Rutlands’ premium router tables comprise 27 mm phenolic laminated table tops, solid fences and t tracks for jigs, feather boards and mitre gauges. Combined with their lifts and motors they promise an accurate, safe and highly versatile routing solution. They come in two flavours – a bench-top model and a larger floor standing table which accepts an optional sliding carriage accessory. The tables can be ordered with insert plates to mount any plunge router, or with a rutlands lift and motor.
Two lifts are available – the R20 electronic lift with height adjustment accurate to within a hundredth of a millimetre (part code R5060), or the manual option. I opted for the latter – the R15, part code R5075 – as the electronic lift uses a touch-based control panel with buttons that are apparently not tactile. I’m keen to revisit the electronic lift in the future as it would be relatively easy to build a custom controller for it, complete with a few extra convenience features that the lift doesn’t offer as standard. But I wanted a routing solution that would work out of the box, so I went for the table package with the manual lift and the 1/2 inch motor.
You can also fit the R5000 precision 1/4 inch router to the lift using the R5107 accessory collar, sold separately. Furthermore you can buy the lift as a package with the smaller precision motor or the larger 1/2 inch motor that I have here, though both are the same price. You might opt for the smaller motor for extra speed with smaller slotting or edge profiling bits, as maximum speed on the larger motor is 22,000 RPM as opposed to the 1/4 inch motor which can reach 33,000 RPM. You could also use the collar to mount a Makita trim router as the motor is dimensionally identical.
The R5018 motor is a 2400 watt (1800 watt actual output) variable speed motor with electronic speed control between 8000 and 22000 RPM. It has electronic load compensation to maintain its speed even under heavy load and is said to be “ultra quiet” with minimal vibration.
In truth “ultra quiet” it is not. I found it to be a lot louder than the Dewalt plunge router of similar power, and it vibrates enough to be clearly felt through the table. It sounds smooth though, aside from on spin down when it does occasionally produce some grinding, rattling noises. Time will tell if mine is doomed to fail or if this is normal, but I will say that in use it is smooth and effortless whether cutting solid oak and maple, soft pine or engineered sheet material, even with a router bit that has seen better days.
The motor is supplied as standard with 1/4 inches and 1/2 inches collets. 6 mm, 8 mm and 12 mm collets are optionally available priced at a steep £19.99 each (about average for a router collet from most manufacturers), and sadly not offered as a bundle pack. There doesn’t appear to be a 3/8 inch option, but an adapter sleeve in the 1/2 inch collet works.
Turning to the table. It arrives fully assembled with a welded steel leg frame and even the dust bag is preinstalled, and there are 2 side bags for storing tools, collets and other accessories. The dust bag and fence each have a 63 mm dust extraction outlet, though there is no hose or joiner supplied to interface these with an extractor. These are widely available though the joining hose and fittings at least would be a welcome standard inclusion.
The dust and side bags are handy though could be better mounted. Simple streps with stitched velcro ends loop around the rails of the table frame, but they’re all slightly too short. The intent is that they be pulled tight to keep the bags tight against the sides of the frame, but in the case of the side bags it doesn’t take much for the velcro to let go and the bags to fall off.
The fence is attached by two long hex bolts which ride in slots beneath the table and are secured by plastic sleeves and large locking knobs that protrude above the fence. They hold the fence securely but shouldn’t be over-tightened as there are no inserts in these slots to prevent you crushing the MDF core. They’re positioned perfectly for easy access, and there is no movement at all in the fence when it’s locked down. The fence has two sliding phenolic faceplates to either side with a minimum 15 mm opening, and offset bars are included to advance the left plate by 1 mm to use the router table as an edge jointer. The front, top and rear of the fence have 8.3 mm t tracks for attaching feather boards, jigs and sliding carriages, though the official sliding carriage kit is not supported on the bench-top table.
The table is said to be a moisture-resistant MDF core with phenolic laminate faces on both sides and ABS edge banding. The lift mount is not a typical rebate but a simple rectangular slot beneath which are mounted four corner brackets and a central support on each side to support the insert plate or lift. Each of the plastic corner brackets has 3 m6 inserts embedded to accept a securing bolt and two levelling grub screws, and the central brackets hold a single levelling screw each to give further support to the plate.
I think a rebate with h phenolic ring to protect the MDF core would have been a better solution, particularly for heavier lift and motor combinations. These plastic supports seem rather flimsy and it wasn’t long before a couple of their mounting screws pulled free from the MDF table. I also found the levelling screws worked loose with the vibration of the motor. I secured these with nuts which it transpired are actually supposed to be included with the table though were missing from my package. I queried the design with Rutlands and was told they have found the brackets to offer longer-lasting accuracy and stability than grub screws secured against a rebate.
Update 27/05/2022. I noticed when using my table to make a tool chest that it had warped significantly along its length, dipping about 4 mm in the centre of the lift plate. This caused catches and inaccuracy in the rebates I was trying to create. Much of this undoubtedly stems from the weight of the lift and motor combination (approximately 13KG) being inadequately supported, but I’m sure it has a lot ot do with the MDF not in fact being moisture-resistant. MR MDF is green in colour, whereas this appears to have no protection what-so-ever as evidenced by the visible surface within the lift cutout and fence slots. I’m in the process of resolving this, and a faulty router speed potentiometer with Rutlands. So far I have been sent a replacement table top, but it is also faulty. I’ll update the article as the saga progresses, but this only serves to reinforce my belief that MDF is not suited to use as a machine table and you’d do better fitting the lift to an alternative table.
