Introduction: Inexpensive Router Table (Safe & Accurate)
Build this very safe and very accurate router table for a fraction of the cost of a name-brand version.
I paid $84. The router plate was $60 and the two pieces of MDF cost $24. I had all the other tools and materials in my shop. Add $20 or $30 if you have no other materials. The cost of tools (drill, jigsaw, etc.) will obviously be determined by what you choose.
- Router Plate (Kreg brand) http://a.co/9pSfsZg
- 3/4 inch thick MDF sheet 2' x 4' (final dimensions 20" x 36")
- 1/4 inch thick MDF sheet with laminated surface 2' x 4' (final dimensions 20" x 36")
- 3/8 inch thick plywood or other material approximately 2' x 2' (to make a router pattern)
- 2x3 lumber (approximately 16 feet total)
- 4 small wood screws (for leveling the router plate)
- 26 Large Deck screws
- Wood glue (Tightbond 2) http://a.co/dUxhgim
- Contact Adhesive http://a.co/32WwV6A
- Small paintbrush or paint roller (to apply contact adhesive)
- Powerstrip (to easily turn the router on and off)
- CA glue (cyanoacrylate adhesive... aka, superglue)
- Table saw
- Router bit 1: Flush trim bit (to clean up table surface)
- Router bit 2: Pattern bit (to make the router plate tray)
- Drill with two bits: 1) 3/8" bit and 2) 1/8" countersink bit
- Woodworking tools are dangerous.
- Routers are probably the most dangerous tool... they have hair triggers and are extremely powerful. Keep in mind, when the router is on, nothing, and I mean nothing, will stop the bit from spinning.
- Always unplug the router when installing it into the table, when changing the bit, and/or when doing any other operation other than edge routing a board. Seriously, unplug it 100% of the time.
- Always wear eye protection. Ideally, a full face shield. The material you're cutting, or even pieces of the router bit itself, can break off and be thrown at high speeds in unpredictable directions.
- Always use a commercial router plate. Never use a thin piece of plywood or a thin board in place of a commercial router plate. The router plate must be durable and the router table surface must be thick. This ensures the router will never break away from the table in the unlikely event something jams and both the router fence and material refuse to give. Again, nothing is powerful enough to stop the bit from spinning.
Step 1: Table Surface
Cut both pieces of the MDF sheets
- Cut the 3/4" thick MDF to its final dimensions: 20" x 36" (or whatever size you choose)
- Cut the 1/4" thick MDF sheet an inch larger in all directions. In my case, that's 22" x 38"
Bond both MDF sheets together
- Apply contact cement to both pieces of MDF. Let the cement dry. When it's tacky to the touch, it's ready. That should take approximately 30 minutes.
- Apply a second coat of contact cement around the edges. Again, let it dry.
- Place small pieces of scrap wood on the thick base. Align the thinner top piece.
- Remove the scrap wood and apply downward pressure to bond both boards together.
IMPORTANT: You only get one chance to bond the boards together... the bond will be instant and permanent. Having the top board be 1 inch larger gives you some "room for error" so to speak.
Trim excess material
- Use a router with a flush trim bit to remove the extra 1/4" MDF material.
- Tip: Always clamp the workpiece to your workbench. You don't want it sliding around while using the router.
Step 2: Cut Hole for Router Plate
This will be used to guide a hand-held router with a pattern bit while you remove material that is the exact size of the router plate. It's best to make the opening of the pattern just a bit larger than your router plate... maybe 1/16 of an inch larger. This way the router plate will easily drop into place.
- Use the table saw to cut 3/8 inch thick plywood into strips. I cut mine to about 3 inches wide.
- Use CA glue to lock the pieces together
- Clamp the template to the table.
IMPORTANT: The position of the plate on the table surface should not be in the exact center! That's a common mistake! Although you can have an equal amount of space on the left and right of the router plate, the space in front and back of the plate should NOT be equal. Position the plate so you have more room in the front... that's your "work surface" and the extra space will be helpful. The back of the table, (the area behind the router bit and where the fence is located) requires less space.
The router plate needs to sit on a ledge within the table surface.
- Use a router with a pattern bit to remove material. The bit should have a bearing between the blade and the shank, that way, the bearing will ride along the plywood jig. Set the depth of the bit deeper than the thickness of the router plate. All router plates should be 3/8 inches thick... measure yours to be sure.
- Drill four holes with a 3/8 inch bit to allow a jigsaw blade to pass through it.
