Articles - Router Table
07/13/2005
I have always wanted a router table. Many years ago I bought a simple one at Sears that mounted to the top of a workbench. It did the trick, but it wasn't sturdy and accurate enough. The basic router I used at the time didn't help either. I then bought a Skil Classic 2.0 HP hand-held plunge router with which I am very happy. A plunge router is just fine for larger work, but when smaller pieces of wood need to be routed, a table-mounted router is better, and safer. After looking at many catalogs and doing some research on the Internet, I decided that none of the router tables out there would work for me. The principal reason being that I am 6 feet 4 inches tall. These tables are designed for average height people, which would wreak havoc on my lower back. So, it was time to decide to build my own. I also decided that I wanted to have a permanently-mounted router in the table, and leave the plunge router available for hand work. The router table needs to make it easy to change bits and to adjust the height of the bit. Also, the table needs to hook up to my dust collection system. Just as I happen to be looking for designs for a router table, I came across two magazines in the book store that discussed the type of router table I wanted. The basic table design I got from the April 2004 issue of Woodwork magazine ("Building a Precision Router Table", pg. 58). The router suspension mechanism design came from the March 2004 issue (#106) of American Woodworker magazine ("Shop-made Router Lift", pg. 38). I will build the basic table and the fence following the Woodwork magazine article. The table is a simple frame box measuring 38" tall, 24" wide, and 18" deep (96.5 x 61 x 45.7 cm). This sits on a 4-1/4" (10.8 cm) toe-kick frame. These components will be made out of Oak framing and MDF exteriors. The router lift mechanism will be built exactly matching the article in the American Woodworker magazine. It will be designed to fit the Porter-Cable 7518 3.0 HP that I chose for this table. It is a fixed-based, heavy-duty router. Most work I do is fairly light-duty, but I may want to make some raised-panel doors in the future. One never knows...

It seemed to me that the hardest part was to acquire all the parts. The MDF 4' x 8' sheet was just about impossible to move by myself. The magazine articles call for using 3/4" MDF, but I bought 5/8" instead. At the time I bought it I had no help, so it almost took my back out! Even though the article on the router lift mechanism lists the companies from which they bought the parts (specifically the mechanical parts), and even though the companies all were here in Houston, I had a hard time getting them all. I encountered some blank stares and confused looks at these places. Oh well, I managed to eventually get all the parts. It cost me a bit more than the article states. I decided to start construction with the table top. This is basically two sheets of MDF glued together, and then covered with a sheet of counter top vinyl. The first photo shows the two sheets of MDF being glued together. The top measures a generous 35-1/2" wide by 23-1/2" deep (90 x 60 cm). Later I will add a nice trim around the edges which will make it a bit larger in both dimensions.
Router Table
The next step was to glue the vinyl counter top to the MDF table top. I bought it at Home Depot. It was hard to find, but the guy who helped me with it (turned out to be the manager of the store), found it and then the two of us man-handled the 4' x 8' sheet (the smallest they sold) so that we could get a piece of rope around it to roll it up (shown here). He said that the material is quite fragile and that if we didn't roll it up, I would have lots of damage to it by the time I got it home. It was windy that day also. It made it home safely. All I had to do was cut it a couple of inches larger than the amount I needed for the table top, and glue it with Contact Cement. I coated both the vinyl and MDF top with two coats before they were actually glued together. The total thickness of the table top is just a bit over 1-1/4 (3.1 cm).
Router Table
After I let it dry overnight, I used the plunge router with a flush-trimming bit to trim the excess vinyl away from the table top.
Router Table
Next, I built the toe-kick cabinet which will sit under the main table. It measures 24" wide, 17" deep, and 4-1/4 tall (61 x 43 x 10.7 cm). It started off as just four boards glued together.
Router Table
Next, I laminated some Oak wood strips into 1 square boards and glued to those flush with the top edge of the cabinet.
Router Table
The corners have a solid square piece of Oak installed.
Router Table
The toe-kick cabinet has tee-nuts installed for the leg leveler bolts that will be installed later. This all carries the heavy weight of the cabinet, so I made it nice and strong. All joints were reinforced with wood screws.
Router Table
With the toe-kick cabinet finished, it is time to focus on the main table. This is basically a frame box built in the same manner as the toe-kick cabinet. The box' interior is open to hold the router and its lift mechanism. An opening will be made to incorporate the dust collection hose connection. I started with the bottom. I deviated a bit from the magazine article here. I wanted to have a heavy bottom, and a good way to connect the main table to the toe-kick cabinet. Also, the dust collection hole needs to be some distance from the floor, but I didn't want to have a layer of permanent dust residing at the bottom of the cabinet. So the bottom has a false floor. This is shown being glued here.
Router Table
I made the side panels by gluing 1 square Oak wood boards to the edges.
Router Table
After this I constructed and installed each of the four sides of the main table. The toe-kick and the main cabinets were screwed together with six 4-inch hex-screws.
Router Table
The photo below shows the dust collection port near the bottom rear of the main table. The exterior of the pipe is 4-inch diameter, and the interior is a 2-inch diameter for the hose that will run from the router to this port.
Router Table
I filled all the screw holes with wood putty (several times until smooth), and then I sanded the whole surface. I also used a rounding-over bit along the vertical front edges for a nicer look. Finally the exterior of the cabinet was painted with several coats of a burgundy latex paint. I will put one more coat on the cabinet to completely get rid of brush strokes.

This project is still awaiting some dedicated time to complete in my garage. This is as far as I have gotten with it. I guess the real motivation will be when I need a table-mounted router for a particular project.
Router Table