features

  1. 32×24″ phenolic table
  2. Aluminum fence
  3. Steel stand
  4. Router lift included (Mast-R-Lift Excel II)
  5. Optional digital read-out and power switch

Overview

With JessEm being the top brand in router lifts, it’s no surprise they chose to invest in router tables.

And with this all-in-one unit you’ll have a superior quality table, fence system, and router lift. 

Why pick this over a standard table? Well, the unique wheel lift is the #1 reason that woodworkers prefer a shaper. And this option lets you quickly make micro adjustments to the height of the router bit. 

Pros

  • JessEm lift included
  • Wheel-style height adjustment
  • Phenolic table
  • Top quality fence
  • Dust collection

Cons

  • Price
  • Switch not included
  • Lacks cast iron top of other top router tables

Cast Iron Router Table: JET RT 3224

JET Router Table

Almost a shaper…

With few router tables featuring cast iron, this JET model makes for an attractive shaper alternative.

Overview

Offering one of the only cast iron tops on the market, the JET router table stakes a claim as one of the top router tables. First, though, this table is at the high end of the price range and competes with the cost of a low-end shaper. 

Additionally, while the machine is fully featured quite a few of the accessories are optional and the total cost makes this a machine worth second-guessing.

Pros

  • Cast iron top
  • Quality stand
  • Micro-fence

Cons

  • Router lift not included
  • Mobile base not included

Budget Bench Top Table: Bosch RA1181

Bosch Benchtop Table

Top features on a budget 

Bosch produces a high quality line-up of bench top router tables and this one has all of the key features at a budget price.

Top Features

  1. Integrated power switch
  2. Feather boards
  3. Aluminum table
  4. Bosch compatibility (top router for router tables)
  5. Optional above-table router height adjustment kit

Overview

For occasional projects in small shops a benchtop table makes a lot of sense. And, it doesn’t require a dedicated plunge router so you can free up your router for free-hand work.

As you might guess, there are tradeoffs in this size table. But the ease of storing this size table under your bench, quickly setting it up, and tackling complex routing projects you can’t with a hand-held router make it a great place to start.

Pros

  • Metal table
  • Compatible with router height lift
  • Feather boards

Cons

  • Lacks dust collection of Grizzly option
  • Doesn’t have router lift out of box
  • Table size not suited for long boards

Choosing a Router Table Best for Your Projects

How to Choose a Router Table

From just starting out to looking to leap into an intermediate or professional table the first consideration is ALWAYS the types of projects you’ll be making.

With that in mind let’s take a look at common projects and help match a router table to your shop.

Making Cabinet Doors

Farmhouse Kitchen Hardware Blue Painted Kitchen With White

Recommended: Intermediate or professional tables are best for cabinet doors

The reason I own a router table is to make cabinet doors. And, while my doors started out using large raised panel bits in a 3-1/2 HP Dewalt router, I gradually moved to more simple doors like shown above.

But, that doesn’t mean you’ll want to start lower as these larger tables offer:

  • Better support for cutting edge profiles on the doors
  • Smoother surface that will not damage softer woods
  • Enhanced feather board support – both on the fence and table
  • Support for a power feeder – a must for any cabinet project to ensure a perfect routed edge

Making Trim for Cabinets, Furniture and Home

Custom Wood Trim

There’s something unique about making trim, and it might surprise anyone who hasn’t tried.

What is it? Well, surprising to many, top quality trim is made with a controlled feed rate and pressure.

Which means a hand-held router isn’t a great option for most trim, even when considering the limitations of narrower stock.

So, if you plan to make trim (a great side business, for some) a router table capable of supporting a power feeder is a MUST. 

Furniture and Simple Round-overs

Router Table Round Over and Rabbet

Perhaps you’re wondering when you’d use a basic, benchtop router table? 

Well, there are plenty of reasons for a small workshop to have this type of table:

  • Basic edge rounding on narrower wood stock
  • Cutting rabbets and dados in narrow strips eg. for drawer backs
  • Small stock that can’t support the size of a router (this is often the #1 reason to step up to a router table)

How to Use a Router Table

Router Table Cutting a Wood Rabbet

In many regards a router table is as complex as a table saw, or even more so if you move into advanced projects. 

But, first and foremost, a ROUTER TABLE IS A DANGEROUS MACHINE. If you’re not comfortable or capable of using power tools then don’t. Because a router table inverts your router it exposes the bit and extreme caution is required. Read and follow the manufacturer instructions.

Tips to Using a Table

  1. Disconnect the power before adjusting, changing or otherwise getting anywhere near the router bit. Don’t trust just the power switch.
  2. Invest in a router lift if you’ll be a frequent operator. You’ll thank me later.
  3. Fence alignment is critical to a clean cut. Because of that, use a straight steel rule about 24″ or longer and make sure the fences match PERFECTLY before cutting stock.
  4. Always start with a scrap piece to set bit height
  5. Dust collection is a must to keep the bit clean and operating correctly

Key Maintenance and Storage Considerations

While maintenance and keeping tools protected isn’t always #1 on the list, a router table is a precision tool.

And for that reason, with a benchtop model you want to make sure to dedicate storage to keep the fence from abuse.

Have your sights on a floor model? Be sure to use caster or a mobile base. While I’ve picked mine up a few times it’s heavy and awkward.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best router table?

Choosing a router table requires matching your woodworking projects to the router table. While the BEST router table is a professional router table, it’s expense rivals most table saws and takes up significant room. However, under-buying can’t be undone, so choosing a router table with enough “room to grow” is important.

What are router tables used for?

There are many uses for a router table. For example, the problem with routing narrow wood is it doesn’t give a solid surface for a hand held router to sit on. Which prevents a smooth cut. Other uses, though, include using a router table to hold large bits that couldn’t safely be hand-held or used such as a raised panel bit.

Is a router table the same as a shaper?

While both a router table and shaper are the same general size, a shaper differs from a router table in that it has a dedicated spindle and motor. Due to the shapers design, it offers many advantages such as easier bit changing and height adjustment.

Summary

While a professional table isn’t for every woodworker, once you start using one you’ll swear you won’t go back. And, buying the right size is important upfront as you’ll be adding a lot of accessories to it as you find new uses.

  • About the Author
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( Woodworker )

Eric has been a professional woodworker for over thirty years and has worked in small cabinet shops making everything from kitchen cabinets to hand-made furniture. Now working from a home woodworking shop Eric is sharing his passion for woodworking, tool advice and how-to knowledge from his Minnesota-based woodshop.

2 thoughts on “The Best Router Tables For Floor and Bench tops”

  1. Can you do an article on router lifts? I have the bosch router table and would like to install a lift, but hard to be sure which one to get .

  2. Hi Tony – we have this on our list and will publish one soon. On a budget the RA1165 with hex adjustment is a popular choice.

    Jessem lifts would start close to the price of your router and router table.

    Eric

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