Accurately positioning the router fence

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Forum topic by ssbothwell posted 04-09-2010 05:07 AM 4131 views 2 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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13 posts in 2515 days

04-09-2010 05:07 AM

Topic tags/keywords: router tip question

Hi. I have a homemade router table and fence I put together out of melamine and mdf. The table itself is mdf and I routed out two grooves in it for the table to slide along. I use a speed square to line up the fence properly when I am positioning it. I have really difficult time getting the distance correct so that my cuts are centered in the work pieces. It takes many test cuts to get the alignment right and even then once I move the fence I have to retest it if I want to to do the previous cut again. I tried measuring off common placements and marking them on the table but even then I still have to fine tune the position with several test cuts. I feel like there must be a better way of doing this. How do you guys handle fence position and alignment using homemade tables with no t-slots?

13 replies so far

View Bob #2's profile

Bob #2

3809 posts in 3445 days

#1 posted 04-09-2010 01:46 PM

“How do you guys handle fence position and alignment using homemade tables with no t-slots?”

Actually most of us don’t.
If the fence is dead straight and it must be to be useful then everything passing along the fence and past the router bit is parallel .
Those tables with the T slot in them are a gimick.
Apart from cutting the odd rail and style set up they are just a dust catcher.
You can easily make a coping sled that rides on your fence and do away with the T slot entirely.
You will get lot of info from a small investment like this:

or this:

-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

View SKFrog16's profile


661 posts in 2624 days

#2 posted 04-09-2010 03:21 PM

There is one way to get you very close to repeating a setup for a particular bit. That is to use a set up block. You can use scrap pieces of hardwood, or pieces of MDF or UHMW. Once you get your bit height correct along with fence placement, run a block of material through the bit. You now have a pattern of the profile and setup. This makes setup the next time easier, especially if the bit you are using has a complicated profile. This also allows you to set the fence, either flush with the bearing or pushing the block away from the bit to make more than one pass at the bit.
Once you get used to using a straight edge steel rule, you will rely less and less on the blocks except maybe for those complex profile bits.
Also, when you make a complicated molding profile, it is good to list the different bits and the order they were used when you make a particular profile.

A good source for UHMW is
They are friendly, answer questions and the pricing isn’t bad either.

-- Methods are many,Principles are few.Methods change often,Principles never do.

View PurpLev's profile


8523 posts in 3072 days

#3 posted 04-09-2010 03:40 PM

I’ll second and third what has been said – the T-slots are nice to secure the fence down to the table, but not really doing much for alignment as unlike a TS the router table is very much like a drill (press) where the cutter is round so there really isn’t anything to set your fence parallel against… you actually are pivoting the fence around a certain spot to bring it closer/further from the router bit.

Thats also why it’s so important to run all the same profiles at the same time on the router table to keep the same settings on all of them identical, otherwise as you are experiencing it’s a long trial-and-error process to repeat a certain cut unless you have something like the Incra positioner of some sort.

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

View doyoulikegumwood's profile


384 posts in 3416 days

#4 posted 04-09-2010 04:05 PM

I’ve been using the incra fence system now for about a year now but it is pricey. but rocker carry’s the original incra jig which i believe is a great addition to any shop for many tools. but be warned if you decide to buy the jig you may find yourself wanting the fence system.

I’ll add this link just so you can see what the incra fence looks like

-- I buy tools so i can make more money,so ican buy more tools so I can work more, to make more money, so I can buy more tool, so I can work more

View Tim_456's profile


170 posts in 3019 days

#5 posted 04-09-2010 04:15 PM

I made my table about 8 years ago and skipped the miter track knowing I could add it later if I needed it. After 8 years I haven’t needed it and don’t plan on ever needing one. For the odd stile or something that is cross-routed I use a coping sled that rides against the fence.

As for adjusting the fence I follow the practices I saw on the “Router Workshop” where you clamp one side and pivot the other. Because of the geometry this makes it easy to get tiny incremental changes.

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 2498 days

#6 posted 04-09-2010 04:17 PM

The freud fence has built in micro adjustment capabilities. It’s great for super precise alignments and it would be easy to mount on a home made table.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View mikedddd's profile


146 posts in 2654 days

#7 posted 04-09-2010 04:44 PM

I agree with what others have already said, the miter slot is nothing more than a dust collector and a place for small pieces to tip over in. The router table I’m currently using I built about a year and half ago, I also skipped the miter slot and thought I would add one later when needed, still havn’t added one and have not missed it. For fine tunning the fence leave one side clamped and pivot the other side, you will be able to move it very small amounts, the router bit is round there is nothing to square the fence to.

Here is a book I found to be of great help when working with a router, Patrick Spielman The New Router Handbook.,46096,46119&ap=1

-- Mike

View araldite's profile


188 posts in 2828 days

#8 posted 04-09-2010 05:53 PM

Rockler also sells a micro adjuster you can clamp on your table

You can easily make one of these yourself using a bolt as a screw mechanism. But I don’t think either is necessary. I do it like the others, clamp one side and pivot the other. I put a thin pencil line on the table marking the fence position. I make a test cut, readjust and mark the second position. I make another test cut and usually by the third adjustment the pencil lines help me know exactly where the fence needs to be. If the pencil marks are way out on the end that you’re moving, small adjustments out there make for even smaller adjustments at the bit and you can easily get very accurate settings.

I also make test blocks, especially for fast height adjustment.

-- Failure is the road to success if you learn to learn from your mistakes - Vince, Greenville, SC

View ocwoodworker's profile


209 posts in 2428 days

#9 posted 04-09-2010 06:35 PM

I’m with araldite. I just made a new router table to mount to my existing stand last weekend. And i went out an purchased the micro adjuster. It works awesome. All for only 20 bucks! You just leave one end to float and lock the other end. just a few test cuts and your done.

-- I'd like to believe Murphy's Law haunts my woodshop, because if it's Karma it would mean I had something to do with it. - K.R.

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

8109 posts in 2852 days

#10 posted 04-09-2010 06:42 PM

Like other posters, I’ve never seen the utility in a miter slot on a router table.

As to getting a slot centered or in the correct place on a wider board, my methods may seem unorthodox but, I make my grooves/slots where I want them in relation to each other by the use of several different sizes of key way stock (1/8 thru 3/4 in 1/8 increments), playing cards and/or laminate sample pieces. The cuts are all made in a piece of stock 1/2”-3/4”wider than needed. Then I trim the stock on the TS to reflect the distances needed on each side of the cut, or series of cuts.
If you find this method of interest, PM me or use this thread and we can work through the details of specific set ups.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View ssbothwell's profile


13 posts in 2515 days

#11 posted 04-09-2010 09:50 PM

Thanks for all the advice. I cant believe I never realized keeping the fence parallel didn’t do anything. I’m going to try this clamp and pivot method later today and see how it works. Thanks for all the tips, I’ll be sure to post in here again if I continue to have trouble with this.

View bladeburner's profile


88 posts in 2511 days

#12 posted 04-10-2010 02:21 PM

I use the miter slot because one of my box joint jigs attaches to my TS miter gage, but I never use the fence with the miter gage. Also, it’s the best pencil holder in my shop!

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

8109 posts in 2852 days

#13 posted 04-10-2010 03:52 PM

“Also, it’s the best pencil holder in my shop!”

Finally! a good reason for a miter gauge slot in a router table!

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

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