Tips and Jigs for the Shop #12: Project Table Top........misconceived, but it is a birth defects....(-:

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Jim Bertelson posted 10-24-2010 11:40 PM 12006 reads 1 time favorited 30 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 11: I designed, built it, use it..........but WHAT IS IT? Part 12 of Tips and Jigs for the Shop series Part 13: Making the job of being safe, very easy. Contractors Saw Original Guard Mod. »

Now tell me why did I build this thing?

It should be made of rosewood, and inlayed with ivory and ebony, considering the amount of time I have spent, and the grief it has caused, and sawdust it has generated.

I have been at this thing off and on for months. I originally naively started this thing so I could better control routing slots in the oak miter arms I was trying to make for my super sled.

After getting well on my way, I of course found a neat article on how to do the slots on the router table, in a twinkle, yet.

........IN A TWINKLE!


(pardon me while I gnash my teeth, and self-flagellate for the umpteenth time)

Moral of the story, a little research of the literature can save you about 7000 curse words…......

(I have outstripped my vocabulary of unprintable, politically uncorrect, and blasphemous exclamations, and let me tell you, we physicians have large vocabularies, and a proportionately oversized group of epithets to add emphasis to our erudite, and sometimes not so erudite, commentary)

A little research can also save you about a hundred hours of work, with the most dastardly manufactured construction material ever invented, surely by the devil himself…........MDF. Another name for this thing would be the MDF MONOLITH… it is sitting on one of the project tables, for an overview…........

MDF….....damned MDF.

I swear even my toothbrush and dental floss, let alone my comb, and my Jockey briefs, have been clogged and corrupted by the odious silt generated from this stuff, rising with the slightest touch, in noxious clouds, to cover everything in the shop.

I will forever remember routing that stuff…......

..... with earprotectors, a face shield, and a mouth mask…..sweat running down my face, making little rivelets in the MDF mud coating me.....peering through the corrosive plumes of desert sand-like stuff, trying to get a glimpse of my lines, to see if I had yet another time, gone astray.

I saved these masochistic episodes for times when I felt particularly guilty about some moral deviation, having found this to be the supreme self-punishment [no, I am not going to confess about my deviant behaviour…......(-: ]

I also made my dust collecting gizmo along the way, as a result of being…..

.........covered with (it must be made of finely ground camel dung) the effluent that it vengefully spit at me as I tried to coax it into something of value.

You would think the stuff would at least be light weight, but oh no. I am sure the EPA will some day tell us we can no longer use MDF because it is primarily composed of lead, or depleted uranium.

And then when you try to finish it, you would swear the finish when applied to the top…....falls straight through it and ends up on the floor. They should make sponges of this stuff.

All right. Thanks LJ’s, for allowing me to vent a little, I needed that.

OK, to tell the truth, this project table top is a very useful item.

I was using it constantly while I made my dust collecting gizmo. With appropriate holddowns, I used it for glueups of the box, glueups of assorted plywood appendages, and a way to firmly hold the acrylic while I filed the proper profile in the hole for the bullet catches, etc.

It is reversible, one side being smooth, and interlaced with 3/8 inch slots for holddowns and jigs. The other side has pedestals to facilitate through routing and cutting, and of course the mirror image of the slots.

The pedestal side:

It is one inch thick, composed of two layers of one half inch MDF. The top is one piece, the pedestal side is made of many pieces to reduce the amount of routing, and allow the vertical face of the pedestals to actually be glued to the top piece and entrapped by other pieces, all for strength. The pedestals also bridge some of the long slots for strength. The pedestals themselves have a long slot running the whole length.

It has been finished with the ubiquitous Dark Walnut (can’t get Black Walnut anymore) WATCO. Never looks dirty….....because it looks like it is made of dirt. The finish has no dimensions, so it doesn’t screw up mechanical constructions, and it can be recoated easily at any time.

This reversible top fits in one of my old project tables, whose tops are just dropped in, held by cleats, but not fastened on. But I will make a whole new base for this thing, partly because it is fairly heavy, but also it will be made to store most of my clamps.

So you see it in a temporary home, with a few examples of simple holding situations, but it will soon have a new much more robust base.

Needless to say, I can dream up a myriad of attachments and gizmos for this item.

Most of them won’t be useful, but they will be fun to make…............(-:

Here is the other side in mockup use, ideal for through routing and cutting:

I have also been wondering if this might be used with a plunge saw, I really need a better setup to cut large sheets of MDF and plywood into manageable pieces. Of course I have a large panel sled, and will blog on it since it is now finished, as well. Thanks for absorbing my, at times, vindictive prose, and my amateurish photos. Have a good one…......(-:

Alaska Jim

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

30 comments so far

View Tim Dahn's profile

Tim Dahn

1567 posts in 3616 days

#1 posted 10-25-2010 12:03 AM

Jim, I know you built this to assist with the construction of another more useful jig! Actually this does seem to be very useful for holding a workpiece. Does it have a name?

