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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all,
Obviously new here, and wasn't sure where to make this post.
(I typically find myself on recipe and crafting boards).
That being said, a Google search led me here.
My husband is a aircraft mechanic by trade but woodworking is where his heart is.
About a year ago as he was building out my pantry shelves, he mentioned in passing that having a router table would be nice as I chose a rather pretty profile for the edges. (Pics attached of what he did for me)
Fast forward, I have been saving my pennies for a table for him, but have no idea where to go from here. (Truth be told, I had no idea such a thing existed)
I have read countless "best router table" type reviews and my head is spinning.
He has a large shop so space isn't an issue. I'd like to keep it around 1,000.00 if possible.
Any direction you all can provide would really be great. Thanks
(Apologies, as I know this isn't the right thread for such a question, so any guidance where I should post this is appreciated)
Woodworker wife
 

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I think it's great that you want to spend that much on him. A grand should buy a nice setup. I'm not a knowledgeable person with this, but hold tight and I'm sure some experienced person on here will chime in. I'm sure he will get a fabulous gift.
 

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Mike
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Welcome to the forum!
A router table can take many forms. From a piece of wood with a board clamped on for a fence to an elaborate cabinet.
What he want's/need's can fall anywhere in between.
I would suggest buying a large variable speed router that is well suited for a table and let him make up his own mind what he wants to put it in.
I had several different set up's before I finally built a router cabinet.
Also, I would ask him exactly what he wants. Tools can be very personal. What I like he may not care for.
 

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I will let others give you recommendations for specific router tables. (I would never recommend my router table to anyone, even to people I dislike. The only reason I have not replaced it is that I have not decided for myself what I want in the next router table.)

You are asking a difficult question because there are so many options. Worse yet, we don't know what your husband needs beyond the general idea of "router table". We don't know what he has already. We don't know how much you already know about routers and router tables.

A router table is a flat surface with a hole for a router bit to poke through. They also have a fence to guide the wood. I have made crude "router tables" from a piece of scrap plywood with a hole drilled in it and the router screwed on, hung in the air between two slats.

Here are things I would think about:
  • I would hate to spoil the surprise, but it would be best to talk it over with your husband to see what he actually needs and wants. There are so many options and choices here. No wonder your head is spinning.
  • Which router will he use with it? Does he need an additional router or an extra base?
    • Routers come in compact (not helpful), mid-size (around 2 horsepower), and large (around 3 horsepower). The large ones are often sold as a motor only, intended for router tables.
    • What routers does he already have? Would he use one of them?
    • Does he need/want a large, powerful router motor for those large router bits?
  • How will he raise and lower router bits?
    • A router lift is a precision tool that grips the cylindrical router motor and lets you raise and lower the router bit from above the top with crank handles. This is the best option, but prices start at a couple hundred dollars. An advantage is that they clamp to a plain router motor; no router base required.
    • Some mid-size routers have a feature in their fixed base that lets you raise and lower the router bit from above. Drill a small hole in the table top for the crank shaft to pass through to the router base under the table.
      • They do not have the ease of use or precision of a true router lift, but that's what I use as a "poor person's router lift."
      • You must mount the fixed base under the table.
        • It got tiresome to remove the fixed base when I wanted to use it handheld, so I bought a matching router and leave it installed in the router table. If something fails on one, I have its twin and can keep working without a major disruption.
    • The worst case is that you have to make router bit height adjustments from below the table or lift the router and plate assembly (easy to do) and make the adjustments on top before putting it back.
  • The router table will have an insert plate. What size insert plate?
    • If you get a router lift, the insert plate is the top of it.
    • Many insert plates are 9-1/4 x 11-3/4 inches.
      • Rockler's insert plates are 8-1/4 x 11-3/4 inches.
      • There are other sizes, too.
    • Different brands are different sizes, to try and "lock you in" to their accessories, etc.
    • The important point is to be sure that the plate matches the hole in the router table top. Pay attention if you mix and match brands.
  • How will he deal with dust collection?
    • Better router tables enclose the router motor in a box below the table to reduce noise and confine the dust for a dust collector. The box has its own dust collection port, in addition to the shop vac port on the back of the fence.
    • Cheaper router tables have only the shop vac port on the fence.
  • What table surface would he want?
    • The best router tables are made from cast iron. They are heavy, flat, and very nice, but not cheap.
    • Other router tables are made from melamine or laminates. ... or wood.
    • Many woodworkers prefer to make their own router tables to suit their needs. There are lots of plans and examples on the internet.
  • What frame or cabinet would he want to support the router table?
    • Think about where he stores router bits and other accessories. Routers have all kinds of accessories - bits, wrenches, collets, jigs, guides, etc etc etc.
  • $1000 is a good budget target. If you want to buy the very best of everything at full retail, with a cast iron top, a quality router lift, a new router motor, plus the rest of the best table, you could run over budget. Your final cost will depend on what you actually need, which we don't really know for sure ... yet.
One related comment:
Most of those "review" and "best tool" websites are far worse than not helpful. Computers steal content and manufacturer marketing literature and then automatically create "review" and "best tool" websites. No human is involved. The goal is to create "click bait" that generates advertising revenue. I know someone who used to work for a large company that specializes in it.

