Routers are praised by professional and DIY woodworkers for their ability to produce a number of different sized and shaped cuts, such as textures and joineries. It’s the consistency and accuracy of router tables that make them so revered by carpenters of all levels. These tables come in a wide selection to choose from, and some even have different purposes to boot. If you’re out shopping for one, choosing the right one for you can be a challenging task. This is why we advise taking a look at Bosch’s line of router tables.
Bosch is known for being one of the industry’s most trusted manufacturers, and they’ve been in the game for more than a century. They mainly focus on producing some of the world’s best handheld power tools, but their line of router tables is definitely worth noticing. Two of their models – the Bosch RA1181 Benchtop Router Table and the Bosch RA1171 Cabinet Style Router Table – have consistently received positive ratings from customers and experts. However, when it comes to which one is better there are several things to look at. You can read how the two models compare below.
One of the main purposes of a router table is to give a platform in which to produce accurate and consistent cuts onto long pieces of wood, so the fence is extremely important. The RA1181 features a durable and adjustable 4-7/8- x 25-1/8-inch aluminum fence for maneuverability. The opening can be set to a maximum of 3-5/8 inches which is great for working on materials that leave a lot of sawdust.
Just like the RA1181, the fence of this cabinet-style router table is made of durable aluminum of similar size (4-7/8 x 25-1/8 inches). The maximum fence opening of this model is slightly smaller than the RA1181, measuring 3-3/16 inches. Although there’s hardly any difference, in general, a wider fence opening is preferred especially since it wider openings work better on materials that generate sawdust.
The fences are practically identical in size and opening. They’re both moderately tall so working on taller stock pieces won’t be an issue. However, the RA1181 is only slightly better fence-wise since the opening is just a width of a hair wider than the RA1171’s maximum fence opening.
Featherboards are devices which are specifically used to apply a constant pressure on the stock you’re holding. The RA1181 comes with two featherboards which can be used on the table and fence, helping to produce precise cuts.
This model also features two fully-adjustable featherboards which help keep our fingers away from the high-speed router. Just like the newer RA1181 model, these featherboards can be attached to the table or the fence for creating accurate cuts along the stock you’re cutting.
There’s a complete overlap in featherboard performance and usability. Neither the RA1181 nor the RA1171 are superior in this regard, but it’s important to note that these models come with two featherboards which serve as a third hand to keep our delicate fingers out of harm’s way.
When working with stocks of wood, you never want the residual sawdust to collect on or around your table since it can ruin measurements and accuracy. The RA1181 comes with a single standard 2.5-inch dust collector which connects to a shop vacuum. The 3-5/8-inch wide opening on the fence supports more effective dust collection.
They say more is better, but it’s not always true with the RA1171’s dust collecting system. This unit features dual 2.5-inch dust collecting ports to which users can fit standard vacuum hoses. However, the only possible drawback is the placement of one of the ports near the on/off switch box which poses a risk of air leaks.
Looking at the dust collector ports, less is more, at least when comparing these two models. The placement of the dust collector in the RA1181 in combination with the wider fence opening allows for more effective dust disposal.
Aluminum Mounting Plate
The sturdiness and flatness of a router table’s mounting plate plays a huge role in producing precise cuts. A versatile plate helps users swap routers out with ease. The RA1181 model features a rigid and smooth aluminum mounting plate which withstands all sorts of router weights. This unit comes with three mounting plate rings.
Similar to the RA1181 model, this router table uses a smooth, predrilled aluminum mounting plate for swapping between routers. This unit also comes with three mounting plate rings to choose from. However, the assembly phase of the unit determines the overall level and balance of the mounting plate. We found that it was just a tad bit more difficult to keep the plate level when putting this unit together.
We’re noticing that the newer RA1181 model has fixed a lot of issues that we and several customers have complained about. The aluminum mounting plates and rings are identical, but when assembling the unit, it’s easier to keep everything leveled with the RA1181.
Large Aluminum Work Surface
In combination with effective dust and debris collection, a flat work surface is vital for producing accurate cuts, especially when working with long pieces of stock. In general, the longer the stock, the larger the work surface needs to be to keep the piece balanced. The RA1181 features a large 27 x 18-inch die-cast aluminum surface. The table is also durable to boot, making this portable router table a perfect solution for taking to various job sites. The problem with soft metals like aluminum is that they are prone to warping over time.
This cabinet-style router table features an aluminum table that has been commended by a number of people for being large enough for a majority of woodworking projects but also small enough for personal use at home. The laminated work surface measures in at 25 x 15-1/2 inches. The problem with warping is also a risk that the RA1171’s work surface isn’t free from.
Considering the portability of these two units (more on this later), we find that the RA1181’s slightly larger work surface makes it the better choice between these two models. Both of these table’s finishes make for a seemingly frictionless experience when pushing stocks through the router, but the larger workspace of the RA1181 accommodates both small and larger pieces of wood.
One of the worst but also fulfilling experiences for any woodworker is assembly. The RA1181 comes in a number of pieces that users need to meticulously go through and count in order to ensure perfect construction. Luckily, the longest you’ll spend on building this unit is roughly 90 minutes. It might seem long, but just wait until you see the assembly time of the other Bosch model.
As we mentioned earlier, the assembly can be a pain, and the RA1171 takes full advantage of how much trouble you should go through. The unit comes in even more pieces than the RA1181, so we had to spend roughly 25 minutes going through and counting each individual piece. It took us an additional 2-1/4 hours to fully assemble the unit. The hardest part was keeping the mounting plate level.
Hands down, the RA1181 was the easier of the two to construct straight from the box. We appreciated the extra systems in place to keep the mounting plate perfectly level and flush.
Size, Weight, and Overall Portability
Benchtop router tables are relatively compact and lightweight, especially when compared to their industrial-sized counterparts. The RA1181 weighs a total of 33.6 pounds and only takes up 22.8 x 18 x 14.5 inches of desk space. Disassembling the unit for storage or takeaway is also extremely simple to do, making it one of the most portable router tables available on the market.
This older router table model is a little bit bulkier. It weighs 45.1 pounds and takes up a 27 x 24.2 x 14.8 inches of surface space. What’s disappointing is that it takes up more space to operate, but the table is considerably smaller compared to the other model. Disassembling the unit for taking to multiple job sites is also easily achieved. Even though it weighs more than 10 pounds heavier than the RA1181, we still find it portable and easy to set up.
We like the RA1181’s lighter and more compact build compared to the RA1171, but either model could suit you perfectly when needing a portable router table.
The Bosch RA1181 is the clear winner of these two portable router tables. This is hardly a surprise since the RA1181 is just an upgraded version of the older, bulkier RA1171. Back in its time, the RA1171 was the coolest kid on the block with its lightweight, numerous features, flawless cutting performance, and stocks of all shapes and sizes.
We’re happy to see that Bosch hasn’t left their RA1171 model forgotten in the dust, but instead opted to fix problems that customers had with the previous version. Perhaps our only complaint is that the base is made of plastic, but even so, it comes with sufficient ribbing support to prevent wobbling. Not to mention the plastic build is a cost-cutter where the savings are passed to the customer.
In conclusion, the RA1181 will provide greater value compared to the smaller, heavier RA1171.