Router Table – Making The Top

Now that the shop has finally been warm enough I have been able to work more on the router.  Therefore, I am now able to write about my progress!

The top is composed of two layers of MDF edge banded with some left over hardwood, and a layer of Formica across the top.  I will ask my readers to take extra care while building a top like this, as it does get heavy, and MDF creates a LOT of dust when being cut.  I actually tend to avoid using MDF as much as possible, but with the flatness and weight it is perfect for a router table top.

grid_layoutThe first step in making the top is cutting the two sheets of MDF, so that they are over-sized.  I have learned the hard way that laminating two sheets of MDF never go together right on, so making them over-sized will allow for trimming later in.  On one of the pieces, I drew out a grid of lines to determine placement of the screws so that they would not get hit by a bit or blade when cutting out the inserts for the lift and track.  I then drill and counter sink for all the screws.  With that done, I spread a ton of glue across the first layer of MDF, keeping it as even as possible.  I then place the two layers together, and then start feeding screws in, working from the center out, until all are in.  since I had some sections void of screws, I also used clamps and weight to hold the two sheets together until the glue dried.

Once the glue was dry, I was ready to trim the top to final dimensions.  Please be aware, the top is heavy.   I kept one edge as straight as possible so I could run it against the table saw fence and get one clean edge.  I then bring the fence to the final width I want and ripped the opposite side.  I did take care to make sure I took off about the same amount on both sides so that I could keep the lift centered.  I then cut a bit off of each end using the crosscut sled to get to the final length.

I will note, the top is heavy at this point.  I believe to do this safely on the table saw a good heavy saw with a crosscut sled is needed.  If you don’t have either or both of these, a circular saw with a good blade, and a guide rail can do just as good a job.

edge_bandingFor the edge banding, I milled up some 3/4″ stock and cut miters for each corner, taking care to fit each one individually.  I actually chose not to drive any nails, and just simply clamped them in place.  After the glue dried, I then used a hand plan and card scraper to make sure that the edge banding was absolutely flush to the MDF top.  I also eased the corners so that they were not too sharp.

formica_installedThe top was ready for the Formica layer.  For this I used contact cement, sprayed on both the top and Formica.  Once tacky I put down the Formica on to the top, and used a j-roller to smooth it out.  I then used a flush trim router bit to get the Formica perfectly fitted, and finally another pass with a chamfer bit to ease the edges.

recess_routedUsing templates I made (will discuss making those in a future post) and spiral router bit with a template bushing, I routed out the recess for the lift’s plate.  I actually left a center section in that I used as template to route down as far as I could with the bit I have.  I then cut out the remaining depth with my handheld jigsaw.  Since the method left a lip, I was able to clean the cut up with a flush trim bit.  I then fitted and leveled the lift into the recess.

track_routeThe last piece for the top was to get the combo track installed.  I actually used the guides on the lift plate to help position my guide rail so that it was parallel to the front of the table, and that my 3/4″ router bit came close to touching the plate.  This would not be moved again for any of the passes to route out the channel.  First, I clamped the combo track against the guide rail which established the edge closest to the front.  I then routed out the first pass, which left a 3/4″ groove.  I then removed the track, and used the t-track clamped against the guide rail.  This established the edge furthest away from front of the table, and perfectly set the width for the combo track.  All that was left was a row between the first two passes, which I cleaned that out as well.  The track is held in place with bolts.  Once it was installed, I shaved down the edges so that they matched the chamfered edges.

top_doneWith that, the top is complete.

Posted in 2014, Projects, Router Table | Leave a comment

Proper Use of a Router Table – Part 1

router_table   As I go through the process of documenting my router table build, I thought it would be good to have a few posts on proper use of one.  When properly used, a router table can be a safe and powerful machine in your arsenal of tools.  Unfortunately, as with any tool, improper use can cause severe injury, shooting projectiles, and ruined work pieces.

rotation_directionThe first thing to understand about using a router table is the direction of spin of the router bit, as this dictates the usage.  When mounted in the router table, the router is inverted, so from the users perspective the bit is spinning in a counter clock-wise direction.

feed_directionWhen pushing a work piece through the router, it must go against the direction of the spin.  For most operations, this translate to moving the work piece from right to left.  Going against the spin of the bit will also provide a more accurate cuts as the spin of the bit will pull the work piece into the fence or bearing.  This also gives more control of the work piece.  Moving the piece with the direction of spin is known as a climb cut.  This is a potentially very dangerous operation that can result in the work piece become a projectile, possibly causing injury.

not_safeThere is one operation, that no matter which direction the work piece is sent through results in a dangerous condition.  This is trapping a workpiece between the router bit and fence.  When pushing right to left, the work piece will very likely fly  off of the router table, potentially pulling fingers into a spinning bit.  If pushing the work piece from left to right, the work piece will have a tendency to pull away from the fence causing loss of control of the work piece, again creating an unsafe situation.  It is best said, don’t ever attempt to run a work piece between the bit and fence.



Posted in 2014, Articles, Projects, Router Table | 3 Comments

Check out my guest blog post for Make Magazine!

2014-03-03 19.32.06So Make Magazine is pairing up with Sear’s and their new web page that is an interactive tool for various Essential Woodworking tools, where the polled various experts and bloggers for their opinions.  From my discussions, I was ultimately asked to guest write a blog post for them!  I built a small wall shelf in a weekend while taking a bunch of pictures so that I could give both a visual and written account of making this shelf.

You can check out my blog post at:

Check out Sears Essential Woodworking tools at:

Posted in 2014, Wall Shelf | Leave a comment

Time to build a new Router Table!

old_router_tableAs a brief history, I bought my first router table about 12-13 years ago, to go along with a Craftsman 75th anniversary router.  It was a small table, but was sufficient for the small HP router I had, which only took 1/4″ router bits.  I still have that router, and do still use it occasionally, but that router table was given away many years ago.  In its place I built a table for my Bosch 1617 router.  The stand it is on was meant to be a folding stand so that I could easily store the table when not in use.  However, it was never stable, so I made it fixed.  This is what I have been using, but it has proven to be a bit light.  The top is made up of 2 layers of MDF, the first being 3/4″ thick and the second 1/2″ thick.  There is a 3/4″ thick hardwood edge banding around the entire perimeter. Both the MDF and edge banding are topped off with Formica.  The router itself is mounted to a plate that I found on Ebay that had an extra fixed base for the 1617.  I also put a miter track in the top.  While not everyone prefers this, I have found it useful.  The fence is also made from MDF, with the front faces covered with Formica.  The fence has moveable faces so that it can be adjusted for the bit size, as well as a t-track for a guard and feather boards.  The top has a couple slots routed into it that the fence bolts to.

rt_top_designWhat I like about the current table:

  • The top construction.  I plan on using the same method, except for both layers of MDF will be 3/4″.  This is more of an economics matter in that I don’t have to buy another sheet of MDF.
  • The miter track
  • The adjustable fence

Improvements I want to make:

  • A bigger top.  I am planning to go with a 32-36″x24″x1.5″ table.
  • A better fence design with an improved clamping system.
  • A full cabinet to support the top, with storage.
  • Dust collection
  • Both a miter slot and a t-track in the top
  • A lift

liftThe Lift.  The fixed base for my router does actually provide for above the table adjustment, but would describe it as adequate at best.  After doing some research, I decided to go with the PRL-V2.  The lift itself is made by Woodpeckers, but I ordered the it from Incra with their plate on it.  I wanted the Incra plate as I like the idea of the magnetic reducer rings.  While I can’t give the lift a full going over until I have the top made, I have looked it over.   It is definitely a solid design, extremely well made, and is made right here in the U.S.!  My only criticism is that the cost of shipping seems high, and after seeing small parts rolling around freely instead of properly packed was a bit disheartening.  It seems like there should have been more padding between the box and the lift, but probably okay if not dropped during shipping.  I wouldn’t necessarily factor this in ones decision to buy or not buy, but would strongly recommend looking over the lift after receiving it.

As always with my projects, I will update as I go in future posts.

Posted in 2014, Projects, Router Table | 2 Comments

Spring is around the corner! Time to get back to Woodworking!

too_much_snowI know I have been a bit lax on my posts this month.  As many of you have had as well, we have had a pretty severe winter.  Since my shop is heated only with a kerosene heater, there is a limit to how cold it can get before its not worth trying to warm the shop.  The last few winters we had plenty of warmer days that I could get the shop to a temperature that is comfortable enough to work in.  This winter, that has only happened a couple times, but not enough to do my usual winter skill-building project.  I still have that planned, just not certain when I will do it, as I have other projects planned now.  I will, of course, write about those as I start them.

penThe good news, all hasn’t been lost this winter.  I did get a couple warm days that I was able to go out and turn some pens.  This past weekend I did manage to get some shop time, and actually built a quick weekend project.  This will likely be discussed in another post at some point in the future.  What I can say is, I was suffering sever shop withdraw, and the weekend was a big help getting over that!

chidwickI did also attend the Woodworking Show when it made its round in Columbus.  The deals were decent, though I didn’t buy too much to gloat about.  I bought mainly stuff for the router and router table, including replacing my dulled straight bits, a new power switch, and few other odds and ends from the show.  Woodwerks of Columbus also had an event in conjunction with the show.  That is a great store, and I hope to get back up there sometime soon.  The picture of the table was taken at The Woodworking Show, and was made by Andy Chidwick.  I watched his presentations, and learned a lot about his techniques.  I hope to attempt some of these at some point.

The good news is, that as it is starting to get warmer, I will be spending more time in the shop, which means there will be more frequent updates to my blog

Posted in Articles | Leave a comment