-- Good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from poor judgement.

View twokidsnosleep's profile


1106 posts in 3025 days

#2 posted 10-25-2010 12:08 AM

Your profuse and preposterous verbiage is astutely appropriate…..owww my brain hurts, I must not be a real doctor.
Your clamping table looks great.
I almost hate to ask this, but why MDF? The stuff is weak, leaches out formaldehyde and the dust is dangerous to inhale. Plywood might have been a bit safer?
Funny you made your “Dusty” with ply and I made my “Sandy” with MDF ….the first and last time I will buy it.

-- Scott "Some days you are the big dog, some days you are the fire hydrant"

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3166 days

#3 posted 10-25-2010 12:10 AM

DOOH !!!
very niice Jiiiiigii thing Jim
congrat´s with the finished piece… this is one of those that will never get finish
only develope and bee a mature gizmo when you learn to knew it …but that will take 20 years
just like your children it has to come thrugh the teen years…LOL


View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4187 posts in 3216 days

#4 posted 10-25-2010 12:24 AM


It does not have a name. I realized after I designed it and started building it, that some of the ideas came from Bricofleur’s rout through jig:

But of course, this thing really has little resemblance to it, especially since the reverse side is smooth, and is likely to be used more. I can’t even dream what to call it at this time. It is a project table (top) with a lot of slots, and some pedestals. I am at a loss.

You know, bench dogs, and vises, have some of the same functions, so it is really a small work bench. I have ordered a set of MCLS angle vises to sit on top of it, and I plan to make a bunch of accessories, long and short fences, high fences for working on the edge of things, etc. It needs a very stable base, which I will make in the near term. Then I will make it hold all my clamps, loading it down with those should make it very heavy and stable. I have a new and novel wheel system designed in my mind for it, so it can be mobile. Not talking more about that until I try it.

I’ll keep you informed as a move along. I am not recommending anybody else build this, it will work for me, but there has got to be easier ways to get the same function.


-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 4351 days

#5 posted 10-25-2010 12:24 AM

Nice jig Jim!

That is some awful dust making stuff.

If you don’t like finishing the MDF, You should try the 2-Sided White Melamine coated MDF, then you’ll only have to finish the edges. It may remind you too much of the clinic though.

It only costs a few dollars more.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View lew's profile


12145 posts in 3806 days

#6 posted 10-25-2010 01:00 AM


This has got to be the epitome (pronounce ep-i-tome) for clamping jigs!!

The only question I have is- What kind of bolts are you using with your hold downs? I tried to make a tapering jig, using MDF, and made sort of a “T” slot for carriage bolts. The head were recessed into a wide dado and the square collar rode in a tight fitting, through slot centered in the dado- if that makes sense. Anyway, after a few months of tightening/loosening the hold downs, the through slot was chewed up so much the bolts just spun when I tried tightening them. Had to replace the MDF with plywood. So far so good.

BTW, does Sherie have to help you move this around ;^)


-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4187 posts in 3216 days

#7 posted 10-25-2010 01:07 AM


Well put and I agree with everything you said. I have yet to find a good plywood source here in Anchorage…....the Chinese stuff in Lowes and HD does not deserve the name. Hence the MDF. But that is the last time. I will find a good source locally and mortgage my soul for an account. Does “finely ground camel dung” agree with your assessment of MDF?

Now I remember you from the “Dusty” conversations. the verbiage… have I put this before… is the psuedo 19th century novelists and poets style, I like to emulate some of those old writers at times. I recently read Jules Vernes, 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. Of course in the translation, you get the drift. I used to carry some leather bound copies of Edgar Allen Poe’s works, in India Manila paper to grade school with me. We were quite poor, but somehow my Dad got these as a gift from his first wife who died a tragic early death from meningitis. Her Dad was a doctor, now I remember…..(-:..........true though. My parents lost everything in the depression.

Trust me, the verbiage is strictly in humor, and not my normal conversational tone, but you have to admit, it does set me apart…............(-:

Oh well, thanks for stopping by. No more MDF.


-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4187 posts in 3216 days

#8 posted 10-25-2010 01:15 AM

Thanks for the advice. I will tuck it in my brain to be used wisely in the future…..just got to remember to untuck it…...(-:

Like I said to Scott, I think this is the last time. I have read of LJ’s that have banned MDF from their shop. Maybe that’s a good idea.

Did you get one last look at Mt McKinley over the ore dump before the sun got too low?...........(-:

33 deg here at 1500 hrs. No snow yet, fairly common, with the maritime climate.

Hope you and Barb are having a good fall. Seems to me, snow will not be there until November. I remember a Halloween snow when I was a kid, but it was an oddity and melted away, you would have been beyond trick and treating, so the memory would not be as strong. Strange the memories from over 50 years ago….........


