Do I Need a Router Table? 7 Reasons You Do!

A router is a powerful and versatile tool in woodworking. It’s used for hollowing out, shaping, trimming, and embellishing wood pieces. From furniture to architectural elements, its capabilities are truly impressive and offer endless possibilities for creative projects. It’s often one of the first tools that a woodworker purchases when setting up shop.

But what about a router table? Is it necessary or is handholding a router enough to get the job done?

A router table enhances precision, safety, and versatility in woodworking tasks. While handholding a router works for some projects, a table ensures consistent, high-quality results, especially for intricate or repeated cuts. It’s a worthy investment for serious woodworkers.

Router table with wood on top

If you don’t have a router table and are wondering if you need one, this article aims to explore the topic in detail. Based on my experience in the wood shop for a large part of my life, I have come up with 7 compelling reasons why a router table should be a staple in your woodworking shop. Let’s explore these reasons below.

1. Safety

Router tables provide unparalleled stability that significantly reduces the potential for accidents. When you’re handholding a router, there’s always a risk of the tool slipping or moving unexpectedly, which can lead to errors in your work or worse, injuries!

It’s easy to lose focus and become complacent when handholding a router, especially for continuously repeated cuts. I have experienced this myself and an unexpected router slip can be quite scary.

With a table, the router is securely mounted to a base plate, ensuring it remains steady throughout your project. Not only that but there are often other built-in safety features including a bit guard and some router table fences include adjustable featherboard attachment areas for holding down your workpiece.

Safety features of a router table

The workpiece is moved against the router bit, which is fixed, allowing for greater control and precision. This stability is particularly beneficial when working on smaller pieces or intricate designs, where a small slip could have a big impact. The secure, stable platform that a table offers enhances your safety and the quality of your work.

Moreover, it keeps your hands free from holding the router. This allows you to focus solely on guiding the wood along the desired path. With the router mounted on the table, you can use both hands to maneuver the workpiece, maintaining a smooth and steady pace.

This not only enhances precision but also enables you to work comfortably for extended periods. In the end, a router table makes for a safer work environment and also promotes meticulous execution of your woodworking projects, making it a crucial tool for professionals and enthusiasts alike.

2. Precision and Accuracy

A router table is very helpful when it comes to maintaining consistency. When handholding a router, even the steadiest of hands may falter, resulting in uneven depths and imprecise cuts. The challenge of maintaining a uniform depth while hand-routing becomes particularly evident when dealing with longer or repeated cuts.

However, with a router table, the router’s depth setting can be fixed and remains constant for each cut, ensuring every pass’s depth is replicated precisely. This is particularly beneficial when you’re making multiple similar pieces or when precision is critical, such as in joinery work.

In such scenarios, even a slight variation in the depth of cut can lead to a poor fit or unaesthetic result. By ensuring consistent depth of cuts, a router table can indeed be a difference-maker in your woodworking projects.

Router tables are usually equipped with a router lift that allows you to easily move the router up and down and lock it into position.

Routed box joints

An example is creating box joints or dovetail joints. This is quite easy to do if you have a router table. A simple jig can be used and the table allows you to maintain a consistent cut for every joint you cut. I create box joints often and always use a jig on my router table.

There are also jigs for handheld routers but I have found them to be less accurate and dependable.

A router table excels when it comes to tasks such as edge profiling, offering a level of precision that’s hard to achieve with a handheld router. The table provides a sturdy, stable surface, allowing for an unprecedented degree of control in guiding the workpiece. This results in cleaner, more precise cuts and symmetrical patterns that are essential for aesthetic woodworking projects.

3. Versatility with Different Cuts

As mentioned above, crafting intricate joints such as dovetails and box joints is significantly easier with a router table. These types of joints are cornerstones of many woodworking projects, especially cabinetry and furniture making, where they provide both aesthetic appeal and structural integrity. The precision and consistency offered by a router table are unparalleled when it comes to these intricate tasks.

In addition to being able to cut dovetails and box joints, a router table allows you to accomplish a variety of other cuts with a high degree of precision. One such example is the mortise and tenon joint, a fundamental element in woodworking that provides robust, secure connections between pieces. With a router table, crafting these joints becomes a straightforward and repeatable process.

Rabbet cut on pine wood

Similarly, cuts like dados and rabbets can be expertly executed on a router table. While it’s possible to make these cuts using a handheld router, the task is significantly more challenging and often lacks the consistency and precision found when using a router table.

