What to make router templates out of

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Forum topic by HokieMojo posted 09-23-2009 04:48 AM 13756 views 1 time favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2104 posts in 3924 days

09-23-2009 04:48 AM

I’m sorry I’ve been asking a lot more questions and I’ve been contributing less, but hopefully that will change soon when I can at least post some pictures of a few finished projects.

In the meantime, can anyone tell me what the best material is to make a router template out of? The template I’m going to make will be about 1 square foot, with many many different sweeping curves. What I’d like is something dense enough that it doesn’t dent or flex. I’d also like it to sand quickly so I can file/sand it to shape. I do not have an oscilating spindle sander so the sanding is really important.

Do most people use MDF? MY experiece is that is doesn’t sand really smooth and ends up a bit furry. I appreciate the help.

20 replies so far

View JasonWagner's profile


527 posts in 3376 days

#1 posted 09-23-2009 05:03 AM

Furriness probably doesn’t matter for a router template in the case of MDF. The 1/128” that it could possibly add would be negligible. I’ve had pretty good success with 1/4” hardboard. As long as your bearing will fit on it it’s easy to cut with a scroll/band saw and stiff enough.

-- some day I hope to have enough clamps to need a clamp cart!

View ajosephg's profile


1880 posts in 3757 days

#2 posted 09-23-2009 05:14 AM

I like 1/8 inch tempered hardboard (Masonite.)

-- Joe

View captkerk's profile


170 posts in 3437 days

#3 posted 09-23-2009 05:31 AM

I’ve always used 1/2” MDF with good success so I haven’t experimented with anything else. Sands and shapes easily enough and holds a smooth edge for routing.

View stefang's profile


16123 posts in 3530 days

#4 posted 09-23-2009 11:18 AM

The material you use might depend on how durable the template has to be. If it is going to be used a lot, then I would recommend tempered hardboard as Joe did. If it’s a limited use, the 1/4” MDF is a good choice.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View John Gray's profile

John Gray

2370 posts in 4082 days

#5 posted 09-23-2009 12:53 PM

My 2 cents: Why not laminate 2 pieces of 1/4” tempered hardboard (Masonite) together that would give you almost 1/2” of surface for your bearing to ride on? If you left the shiny side out there would be no finishing involved and you’d have a good surface on either side for the double stick tape…..Masonite is fairly economical.

-- Only the Shadow knows....................

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4184 days

#6 posted 09-23-2009 02:18 PM

Anything flat. MDF, tempered hardboard.

Lexan if you want to use it forever.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View spaids's profile


699 posts in 3889 days

#7 posted 09-23-2009 02:28 PM

Have you considered plastic? Clear plexi can be found at the big box stores in small (2’ x 2’ or so) pieces. You can find 1/4” thick stuff and then you can see very well where you are about to cut. I think its nice to be able to see “both sides” of the line.

-- Wipe the blood stains from your blade before coming in.--

View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 3924 days

#8 posted 09-23-2009 03:50 PM

sounds like I need to find some hardboard. I’d love to do the lexan thing, but my experience with it has not been good. This is mostly because I don’t have the right tools to cut it, and I’d rather not invest in that stuff. Thanks everyone. I’ll let you know how it all comes out.

View Kent Shepherd's profile

Kent Shepherd

2718 posts in 3482 days

#9 posted 09-23-2009 04:32 PM

I use a lot of MDF and some Plexiglas for more permanent templates. If you’re having trouble sanding MDF, there is a difference in brands and type. I only use Plum Creek 2. It sands really well. it is denser than some others. Not all MDF is created equal.


View PurpLev's profile


8547 posts in 3845 days

#10 posted 09-23-2009 04:44 PM

masonite… I just have too much of it.. and it has a smooth surface, thin, and easy to machine, works great!

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 3924 days

#11 posted 09-23-2009 07:09 PM

well, i tried lowes for hardboard today, but all they had was perforated stuff. thats obviously not going to work. I guess I’ll try some of my scrap mdf after all. I really wanted to try something better, but oh well. I think the real winner would have been if I could have found that platic that everyone uses for jigs (looks like a cutting board material), but I didn’t run accross that either. Oh well, back to work with what I could find.

View DaneJ's profile


56 posts in 3405 days

#12 posted 09-24-2009 02:17 AM

1/2” MDF works for me…

1/4” lexan/Plexiglas if I need to see through it.

I haven’t needed any ‘forever’ patterns, yet, but would consider Phenolic sheet like:

-- Dane, Fairview Pk, OH. The large print giveth and the small print taketh away... Tom Waits

View spaids's profile


699 posts in 3889 days

#13 posted 09-24-2009 02:05 PM

are you talking about HDPE High-density polyethylene? That stuff is used a lot. If you google plastic dealers you will probably find one in your area. Near St. Louis there are a few that sell this stuff like sheet goods.

-- Wipe the blood stains from your blade before coming in.--

View patron's profile


13640 posts in 3537 days

#14 posted 09-24-2009 02:09 PM

or you could go to a box store,
and buy a plastic cutting board ?

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View USCJeff's profile


1064 posts in 4264 days

#15 posted 09-24-2009 02:49 PM

I’ll agree with most. It depends. I use hardboard mostly as it is fairly durable, cheap, and easy to tool. However, if I was making a template that would be used many times over the years, I might upgrade to a plastic for where and tear reasons. Melamine is another option, harsher on the tools though.

About Lowes, I’ve had better luck with Home Depot for MDF and Hardboard. They have both in many sizes and such. My Lowe’s pretty much only has the 4’x8’ sheets.

-- Jeff, South Carolina

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