There are some sites where people replace computers for stealing the content, but those "experts" know nothing about the content they steal. A typical example might be a "best table saw reviews" website, curated by someone whose "extensive woodworking experience" is hanging picture frames on a wall and who has never used a power tool beyond an electric drill. I am surprised that some of those websites print bios of their authors, which look good until you read the details.

I hope this helps, and I hope it is not "information overload". Hopefully it gives you some checkboxes and talking points to think about.
 

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Ole Nail Whooper
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I will let others give you recommendations for specific router tables. (I would never recommend my router table to anyone, even to people I dislike. The only reason I have not replaced it is that I have not decided for myself what I want in the next router table.)

You are asking a difficult question because there are so many options. Worse yet, we don't know what your husband needs beyond the general idea of "router table". We don't know what he has already. We don't know how much you already know about routers and router tables.

A router table is a flat surface with a hole for a router bit to poke through. They also have a fence to guide the wood. I have made crude "router tables" from a piece of scrap plywood with a hole drilled in it and the router screwed on, hung in the air between two slats.

Here are things I would think about:
  • I would hate to spoil the surprise, but it would be best to talk it over with your husband to see what he actually needs and wants. There are so many options and choices here. No wonder your head is spinning.
  • Which router will he use with it? Does he need an additional router or an extra base?
    • Routers come in compact (not helpful), mid-size (around 2 horsepower), and large (around 3 horsepower). The large ones are often sold as a motor only, intended for router tables.
    • What routers does he already have? Would he use one of them?
    • Does he need/want a large, powerful router motor for those large router bits?
  • How will he raise and lower router bits?
    • A router lift is a precision tool that grips the cylindrical router motor and lets you raise and lower the router bit from above the top with crank handles. This is the best option, but prices start at a couple hundred dollars. An advantage is that they clamp to a plain router motor; no router base required.
    • Some mid-size routers have a feature in their fixed base that lets you raise and lower the router bit from above. Drill a small hole in the table top for the crank shaft to pass through to the router base under the table.
      • They do not have the ease of use or precision of a true router lift, but that's what I use as a "poor person's router lift."
      • You must mount the fixed base under the table.
        • It got tiresome to remove the fixed base when I wanted to use it handheld, so I bought a matching router and leave it installed in the router table. If something fails on one, I have its twin and can keep working without a major disruption.
    • The worst case is that you have to make router bit height adjustments from below the table or lift the router and plate assembly (easy to do) and make the adjustments on top before putting it back.
  • The router table will have an insert plate. What size insert plate?
    • If you get a router lift, the insert plate is the top of it.
    • Many insert plates are 9-1/4 x 11-3/4 inches.
      • Rockler's insert plates are 8-1/4 x 11-3/4 inches.
      • There are other sizes, too.
    • Different brands are different sizes, to try and "lock you in" to their accessories, etc.
    • The important point is to be sure that the plate matches the hole in the router table top. Pay attention if you mix and match brands.
  • How will he deal with dust collection?
    • Better router tables enclose the router motor in a box below the table to reduce noise and confine the dust for a dust collector. The box has its own dust collection port, in addition to the shop vac port on the back of the fence.
    • Cheaper router tables have only the shop vac port on the fence.
  • What table surface would he want?
    • The best router tables are made from cast iron. They are heavy, flat, and very nice, but not cheap.
    • Other router tables are made from melamine or laminates. ... or wood.
    • Many woodworkers prefer to make their own router tables to suit their needs. There are lots of plans and examples on the internet.
  • What frame or cabinet would he want to support the router table?
    • Think about where he stores router bits and other accessories. Routers have all kinds of accessories - bits, wrenches, collets, jigs, guides, etc etc etc.
  • $1000 is a good budget target. If you want to buy the very best of everything at full retail, with a cast iron top, a quality router lift, a new router motor, plus the rest of the best table, you could run over budget. Your final cost will depend on what you actually need, which we don't really know for sure ... yet.
One related comment:
Most of those "review" and "best tool" websites are far worse than not helpful. Computers steal content and manufacturer marketing literature and then automatically create "review" and "best tool" websites. No human is involved. The goal is to create "click bait" that generates advertising revenue. I know someone who used to work for a large company that specializes in it.

