My current workbench is a hand-me down kitchen cabinet from my mother in law. A mid grade 3 drawer w/ a butcher block top. I didn’t want to take it at first but then thought…...this would be nice in my woodshop. I threw some wheels on it for mobility and the drawers actually are convenient for holding hold a lot of my power tools. Top is semi sturdy. Fast forward and I thought this would be a great router table.
Deciding on a router plate:
Did I even need a router plate? Thought about just attaching it to the 1 inch top but finally decided against it. I wasnt really worried about sag but losing that 1 inch movement and more and more a router plate was making sense. Now which router plate to choose from? I always tend to start out with the “Making it on my own” approach then narrow it down to see if purchasing it is the better option. I looked into buying Lexan, Polycarbonate, or aluminum plates and then modifying. Prices were a bit higher than I thought….all around $25 -$30 for 1/4 to 3/8 plates. With that price and having to modify the plates to fit multiple inserts I felt buying a plate was the best option. There were plenty choices for a fair price. I looked at a few and read some reviews and the ones that stood out for me were the Kreg, Woodpecker, and Bench dog plates. I almost purchased a used Woodpecker plate off of Ebay but price jumped a little too fast. I did like the Kreg plate but opted for the Bench Dog (Blank) plate for abt $63. A little more than I wanted to spend but it being aluminum I felt it would last a long time. It came w/ one insert and you have the option to buy additional inserts for abt $8 a pop. I will most likely just make my own.
Routing the table top to fit the plate:
I was surprised to see templates being sold w/ router plates. Just the fact that it was being sold made me second guess the difficulties. It wasn’t actually that bad. There are videos out there that do walk you through the process of routing for the plate and they do make it seem much more difficult than it actually is. I chose to build a two sided template rather than four. Once I routed the two sides I just re-clamped and did the other two. Grabbed the jig saw for the cut-out leaving about 1/2 inch on the sides and 2 inch corners. It turned out really well but I found that the workbench top was not flat…...uh oh.
Maybe I should have done this before I started but I didnt…... I put a square across the table top and it was a bit wavy. To fix this I attached supports on the underside and that fixed it. Way sturdier now too.
Modifying the Drawers:
I kept going back and forth for how big to make the Router area under the workspace. I finally based this decision on ease of access as I would be fumbling around w/ the router in place…..for adjusting the bit. I chose a pretty large area which I am happy with. Made the modifications to the top drawer and boxed off this side of the router workspace for now. If I feel I need access to the router form this drawer side I will attach it w/ hold down knobs for easy access.
To me its very important to have frustration free access for router adjustments. I did think about a router lift but the expense was ridiculous. There are a few videos available showing you how to make your own but since I only have one router and may need to use outside of the table I didnt take that route. I watched a video of Norm Abrams making his router table and saw that he put a door for access. The door is a nice touch but thought I would go an even easier route at first by attaching a removable flat Plexiglas cover held by two knobs. I may opt for the door at a later date but for now this approach is simple and easy. I also made a notch for the chord and I already have a switched receptacle in place.
Behind the scenes:
Like always parts of this project took much much longer than expected.
Plexiglass: While drilling one of the holes it shattered the side so I had to cut another piece and start again.
Drilling: I recommend a drill press when doing this. Just drill a couple of holes and done….not so fast. For some reason it took me a long time to accomplish this. I had to keep resizing the hole and the same for the flush counter sink…I dont know maybe it was getting late in the day or something.
Drawer: I had all three drawers out of the cabinet. Two are of the same height with the top one being smaller. I needed to modify the top smaller drawer but the one I grabbed was not the right one. I ended up modifying one of the taller drawers. Once done I put the drawer in and it wouldn’t close…..geez give me a break!! The fix was easy though, I just swapped the fronts since the drawers are the same size.
I am happy with my new router table. Next step is making the fences.