- Remove the center by cutting along the inside edge with a jigsaw.
- Add four small screws (position as shown) to adjust the height of the router plate.
The router plate should be flush with the surface. Ensure your workpiece will not "catch" on the plate or the table. It's best to have the plate depth lower, about the thickness of a piece of office paper, on the infeed (right) side and a higher (again, the thickness of a piece of office paper) on the outfeed (left) side.
Step 3: Finish Router Plate Area
The router plate has pre-drilled holes in the corners.
- With the router plate in position, use its pre-drilled holes as a guide to drill through the ledge you just created. (this step is not shown)
Notice the holes are VERY close to the edge. That's a bit too unsafe in my opinion. I would rather have the mounting screws "grab" onto more material. So... do the following:
Reinforce router plate area
- Cut a section of the 3/8 inch thick plywood into triangles. Exact size is not critical.
- On the underside of the table, cover the corners with this triangle and secure them with small wood screws. I also used CA glue but the CA glue was likely unnecessary. However, it certainly doesn't hurt to use CA glue in addition to screws.
- With the table positioned top-side-up, use the holes you drilled earlier to drill through the plywood reinforcing triangles you just installed.
- Use the screws/washers/nuts that came with your router plate to secure the plate.
You're almost done!
Step 4: Table Frame and Legs
Reinforce the table surface
- Cut two sections of 2x3 lumber to the length of the table.
- Optional: Mill the 2x3 lumber so all surfaces are 90 degrees and parallel. (This step is not shown. Additional tools are needed if you do this... again, this is totally optional)
- Glue the lumber to the underside of the table and apply with deck screws.
Create the table legs
- Cut four pieces of 2x3 lumber for the legs. The length you choose it up to you. Choose a length that will produce a comfortable height for you. Obviously, ensure the router has enough space when you eventually mount it under the table surface.
- Set your table saw's miter guide to 5 degrees and cut the legs to size.
- Ensure each leg is the same size. I used two powerful magnets to mark the cut locations. Magnets can be a safe and accurate way to ensure your workpiece doesn't kickback at you.
Install the table legs
- Apply wood glue to the legs and hold them in place with clamps.
- Use deck screws to secure the table legs to the reinforcing frame.
Table legs crossbeams
- Use a piece of 2x3 lumber to use as crossbeams. In my case, I used two pieces of 3/4" plywood glued together... hey, I had that laying around my shop so I figured I'd use it.
- Make sure these crossbeams are longer than the legs! This will ensure the table isn't "top heavy" and it will be less likely to tip over. The legs are already at a 5-degree angle... but the longer crossbeams allow you to avoid making a more-complicated compound miter cut. Basically, doing it this way will result in a table that is just a secure and far easier to build. Easy = good!
- Cut pieces of the 2x3 lumber to cover the short area of the table. Measure the area on your table and cut these pieces to that distance.
- Apply glue and secure with clamps to ensure good contact with the bottom of the table
- Screw these supporting pieces in place as shown.
Step 5: Finishing Touches & Final Thoughts
Installing your router
Follow the router plate's instructions for mounting your router. Each manufacturer has slightly different steps. Don't worry, it's easy!
Use an electrical power strip to easily turn the router on and off. This prevents you from reaching under the table to locate the on/off trigger that is attached to the router. Reaching under the can also table take a longer amount of time. Position this power strip where it cannot be accidentally powered on, ideally on the legs of the router table facing away from the front.
Use a thick piece of lumber as a fence. Ensure the lumber is flat! Use clamps to secure the fence to the table. Although this won't look as fancy as professional router fences, rest assured, it will absolutely be as accurate... if not more accurate!
Secure your table so it never moves
Clamp your router table to your workbench before using it! Even better, use screws to secure it.
Your DIY Router Table is now ready to use! Wooo!!
So... what can you do with your router table?
- Route the edges of boards! This is typically 90% of the operations you'll do with a router table.
Optional features you won't have and/or may want to install later.
- T-track on the table surface so you can use feather boards
- Router cage riser-system that lifts the router and plate above the table surface for easy bit changes
- Dust collection
- Tall fence with adjustable opening and easy "edge jointing" features.
- Fence with a t-track for downward facing feather boards
- Some routers support raising/lowering the router bit from the table surface... that will be possible with the simple router plate used here.
Enjoy your new router table! Be safe and follow all instructions and precautions from the tool manufacturer. Your table will give you a lifetime of accuracy.