My original shop was well equipped, in terms of numbers, with router tables. I had a fairly nice cast aluminum benchtop table, but the undersized plunge router that went with it had a non-standard mount and wasn’t overly suited for use with a table, and the table was useless without that specific router. I had an OK older router in a very small and basic table that worked for small things, but when I started making bigger items it wasn’t up to the task. That led to taking a scrap of countertop and making a homemade table, which worked fairly well until after a few humidity cycles it developed a sag.
When setting up my second shop I decided it was a good chance to upgrade to a better table. I have space and like the stability of heavy cast iron, so my first thought was to get a small shaper such as the Grizzly G0510Z, but the more I thought about it the more I didn’t like the tradeoffs involved between that and the next step up to the G1035 and decided it was time for a full shaper and I’d use the router bit adapter for smaller work.
I was ready to buy the shaper, then came across some reviews discussing how the higher speeds of routers were needed for all but the largest router bits. The more I thought about the type of work I’d be doing, I came to the hard realization that as much as I wanted the big stability and easy adjustments of a shaper, it wasn’t the right tool for me.
The next stop on the line was looking at the big cast iron router tables, and while I liked the concept I really struggled with the clip-on mounting system; I’ve seen a router come loose from a similar system during a cut and it wasn’t an experience I’d choose to repeat. Based on that, I moved over to the other offerings in phenolic and MDF, but I found that I really couldn’t get past the experience of my countertop table sagging and really did want metal. In addition, with all the table suitable routers being at my first shop, I was going to need another router as well, so I started a broader search.
I did find a cast iron table that would work with a regular mounting plate, but the cost of that option was out of the rage I was looking in. Eventually I came across the Craftsman 937610 “Premium Die Cast Aluminum Router Table” which offered a fairly large table at 600 square inches, a good mounting plate, and a reasonable fence. It also advertised a built-in above the table router height adjustment, which seemed pretty good for the price. To go with it I selected the Craftsman 927683 “Variable Speed 2 HP Router Combo Kit” which was on sale for about $15 more than the same router in a fixed base only configuration; from past experience I easily decided that having the extra plunge base adds far more than $15 of flexibility.
Several reviews I had read on the table before buying it cautioned against a lack of flatness, so the first thing I did on opening the box was to take a straightedge and check the table. I found no issues, and proceeded to assemble the base. As with many of the other reviews, I was more concerned with the lack of dust collection access and potentially limited cooling air of the enclosed base by having the router in a basically closed box than I was impressed by the potential noise reduction and dust containment (as well as the advertised storage capability – which I think anyone who has used a router table before will consider laughable due to the amount of dust which will gather on anything in that space – and the associated difficulty in cleaning it out if other things are stored there). The small shelves on one side of the base are a little better by being outside the main dust region, but given that I tend to clean my tools by using a 4” dust collector hose I’m unlikely to ever use them for storage.
Mounting the table to the base is fairly straightforward with the mounting screws going into recessed holes from the top. Mounting the fence is also straightforward, as is mounting the router to the plate (provided you have a router that works with the plate – if the router is a different type you may need to get a different plate than the one included in the box). I found the plate easy to level and lock down. The height of the base seems a bit tall for most workbenches, so it is probably better to mount it on a dedicated stand or find a lower bench to mount it to.
With everything mounted I gave it a dry run with no bit in the router, then added a roundover bit and grabbed some scrap wood. I found it easy to tighten / loosen the collet nut with the router fully up and holding the wrench at a slight angle. The very basic above table height adjustment (a hole in the table through which an offset allen wrench fits into the bottom of the standard router fixed base adjuster) worked better than I had anticipated – but it only works if the router base is of a certain design that accommodates it.
After a few uses I’m fairly impressed by the table, and the router itself has handled everything I gave it. The key things I have noticed are:
• The miter slot is small. I rarely use the miter slot on a router table and I didn’t really pay attention when I purchased it, but I would have expected a standard 3/8 x ¾ slot (and really would have expected a T slot as well) on a table of this size, price, and anticipated usage level. The table does come with a miter gage that fits the slot, but it’s more of a toy afterthought than a serious piece of equipment. I guess that I can use my Incra to set an angle on my band saw, clamp a piece of scrap to the table at the angle, and then set the router miter gage to it, but I would have preferred to be able to use any of the wider variety of aftermarket miter gages that fit a standard slot. The design of the table casting is such that there isn’t metal available to be able to take it to a machine shop and have the slot expanded, which I probably would have done had it been an option.
• The fence dust port takes a 2 ¼ inch fitting internally. So far it’s OK using an offset reducer on my 4” dust collector hose, but it would be nice to have a fence that works directly with the larger hose. Likewise it would be good if they were to integrate a router compartment duct collector option in the basic design.
• The fence adjusts relatively well, and the micro adjust knobs work better than I had thought they would for either making small tweaks to the depth of cut or offsetting for jointing. They are a bit tight to move but do seem to stay solid once set. I had been concerned about the rigidty of the fence when the adjusters were used since it pushes the fence away from it’s back support at only one place per side, and while this could be an issue with small pieces I have found that with longer pieces the workpiece itself provides the structural support to keep them aligned.
• I would have liked less decoration on the table top – a simple logo on the back of the table behind the fence would have sufficed and reduced the number of edges on the front of the table where debris can accumulate to potentially throw off a pass or mar the workpiece. I ended up taking a piece of fine sandpaper and smoothing all the edges as best I could, but there are several I really couldn’t get to (like the inside of some of the letters in “Craftsman”)
• I find the bit guard to be more of a danger than the bit itself. The guard is far too big and stiff for most small work, and really is a distraction right at the moment when starting a cut. For larger pieces the “ramp” to raise it out of the way isn’t big enough, so you have to manually lift it out of the way, hold it with one hand, then move the work into the cut with your other hand. I try to avoid removing guards, but this one will rarely be mounted.
• The table comes with screws for mounting the router to the mounting plate, however the screws are flush head and designed for countersunk holes whereas the plate is designed with a recess for pan head screws.
All in all I’m fairly happy with the table, but with a few small changes to the design it could be much better.