This project series is going to journal the development of my new router table. In this post I will begin the series by describing the components that I purchased for this project and why, and in later installments, I will describe the construction process as I go. It probably isn’t necessary to explain the benefits of having a router table; however, with all of the various options available in the marketplace, it might be helpful to understand why I chose the components that I did.
I’ve built router tables before; however, they were quickly cobbed together in order to meet a temporary need. Now I have the ability to have a permanent yet mobile fixture in my shop that I desire to be highly accurate. I would have preferred to purchase a complete pre-manufactured system to save myself time; however, I tend to be frugal and decided to meet cheap and efficient somewhere in between. I also discovered, through my research, that complete systems aren’t always complete and no particular router table system met all of my desires. Thus, I decided to “piece-mail” the system together.
The Bench Dog tables were my favorite tables by far. They are not made of metal, they have nice thick tops, and they come pre-fitted for their router plate insert. I also liked their fence and custom t-track. Many other “complete” systems on the market are built with metal legs requiring me to build a cabinet within/around the system. I didn’t feel it necessary to purchase a $400 system that required me to spend another $120 for material to achieve my desired result.
Although I liked the Bench Dog tables, I didn’t like the price. Their top Baltic birch cabinet costs around $550 but drawers and doors cost extra. Plus, their phenolic router plates do not provide different sized rings for different sized bits. This means that I would have to purchase about two additional plates so that I can fit my raised panel bit or other sized bits into it. These are even more reasons why I decided to build my own cabinet.
I thought about building a custom fence, but the fences that exist today have so many features and are so accurate that I decided it would be a waste of time to replicate them. I scoured over many options, but the router fences that really caught my eye were JessEm’s, Bench Dog’s, Rockler’s, Woodpecker’s and Rousseau’s.
Rousseau has a nice fence but only being able to see it on the web, it appeared that some of the adjustment knobs were in tight places. They were priced competitively though. I liked the Rockler and Bench Dog fences but compared to JessEm’s and Woodpecker’s fences, they were pretty basic.
I almost decided to go with the JessEm fence because I really liked its measuring track that sits to the to the left and right side of the table where the fence tightens into. However, I changed my mind when I found out that the front movable fence faces are tightened in the front rather than the back. It would become annoying getting my allen wrench every time I wanted to adjust the faces.
The Woodpecker router fence is just what I need. It uses aluminum angle “iron” that the face plates attach to which will keep it sturdy. Also, the aluminum angle has tapped holes drilled for leveling screws to keep the fence at a 90 degree angle. Like the others, the fence plates have t-tracks in them and most importantly, a dust collector attachment on the back.
The only complaint that I have about the fence would be the fact that Woodpecker company has decided to allow Woodcraft to sell their fences and in the license agreement, Woodpecker is no longer allowed to sell their fence online at their site. This was frustrating because I had to purchase my Woodpecker fence and router plate from separate companies.
Router Plate Inserts
I decided to go with an aluminum plate for this project. My Bosch 1619EVS is heavy and there were some concerns on internet posts that phenolic plates may warp a little with varying temperatures. These claims may be unfounded but why take the chance. Besides, this is going to be my special router table project.
To defend phenolic plates, I already have one which is manufactured by Rousseau. The removable rings make it nice for different sized plates. Likewise, the phenolic material is easy to drill through for different router bases. The only reason I didn’t go with this plate for my new table is because the plastic rings are not precisely flush with the phenolic plate. As stated before I want a large degree of accuracy for this table and aluminum plates seem a better choice for this reason.
I chose Woodpecker’s aluminum Plungelift router table insert over all other aluminum products for the main reason that the ring inserts are the easiest to remove. Rockler’s and other competitors’ aluminum plates would require me to remove screws to change the ring inserts. Woodpecker has innovatively allowed users to remove rings with a tool by twisting the ring and pulling it out.
For the router table top and cabinet I am using Baltic Birch plywood. It is a clean, sturdy, and professional looking material when finished. However, it is expensive but I have never used it before and it will last a long time. I chose this over 5-play and MDF because my shop’s climate changes frequently and admittedly I’m splurging a little.
I also decided to apply a Formica veneer to the top and bottom of the router table top. This will insulate the substrate from humidity and also provide a slick surface to move wood across while routing.
I purchased a combo t-track/miter t-track from MLCSWoodworking. Rockler has one but it is double the price and MLCSWoodworking provided free shipping.
I also purchased two 3” locking casters and two 3” standard casters for mobility.
Finally (or just the beginning)
Hopefully this weekend I can begin cutting the Baltic Birch for the top and get the Formica attached to it. My next post will describe the top making process.
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