Monday, May 18, 2015

Simple Router Table

One thing I've been wanting to get for my workshop is a router table.  But these things aren't cheap.  So I decided to make one!

Searching online you can find dozens of plans for making a router table.  Since I'm still quite a newbie when it comes to woodworking, I decided to go for a simple router table - one that I can clamp to my existing work tables.

The first thing you'll need is a router.  I already have a fixed-based router, so that was easy.

Next I bought a few items form the hardware store.  I bought a 2'x4'x.5" MDF board for the table top.  For the fence, I bought two 1"x3"x4' Poplar baords.

I also bought one carriage bolt and some wing nuts to fit onto the bolt.

My router table will fit on top of, and in between 2 of my work tables.

I wanted my table top to be a little shorter in width, so I marked 12 inches from one side and clamped a straight edge onto the board.

Then I used my circular saw to cut the board.

Next I used my T-square to mark the middle of the board.

Then I removed the base plate from my router...

...and traced it onto the center of my MDF board.  Even though I traced the entire base plate, all I really needed to trace was the center hole and the location of the 3 screws that attach the base plate to the router.

Next I used the largest spade bit I had to cut a hole in the center of the board.

Then I used a drill bit with a countersink to drill the holes for the screws.  Having the countersink is important, as I needed the screws to be below the top surface of the board.

Next I measured out an inch on all sides...

At each corner I drilled another hole.  These holes are for when I mount the board to my work tables or saw horses.

I actually can use clamps to hold my board to the worktables, but if I am working on some very tough, or dense wood, I'll want to actually screw it to the work tables.  Next I changed drill bits and drilled a hole that will fit the carriage bolt.  This will be the pivot point for the fence.

Next I trimmed the poplar boards...

...and drilled some pocket holes onto one of the boards.

Then I used pocket screws to attach the 2 poplar boards.  This will be our fence for the router table.

I then aligned the fence to the center of the table.

I drilled a hole in the fence for the carriage bolt.

I flipped the whole table over and inserted the carriage bolt.  I hammered it in so it doesn't move.

Then I flipped the table over again, and attached the fence to the bolt using a wing nut.

Now the fence can swing at any distance from the center of the table.

But before I go any further I need to cut out a semicircle from the fence.  I disassembled the fence, and cut out the semicircle using my jigsaw.

Then I reassembled the fence, attached it to the table and screwed a screw onto the opposite end.  This screw will keep the fence stationary when in use.

And believe it or not, I'm done!  Making this thing only took about 40 minutes.

Now it's time to test all of it out.  Since everything is centered, I am able to balance the table on top of the router.  This makes it easy to screw the top to the router.

I had to use slightly longer screws then what came with my router.  Luckily I had perfect the length in stock.

Instead of screwing the router table to my work tables, I simply clamped them on.

Adjusting the height of the router bit isn't too difficult - everything is simply below the table.

Clamping boards to the top of the fence is also good for a feather board.

Then I tried the router table for the first time.  I already had a Chamfer bit in my router, so I started with that.  I'm happy to say that it worked quite well.

Next I switched to a round over bit.  Once again the table and fence did a great job.

Next I moved the fence back, and I tried routing a rounded piece of wood.  Once again the table worked great.

So I tried 2 bits and a few pieces of .75" thick wood.  Now to try a 2x4...

I used the same round over bit on a piece of scrap 2x4.

And once again success!

Next, I switched the bit to a rabbeting bit.  Worked great!

Finally I switched to a straight bit and created a dado (groove).  I am super happy that this worked well because it is something I always had trouble doing with just the router alone.

Making good dados will be instrumental in making better quality shelves and furniture.

Next I removed the router from the table and used some tape to find the exact middle.  Then I drew a line from the middle to the corner and added measurements every half inch.

This will help me when adjusting the fence.

I also added more holes to the fence, so when I plan on making some dados in the middle of large pieces of wood, I'll be able to anchor the fence to the table top.

So all-in-all this was a easy, quick and inexpensive way to make a router table.  When not in use I can store this table almost anywhere.

I can't wait to start a new wood working project so I can use this nifty new tool... anxious was I to make something, I went to the store and bought some wood to make a very simple wall shelf as a test for this router table.

This time I set up the router table to my saw horses. 

I've made a few wall shelves already, so I'm not going to over-explain the process.  But I will draw attention to the steps that involve the router table.  To start this shelf I cut one of my wood boards that will make the sides of the shelf.

I drew out some guides that I'll use for making dados.  This shelf will not be held together with pocket holes and screws.  Dados with glue and nails will be super strong.

But before I cut the dados, I cut out a decorative bottom to each side using my jigsaw.

Then I set the fence and router to the bit I wanted.  In this case I used a straight tipped bit for cutting 3/4" dados - which is the thickness of the wood I'm using.

I first made dados for the tops of each side.

Then I adjusted the fence for dados that run just above the decorative cuts I made.

Each dado is straight and was super easy to make.  This was so much easier than making guides, clamps and fences for use of the router alone (without the table).

Next I switched out the router bit and put on a cove bit.  Then I routed the edges of the fronts and tops of each side panel.

