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The Bosch RA1181 is an open style, benchtop table made from quality components, with a good sized tabletop plus an excellent fence, giving you two of the main advantages of larger router tables in a compact, portable form and at an excellent price too. If space is at a premium and you are looking for a router table to get out and clamp to your bench each time you use it, the Bosch RA1181 should be on your list.
What to look for when buying a Router Table
Once you’ve bought a router there are a number of accessories that most woodworkers buy, and the most useful of all of them is a Router Table. A router table increases the range of jobs you can perform with your router and allows you to easily take on advanced projects such as raised panels, use larger cutters that are too big to control freehand as well as making it easier and safer to do things like putting edge moldings on narrow workpieces.
Router tables all operate on the same principle with the router mounted upside down under the table, and they fall into one of a number of basic types – benchtop or freestanding, open or cabinet style and there are a number of features you should be looking for whichever type you decide to buy. In this Bosch RA1181 Router Table Review we shall look at tabletop size, stability, ease of mounting, fence quality, type and flatness of baseplate, dust extraction and whether you should choose a benchtop, freestanding, open or cabinet style model.
Large, Stable Tabletop
When looking at router tables, one of the most important feature to look for is the size and stability of the tabletop as the larger the tabletop, the more stable the work surface that it provides. With a wide tabletop you have a larger area on which to rest the workpiece as it is fed onto the cutter and out the other side, which stops it from wobbling. This results in a better finish to the cut and is also much safer – trying to feed a long workpiece onto a small tabletop can be quite a struggle and means you are concentrating more on holding the workpiece steady than actually making the cut. This is particularly important with longer workpieces.
The Bosch RA1181 features a good-sized 27-inch long by 18-inch wide tabletop which is pretty generous for a benchtop model (where portability is a competing factor). The tabletop is made from cast aluminum which increases the rigidity and the surface is rough-ground which means that the workpiece slides across the tabletop much more smoothly – the smoother you can feed the workpiece onto the cutter, the better the finish.
An additional benefit of any kind of metal tabletop is that it is not subject to movement or swelling as a result of changes in the weather – tabletops made of MDF can move slightly as humidity changes.
Removeable Baseplate for Easy Mounting
With the majority of quality router tables, the router is mounted on a removeable baseplate (mounting plate). The advantage of a removeable baseplate, compared to mounting the router directly to the tabletop, is that it makes it much easier to mount the router to begin with and then it simplyfies changing the router bit. You remove the baseplate from the table with the router still attached which gives you much better access – the alternative is to fiddle around under the table which is difficult and greatly increases the chances of skinning your knuckles.
The Bosch RA1181 comes with a cast aluminum removeable baseplate and being made from cast aluminum means that it won’t sag as a result of leaving the router hanging from it, which you’re likely to do if you do a fair amount of router table work. It’s also pre-drilled to accept a large number of popular routers, and not just Bosch models. It’s much better to have pre-drilled holes rather than drilling your own as you know the router will be exactly centered.
Fences on the majority of router tables tend to be a similar design. They consist of an aluminum extrusion or casting with an adjustable two-piece facing made of wood, plywood or MDF (also called a split fence). The reason for the adjustable facing is so that you can adjust for different cutter sizes. By adjusting the fence so that it is right up to the edge of the cutter you get better support for the workpiece so that it is supported all the way onto the cutter and then again immediately on the outfeed. If you had a large opening in the fence when using a small diameter cutter the workpiece could dip into the opening slightly, spoiling the finish.
An added benefit of a split fence is that you can shim the outfeed side of the fence to move the outfeed fence forward for edge-planing and full-face molding. Without the ability to do this the workpiece would not be supported at all on the outfeed side.
The Bosch RA1181’s fence is of this type – extruded aluminium with adjustable MDF faces, and another benefit of the MDF faces is that they are cheap and easy to replace yourself if they wear out. The fence also has a slot to attach the featherboards and cutter guard (both included), and at 4-7/8-inch high is able to support taller workpieces. You also get two 1/16-inch outfeed shims.
Benchtop vs Freestanding
Both types have their advantages – the major advantage of any benchtop router table is its compact size and portability. Benchtop models also tend to be less expensive as they are generally not as fully featured as the freestanding tables.
If space is limited or if portability is important, and you don’t want to go for the expense of a freestanding router table you should opt for a benchtop model; if you have the space in your shop and you’re not going to want to take it anywhere , then a freestanding model could be your best bet, as freestanding tables tend to have larger tabletops to give you maximum stability.
Open vs Cabinet Style
Once again, there are advantages to both; open router tables give you maximum ventilation, easy access to the router and tend to be lighter ; enclosed cabinet style tables are quieter and keep dust to a minimum, but tend to be bulkier and heavier, and being enclosed can cause very powerful routers to overheat.
The Bosch RA1181 is an open, benchtop table made from quality components, with a good sized tabletop plus an excellent fence, giving you two of the main advantages of larger router tables in a compact, portable form and at an excellent price too.
Efficient Dust Extraction
One of the benefits of using a router in a router table is the easy, efficient dust extraction. When using a router freehand, dust extraction isn’t always as good as it could be, the hose can get in the way, and so on. But when the router’s in a table, it’s the table that deals with the dust extraction, and in most router table setups, dust extraction is through the opening in the fence. The Bosch RA1181’s dust extraction port connects to standard-sized 2-1/2-inch vacuum hoses, and does an excellent job.
How much should you expect to pay?
We found it on the web at approx $160
What’s in the box?
The kit includes
- RA1181 Benchtop Router Table
- Set of three mounting-plate insert rings plus mounting hardware
- Two adjustable featherboards
- Adjustable clear guard, starter pin and guard
- Two 1/16-inch outfeed fence shims
What are other people saying?
The general view is that the Bosch RA1181 is an excellent router table for the money and is particularly suitable for the occasional user or someone starting out;
- “It has all of the features and accessories one could want with a bench-top table at a reasonable price.”
- “I haven’t seen anything close to the quality and features of this table in this price range”
- “I have found this to be the best in quality and versatility for the cost”
- “I’d highly recommend this table, especially for someone new to using router tables.”
- “I would recommend this table for anyone who is just getting started”
If you’re new to using a router table and you want a good quality table from a top manufacturer that has all the most important features and for a very reasonable price too, it’s going to be hard to beat the Bosch RA1181.
Once you start to use a router table you’ll wonder how you got by without one, and if you do a lot of table work you’ll probably want to think about a dedicated router to mount in it. Have a look at this article to make sure you buy one that’s designed to work well in a table: Wood Routers for Router Tables