Great Router Table Upgrades
We tested more than 50 router-table accessories—here's the best of the bunch.
We tested more than 50 router-table accessories - here's the best of the bunch.
We love our router tables. Perhaps that's why woodworking catalogs and Web sites offer more accessories for routers and router tables than any other tool besides tablesaws. The challenge is in determining which add-ons are merely cool (and seldom used) and which ones really make life in the shop easier. Here are the dozen we found almost indispensable.
Woodhaven Router Fence Model 202, $180
You can buy more elaborate router-table fences, but we think this one provides great versatility at a moderate price. Independently adjustable MDF fence faces slide in and out and can be cut away for zero-clearance routing; shims (included) step out the outfeed fence for jointing. The fence clamps to the edges of the tabletop (so you don't need to drill holes or cut slots into the table) and installs on any router table from 21" to 32" wide and up to 1-5/8" thick.
Board Buddies, $50
You can use feather boards to hold a workpiece down and more feather boards to hold it against the fence, but one pair of yellow Board Buddies does all that and more. They hold stock down, pull it against the fence, prevent kickback (the wheels turn in only one direction), and keep your fingers out of harm's way. Installed on your fence's top (we mounted them in T-track), Board Buddies adjust for stock thickness and roller pressure. And they provide the same benefits when switched over to your tablesaw fence. One small limitation: Buddies can't handle workpieces less than about 1" wide.
Bench Dog Panel Hold Down, $50
Simple, yet elegant, the Bench Dog Panel Hold Down adds both safety and accuracy when working with large-diameter bits, such as panel raisers. Completely covering the bit, the device prevents fingers or hands from getting anywhere near the cutting edges. Meanwhile, it also acts as a stock hold-down, keeping consistent downward pressure on the workpiece. (Panels must be at least 6" wide to work with the device.) Beveled edges at both ends of the aluminum extrusion ease workpiece entry and exit without marring. You can bolt it onto your fence face or in 1/4" T-track.
Loc-Line Modular Vacuum Hose, $70
How do you catch dust when routing free-hand? Loc-Line bends, twists, and can be lengthened or shortened (by adding or removing hose segments) to put the inlet in the best chip-collecting position. You can install it permanently, but we opted to mount Loc-Line's Shop-Vacuum Hose Adapter with Mounting Tab to a piece of scrap (as shown in the photo at left) that we clamp to the router table when we need it, or move it to other dust-producing tools, such as the drill press or scrollsaw.
Rousseau Safety Power Switch, $38
Fumbling under your router table to find the tool's on-off switch is not only frustrating, it can be downright dangerous. That's why we strongly suggest adding a remote start switch. We like the simplicity and safety of Rousseau's Power Switch: It sports a bright yellow "crash bar" that's easy to find should you get in trouble with a cut. And the lighted toggle switch lets you know when its three-prong grounded outlet is hot before plugging your router into it. The switch mounts only to an overhang, as shown; if we could improve one thing, we'd add a way to install it on the side or face of the router-table cabinet.
JessEm Rout-R-Lift FX, $195
You can take your pick from at least a dozen router lifts (devices that let you adjust bit height and even change bits from above the table) ranging from $150 to nearly $400, each fitting a different group, size, or style of router. So, your choice may be limited to one or two models that fit your router. We like JessEm's RoutRLift FX because it readily accepts motors from the most common midsize routers: the Bosch 1617 and 1618 series, DeWalt DW610 and 618 series, and Porter-Cable 690 and 890 series. To reclaim the router for handheld use, a simple cam lock releases the motor. The insert plate measures 9-1/4×11-3/4".
MLCS Combo T-Track/Miter T-Track, $34 for 32" length
Some accessories, such as a feather board, miter gauge, or box-joint jig, work on both router tables and tablesaws. Combo T-Track/Miter T-Track provides side-by-side slots—one for 3/4" miter bars, and the other for 1/4" T-track accessories—so it fits miter-bar-guided jigs and T-bolts, such as those often found on feather boards. (The T-shaped miter slot eliminates removing a miter gauge's washer, as you would do with a simple dado in the tabletop.) This two-way track works best in tabletops at least 1" thick: The 7/16"-deep slot needed to install the track can weaken a thin tabletop.
Miter Sliders, $17 (18" length); $21 (24" length)
Miter-bar-guided jigs, such as coping sleds and tenoning jigs, demand a perfect fit between the miter bar and the table slot. The tapered key in Incra's Miter Sliders expands the bar for a custom fit to almost any 3/8×3/4" miter slot. The concept isn't new: Many tablesaw miter gauges now feature expandable miter bars, but fitting them can be tedious because the adjustment screws are on the bottom. Incra solved that, too. By drilling a couple of holes through your jig before installing Miter Sliders, you access the adjustment screws from the top. This also allows you to lock the bar tight in the slot for fixtures, such as a feather board or stock hold-down.
GRR-Ripper 200, $70
Looking for the ultimate pushblock for your shop? Rubber pads on the bottom of the GRR-ripper tenaciously hold a workpiece so you can press it firmly to the table, and its beefy top-mounted handle provides a wide safety zone for your hand. We especially like this device when pattern- or template-routing with a starter pin and bearing-guided router bit. The support leg adjusts to the workpiece thickness, or flips top-to-bottom to add even more gripping surface. The GRR-ripper works even better on the tablesaw: By sliding the center block left or right you create a tunnel for the saw blade to pass harmlessly through, allowing you to rip stock as narrow as 1/4" without losing contact with the workpiece.
Finger Saver, $25
If freehand routing a chamfer or round-over on small parts sets off warning bells inside your head, answer the alarm with The Finger Saver. Clamp any part shorter or narrower than 10" between the jaws of this workholder, and then use the large handles to keep your fingers well clear of the bit. A quick-release mechanism makes resizing for various workpieces fast and easy. The Finger Saver comes with an attached angle guide for mitering, but we saw little value in it, so we removed it.
Incra Gauge, $18
We've tried a lot of fancy bit-height gauges, but keep coming back to the accurate simplicity of the Incra Gauge. First, set the gauge to the desired depth (it locks in at precise 1/32" increments), and then raise the bit until it touches the overhanging jaw. We find it much easier and more accurate than any ruler. The Incra Gauge fits nicely in an apron pocket, or can be tossed into a drawer without fear of losing its calibration. Elsewhere in the shop, it can do duty as a marking gauge or for setting the blade height on your tablesaw.
Bit Holders, $3 for pack of 6
We've seen all kinds of router-bit storage, but the Bit Holders from Lee Valley received a unanimous thumbs-up from our staff. Available for 1/4"-, 1/2"-, and 8mm-shank bits, they install simply with a 5/8"-long screw through the bottom, and grip equally well whether mounted vertically or horizontally. And, unlike prefabricated racks, you install them in whatever configuration fits your space. We mounted a single Bit Holder on top of our fence to keep track of one half of the rail-and-stile set while we work with the other.