Using The Bosch RA1181: Making A Raised Door Panel
Making a raised door panel is a great project to show off the benefits of a router table. The video below shows the Bosch RA1181 in action where you can see a number of its features – the large cast aluminum tabletop, the adjustable MDF face plates on the fence and the large capacity 2-1/2 inch dust collection port.
A coping sled is an essential piece of kit when making door panels and the shop made sled in the video does a great job of holding the work firmly in place when routing end grain, but if you don’t want to make your own, the Woodpeckers COPESLED1 is one of the best on the market.
As the video demonstrates, it’s vitally important to keep the workpiece flat against the table or you’ll end up with a wavy slot that the panel won’t fit into. The supplied featherboards do a good job of holding down the stock but if you really want to be sure consider investing in a set of JESSEM Clear-Cut Precision Stock Guides – like all of JESSEM’s products it’s a well designed, top quality piece of kit.
Making a raised panel door is an advanced project and the video shows how the Bosch RA1181 is up to the job straight out of the box with just a shop-made coping sled needed to complete the job. For a router table priced at $159 that’s impressive.
Top Quality Fence
Fences on the majority of router tables tend to be a similar design. They consist of an aluminum extrusion or casting with an adjustable two-piece facing made of wood, plywood or MDF (also called a split fence). The reason for the adjustable facing is so that you can adjust for different cutter sizes. By adjusting the fence so that it is right up to the edge of the cutter you get better support for the workpiece so that it is supported all the way onto the cutter and then again immediately on the outfeed. If you had a large opening in the fence when using a small diameter cutter the workpiece could dip into the opening slightly, spoiling the finish.
An added benefit of a split fence is that you can shim the outfeed side of the fence to move the outfeed fence forward for edge-planing and full-face molding. Without the ability to do this the workpiece would not be supported at all on the outfeed side – it just wouldn’t be possible to do it safely or accurately. The RA1181 comes with two 1/16-inch outfeed shims as standard.
The Bosch RA1181’s fence is of this type – extruded aluminium with adjustable MDF faces (another benefit of the MDF faces is that they are cheap and easy to replace yourself if they wear out). The fence slides in twin slots cut into the table top and the mounting plate has twin scales etched into it to help keep it square to the table.
The fence measures 4-7/8″ high which is good for any router table fence however expensive – even a high-end fence like the JessEm 4010 Master Fence II only has a 3-5/8″ high fence. There is a T-slot running along the top of the fence to mount the included adjustable safety guard plus any accessories like the JESSEM Clear-Cut Precision Stock Guides which we’d recommend as part of any router table setup.
Dust extraction is extremely efficient through the industry standard 2-1/2″ dust extraction port mounted on the rear of the fence, although inevitably larger chips tend to drop through the insert ring.
What are the Alternatives?
In terms of quality, the Bosch RA1181 is the front-runner in its price bracket – nothing else comes with a cast aluminum table top. If you are a fan of the Bosch brand and want an enclosed cabinet-style router table, there is the Bosch RA1171, which shares most of the features of the RA1181 apart from the cast aluminum table top. If you are looking for extreme portability, you should consider the SKIL RAS900 Router Table costing $136. It comes pre-assembled and has a unique design with the sides folding away making it very compact and easy to store, but it lacks most of the features that make the Bosch RA1181 so good.
If you’re after an open style, benchtop router table made from quality components, the Bosch RA1181 is an excellent choice. With its solid construction, good sized tabletop and excellent fence, as well as industry standard mounting plate and dust extraction, you get all of the main advantages of larger router tables in a compact, portable form and at an excellent price too. If space is at a premium and you are looking for a router table to get out and clamp to your bench each time you use it, the Bosch RA1181 should be at the top of your list.