Bosch router tables have been extremely beneficial for professional contractors and woodworkers. The convenience of having a table dedicated to a router makes accomplishing a high number of tasks much easier compared to going at it by hand and eye.
However, the main question that needs answering is which router table is the best? Bosch has several models on the market, so choosing the right one can be a challenge. In this article, we’re going to compare the Bosch RA1171 and the RA1181 Router Table head-to-head to see which is worthy of our love. Spoiler alert: they’re both pretty fantastic.-
Cabinet vs. Benchtop
The first thing we need to address is that the Bosch Cabinet Style Router Table RA1171 is a cabinet-style router table. The obvious differences between a cabinet-style and a benchtop router table are the cabinet and size. As a cabinet router table, you can expect a lot of benefits, including storage space for your tools, better dust management, and quieter operation.
The RA1181 is a benchtop-style router table. The lack of a cabinet means it weighs less, has a smaller footprint, and can be transported to wherever you need it. If you need to take a router table to the job site, you’ll have better luck with a benchtop model than a cabinet-style table.
Conclusion: Choosing one over the other is a matter of personal preference and need. We can’t say whether your line of work would benefit more from one or the other, but we can say that the cabinet-style RA1171 is almost as portable as the RA1181, despite requiring quite a bit of truck bed space to transport.
As a cabinet-style router table, you can realistically expect this tool to have many features that don’t come in benchtop models. One such feature is dual dust ports which allow you to manage dust much more efficiently than a single-port table. Combined with the cabinet, you can clear your workspace much more quickly with the RA1171.
The benchtop RA1181 comes with a single dust port which connects to your shop vac or dust extractor. Since this table doesn’t have a cabinet located underneath the worktable, a lot of the dust will fall from your work surface to the ground, making cleanup a bit of a hassle.
Conclusion: They say that two parts are better than one, and in the case of the RA1171, this is completely true. Each port is located on different ends of the table, allowing your vacs/extractors to cover a wider area and suction up more dust. This isn’t to say that the RA1181 handles dust poorly, but it doesn’t do nearly as well as the dual-port setup in the RA1171.
The largest contributor to how sturdy a router is the unit’s legs, or more accurately what the legs are made of. The RA1171, as a cabinet-style router table, doesn’t have legs, but it has a metal base with screw holes that can easily mount onto a bench or table. The wide base offers a ton of stability, even when placed on top of a worktable without screws, so producing accurate grooves in your workpieces can be done quicker and more accurately.
We found that the RA1181 doesn’t fare too well in the sturdiness category without any screw mounts. This unit’s worktable sits on top of four plastic legs which are quite flimsy and can bend when pushing down on the table with hardly any pressure. The bendy legs can affect accuracy and overall enjoyment of using the table.
Conclusion: A sturdy table means accurate work, which is why we appreciate the RAA171’s metal base more than the plastic legs on the RA1181. Whichever one you decide to get, just make sure that you keep them properly mounted onto your workbench by driving screws through the mount holes.
The base plate plays a role in balancing the router, and what types of routers are compatible with the table. This router table comes with three swappable mounting plates that are compatible with several router models from different manufacturers. However, when putting the router table together, we experienced slight problems in keeping the plate balanced. Thus the router would not be perfectly parallel to the worktable.
The RA1181’s base plate is considerably better than that of the RA1171. First of all, the three plates that come with the RA1181 are compatible with every router available so you don’t need to worry about purchasing additional plates or modifying stock plates. Secondly, the plates are built extremely well and get rid of any balance issues of the RA1171.
Conclusion: Basically, any problems that existed in the RA1171’s base plate have been eliminated in the RA1181 model. Even though the mounting plates are practically identical, the RA1181’s lets you use any router of any make, and it keeps the tool perfectly balanced to produce perfect grooves every time.
So materials used to construct the worktable of a router table are important in producing excellent cuts. A sturdy, well-built table shouldn’t move in the slightest, but it should also allow your work to glide seamlessly from side to side. The RA1171 comes with a laminated MDF table which is quite frictionless but less durable than other common table materials.
As for the RA1181, the cast aluminum is just as frictionless as the laminated MDF table on the Bosch Cabinet Style Router Table RA1171, but the biggest difference is its durability. The worktable is designed to withstand bumps and bruises when transporting the unit to and from job sites, making it the preferred choice if you’re doing onsite jobs.
Conclusion: In all honesty, the laminated MDF table is durable enough to handle dropping large boards without warping in shape, but it has a larger risk of cracking compared to the cast aluminum table of the RA1181. In our opinion, you’d be better off with the RA1181’s worktable than with the RA1171’s.
Between the two models, we feel that the RA1181 is clearly the better router table. Even though there are some dust management issues, cleaning up after your tool isn’t that big of a problem, and if you have a high-quality dust extractor or shop vac at your disposal, then you don’t need to worry about fallen dust at all. The only thing we think the Bosch Benchtop Router Table RA1181 could improve upon is the plastic legs, but then again, lightweight materials keep the unit light enough to transport. Furthermore, you can eliminate any wobbling issues by mounting the unit with screws.