Hobo router table

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Project by Rob posted 12-01-2012 08:22 AM 4200 views 1 time favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

One of the Christmas gifts I received in 2011 was a router kit. I was really excited about all the new types of things I would be able to do with a router, until I realized that the router is only half of the solution to many of the woodworking projects I had in mind—and a router table is the other half of the solution. I started looking at many router tables online and found a lot of them ranging from just over $100 to $700 and up. A lot of the manufactured router tables had legitimate issues that people complained about in reviews, and the mix-and-match parts for “building your own” can add up to $1000 or more depending on how fancy and durable you want it to be. I also found a lot of plans for “easy-to-build” router tables, but those all seemed like bigger projects than I wanted to tackle, since I was (and still am) a novice woodworker and had very few tools at the time. Then I stumbled upon Fine Woodworking’s plans for a “Minimalist Router Table.” Jackpot. I took the idea and made it even more minimalist.

It’s really ugly—no craftsmanship whatsoever. It’s all about improvisation. It would probably take most of you longer to round up the supplies than it would for you to build this, but even mine works very well despite is rough construction. It’s so simple, yet so incredibly useful, I think it’s the first thing anyone should build after getting a router.

  • 1 or 2 scrap pieces of plywood (at least one of them should have at least one straight factory-cut edge, preferably about 1/2” thick)
  • a handful of wood or drywall screws
  • a few nuts & bolts (optional)
  • router base (preferably a plunge base, if you have one)
  • drill
  • drill bits
  • screwdriver bit for the drill
  • any type of saw (hand saw or power saw) or a router with a straight bit (optional; any one of the tools listed here is only required if you only have 1 piece of scrap plywood)
  • clamps (optional)
  • sawhorses, chairs, or any two items of the same height that you can use as raised supports for your finished router table

Notice that many of the materials and tools are optional. If you have them, they’ll probably come in useful, but if not, you can still build the table without them.

How to build it
  1. If you only have 1 piece of plywood, use your saw or several passes of your router to cut off a 2-3” wide strip, with the factory-cut edge as one of the long sides.
  2. Find the smoother side of the larger piece of plywood and designate that as the top
  3. Drill holes in the larger piece of plywood. Countersink as necessary, since the heads will all be on the of the table.
  4. Remove the base plate from your router.
  5. Using either the screws, the nuts and bolts, or any combination that works, attach the router base to the bottom of the larger piece of plywood, roughly in the center. Again, be sure to countersink the heads (see picture 2). If working with screws instead of nuts & bolts, you can use a scrap of almost any rigid material to anchor into on the other side of the router base. I originally used a scrap of wood, and later “upgraded” to a piece of PVC (see picture 3).
  6. Put the straight piece of plywood on top of the big piece of plywood and screw down one end. The straight factory edge is the face of your fence (see picture 4).
  7. Install a straight bit in your router
  8. Install the router motor into the base and plunge through the plywood. If necessary, remove the router motor from its base and use your drill to enlarge the hole to accommodate whatever router bit you’ll be using.
How to use it
  1. Set the “table” across two objects of the same height
  2. Adjust the “fence” as appropriate, then clamp or screw down the free-moving end. If necessary, also tighten down the fixed end of the fence after adjusting.
  3. Plug in, power on, and start routing.
  • Bonus tip #1: If your router bits seem too short when using this router table, you can trace around the router base, then remove it and use your router and a straight bit to cut out a recess for the router base (just don’t cut the recess so deep that the remaining wood is too thin to safely support the router).
  • Bonus tip #2: to cut circles out of wood, remove the fence and drill a small hole through the center of your non-circular piece of wood, then nail it (through the drilled hole, using a nail the same size or very slightly larger than the hole) into the table at the appropriate radius from the router bit.

-- Ask an expert or be the expert -

9 comments so far

View Knothead62's profile


2584 posts in 3108 days

#1 posted 12-01-2012 12:17 PM

Very basic! Great idea.

View chadgr's profile


89 posts in 2358 days

#2 posted 12-01-2012 12:37 PM

Can a hobo really afford a router lol great project quick and simple

-- Chad Griffiths Vist my Etsy Shop

View rmac's profile


217 posts in 3207 days

#3 posted 12-01-2012 01:02 PM

Here’s Bonus tip #3: On the underside of the plywood (where the router is), attach some kind of lengthwise stiffener to keep the table flat. Otherwise it will sag from the weight of the router and you will be sad.


-- My table saw laughs at hot dogs.

View BusterB's profile


1970 posts in 2155 days

#4 posted 12-02-2012 04:50 AM

Hey Rob, you project has the two main things I look for in a project….1) its functional and 2) its cheap….way to go bud

-- Buster, Ocoee TN (Critics are men who watch a battle from a high place then come down and shoot the survivors - Hemingway)

View Mosquito's profile


9460 posts in 2439 days

#5 posted 12-02-2012 04:51 AM

That’s very similar to the first “router table” I ever used… needed something in a pinch, had a partial sheet of 1/2” plywood. used some scrap for a fence and just screwed it down. If it works, it works.

-- Mos - Twin Cities, MN - -

View Sodabowski's profile


2375 posts in 2979 days

#6 posted 12-02-2012 07:28 PM

That thing is far more elaborate than my own router table, which doesn’t even have a fence :)

I merely clamp it to the table I have my computer on, clamp a straight chunk’o’wood as a fence, and do my stuff.

Shall we create a new section on the website, “Minimalistic WW gear”? ;)

-- Thomas - Pondering the inclusion of woodworking into physics and chemistry classes...

View Rob's profile


704 posts in 3217 days

#7 posted 12-03-2012 09:32 AM

Glad you guys liked it! Good to know I’m not the only whose router table is (or was)

Good thinking, Russ! I’ll add that.

Sodabowski, yours seems pretty fancy with all those calibration lines. ;)

I’m sure you were probably more than half-joking, but I really like the idea of having a “Minimalist woodworking gear” section. Is that actually a possibility?

If so, I could see all kinds of potential for monthly “minimalist challenges” that might consist of taking some scrap piece of material in your shop, 1 or 2 basic power tools, and building something useful for woodworking in 10 minutes or less. Shall I start the blog for it?

-- Ask an expert or be the expert -

View Knothead62's profile


2584 posts in 3108 days

#8 posted 12-03-2012 07:13 PM

Hobo reouter table? I would think Jeff Foxworthy would make a joke about it. The main thing is that it works!

View Rob's profile


704 posts in 3217 days

#9 posted 12-04-2012 01:15 AM

Hahaha…if the front door of your house has a power tool screwed to it…

-- Ask an expert or be the expert -

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