Using Douglas fir for router table fence?

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Forum topic by Brett posted 02-10-2011 12:31 AM 2427 views 1 time favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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660 posts in 2682 days

02-10-2011 12:31 AM

I’m considering build a router table and fence, like the ones in these plans:

Should I use hardwood for the fence, or is construction lumber (like Douglas fir) okay? If not, what about poplar or red oak? (I’m new to woodworking and I have a table saw and a drill press, but no jointer or planer; it would be best if I can build the fence using lumber from a place like Lowes or Home Depot.)

-- More tools, fewer machines.

6 replies so far

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2849 days

#1 posted 02-10-2011 01:46 AM

What you want, in the end, is a flat surface that is stable, true and smooth.

That fence in the picture is more elaborate than you need.

If you have doug fir that is dry and you can make it straight and keep it smooth with wax or polyurethane or lacquer, why not?

Go for it and get to routing!

One final note on that table design—it’s going to be top heavy. If you can put a shelf on that bottom structure and load a little weight on it, everything will be better. Or even build a cabinet (to hold your gazillion router bits which you’ll soon start accumulating) and slide it in there.



Oh and meantime, prowl the alleys behind your local cabinet shops and start collecting hunks of hardwood and plywood. Perfect for this kind of project.

-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3067 days

#2 posted 02-10-2011 02:13 AM

Doug fir would be fine as long as it’s dry. Most problems with DF come from the high moisture levels in “construction grade” lumber. If you can find it, look for kiln dried lumber. It’s usually marked with KD somewhere.

I agree with Lee about that table being top heavy. If it were me, I would make it more of a cabinet and add some drawers for all the “stuff” that accumulates around a router. It’s real easy to find yourself ankle deep in router bits in a really short time. – lol

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View traupmann's profile


124 posts in 2786 days

#3 posted 02-10-2011 02:22 AM

I made a 3×3x36 add-on box out of MDF and used UHDMWP 3X3×1/2 for the replaceable area. I have used this for non-production work for 7 years with almost no significant wear. Mind you there are times this sits on the shelf for weeks at a time. The design maintains straightness (you must make it straight), and allows for good vacuum suction.

Hope this helps

-- chas -- looking for Serta sponsorship to go Pro...

View live4ever's profile


983 posts in 3009 days

#4 posted 02-10-2011 02:42 AM

I’d use MDF instead DF or even most hardwood, unless I was super confident in my ability to joint it flat. MDF is generally dead flat and very stable. You can add plastic laminate to the faces if you wish.

-- Optimists are usually disappointed. Pessimists are either right or pleasantly surprised. I tend to be a disappointed pessimist.

View JasonWagner's profile


527 posts in 3179 days

#5 posted 02-10-2011 02:47 AM

MDF is a nice choice. My fence base is MDF but I stepped it up with some maple for the fences. I wouldn’t pick MDF to put channels and dados all over. A T-bolt will eventually chew that up. Poplar isn’t a bad choice. Red oak has pretty big grain to it and isn’t as smooth in my opinion.

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

View AaronK's profile


1506 posts in 3463 days

#6 posted 02-10-2011 02:54 AM

i would agree that using MDF to build a box type fence like Chas has might be a better idea. A router table fence does not have to be as complicated as some designs would have you believe. It really just has to be flat first and foremost. Without a jointer or planer this is going to be a nearly impossible challenge, since any lumber you buy at the big box (even hardwoods) is not going to be as flat as it needs to be for a fence. MDF WILL, however.

my first router table fence was L-shaped. Both sections were made of MDF, and they were screwed together. In the space of the L was a piece of right-angle iron i got for free. As it was the angle iron was slightly off 90 degrees, so I shimmed it so that the upright part of the L was at right angles to the table itself. Does that make sense? Alternatively, you could use a piece of dimensional lumber for the lower part of the L and then apply an MDF face to that – of course you will need to shim it in spots to keep the MDF flat AND at 90 deg to the table.

The hard part about starting out in woodworking is that you often need the tools you want to build to build the very same tools. It’s sort of an iterative process. Vitally important is the need for usable references. You probably already know this, but you need a reliable square and straightedge. Checking for square or flat are pretty easy to do – all you need is a pencil. But without those you wont be able to make sure your router table fence is true no matter how you choose to make it.

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