Router Table Fence Geometry

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Forum topic by groland posted 03-21-2017 01:58 AM 1068 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View groland's profile


202 posts in 3558 days

03-21-2017 01:58 AM

Topic tags/keywords: router table fence geometry

I am interested in buying or building a router table. I have a Rigid router with fixed and plunge bases from Home Depot.

I bought a table plate and installation template from Rockler and mounted the router plate in a piece of 3/4” MDF, so now, I have a router mounted upside down in a “table”. I used it a few times just C-clamping the table to sawhorses, just to get a feel for using a basic router table. It worked fine—a bit clumsy to change bits and establish the correct height for the bit, but once dialed in, I got good results.

I made a “fence” by C-clamping a straight-edged board to the table, and that worked fine too. A bit fiddly, but good results.

Okay, so today I went to a big hardware and tool dealer to look at routers with a self-lifting mechanism—Triton in particular, some router lifts (they had a Woodpecker lift for over $400.00. Yikes!) and router tables sporting fancy fences with dust collection, tracks for miter gauges and other stuff. This turned out to be very worthwhile, because seeing tiny pictures in catalogues or on web sites really gives no sense of the reality of fit-n-finish and so on.

One thing I noticed was that all the router table fences wobbled all over the place. None of them stayed “square” to the edges of the table top, the miter gauge track or anything else. Then I began to wonder if that was okay?

Since router bits are all essentially circular in operation, the only geometry that matters with a fence is its distance from the router bit. As long as the fence puts the stock to be routed the correct distance from the bit, the angle of the fence relative to the table makes no difference? Is that correct? Are there instances where the fence must be square to the edges of the router table?

After seeing all these tables at $500-1,000, I was not impressed. Most of them had some kind of “frame” for a base and looked as though they would walk all over the floor with firm sideways pressure. One had legs that wobbled when tugged gently sideways. None had any provision for under-table dust collection.

I am coming to believe that I could just build a base out of 3/4 inch plywood or MDF at a very low cost that would have enough weight and rigidity to best these manufactured items. The one item I think would be a really good addition would be some kind of lift that would allow bit changes and easy bit height settings from the top. Most of these are in the $350-500 price range, and I may be happier just setting bit height from the router itself. Whew, a lot to consider and much $$$ to be spent or saved.

Your thoughts appreciated. Now back to You Tube to look at some homemade router tables!

11 replies so far

View squazo's profile


109 posts in 1791 days

#1 posted 03-21-2017 02:05 AM

yep my router table is just a router screwed to the bottom on some MDF with 2X4 legs use the little clear plastic removable foot plate to use as a hole template and start drilling from the side the router will be mounted on so if you are off a few degrees the screws will still line up. a router lift on the other hand is totally worth it, as the fixed base router lift is not that accurate and most of the time when you lock the height after adjusting it alter the bit position. I got a old X-Y axis table from work and use that. the fence should be square to the table. I use rectangular aluminum tubing. with a spot very roughly ground on by hand for the bits. also I have plywood rips underside of the table.

View MrUnix's profile


6935 posts in 2345 days

#2 posted 03-21-2017 02:08 AM

None of them stayed “square” to the edges of the table top, the miter gauge track or anything else. Then I began to wonder if that was okay?

That is perfectly fine… the router bit is a single point, and the angle of the fence to it is unimportant – only the distance from the bit is. Many people fashion a fence with one end fixed in place (using a pivot bolt) and the other end movable so you can dial in the distance between bit and fence. Any angle works.

Another popular method is to mount the router on your table saw and let the fence do double duty.

And like you, I find those lifts to be overly expensive and don’t really have any problem setting the height using the router itself… but if access is difficult, or changing heights is something that I would do a LOT, that might not be an ideal method. Really depends on how you intend to use it and for what.


-- Brad in FL - In Dog I trust... everything else is questionable

View Woodknack's profile


12369 posts in 2526 days

#3 posted 03-21-2017 05:37 AM

My router table is embarrassing simple. A 3 sided plywood box with a piece of countertop for the top. Fence is MDF and rides the edges of the top, clamps in place. I’ve been meaning to replace it but it works well so it’s a very low priority.

-- Rick M,

View bonesbr549's profile


1576 posts in 3213 days

#4 posted 03-21-2017 12:50 PM

Well you don’t have to maintain square to table unless you have t track but thats another story.

These guys are as simple as it gets but functional.

Me, I built my own table and have the wood pecker PRL and its 12 years old and still going would not change my lift.

For my fence the incra gives me the precision (down to the thou) that makes sneaking up on it a breeze.

For a table build your own better than what you can buy. I did mine based on norms plans modified to add casters and make a bigger table. I’ve been running my setup without change since 2004.

-- Sooner or later Liberals run out of other people's money.

View Lazyman's profile


2526 posts in 1533 days

#5 posted 03-21-2017 01:19 PM

In my experience, or at least the way I use my router table, having the fence square to anything would actually make it more difficult to use. If you are trying to sneak up on a certain distance from the fence or the bit sticking out from the fence a certain amount for example, it is much easier to loosen one side and nudge it a small amount than to try to move the entire fence. You do of course want it to stay in place when it is clamped down.

