The new router table

Well, that was surprising.

I went from a rough idea of what I wanted out of a router table to a basically complete one in around 48 hours. Along the way I changed my layout, got the carcass built, and laminate on the router top all done before the sun set tonight. For me, that’s fairly impressive.

I had been working on a design for a couple of weeks now. I had envisioned a version of it that would hold a 24″ dovetail jig. I was hoping to use the leftover plywood from the old MSS to keep things cheap, but with how long the table was I didn’t have anything that would cut it. So, in about an hour or two I just decided to redesign the whole thing anyway. I did away with the mandate for the dovetail jig storage, and started from scratch. The design I came up with was this:

There is a large vertical section on the left side, which is actually the back, for a series of drawers. I’ll hold here router bits, router accessories, and I should even have room for a couple of other things or a drawer of them. On the right, which is the front, the bottom has a spot that will store the other routers and their bases. I’m hoping I have room enough to hold my current dovetail jig behind them.

The other aspect of the design is the router box. You can see the sides are inset from the perimeter, about 3″ or so. There is a couple of reasons for this. The first is that it will more adequately support the weight hanging off the plate. There is about 14″ between the supports. The other reason is that I can’t quite afford to get my ultimate fence for this, the Incra LS 17 system. I could, but it wouldn’t be responsible. So I’m reusing my very good Rockler aluminum fence I’ve had for some time. The inset supports allow me to comfortably use F-clamps to lock the fence down. The inset will also allow me to mount a power switch that won’t get ripped off (like the last one was). On the other side I could put a magnet for the wrench. I’ll also need to secure the insert wrench, which is plastic. It will be nice to have these handy and not have to rummage around in a drawer.

I had one of those rare on-site work mornings, so I wasn’t able to start on actually building it until late Friday afternoon. Thanks to my lack of a truck, while I set out to buy my one sheet of plywood at 1500, I didn’t get back home until 1615. Lots of string theory in the Home Depot parking lot. Thanks to the TS55 I was able to make quick work of getting the sheet of plywood cut. The ultimate goal was to assemble it with Dominos. However that presented some problems. I’m not that sharp with it yet, and I was on a bit of a time crunch with work for next week. So butt joints and screws it was. The base went together rather quickly and it was in the shop by 1830. The top was assembled previously. I put together 3/4″ and 1/2″ MDF that I picked up the previous Friday, and did a pretty good job cutting the hole for the router plate. So I left the shop Friday night with the top sitting on top of the base.

Now, a note on the equipment. I think I mentioned it previously, but I’ll repeat everything here so it is in one spot. I decided some time ago to go with a Triton 3.25HP router because of price, and the built-in lift. I paired it with a Kreg predrilled router plate and levelers. This meant I didn’t have to rebate the opening, which makes making the hole easier. I positioned the plate to be 8″ from the front edge, and it’s as close to being in the middle from side to side as I could get it. As mentioned earlier, the Incra LS positioner is in my future. This really requires an offset arrangement to the router table. Most tables are wider than they are deep, mine is the opposite. The MDF I bought were project panels, which come in 24×48.

Saturday morning I went to Lowe’s with my kids for their building day. Small projects that they get to do with some help. We’ve been going for nearly six years. They needed to use the restroom, which gave me the perfect opportunity to price out the laminate I would need to cover the MDF. My first router table was MDF and laminate, and I love it. My next two versions, and the one in the table saw extension is two layers of phenolic-faced plywood. While it has been low maintenance, I had wanted to try the laminate again. Regular white laminate is $42 in my store, and what I figured I would use. However I knew there would be a chance that I would find one on clearance, as they break easily. Just like I predicted, I found an awesome darker marble-style laminate for $34. What’s more I got two full sheets of it for that price, so it will cover just about anything I need for the near future. Only minor chips along the edge, which I wasn’t too concerned about. I hadn’t planned on putting laminate down for a couple of weeks, but I shoved these two in my little car and away we went.

I cut the MDF top down to 36″ length, then set about covering it with the laminate. This is Formica, which is the name brand I suppose. I used the contact cement I had left over from when I believe I put the first top together four years ago or so. Still good, just needed a stir. I applied the cement to the MDF and the Formica and put them together. A J-roller ensured good adhesion. I cut the excess part of the sheet off with a recip saw (not recommended, BTW. Use a knife or a router bit), then trimmed it with my trim router. I punched a hole in the plate space with a drill, and used the trim router again to flush everything up. Then it was the arduous process of getting the plate level. I had to wind the screws down considerably to clear the bit, so it took some time to get it right again. I installed spacers to the casters (since they were shorter than I anticipated – I was going to pick up some taller ones at the woodworking show but they were too expensive still), the casters themselves, then screw blocks to secure the top. I reinstalled the router and I was left with a very functional, just-the-right-size router table again. YAY!

I sized the large, tall drawer space to take at least one of the old drawers that holds my bits. It is very close, albeit a tad small. I will make new drawers specifically for it in time. I’ll also make a drawer for the front space as well, plus put a back on that space. I misjudged the cut, one of the rare mistakes. The dark laminate also hides the slight error around the plate, which I can’t seem to avoid on any of these. I will cover the underside and the sides with the same laminate when I am able to.

Needed to be done: Buy an external switch, make the drawers, make the router compartment door, put the back on the small compartment, add another spacer to the casters and a couple small organizational things. I did some test cuts tonight and I’m very pleased with it. The way the router is mounted will make it very easy to hit the plunge lock and switch it off to change the bits.

I love it. Very pleased. Can’t wait to do some actual projects with the table. I did the sideboard top with it, but the top was resting on my trash can. Now I have a proper router table again and it just feels right.

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