Then I moved the fence away and freehand routed the decorative curves.

Now that the sides are done I reset the fence and routed the fronts of both shelves.

Once everything was routed I did a dry-fit of all the pieces.  There was a slight warping to the shelves, but with enough patience (and a little help with my rubber mallet) I was able to fit the shelves into the dadoes.

The fitting was so strong I was able to pick this thing up and carry it around without falling apart.  I have no doubt that this thing will hold together very, very well once glue and nails are added.

But before I glued it together I cut some smaller pieces of wood...

...which I also routed one of the edges.

The smaller pieces of wood will fit in between each of the shelves, and will be the part which gets anchored to the wall.  For these pieces I did use pocket holes and screws.

Then I gave everything a good sanding.

For all the routed and curved edges I used sandpaper to smooth the wood.

Now it's time to assemble!  I applied wood glue to each dado....

...then I fit the pieces together and used my brad nailer to keep it in place.

Before long this shelf was together!

I drilled 2 holes in each of the 2 small wood pieces.  Here is where the screws will go when anchored to the wall.

Then I gave everything a good cleaning and applied some wood stain.

When the stain dried I sanded it to make it look worn.

Then I mounted it to the wall in my office.

And then I filled up my new shelf with some models and other current projects.

when that was done I played with routing some more 2x4's.

I wound up cutting each end at 45 degrees and making a little box out of it!

After a little stain I have (another) nice looking box!

In conclusion, this router table is awesome!  I much preferred working on it while attached to the saw horses.  The total cost for building this thing was around $20 and its 3-feet wide by 2-feet long.  Lowes and Home Depot carry router tables that are 26" wide by 16 inches tall and the costs start at around $140.  Perhaps when I am a much better skilled wood worker I'll invest in one of those router tables, but for now this thing works excellently!

Thanks for reading!

Update:  After a few weeks using my router table top I'm happy to say that it is still working excellently.  I've used it on a few projects which I will be posting soon.  However, I'm not overly happy that I have to assemble and disassemble my saw horses each time I want to use it (sometimes I'm lazy).

Recently I had tried to convert my very uncomfortable futon into what turned out to be a very uncomfortable, permanent couch.

A day or so after making this unsuccessful couch, I went out and bought a brand new, comfortable couch.

I disassembled the crappy couch since it was made out of useful wood pieces.  The wood sat around for a week or so before I decided I will make a better router table using the wood from this futon.

Next I began cutting the pieces to make the table using my table saw.

Nothing fancy about this table - 4 legs and 8 cross beams.

The pieces will be held together with pocket holes and screws.

Once the frame of the table was assembled, I attached the table top I already made.

The top is attached with 4 screws.

For the bottom shelf of this table I used a leftover piece of plywood I had, which I trimmed to size with my table saw.

I cut the 4 corners to fit using my jigsaw.

No nails or screws needed for the bottom shelf.  It's a very snug fit.

Now I have a space for all my router stuff.

For the rotating fence, I removed the screws I used earlier.  A simple clamp will hold it in place during use.

And my table is nearing completion.

I decided I wanted casters for this table, so I cut more leftover wood...

...and attached them to the legs.

Then I put rotating casters on each leg.

The casters make the table move easily.  And I can lock each one to make sure the table doesn't budge while in use.

I tested it out with a scrap piece of wood and it worked nicely.

I use 2 dedicated C-clamps for both ends of the fence.

I added screws to the front of the table for the clamps to hang from when not in use.

I switched bots to a V-groove bit to test out the locked casters.  Using this bit pulls a lot, but I'm happy to say that the table was stationary the whole time.

I cut some 45 degree cuts on the scrap wood and now I have a very nice frame.

It's definitely low-tech, but nonetheless a very well working router table.

Thanks for reading!

UPDATE:  After several months this router table is working great.  But one thing I failed to mention earlier is that the router creates a lot of saw dust.  The image below shows perhaps the smallest amount of dust collected while routing some trim.

So I would like to revise my table to hold my workshop vacuum and have the hose connect to it and collect a good amount of the sawdust.

The bottom shelf is raised too high for the vacuum, so I began dismantling the shelf.

Then I used the same pieces of the shelf to recreate it at the bottom of the table.

Next I cut some leftover wood and made a small wall for the back of the shelf.

This wall will prevent the vacuum from falling off the back side.

Next I cut a space in the fence for the end of the hose to fit through.

I was going to make some sort of rig that held the hose in place, but I wound up with going with something very simple - a rubber tie down which hooks to both ends of the table.  This is not a fancy set up at all, but it works very well, so I went with it.

With that all done I cleaned up the router table top...

...and the bottom as well.

Then I tested the whole thing out by router a piece of trim with a large Roman ogee bit.  This bit creates a lot of saw dust when it cuts, so I was happy to see that my table top was more-or-less clear of saw dust.

Underneath there was a little bit of saw dust, but no where near as much as there was before the vacuum was attached.

The table still fits nicely in the corner of my garage and I also moved the clamps to the sides to make it easier to change the height of the router bit.

The new additions are great and help keep my workshop (a little) cleaner!
Thanks for reading!

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