My first router table I made, which I still use from time to time is basically a piece of plywood with a hole cut out for the router with some masonite on the surface to make pieces slide over it more easily—a little paste wax helps with that. It has 2 slots cut along the edges to attach the fence and the fence is just some laminated 3/4” plywood made square on the tables saw. It is over 30 years old now. I just clamp it to the edge of a workbench or put it on top of my old workmate to use it. It leans up against the wall when not in use so it doesn’t take up any space. My other router table is a “cheap” bench top router table that Rockler sells that I basically got for free at a garage sale because I wanted the Porter Cable router that was attached to it but my basic homemade one has at least twice the surface area, is sometimes easier to use and doesn’t take up space when not in use.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View hotbyte's profile


991 posts in 3121 days

#6 posted 03-21-2017 01:35 PM

Side comment to the fence question, many, myself included, have the big Tritons and they work great. I have a Rockler aluminum plate and had to drill a hole for the above table adjuster.

View JBrow's profile


1366 posts in 1066 days

#7 posted 03-21-2017 03:35 PM


I agree with bonesbr549. The only time the router fence must be parallel to the mitre slot in the router table is when using a mitre gauge or coupling sled in conjunction with the fence. In this case the fence becomes a convenient workpiece stop when the fence is set in alignment with the router bits bearing. It also provides a guard around the router bit and improves dust collection. However, adjusting the fence parallel to the mitre gauge while simultaneously setting the fence for the proper depth of cut can be difficult and time consuming. Alternatively a stop block can be set on the infeed side of the table for the proper depth of cut and the fence recessed enough out of the way to prevent binding of the workpiece against the fence.

My router table is similar in design to that built by Norm in the New Yankee Workshop. It served me well since the late 1990s…

Unfortunately the video ended during the installation of the switch, but the table build was complete.

Features of his design that I appreciate are flanking bit storage drawers and lower drawers that can accommodate hand held routers and router accessories. The table-side and below-the-table dust collection do a good job of keep the chips clear. A fence that is tall in the center provides additional support for router workpieces oriented vertically while also providing a place for attaching hold-down featherboards. The metal mitre track in the table is handy when using the mitre gauge or jig with a runner (like some coping sleds).

The features on my routing table that are absent from Norm’s design are a hinged top. The hinged top allows the router to be elevated so that bit changes and height settings can be made without knelling down and without the expense of the router lift (many of which accept only a handful of routers). But this means the router insert plate must be position in the top so that the router clears the cabinet’s front rail when the top is lifted.

I added double locking castors since my shop is small and requires re-positioning of tools for certain operations. It also allows the router table to be moved should I need to rout a particularly long workpiece.

I designed one of the top side drawers to carry collets, screws, router wrenches and other small router accessories that can be otherwise easily lost.

The height of the top is slightly below the height of the table saw. This allows the router table to serve as an auxiliary infeed or outfeed table for the table saw. I also added a T track in the top for hold-against featherboards. The top also overhangs the front and sides of the cabinet so things can be clamped to the router table.

I nice safety feature to include is a magnetic switch, especially if little fingers ever enter the workshop. It could be a startling surprise to hear the router unexpectedly come to life just as you plug the router into the wall receptacle. Here is one example, I am sure there are others available…

Before designing the router table, buying the router that will be mounted in the table may be a good thing to do. Once the router is in hand, any adjustments to the design of the table to accommodate the router should become apparent. If you ever plan to spin large or heavy router bits, a 3+hp plunge router would be a good choice. An accessory that may be worth considering is a router collet extension, depending on the thickness of the top. It can increase the range of travel for height adjustments.

View TungOil's profile


1032 posts in 641 days

#8 posted 03-21-2017 04:34 PM

+1 on everything JBrow pointed out. Norm’s table is still one of the best designs, I believe.

Another option to consider is mounting the router in the wing of your tablesaw (assuming you have one). This is a good way to save space, but it does come with the slight inconvenience that you will need to break down a setup if you need the TS for a wide cut. I considered building a standalone table but in the end I built one into my TS extension. I used a Woodpeckers fixed plate because I was designing around an old router I already had, and I added a Rockler dust collection port to the back of the fence that works really well. I had a piece of Formica left over from some past project so I put that on top to reduce friction. I also added storage below for the fence and other parts (and a second router), but you can’t really see that from these pictures.

I only recently built this table. For years (decades, actually) I used a simple fixture like Lazyman- basically a scrap of plywood cut to fit a router that spanned the extension wing on my TS. I used a clamp on fence and pulled the DC hose off my TS when I was running it. Worked fine.

-- The optimist says "the glass is half full". The pessimist says "the glass is half empty". The engineer says "the glass is twice as big as it needs to be"

View Madmark2's profile


392 posts in 734 days

#9 posted 03-21-2017 06:06 PM

All the feather boards look great. How do you push your stock all the way thru? The way you show the setup you can’t pull the stock fully thru. Do you turn off and wait to stop and cut off the last 4”? Push it thru with a dowel and hope the cutter doesn’t grab it? Reach around with the cutter going and grab the outfeed & pull? Hmmm, don’t any of ‘em sound ‘safer’ to me . . .


View Roy Turbett's profile

Roy Turbett

168 posts in 3726 days

#10 posted 03-21-2017 07:06 PM

I use my router table for edge jointing and is important that the in-feed and out-feed fence are co-planar. I use a piece of scrap formica behind the out-feed fence to create the appropriate gap.

View TungOil's profile


1032 posts in 641 days

#11 posted 03-21-2017 07:56 PM

All the feather boards look great. How do you push your stock all the way thru? The way you show the setup you can t pull the stock fully thru.

I pull the last few inches through when I have a setup like this one for thin stock. With the feather boards the stock will not move even if i completely let go of it mid-cut. What might not be apparent from this photo is that my stock feeds counter to the feed on my tablesaw (right to left in the first photo). Yours appears to be set up the other way?

-- The optimist says "the glass is half full". The pessimist says "the glass is half empty". The engineer says "the glass is twice as big as it needs to be"

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