4. Consistency with Repeatable Cuts

When it comes to projects requiring repeated identical cuts or multiple passes, having a router table can be a game-changer. While achieving consistency with a handheld router requires considerable concentration and attention to detail, a router table simplifies this task. Once you set the desired depth and fence position on the router table, these settings remain constant for every subsequent cut.

Other features like a t-track and miter gauge make it easy to add jigs and maintain a consistent result.

This means you can make the same cut over and over again, with each cut being a perfect mirror of the last. This level of consistency is crucial, especially when producing a series of identical pieces for cabinetry or furniture.

The router table’s ability to maintain accuracy in repeat cuts not only ensures the uniformity of your pieces but also significantly speeds up the production process, resulting in time savings and increased efficiency. Thus, for projects demanding repeated identical cuts, the router table proves to be an invaluable asset in your woodworking shop.

5. Easier for Small Workpieces

Working with small or narrow workpieces can pose a significant challenge when using a handheld router making some tasks nearly impossible to complete. The main issue originates from the requirement of the router’s base to sit flush on the workpiece during the routing process.

Small or narrow pieces lack sufficient surface area for the router base to sit properly and safely. This can lead to imprecise cuts and increase the risk of accidents.

A router table, however, addresses these challenges effectively. With a router table, the workpiece, regardless of its size, can be guided along the table top or along the fence with ease and precision. As the router is securely fixed in the table, even small or narrow pieces can be routed accurately and safely.

The table surface provides a stable base while the workpiece glides smoothly against the fixed router bit. This eliminates the instability related to handheld routing of smaller workpieces.

In addition, the router table’s fence provides an additional guiding mechanism that serves as a straight edge for these small pieces, facilitating straight, accurate cuts even on the narrowest of materials. The ability to guide the workpiece using both hands further enhances control and precision, contributing to high-quality outcomes.

6. Allows for Larger Variety of Router Bits

Smaller handheld routers typically come equipped with 1/4 inch collets, which limit the size of router bits they can accommodate. Unfortunately, these routers are not compatible with larger 1/2-inch shank router bits, which are often needed for more extensive routing tasks.

One solution is to handle a larger fixed-base router or utilize a plunge base, but for larger jobs, a router table is a more sensible and safer choice.

For instance, my Dewalt 20V router only accommodates router bits with 1/4-inch shanks, necessitating the use of my more substantial setup when large bits are required. The convenience and safety provided by a router table during such tasks further demonstrate its value in a well-equipped woodworking shop.

Whether you need to use a small straight bit or a larger rabbet bit, a router table with a capable router mounted to it ensures that you can get the job done.

7. Dust Management

One of the significant advantages of a router table over handholding a router is the superior dust management system it offers. Handholding a router can be a messy job. Even with some dust collection, you may still find your workspace littered with sawdust, creating an unclean environment and potentially harming the air quality.

Dust collection on router table

I utilize a dust collection system on my cordless router but it doesn’t catch nearly the amount of dust that my router table setup catches. Depending on what I am routing, I am often left with a huge mess to clean up.

Router tables often come equipped with effective dust collection systems. This is usually a dust collection port behind the router bit where a vacuum attaches. This port collects the majority of the sawdust and wood chips produced during the routing process, ensuring a cleaner workspace and better air quality.

This not only makes it easier to keep your work area tidy but also contributes to a safer working environment, minimizing the risk of respiratory issues and other health problems associated with prolonged exposure to wood dust.

Furthermore, it saves cleaning time post-work, allowing you to focus more on your woodworking projects. Hence, the improved dust management feature of a router table is a considerable advantage for woodworkers.


The benefits of owning a router table are numerous. It offers a remarkable level of precision, consistency, and versatility in making various cuts and crafting intricate joints that are critical to fine woodworking projects.

While there are undoubtedly situations where handholding a router might prove sufficient, the advantages of a router table – including superior dust management, better control, and consistency with repeating cuts – are undeniable.

A router table can significantly expand your woodworking capabilities, opening up a realm of possibilities in terms of the projects you can undertake.

Therefore, if you’re serious about woodworking, it’s worth assessing your individual needs, considering your project goals, and weighing the long-term benefits of investing in a router table. While it may add to the initial cost, the benefits make it a worthwhile investment that can enhance the quality of your work and the efficiency of your woodworking process.

You can purchase a small benchtop router table for a relatively low price, and it will provide more than enough capacity for most woodworking tasks. As you become more experienced with various routing techniques, you may find yourself wanting to upgrade to a larger model down the line.

Remember, the value of any tool is not just in its price, but in how much it can enhance your craft. And in this regard, a router table can indeed be a game-changer.