If you’ve been a woodworker for long, then chances are that you already have a favorite router. After all, those purpose-made power tools are absolutely invaluable when it comes to making many types of joints and finishes.
However, I would say that routers have one potential weakness – they can be a little hard to control. They’re not a challenging woodworking tool to use, by any means. However, they come with a learning curve for novice woodworkers. At the same time, not everyone has an ideal woodshop set up that makes a router easy to use.
Thankfully, there is one iteration of the wood router that can resolve both of those issues and many more. Enter, the router table.
If you haven’t seen or used one of these before, you’ll be fully surprised at all they can do to enhance your woodworking capabilities. This guide will introduce you to the router table and demonstrate why they are worth using. It will also teach you how to do so safely.
What is a Router Table and Why Should You Use One?
Let’s start by looking at what this tool is. In many ways, a router table is exactly what it sounds like. That is to say, a router table is essentially a wood router combined with a purpose-built woodworking table.
As such, these tables feature a vertically-oriented router head alongside other built-in features (such as a fence and other guides) to ensure that your cuts are precise and reliable.
Back a few decades ago, crafty woodworkers improvised all of the router tables I saw. But now, you can buy a purpose-built router table that comes with all of the same stability, durability, and (most importantly) safety as your other upright electric woodworking tools.
In most cases, these modern models are made with one thing in mind – routing large workpieces all at once. Of course, you can use your router table for workpieces of any size, so long as you adjust the guides appropriately.
How to Attach a Router to a Router Table: A Step-by-Step Guide
Now that you know what a router table is, let’s start by looking at how to attach your router to it.
Step 1: Obtain the Correct Plate
To begin, you’ll need to obtain the correct kind of mounting plate for your router. These will vary from brand to brand and from model to model, so consider checking if your model’s manufacturer sells their own compatible plate.
Otherwise, check your local hardware store for a general-purpose router mounting plate. These often have several sets of mounting holes, some of which should fit your router model.
While checking compatibility, make sure that the actual dimensions of the plate fit your router table model. Your table likely came with a pre-installed plate, which you can measure as a reference. Alternatively, there is a chance that this pre-installed plate already fits your router.
If so, remove and save the screws that held it to your table. Regardless of which plate you end up using, you will need those mounting screws.
Step 2: Attach the Compatible Plate to the Router
Once you’ve obtained a plate that is compatible with your router, you’ll need to secure it to the face of your router.
The precise method for this will also vary based upon the size of the router you are using.
However, you will most likely accomplish this step by bolting the plate to the router’s flat, bottom face. This will allow the router’s bit to still protrude through when active while holding the rest of the unit still and stable.
Step 3: Mount the Router onto the Table
Once you’ve secured your router to its mounting plate, you are ready to mount the whole unit unto your table. To start this process, you should unplug your router (if you have not already done so).
Then, hold the mounting plate and router unit, and place the combination so that the router extends onto the bottom side of the table. If you have done this correctly, the mounting plate should be laying flush with the table’s surface and the bit should be projecting upward.
At this point, it is recommended that you non-permanently bolt down the mounting plate. This ensures that the entire unit remains stable and does not “jump” due to vibrations while in motion. However, some users choose to leave their mounting plate/router unit unsecured to make it easier to adjust the router itself between passes.
Step 4: Test
Once you’ve ensured that your router is flush with the table, you can plug it back in. While you are at it, check if your table includes a built-in power switch. If so, make the necessary connections to power your router through the table itself.
This will save you time and will make it much easier to turn the unit on and off with ease.
From there on, you are ready to test your router table. Try it out with the fence and guides as well to ensure that all components are working properly.
How to Use a Router Table: A Step-by-Step Guide
With your router table set-up, let’s take a look at how to actually use it.
Step 1: Adjust the Router’s Bit and Depth
First, adjust your router’s various settings.
In particular, you should adjust the router’s depth to accommodate your chosen workpiece. Also, you’ll likely want to switch out your router’s bit depending on what kind of joint or trim you are attempting to make.
Step 2: Do the Routing
Once you’ve made all necessary adjustments, you should set up your guides and fence as desired. Once those are secured, you can grab a test piece of lumber and place it off to the side on the table.
Then, you can turn on the table and allow the bit to reach its full speed.
From there, you should be clear to rout the wood as normal. However, if you notice anything is amiss, don’t be afraid to turn the unit off and make appropriate adjustments.
Router Table Safety
Many of the same safety procedures that apply to the use of a standard router apply to the use of a router table.
As such, you should always be wearing personal protective equipment when working at the router table. This includes eye protection, ear protection, close-toed shoes, and properly-fitted clothing (potentially with sleeves to prevent splinters from contacting your arms while routing).
Meanwhile, you should always pace yourself when routing on a router table. As such, never rush through a cut or apply too much pressure while making a pass. This can lead to splintering, which may in turn damage the quality of your rout.
Also, regardless of what size workpiece you are handling, always keep it secured on both ends at all times. Ideally, this should be done with both hands as you make a pass.
Router Table Tips & Tricks
If you want to get the most out of your new router table, keep in mind some of the tips that make your standard routing a success.
For example, never bring your workpiece up to router bit until it has reached its full speed. This ensures that the cut itself is as deep and as clean as desired. In the same vein, always allow the router bit to stop completely before removing a workpiece in the middle of a pass.
When it comes to a router table-specific tip, though, I recommend using your guides and fences to their full advantage.
These can help you make unique joints and trims that would have been infeasible when working with a standard handheld router. If you’re really looking to up your router table’s usability, you can even make your own fences that are suited to your project’s needs.
So, now you know all about router tables and their ability to enhance your ability to make joints and trims without restrictions.
While they do take a bit of time to set up, they are easily worth the time you’ll save during your next woodworking project. Be sure to keep my tips and safety advice in mind, too, so that you can get the most out of your wood router table from day one onward.