This has been a problem I have been thinking about for months. I would have a better idea of how to build the best router table if I had used a router table before.
My original thought was to put it on the far right side of the extension table. It would be very accessible there. The downside: the whole fence system needs to be removed, rotated 180 degrees, and set into place… every time I want to switch from router to table saw. I decided this is not convenient enough, and abandoned the idea.
The next idea was to borrow from router tables designed for table saws – such as one from Incra – on the right side of the blade:
Feeding from the front is an efficient way to work, especially for long, narrow pieces. But what about small pieces? And I would have to lean way over the table to change router bits, creating stress in my lower back. Also, working under the table for adjustments below, I would have to reach pretty far back. So this configuration doesn’t work all that well.
Taking a nod from Bill Hylton’s router book, in which he suggested an “offset” configuration with the router towards the front, I considered doing something similar here:
This seemed like a good compromise, but before I started cutting the new extension table, I decided to ask Mark at Incra what he thought. His reply was spot on: I was trading off ergonomics for stability. In particular, having the router up front like this reduces the infeed support. I decided this was a serious flaw with this design, and discarded it too. Mark also said that the reason people liked the router tables on the LEFT side of the blade was that it gave better ergonomics without sacrificing stability.
That sold me on this approach. I started studying LHS tables from various manufacturers – Incra and Bench Dog mainly. I love the idea of a cast iron extension, such as Bench Dog offers. And its size is perfect. However, it’s a big investment, and I already invested in a router plate and template to mount it into tables… and I really wanted to build this myself.
So I built a second extension table for left of the blade – designed to replace the 8” cast iron wing that came with my saw. The dimensions were taken from Bull Dog’s table: 16” wide, 27” deep. I used the same laminate and trim design as the right side. To keep the table as flat as possible from front to back, I bought some perforated angle iron stock at the hardware store and used lag bolts to attach it at intervals of 3”. I cut it to length, then rounded all corners to avoid injury. These angle brackets will also be used to attach to various cabinets and a dust box on the underside later on. Here’s a look at the underside:
The table is again 1-5/8” thick (two layers of 3/4” MDF, and laminate on top and bottom). I wanted to use lag bolts, but I needed to keep the top surface totally flat. I was worried about having the pointed end of the lag bolt push against the table top, creating dimples, so I used my primitive grinder to get rid of the pointed ends. This allowed me to use 1-1/2” lag bolts and take advantage of the maximum grab without any risk of dimpling the table surface:
I removed the cast iron wing. Then I used the same approach of bolting oak strips to the t-slots in the Incra fence rails (see picture in previous blog entry) for the LHS table. The table fit nicely, and I really like the look of the saw better with the new router extension on the left:
Now the router placement. I plan to center it front-to-back. Full access is possible by standing on the left side of the router/saw table. I want to place the center of the bit at least 9” from the left edge of the table, to provide enough support for wider boards. I could reasonably edge 10” or 12” boards this way, though some would hang over the edge of the table. If I need wider than that, I can route on the right side of the bit, feeding from the back of the saw instead, and still use the fence.
I decided to install a miter channel for edge work and to support feather boards. I had to figure out how far the miter channel should be from the near edge of the channel to the center of the bit. Checking out some commercial tables, I found most were between 6” and 6-3/4”. I decided on 6-1/4” to allow the feather board I have to nearly reach the center of the bit, so it will work even with small bits and narrow stock..
The picture below does not have the plate centered front-to-back, but it will be. Otherwise, this is how I think I will arrange the miter channel and router plate:
I would REALLY like any comments from anyone out there – preferably BEFORE I commit to this design by cutting the grooves – from those of you with lots of router table experience – and anyone else who wants to, of course.
-- Mark, hack amateur woodworker, Medford (greater Boston) MA