-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3160 days

#9 posted 10-25-2010 01:16 AM

Nice table Jim. Seems even nicer than the Kreg tables for their pocket hole jigs. Some nice stops and it would make a good planing table.

By the way, be careful with the self flagellation, that can make you go blind.


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4187 posts in 3216 days

#10 posted 10-25-2010 01:26 AM

Hey Lew, hows things goin’. Like those trays, and I bet the recipients will too.

No T-slots, only through routes in one inch of MDF. I think that will hold. I have been reluctant to put T-slots even in plywood, for just that issue. I have the router bits, just have never used them. I would put them in oak or some such without hesitation, though. So far I haven’t seen any marks in the MDF from the T-bolts, but with one inch of stuff, it shouldn’t make too much difference, except for problems with overused areas. With the construction of this thing and its purpose, which should be quite random locations along the slots, I don’t think it will be an issue.

In my years of DIY woodworking I learned that plywood was OK, but oak was better for mechanical stuff. MDF didn’t exist back then. I will keep everyone informed how it goes. So far, so good, and it has gotten some use even in an unfinished condition.

Of course, you go into production mode with those gifts, that is a different deal. Don’t think I am up to that, for obvious reasons.

Have a good Halloween, Lew, best to you and yours….......


-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4187 posts in 3216 days

#11 posted 10-25-2010 01:41 AM


Actually this thing has been in use and works well. With some fences and attachments it should do even better. All of the slots are one inch deep, so hopefully the MDF will hold….I did think of that. But I don’t think I will use MDF again.

Yes, stops, fences, attachments, vises….....the whole enchilada….........

I am having dreams about frogs…shavings…smooth surfaces…screws….....

Your plane blog has me…....entranced….....(-: It was really interesting to look at the innards of that Stanley Bailey No.4 after your comments, especially about the frog. A real eye opener. Good stuff, David.

For a fun time, I will start tuning that 40 year old beast up (for the uninitiated, I bought it new)........I will blog the whole thing.

Flagellation was a term introduced to me in high school biology…......where did you learn about it…...?..........(-:

Thanks for your great comments again, David, thanks for stopping by…....


-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4187 posts in 3216 days

#12 posted 10-25-2010 02:30 AM

Lost you in the shuffle there, yup, I will learn new ways to use it over time. But my kids…....well…..can’t say they are particulary useful…...mostly money sinks…....(-:

But they are amusing. Spent over an hour yesterday with my oldest daughter and her family on Skype, she lives in Chicago. 3 year old twins and a five year old. Talked to the kids awhile, then with Gianfranco at length, that’s her husband, and of course Bonnie, my daughter, for a very long time….........lots of fun. One year from now we, meaning Sherie and I, Sherie’s mother, Mychelle, my stepdaughter, and all my four children and grandkids, twenty people in all, will be going on a Disney ship cruise, celebrating my 70th birthday. That will be a riot.

Fortunately I have good kids, so it will truly be nice, and I know not everyone is that fortunate. You really don’t have control over who your kids really end up being.

So have a good one, hope the business goes well, and the house holds up….......

Take care,


-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View twokidsnosleep's profile


1106 posts in 3025 days

#13 posted 10-25-2010 02:48 AM

No disrespect meant Jim, I was just fooling around:)
I was trying to talk like the Mayor from the cartoon Night Before Christmas. Look at 1:17 into this clip…he’s the verbose man

I didn’t realize the plywood issue was that bad, probably as I recycle more than buy new and live in BC who still produces lots of ply, I think.
If we keep destroying industries locally and let them go to the Far East we will be toast.

-- Scott "Some days you are the big dog, some days you are the fire hydrant"

View dbhost's profile


5736 posts in 3283 days

#14 posted 10-25-2010 07:22 AM

I just love your description of MDF.. I loathe the stuff myself, and use it very rarely… You again remind me of why…

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3385 days

#15 posted 10-25-2010 11:30 AM

Hi Jim, I think you will never regret having made this table. It looks extremely useful and nicely done. Your approach in getting set-up in your shop before doing real wood projects is smart ( if you don’t go too far with it) as you will now have the basis to do some well controlled and very accurate work. Every material has it advantages and disadvantages. from experience, I try not to rout MDF except on my router table where I have reasonable dust control. I know that wouldn’t have been possible with your project table.

You might be able to find quality birch plywood at a cabinet maker’s shop. These people are after all woodworkers and tend to be friendly and helpful. I suggest you ask around. They usually have other things they might be willing to get for you. It’s usually no problem for them to also include stuff for you when they order or often they have enough in stock. They also usually have nice big drum sander which most will let you use for a small fee. I have a shop like this near me, and they are really nice and helpful.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

showing 1 through 15 of 30 comments

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics