In this article, we will be looking at the various ways you could use your woodcraft skills to build your own router table from scratch or by using commercially available parts from certain woodcraft suppliers. We will also show you complete pre-manufactured tables from Rockler, Bench Dog, Bosch and Porter Cable as an alternative to the DIY approach.
A simple router table can be constructed with a base made from 2 x 3 or 2 x 4 lumber screwed together. You will probably want to have 4 legs, 3 cross bars and a 4-sided apron at the top. The front of your table should be left open but you might want to consider a shelf to store router bits and other related parts. The top can be made out of plastic laminate over ¾ particle board, extending
beyond the outside dimensions of the apron and legs on all sides. You can mount casters on the bottoms of the legs if you want to roll the table around your shop.
While it would be nice if you could just make a hole in a piece of ¾ laminated particle board and attach the router upside down on the underside of your table top, the reality is that the router bit probably would not extend fully above the
3/4″-thick table top and, thus, would not be high enough to make full contact with the workpiece. For this reason, you will either need to purchase a commercially available table insert or you could make one yourself out of aluminum or Plexiglas.
You should trace out the shape of the table insert at the center of your table top, cut out the table top about 3/8 inside of your pencil line, drum sand away the saw cuts to ¼ inside the pencil line and then rout a ¼ rabbet into the table top around the hole at a depth slightly deeper or equal to the router table insert. The insert should have a hole in its center the same size as the large center hole in the original router base plate. The insert must be screwed down and must fit snugly into the rabbet you routed. The table insert should be no thicker than the
thickness of the original router base. You should use 2 small flat head wood screws, diagonally opposite each other that are countersunk into the insert so that they do not protrude above it. These will be used to keep the insert from moving around and becoming dislodged and will screw into the wood beneath your rabbet cut. You will, of course, need to counter sink the router mounting holes from above, as well. If you decide to purchase a table insert from a commercial source like Rockler, the holes and countersinks will probably already have been drilled into it. If you purchase a commercially available table
top from Rockler, you will not have to cut and rout out a place for the table insert.
The final step in this do-it-yourself woodcraft project is to create a fence. A simple router table fence design would have two pieces of 1 x 3, flat , straight, clear, smooth wood screwed together at a right angle along their long edges. You will then need to cut a slot partway through both pieces that will allow your largest router bit to retreat all the way into the fence, The fence should be the same length as the table top and can be attached to the table top with a C-clamp on each end. If you are using ball bearing bits, you wont really need the fence. If you are using straight cutters, the fence must be built in two, adjustable parts so that the outfeed fence can be set inwards (but parallel to) of the infeed fence to compensate for the thickness of the material that has just been removed by the bit. The router table is not alone among woodworking tools that work this way. Think of a jointer table turned on its side. A jointers outfeed table is always set at the extreme height of the cutters while the infeed table is set below the height of the cutters. How much below determines how much material will be
removed in each pass. A router table fence is no different. If this seems too complicated, commerical router table fences are available, ranging in price
from about 80 to about 120 dollars.
OK, so you can add a router table to the woodworking tools in your workshop and use your woodcraft talents to build one on the cheap. But maybe, just
maybe, you might want to skip all or part of that by using commercially available parts. Lets look and see whats available, from the bottom up. Rockler/Bench Dog, CPO Porter Cable and CPO Bosch are the best woodworking suppliers for parts and/or complete router tables. Here are some that are available that you may want to consider. Prices were current when this article was written.
A router lift is a time-saving, effort-reducing thing to have mounted into your router table. It raises the entire router and router bit up and down through the top surface of the table. With it, you can make minute height adjustments carefully and accurately.
You can (1) build your own router table from scratch, using the instructions above, (2) build your own but incorporate some of the router table parts and accessories listed above or (3) build or buy the whole router table out of the parts listed above. It depends on your budget and how much time you have available to build your own woodworking tools. I’m sure you’ll figure it out and the final product will be just what you need. I hope this article has been helpful.
One piece of advice, though. If you live in a damp climate, particle board table tops will swell and distort making good routs impossible. If you bang things into the corners or sides of a particle board router table top, you will also distort the flatness of the table top. A phenolic router table top is much better and cast iron is best, if you can afford it.