How to Use a Router Table [The Safe and Easy Way]

If you buy something through a link in our posts, we may get a small share of the sale.

Using a router to create a seamless or decorative edge on your lumber piece, can be made even easier if you know how to use a router table. Router tables allow you to chop a smooth and seamless profile to your wood projects without having to manually operate the router saw. 

You may be wondering how to use a router table and if it really will work for your wood project. We have the answers here and will walk you through everything you need to know about them.

How to Use a Router Table

You can turn your table into a handy tool by mounting a router into it. Router tables allow your hand to freely work and control the cut. Hence, the importance of properly using router tables to your advantage. 

Using a router table is easy once you get used to it. It’s amazing how a table can become a useful tool for woodworking with a bit of modification. You can learn how to use a router table by following the steps below. 

Step 1: Gather Everything You Need

​Before you learn how to use a router table, you need to take a moment and make sure you have everything you need to use your router table effectively. We’ve listed everything you required to get started, so there is no delay in the use and operation of your router table.

  • Router
  • ​Table
  • ​Extension cord
  • ​Power supply
  • ​Router bits
  • ​Wood pieces
  • ​Tools for router attachment

Step 2: Attach Your Router

​To begin using your router, you need to start with a table that is designed for its use. These tables have a dropped down surface area that allows you to use the extended router blade. You need to attach your router blade onto the underneath of the table as securely as possible, so the blade goes above the table top. Here, you will be able to move your wood ​project piece easily through the router without any issues.

You will also need to have a power supply to plug your router in. It may be necessary to use an extension cord as you want to keep all the working parts of your router table under the tabletop itself.

router bits for wood working how to use a router table

To set your saw up for operation, you need to select a router bit that will work best for the material you are creating your decorative edge for. 

Router blades come in a variety of styles, cuts, and dimensions, to allow you to create refined edge pieces. Attach your blade to the router and make sure it is snuggly fit, so you don’t have to worry about coming unattached as you work.

The router bit that you select will help to create the exact profile that you are looking for on your lumber piece. Using a carbide-tipped bit will provide you a durable cutting edge that will allow you to sharpen the blade as you need to, giving you long-lasting wear.

Step 4: Keep Safety in Mind

​Because your router table has a cutting edge that extends above the tabletop, it can be easy to wound your fingers or hands if you are not careful. Be sure to keep your hands free of the blade exterior as you move the plank through the router bit.

You will also want to wear safety glasses and a good dust mask as you work. This will provide two levels of protection for your eyes and lungs.

It will allow you to keep sawdust particles from penetrating your eyes and also protect your eyes if there is kickback from the lumber piece as you cut.

It is also a good idea to keep loose fitting clothes secured as they can get wrapped up in the bit.

Step 5: Pick the Right Piece of Wood

Before you start to create your decorative edge, you want to make sure you pick the right piece of wood. Using a lumber block that has knots on the plane edge can cause it to splitter, and create a void in the piece of lumber once the bit has cuts into it.

You need a piece of timber that is knot-free and is straight, so you are able to have a clean exterior area that can be chopped without issue. A smooth, undamaged lumber piece will provide you the cleanest cut possible when using your router table.

​Step 6: Use the Jams and Feather Pieces

As you begin to create the decorative surface of your lumber piece with your router bit, you first need to insert the lumber piece on your tabletop. There should be a fence built into your router table that will allow you to move the lumber through the router blade without having to expose your hands to the bit.

Take advantage of the jams and feather pieces to properly secure your blade to the router table. This will eliminate any unnecessary movement of the timber piece as your chop and allow you to seamlessly move the material through the bit.

how to use a router table for woodworking projects and needs

Step 7: Move the Wood Right to Left

​You are finally ready to make the decorative cut. You want to move your timber from right to left as your work. This is the direction that the router bit spins and will create a perfect and clean cut.

Keep in mind that the right to left operation is opposite of how you would traditionally operate a router to chop a profiled edge, but you need to remember that the router has been turned upside down requiring it to move the opposite direction.

As you move the timber piece through the router bit, it may take several passes to get the exact decorative edge you are looking for. Keep the timber steady and allow the bit to do the work. Do not force the timber through the bit. Be sure to use your fence to guide the timber piece and keep it level.

Using your router will also provide you a straighter and more accurate chopped edge. Operating a router saw manually can produce uneven edges as you will only be as accurate as your hands will allow. A router gives you more control as you cut and will make sure you have a profiled edge that looks professional and without any variation or interruption in the cut.

Is a Router Table Needed to Use a Router?

You don’t necessarily need a router table to use a router. A handheld router doesn’t need a router table to function. However, a router table is quicker, easier, and safer compared to a handheld router. 

The handheld router isn’t safer than the router table because the router table gives you better control over the workpieces. This has less room for error so it’s much safer. The table also supports the workpiece while you have the fence guiding the workpiece safely towards the router bit. 

Better control means you will produce accurate cuts. You also have an easier time when handling small parts. It’s much safer for handling smaller parts if you compare it to a handheld router. 

Uses of a Router Table

There are plenty of ways to use a router table in different settings. You should know its different uses before you actually use it. A router table is great for anyone working on a woodwork project. 

Works with Long, Narrow, or Small Stock

With the router table, working with long, narrow, or small stock is easy. Handheld routers have a hard time with these kinds of stock because they don’t have a way of holding the stock in place when you’re working it. 