There are some sites where people replace computers for stealing the content, but those "experts" know nothing about the content they steal. A typical example might be a "best table saw reviews" website, curated by someone whose "extensive woodworking experience" is hanging picture frames on a wall and who has never used a power tool beyond an electric drill. I am surprised that some of those websites print bios of their authors, which look good until you read the details.

I hope this helps, and I hope it is not "information overload". Hopefully it gives you some checkboxes and talking points to think about.
Wow, T A, you pretty well covered it. I personally don't have a "router table", I just never took the time to make one. I have a 3 1/2 hp router in a piece of plywood. It is easy to set up, use and store as my shop is small now.

Your husband may enjoy building his own router table/cabinet and spend that money on some other tools. JMHO. You are a good person willing to support your husband's hobby, not a lot of women would.
 

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where's my table saw?
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As the owner of 3 cast iron router tables with Jess Em MastRLift 2's and the now discontinued Porter Cable 3.25 HP routers, that combination is pretty much top of the line. So, starting with the router:

This Skil 2.5 HP comes with both a fixed and plunge base and is reasonably priced:

Bosch makes great routers:

A more powerful router for making raised panels for doors with 3" diameter cutters this 3.25 HP Triton will work well:

Next, a router lift is crucial to making easy height adjustments, precisely. I have the JessEm MasrLift2's and they are very high quality and a very precise lift. Pricey, though depending on where you go:




Finally, a good router table can be made of cast iron of thick Melamine:
This Kreg is a good example, but again pricey:


These are what I have AND this is a great price!

Caution, not all router lift plates are the same size!
Make certain that the opening in the table fits the router's lift plate you want to get, before making the purchase!
Woodpeckers also make quality router lifts, and I believe they are clones of the Jess EM.

A Bench Dog Pro cast iron top can either be attached to the side of a table saw, I did one of mine this way OR set on top of a 4 legged stand, I welded up my own at a slightly taller than normal height.

Routers are not a "buy one and done" type of power tool. You may end up with as many as 5, even 10, over time.
They are a little like hammers, each one does one thing better than the other, so you end up with different sizes, different weighs, different bases, different colors, yellow, red, blues, etc, and battery or corded
 
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If your husband wants to use the router table for more then basic edge profiling or creating dados, then look at Incra LS Positioning fence.

The Incra LS Positioning fence is unlike any other router table fence you’ll see elsewhere. It is extremely precise and allows for all kinds of complex projects and uses. Spend a few minutes on their web site. If you decide on an Incra fence you will have to buy one of their tables or he will have to make his own.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks for all the input!
This I fear would be akin to me sending him out to pick up some mascara for me, LOL

That being said here is a bit more info.
I am pretty sure that down the line he would build his own, that most likely being when he has more time so think around 8 to 10 years (when he can retire).
My guess us he using the clamp/board method currently.

He has this really big dust collector thing.

Fortunately, he is currently a few hundred miles away redoing his parents bathroom so I was able to go in the shop and take photos of what he has.

I could find two of them, no worries, I was sure to put everything back as it was. (Learned that lesson early on in our marriage ;))

Here is what he currently has...

Agreed, the "what is the best..." is not the way to go, but it did lead me here so that's a good thing.

Thanks again everyone for being so helpful.
 

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maybe add a few more photos of the shop for overall context of theman and his tools.

are you sure that he is not already a memb er of this forum?
 

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where's my table saw?
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That large Elextronic on the the right would make a great table mounted router.
IF you don't spring for a lift, then the only way to adjust the height of the bit is to reach underneath and unlock the motor, rotate it to the "desired' height and relock it.
I don't believe that router has an adjustment in the base for "above the table" height adjustments, but I could be wrong. If it does, then you may not need a lift and save many $$$.
The smaller router in the center is a 690 Porter Cable, one of the most popular routers ever. Both routers are good and reliable.