Update 01/06/2022. A new top arrived and (after sorting a misunderstanding around the supply of lift mounting brackets) I tried to install it. However the new top didn’t line up with my existing frame. The brackets to mount the top to the frame didn’t line up with the holes in the table, which had clearly been lifted from another frame as the laminate was chipped around the holes. I eMailed Rutlands again and requested a complete new table to arrive simultaneously with the old table being collected. After some back and forth they did oblige.
The replacement table looks fine. The MDF core is still unsealed around all of the exposed edges, in the cutout and fence slots and also beneath the t track. I ended up sealing these with an MDF primer, in an attempt to stop the table warping again. I noted that a fe of the screws holding the table top to the leg frame aren’t straight, and the brackets have been installed on top of the velcro strips that secure the dust bag rather than the brackets having been installed first and the velcro fitted around them. To me this demonstrates a lack of attention to detail but it’s not an issue that will affect the performance of the table. I’ve yet to install the lift as I’m waiting for the primer to dry, but I will in due course. Ultimately though I will replace the table with something better in the future. And while I would still highly recommend the lift and motor, I would recommend potential buyers seek out an alternative table to fit them, the table from AUK Tools for example.
The lift is an exceptional piece of engineering. It has a CNC machined lead screw with a fine-pitch thread for accurate and minute adjustment, approximately 1 mm per revolution. It is constructed of solid aluminium and steel parts with polished lift bars and precision bushings that don’t allow any side-to-side play. It does have a lift lock to prevent the lift sinking due to load or vibration, in the form of a simple side-mounted grub screw that tightens against the threaded lead screw.
I cannot put into words how nice it is to use a lift over a standard plunge router in a table. Height adjustments can be made to a level of precision and accuracy that can never be achieved when you’re trying to manhandle a plunge router into position. The lift on its own makes an indescribable difference in not only accuracy but also efficiency and enjoyment. It also has the advantage of bringing the collet above the table for easy bit changes.
The lift is preassembled and comes fitted to a 10 mm aluminium insert plate. It is also supplied with a template and pattern bit for fitting the lift to a custom router table and a set of 90 mm glass-filled polycarbonate insert rings that push into the lift aperture to reduce the aperture around the bit to 10, 32 or 50 mm.
The lift is supplied with 8 grub screws in 3 different lengths for levelling, as well as m6 countersunk Allen bolts for mounting and a set of plastic corner brackets for use in custom tables.
These will come in useful as I will make my own table in due course. There are a few reasons for this. The tabletop of my Rutlands table has already started to warp, particularly across the front. The warp is quite noticeable in relation to the surface of the insert plate. And as nice as the leg frame is, it doesn’t make the most efficient use of space in a small workshop. I plan to design a cabinet table with a top in Corian, unless Rutlands or another manufacturer introduce a cast-iron table top with the required 298 x 235 mm insert aperture.
Sadly the UJK table top offered by Axminster takes a 230 x 306 mm insert, and the only other cast-iron table top on the UK market made by Charnwood is too big for bench use and has a unique mounting system designed to fit plunge routers. You’d think insert sizes would be standardised by now – but as they say, the best thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from.
The lift itself is secured to the table by four screws. Theoretically it would be possible to mount the lift to an undrilled UJK insert and fit the lift and motor to Axminster’s cast-iron bench-top table. This is something I haven’t verified but I will before I set out to make a table of my own. If I’m honest, I do slightly regret that I didn’t explore this option before I bought the R5080 as a package.
The warp in the table top hasn’t noticeably affected the accuracy of the table, as the insert plate provides a significant amount of surface area supporting the workpiece either side of the bit. There are a couple of considerations that can affect accuracy however concerning the fence. The phenolic faceplates appear to have remained relatively straight (though not perfectly so) but it’s very easy for dust to sneak behind them when they’re being adjusted and that can cause them to not sit flat to the fence face. They also protrude from the face of the aluminium extrusion relative to the T track above, and some feather boards may not clear the faces depending on how their mounting plates are designed.
Likewise taller pieces must be held to the faces with a feather board on the table, or they can tilt back as they are not supported through the full height of the fence face. Personally I’d have designed the face with two full-height aluminium faces, machining the T tracks into those instead. The aluminium would be a lot more stable than the phenolic and just as slippy with a mirror polish and a coat of machine wax.
All in all I am pleased with the router table for the price I paid though I think the lift and motor are the crowning components of this package. The table has promise but needs some tweaking to bring it up to the standard of quality that the lift really deserves. It’s good, but it’s not great. The framework is nice, the fence is decent enough and the dust bag could be better, but it’s the table top that really disappoints. The motor too could be refined in hopes that its claim to being “ultra quiet” may one day be true, and the speed control may be better integrated into the NVR power switch itself, given that these motors are exclusively for table use. Though this level of integration would make swapping the motor to the smaller, faster model a challenge.
It has already however proven a much safer and more accurate routing setup than I was using prior. I’ve used the table for small-scale work and even some manufacturing, producing a lot of mouldings and grooves in a batch of wooden parts that was a long, arduous task for both me and the machine. Routing with this table is enjoyable if not a pleasure, and allows me to take on projects that would be simply impossible by hand or with lesser tables.