A router table, on the other hand, allows you to have both of your hands free. It offers support while your hands are able to hold the small parts 

Edge Trimming

Edge trimming is made easy with router tables. It allows you to work the edges with precision. You can customize the edge to any design you want. Just make sure that it is aligned with the router bit.

Template Cutting

Before, woodworkers had a hard time doing template cutting because there were no router tables so the work was a rout. Nowadays, template cutting has been made easier. 

Woodworkers can easily secure a template for their workpieces. Afterward, they can copy the template design using the template bit.  

Pattern Work

Working with patterns is smoother with router tables. You can easily make those stylish door frames or window frames you want with accuracy and precision thanks to them. You can add grooves or signs however you want.  

As a Jointer

Router tables can be used as a jointer. It’s a popular way to save money and space instead of owning a dedicated jointer. All you need is the right setup for edge-jointing and you’re good. 

You need some routing table jointing shims that are sized to fit your fence bolt pattern. The installation only takes minutes and you can use it as a jointer after. 

Shaping Moldings

When we talked about moldings, they are wood pieces that are chopped and shaped into a decorative format. They’re mostly used for rooms and other areas in your home. 

Router tables make shaping moldings easy work. You can easily shape the cuts into what is required. Make sure you use a sample one first to check if it can fit into your chosen location. 

Dovetail Joints

The dovetail joint is a technique used to make sure that different wooden furniture is securely joined in place. Woodworkers use it all the time and are a common practice around the world. 

Router tables are the main means to apply this technique effectively. With the help of dovetail jigs, you can make solid and accurate joints. You can even cut a wide variety of joint sizes and modifications. 

Raised Panel Doors

There are parts for making a raised panel door that can only be made using a router table. That’s why router tables are one of the most useful pieces of equipment to have because of their many uses. 

Common Types of Router Table

You can commonly find three types of router tables. They are benchtop router tables, floor standing, or cabinet-style router tables. The final one is a router table that can fit inside the extension wing of a table saw. 

Benchtop router tables are usually placed on top of a workbench. They’re portable because of their small size. You can even fold them when they’re not in use to save space. 

Floor standing router tables are great for people who have larger workshops. They’re also called cabinet-style router cables. They usually have legs or a cabinet base that sit on the floor. Unlike the benchtop, they’re heavy so make sure they’re in place when operating the router. 

Places to Buy a Router Table

Now that you know how to use a router table, there are plenty of router tables available when you search online. You can even make one yourself if you’re up to it. We recommend getting a pre-built one if you’re just starting out. Try visiting your local woodwork shop and see if they have one.

Once you’re familiar with how to use a router table, that’s when you should consider building your own DIY router table. Making a DIY router table in your free time is easy once you learn how to use a router and how to utilize the router bit. 

The table saw goes hand in hand when you use a router along with the router bit. So make sure you buy a quality router table. 

Essential Parts of a Router Table

These parts play an important role in an effective router table. It’s important that you learn about them so you can easily identify them and in case of broken parts, you can easily identify the cause. 

Table Top 

The tabletop is your workspace so naturally, it’s important. The tabletop should have a smooth, level, and stable surface for your workpieces. 

Legs

The legs of your tabletop act as the base and foundation. Without it, you’ll be working sitting down uncomfortably. It also sets your router table depth. 

Base Plate

The base plate is where you can attach handheld routers. The base plate can be connected to the table top and it needs to be on the same level. Table tops usually have screws that you can adjust to level the base plate. 

Fence

The fence guides your workpieces safely towards the router bit. Fences usually have a dust collection port and t-track. You can also have a split fence which can be used to close the gap around the router bit. 

T-Track

The T-track allows for the attachment of accessories like a featherboard. They’re usually located on the fence. 

Bit Guard

The bit guard is a safety feature that protects our hands. It prevents contact with the bit when working. 

Starter Pin

A starter pin provides better guidance when working on certain cuts for your workpieces. A starter pin creates a fixed point so you can pivot the workpiece on the pin. Ease the workpiece into the router bit to reduce the chance of kickback. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What Does Feed Rate Mean?

Feed rate is the measurement of how fast the workpiece goes through the router bit. When it is too fast, it may cause the surface of the wood to chip or go rough. Too slow and you might find your wood burned.  

What’s the Right Direction For Feeding the Workpieces?

The direction you want to feed the workpieces should be starting on the right side of the table. Move or feed to the left after. You should always be consistent with the right direction to avoid any damages.  

What is the Correct Cut in a Single Pass?

You should avoid cutting deeper than ⅜ inches in one pass. It might cause damage to the table saw. A great way to go about it is to make passes repeatedly until you get the right plate you want. 

Conclusion

​Learning how to use a router table, will make your woodworking projects easier and more convenient. You’ll save time and have the accuracy you are looking for in all your decorative edge projects without having to manually operate the router saw. A router table is a good investment for your workshop and all your woodworking projects.

An expert at home repair, remodel, and DIY projects for nearly 40 years. His first experience came in completely restoring an antique home. Completely redone from the inside out, and restored to its original form, the home is a featured design by renowned Southern California Architect Cliff May, considered to be the father of the California Ranch Home. Now Dennis spends his time on fine woodworking projects and tool comparisons.