When the router is upside down, in a table or even a piece of Melamine, MDF or plywood, all you need is a straight piece of wood, one bolt on the end as a pivot and a clamp or slot on the other end and wing nut. Then you add a thin layer of Formica on the outfeed side of that board to offset it enough to make a cut. The fence on a router is always offset or made in two separate pieces.
The the link above:


Wood Rectangle Drawing Font Parallel
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Parts of that illustration look familiar, he definitely has those wood clamps. So that must be how he is doing it.
For context, a decade ago we bought land with a house that was filled with felines. Necessitating the need to gut it and start over. We did the work ourselves. Must say I am not a fan of the plumb bob! Or stapling insulation for that matter.

10 years later and the house is done and shop built. All that is left of the big projects is a garage, so the vehicles don't live in his shop.

He has his shop set up in what I will call work areas. There's like a mechanic part, welding/metal working area and then the woodworking section.

Have no idea if he is a member here or not. Though I do know he watches This old Tony and some guy named AvE on YouTube.

By the sounds of it, I need a lift for sure. Then the other components.
Honestly, I thought it would be like an all in one type deal. Google router table and buy said table. So thanks for helping me understand how it all works. (What is a felxtronic?)
Shame they aren't pushing the trades more in schools, as there is a real art to all of this.
 

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where's my table saw?
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i believe that type of router uses gravity to adjust down and won't work on a router table. once the body clamp is loosened the router can be picked off the base, under a table it would fall out of the base.

imo a router table gets a lot of use for a project and then takes up space and collects dust the rest of the time. my router table gets it's fair share of use and cost me $5. i can even hook up the shop vac to it

Wood Table Outdoor furniture Stool Outdoor table


Table Wood Desk Tool Workbench
 

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There are 4 generic parts to a router table.
° The table. Legs and top with a hole in it.
° The router motor etc.
° The "attachment" or router lift or plate.
° The fence.

Each one of the above can be around approximately almost about $300. Or $1200 for the complete set up. My advice is to give Hubby the money specifying ONLY for a router table. He may want to buy all the components or build his own. I have built two tables with lifts and one with a commercial fence system. It is all personal preference.

Also with the gift give him a catalog from Rockler and Woodcraft, plus any other woodworking supply companies in your area.

Sometimes knowing where you are geographically helps.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Thanks everyone!

Based on the thoughts of all of you...

Tool Agnostic for all the links
BigJim and _Ogre for the advantages of building your own table
Pretender who suggested a variable speed motor; which my first thought was, what? You have to change out the motor??? What a PITA that would be, until I searched to see what it meant.
and woodnthings who likened routers to hammers. This resonated with me.

Having taken into account all that everyone has explained to me and doing further research on the things you noted that I didn't know about, would it be better if I went in an entirely different direction?
Meaning, get a lift (which I know he doesn't have as I was in shop today scouring for the routers he does own) and a router that would go with the lift.
He could then build his own table to suit the needs of the lift and new router.

I think my budget could handle those two things but of course now I have no idea what would go with what.
maybe I am entirely off base with this type of thinking.

Your thoughts are most appreciated, as is your time.
 

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where's my table saw?
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Thanks everyone!

Based on the thoughts of all of you...

Tool Agnostic for all the links
BigJim and _Ogre for the advantages of building your own table
Pretender who suggested a variable speed motor; which my first thought was, what? You have to change out the motor??? What a PITA that would be, until I searched to see what it meant.
and woodnthings who likened routers to hammers. This resonated with me.

Having taken into account all that everyone has explained to me and doing further research on the things you noted that I didn't know about, would it be better if I went in an entirely different direction?
Meaning, get a lift (which I know he doesn't have as I was in shop today scouring for the routers he does own) and a router that would go with the lift.
He could then build his own table to suit the needs of the lift and new router.

I think my budget could handle those two things but of course now I have no idea what would go with what.
maybe I am entirely off base with this type of thinking.

Your thoughts are most appreciated, as is your time.
Yes, a lift would be a great starting point! Then if he wants to use one of his routers OR get an entirely new one, that's his call, now or down the line.
As to a table, again, not now. A simple table can be built as I indicated OR a more sophisticated and expensive one can be purchased sooner or later. That way you can stay well under your budget and possibly get some really nice chisels sets, Narex, or Marbles, OR a Japamese pull type saw, I like the $15.00 Vaughn from Home Depot, OR a stiff backed dovetail saw..... lots of fine quality tools out there.
I just ordered a "pickaroon" head after seeing one at a friends, and because I work with a lot of fire wood. Ebay is your friend or Garrettwade tools:
FYI, I stumbled upon this video that I thought you would benefit from, as a relative novice in woodworking. The first 8 minutes is focused just on routers:
 
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