Get the basics right
When setting up your router table for the first time you need to make sure you get the basics right in order to work safely and get the most out of it. Time spent on setup will pay dividends in comfort and accuracy for years to come.
Set the height properly
Take care to set up the table at a comfortable height that lets you see and control the work. Good quality floor standing router tables like the Kreg PRS1045 have adjustable legs that let you fine tune the height and take account of uneven floors. If you are using a bench-mounted table like the Bosch RA1181 you may need to mount it on offcuts to get the height just right. 36″ to 38″ is a good starting point for most people.
Make sure the mounting plate is level
On store-bought models, check that the mounting insert is flat and level with the table surface. If it’s not level, you won’t get a consistent depth of cut. Shim it with leveling screws – most quality tables like the Bench Dog 40-001 Router Table have leveling screws at each corner – or with pieces of masking tape if it doesn’t.
Ensure the fence is square
The fence on a router table should be flat, straight, and square to the work surface. Don’t assume it will be right out of the box – use a carpenter’s square to check. A top of the range fence like the JessEm 4010 Master Fence II should be perfectly square every time. With less expensive fences, you shouldn’t have to shim the fence to make it square to the table, but sometimes it’s necessary. In use, always make sure that the fence opening is closed as tightly as possible without interfering with the bit. This will ensure the best support for the stock as it passes the cutter.
Feed the workpiece properly onto the router bit
When feeding stock past the bit, bear in mind a couple of things. First, keep the stock between you and the bit; in other words, don’t trap it between the bit and the fence. Move the wood from right to left (into the bit’s rotation). The rotating bit will try to pull the work into the fence or into the bearing on the bit, giving you good control and better accuracy. For most operations, you’ll feed the work into the bit with your right hand and use your left to hold the piece snug against the fence or table as you move it past the bit. For safety’s sake, never put your hand over the bit area, even if there’s wood covering the bit. Bits have been known to drill their way through a board. Also keep your hand away from the exit point on a through cut. Use a push stick with smaller boards and use featherboards with thin stock.