What is the Best Router Table Top?
When you stop and think about it, the best router table is not so different from any other. They both consist of a flat surface on a base and with a router mounted underneath. The cutting edge of the router sticks up through a hole in the top. And that’s it. Except for a few details, like…
…the top. When it comes to a good router table, the top must be rigid and absolutely flat. These are the two elements that contribute the most to the precision of your cut. The slightest variation of the surface can skew your work so badly that you’ll have to scrap it.
The very best material for a router table top is cast iron. It’s flat, it’s stable, and it’s durable. It’s also very, very heavy. If you know how to use a router table and use one every day, cast iron is for you. If you’re building your own table from router table plans you’ll probably want to use medium density fiberboard (MDF) or solid phenolic resin.
MDF is relatively stable, rather inexpensive and reasonably portable. It’s fine for medium duty use and, properly made, will last for years. Many pre-made router tables are made of MDF and router table plans often call for it. Look for a router table of this type to have a top at least one inch thick and to be faced with melamine or a high pressure laminate (HPL).
Another option often mentioned about a good router table is solid phenolic resin. This stuff is practically indestructible. It starts flat and stays flat, resists denting, and never loses its shape. It doesn’t absorb vibrations the way cast iron does but that’s of little concern when you consider how much lighter it is.
If you’re looking for the best router table ever, you’re looking at cast iron. If you’re looking for the best router table that doesn’t weigh as much, costs less, and can stand up to even heavy duty use, you’re looking at phenolic resin. And if you’re looking for a good router table that you can build from router table plans for moderate use, you’re looking at MDF.