Guess who’s back

Back again.

RT’s back – tell a friend.

The router table is making a comeback in my shop, after several months away. I haven’t had a freestanding router table since at least last summer. It was discarded in order to make room for a lathe, or at least that’s how I remember it. With the latest reorganization of the shop, I believed I had finally cut storage down enough where I could add one back. However it wasn’t going to be like it was before.

After watching a bunch of woodworking videos over the last several months, I really was intrigued by the Incra positioner system. Minutely accurate fence adjustment. It’s not cheap, and requires more of an offset router position than I had before. I had a traditional setup, very similar to any router table you’ve seen be it Norm, Rockler, Kreg, etc. Wider than it was deep, around 32×24. It was cut down and modified to fit between the rails of my saw, and then eventually the carcass was reused then discarded. At that point the router bits and small accessories went into a drawer under the miter saw, the routers to the wall, and bigger accessories where they could.

In this new arrangement I am going with the offset top to incorporate the Incra fence. The carcass is being designed to hold a decent amount of storage. If you were standing in an operating position, the table would be much deeper than it was wide. The router would be near the front edge, and behind it on the left side would be full-depth drawers to hold bits and accessories. Below the drawers and router on either side is a shallow drawer. On one side the other routers will go, on the other is storage enough for a 24″ long dovetail jig such as the D4R. Always thinking ahead, you know. There will be some measure of dust collection in the router cavity, and the Incra fence has dust collection integrated. There will be a door on the router cavity to help with dust collection.

I did think long and hard about the router. While the Craftsman 17543 did a good job previously, there were annoyances that lead me to look elsewhere. I considered a PC 7518, which is a similar but more powerful router. Similar in that it is a motor and base configuration just like the 17543 and the 28084. However to eliminate the height adjustment annoyance I would have also gone with a lift. The 7518 and the lifts made for it are a very good combination. They are also prohibitively expensive. Around $600 for both, or even a bit above. I wasn’t prepared to spend that much.

One alternative had actually been brought to my attention some time before, a Triton. These routers have very good above-table adjustment and a lift built-in via the height adjustment in plunge mode. The Tritons are a bit different in that there are no bases, the router is a full-on plunge. They aren’t small routers, either. I decided to go with the 3.25″ version, as I had wanted to upgrade in that department at the same time. I purchased a Kreg router plate that was predrilled for the purpose. The combination here only cost me $300, which was much kinder to my wallet.

I’ll have an initial impressions post on both, but this is more about the table. I picked up two project panels, sheets of 48×24 material, one 3/4″ and one 1/2″ MDF. I liked the use of MDF on my first table, more so than the phenolic ply I replaced it with. Plus, finding phenolic ply in the offset dimensions I needed may have been expensive. I cut the hole I thought I needed for the router plate in the 1/2″ MDF. I used a hole saw at the corners and the track saw on the sides. The corners were a bit wide, and when I attached the two sheets of MDF together, I used a flush trim bit on the sides but bypassed the corners. I traced the corners and did them freehand. They turned out a lot better on the 3/4″, which was always the intended top layer. I will be even more careful when I apply the laminate to get a very snug fit.

The MDF layers will be secured together with glue or cement. The insert plate isn’t attached with a rabbet like most are, but with the use of leveling blocks screwed to the underside at the corners. These capture the screws from the plate, and also hold two levelers each.

At this point, the router and plate are mounted in the dual layer MDF, which has not yet been cut to final depth or had the corners rounded. I will be building the carcass first and doing that as a final step before applying the laminate. I had hoped to make good progress on the carcass today with material I had on hand, but the size of it is larger than the pieces I have. That is unfortunate, as it will cost me probably two full sheets of ply and leave me with more ply that I have to either dispose of or repurpose in another way.

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