There are three basic reasons for buying a “bench top” router table (a router table intended to stand on a workbench or other support rather than taking up a permanent space on the floor): cost, compactness, and portability. A bench top router table is great for a small shop, where the limited space often has to serve a number of purposes in turns. These compact tools easily fit under a workbench or on a shelf, and can be pulled out ready for action when the need arises.
Then there’s cost. While different makes and models vary greatly in price, the cost of a bench top router table is invariably lower than a floor standing set-up with comparable features. That’s the important point to consider. The term “bench top” just means smaller and more portable; it doesn’t say anything (necessarily) about quality.
When you’re shopping for a bench top router table, it only makes sense to tally up the qualities you’d look for in a “full sized” router table and apply them to the miniaturized class. What you’ll find is that you really don’t have to sacrifice any of the most important router table features in exchange for the cost and space savings of a bench top table. You’ll also find an appreciable range in what you can get away with paying for a pint-sized router table that leaves nothing to be desired.
As is the case with floor standing models, there are certain basic components that a bench top router table just has to have if it is going to perform accurately and conveniently, and hold up over time: most notably, a solid and sufficiently sized top, a sturdy base and a reliable, easy-to-use fence. Beyond that, it’s reasonable to look for a few of the perks available in better full sized tables: A standard 3/8″ x 3/4″ miter slot is a handy thing to have. A fence with split fence facings, which allow quick and easy bit clearance adjustments is, for practical purposes, a must-have. A router-to-table interface that makes installing, removing and leveling the router is also something to give serious consideration.
You won’t have far to look to find a bench top table that meets or exceeds all of these expectations. Here’s an option that we’d label a standout value in this diminutive router table class. The Rockler Portable Router Table is, in all important respects, a compact carbon-copy of one of our all-time most popular products: the Rockler #1 router table package. It’s also prime example of a case where “portable” is not simply another way of saying “stripped down”.
The Rockler Portable Table sports a melamine surfaced top that’s a full 1″ thick for heft, flatness and stability. The top includes an aluminum miter track and sits atop a substantial steel base. The base is outfitted with levelers to prevent rocking, and together with the weight of the MDF top, offers a stable, wobble-free workspace, even when milling long pieces of stock or working against the resistance of a featherboard.
It also comes with Rocker’s signature precision-machined, anodized aluminum fence, which slides along two T-slots in the table surface for easy adjustment and removal. Attached to the main fence backbone with T-bolts and easy-to-turn knobs are two 3″ x 10″ adjustable fence faces, which allow quick router bit clearance adjustments, and feature a T-slot for accessories.
Unlike many bench top router tables, the Rockler Portable Router Table uses an easy-in / easy-out solid ¼” aluminum router plate to make the router to table connection. At 8″ wide x 11″ long, the plate larger than the footprint of just about any appropriately sized router, leaving you free to pop the router out of the table for hand-held use without tools or awkward demounting operations. And it comes pre-drilled for a number of popular router makes and models, including the Porter Cable 690 and 890 series, Bosch’s 1617/1618, the Makita 1100-1101 series and Dewalt’s DW616, DW618 series.
Having undergone a recent all-around upgrade, the Rockler Portable Router Table now comes standard with all of the perks and parts that made our floor standing table packages such a success. But its defining feature is still portability. Measuring a modest 21″ wide x 16″ deep x 16″ high, the Rockler bench top table is small enough to fit in the tiniest of workshop storage spaces. And while it’s equipped with bones sturdy enough to prevent the all too familiar bench top table shimmy, the Rockler table’s weight and size make it a comfortable carry up a flight stairs or out to the back of a truck.
Finally, physical stature isn’t the only thing that’s scaled down in the Rockler table. At around $200, its already available at a compact cost for a full featured bench top. Now, on sale for a limited time at 25 percent off, the Rockler Portable Router Table carries one of the most compact price tags in its class.