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Bosch RA1181 Benchtop Router Table
Full size and function at a benchtop price
Text & photos by Tom Hintz
Though described as a benchtop tool, the features and capabilities of the Bosch RA1181 make it a good choice for the home woodworking shop as well as the job site. The large table surface, full-function fence and super-rigid aluminum router plate combine to produce a tool that can handle your in-shop needs with accuracy and safety.
Putting the Bosch RA1181 together is quick in part because it consists of three major pieces, the electrical panel and fence. All hardware is supplied and the instruction manual does a good job of guiding the user through the process. Hardware is also included for mounting compatible routers to the plate. Level the plate to the table and the Bosch RA1181 is nearly ready for a test drive.
The leg assemblies have flat spots at each corner that allow clamping the Bosch RA1181 to a flat surface. Each of the flat spots also has a ¼”-diameter hole for screwing the Bosch RA1181 to a sturdy surface.
The most prominent feature of the Bosch RA1181 is the 27”-long by 18”-wide cast aluminum table. For a benchtop router table, the Bosch RA1181 is perilously close to equaling the full-scale, stand-alone models that cost more and take up more room than many home woodworkers can spare.
Aside from being very flat, the table surface has rough ground (but flat) surface near the fence that reduces surface contact to make stock easier to slide across it. The surface on the other side of the miter slot is grooved (parallel with the fence) to give dust a place to go rather than building up under the work piece.
A standard ¾”-wide by 3/8”-deep miter slot runs the full width of the table and accepts any common miter guide or jig. The miter slot is square and does not have the T-shaped bottom, which is of no real consequence on a router table.
The recess cast into the table for the aluminum router plate has sockets that accept nut and bolt combinations that function as effective levelers. After bringing the plate up flush with the surrounding table, four bolts secure it and prevent even small side-to-side movements that can do bad things to an otherwise clean cut.
Aluminum Router Plate
The Bosch RA1181 comes with a very rigid cast aluminum mounting plate with hole patterns provided for a wide range of popular routers, including those from Bosch. See the table for a list of compatible routers. Along with the various mounting hole patterns, Bosch includes necessary fasteners for most of those combinations.
The router plate is more than strong enough to resist the weight and torque of powerhouse routers like the 3 1/4Hp Bosch 1619EVS. This is an important feature for the home wood shop because there is no concern about the plate sagging under the weight of a permanently mounted big-power router.
The plate also comes with three snap-in inserts that reduce the bare 3 5/8”-diameter opening to 1”, 2” or 2 ¾”-diameters. Without an insert, the Bosch RA1181 can handle a maximum 3 ½”-diameter bit.
The Bosch RA1181 comes with a pre-wired, dual-outlet safety switch with a 6-foot-long cord. With both outlets controlled by the switch, the router and a dust collector (shop-vac in many cases) can be plugged in so both turn on at the same time.
The switch features a safety interlock key that when removed disables the rocker switch. It should be noted that this is intended to prevent curious persons from turning the router on when you are not around. It does not take the place of unplugging the router/table when changing bits or working in the vicinity.
A simple rocker switch is located under a bump-off cover/ lift the cover to turn the router/DC on. To shut the table down, simply bump the cover. This is an important safety feature should things go wrong on the table and shutting the router down quickly is necessary.
The fence system is backed by an aluminum extrusion 25”-long by 4 7/8”-tall. The extrusion includes a triangular-shaped tube along the inside corner that functions as a gusset, making the fence very rigid with virtually no flex.
A 2 ½”-diameter dust port encloses the backside of the bit opening. The effectiveness of the dust port is enhanced by the vertical bit guard plate that closes off some of the fence opening and directs the airflow across the bit.
A pair of 12 ½”-long by 3 ¾”-tall MDF (medium density fiberboard) faces can be adjusted in or out to produce a center gap from 0 to 3 ¾”-wide. This range allows setting the faces close to any bit size up to the maximum 3 ½”-diameter the Bosch RA1181 (and most other) table can use.
All fence adjustments are done with hand-operated knobs on the rear face of the fence extrusion.
A handy feature of the Bosch RA1181 fence system is the ability to edge joint work pieces. A pair of 1/16”-thick, full-sized shims are included and are placed behind the outfeed fence face to space it out. Because the shims are nearly equal in sizes to the fence face, the outfeed face remains parallel to the infeed side and makes accurate jointing much easier.
In The Shop
The only extra preparation I did was to give the table a light coat of Johnson’s Paste Wax. This is more out of habit than the table needing it to be slick.
The size of the Bosch RA1181 table is more than adequate for nearly all expected routing jobs in the home shop. In fact, its dimensions are very close to full-sized router tables. Throughout the evaluation process I never felt that I needed more table space.
Though there is no under-table dust collection, the port in the fence does an exceptional job of inhaling the big majority of debris. There remains some dust and chips to sweep up, as there is with virtually any dust collection system, but that amount is surprisingly small when doing any edge-type work.
We ran the Bosch RA1181 with the Bosch 1619EVS initially and found that this table handles the big horsepower easily. I tried using a 3-¼”-diameter panel raising bit to machine a piece of oak and noticed no vibration or other signs of stress in the Bosch RA1181. Secure it properly and the Bosch RA1181 can handle even big power and big jobs without problem.
The only caveat when using the 3-1/4Hp router is the clearance between the underside of the mounting plate and the surface to which the Bosch RA1181 is secured. There is enough room for the Bosch 1619EVS, even fully extended, but not enough to use the height adjuster extension. That is of little consequence with the Bosch 1619EVS because of the unique coarse/fine height system. Reaching under the table to adjust bit height is simple and accurate.
Most of our testing was done with a Bosch 1617 motor secured in a Bosch RA1165 under table mount. The RA1165 provides through the table height adjusting and the Bosch RA1181 mounting plate is pre-drilled for that feature so this is a pure bolt-on installation.
As expected, the Bosch RA1181 handles all normal routing tasks easily and accurately. Setting the fence is tool-free and easy. Once set, the fence stayed put.
More unexpected was the jointing capability of the Bosch RA1181. The full-sized, 1/16”-thick shims move the outfeed fence face out evenly and hold it secure when the knobs are tightened.
Despite the outfeed face being only 12 ½”-long, it was surprisingly easy to keep the newly machined edge flat on it as the remaining length was moved across the cutter. It seems that this configuration, essentially laying a jointer on its side, is at least partially responsible for the ease of jointing on the Bosch RA1181. Whatever the engineering behind it, by the third board, I was able to joint a very straight edge that rivaled that produced on my full-sized, floor model jointer.
The Bosch RA1181 is a very capable, well-built, nicely sized router table that brings all the capabilities most home woodworkers need at a very nice price. At $179.99 (7-30-2006), this is a good way to get the capabilities you need without breaking the budget. The durability of the materials and workmanship used to make the Bosch RA1181 mean that investment will last a very long time. With glued-up panels being such a common part of even small projects, the jointing capability of the Bosch RA1181 is a significant feature.
Though designed as a benchtop unit, building a mobile base and permanently mounting the Bosch RA1181 to it is easy and gives you an full-featured router table that is even easier to use in the space available in your shop.
If you need a good router table for your shop, check out the Bosch RA1181. If all of the included pieces are added up, I think you will find it cheaper to buy the Bosch RA1181 than build one with the same capabilities.
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