Router plate insert: Does it really make a difference?

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Forum topic by NelsonP posted 01-22-2012 02:58 AM 2930 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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12 posts in 2284 days

01-22-2012 02:58 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question router insert

Well, I guess I am going to answer my own question since I am replacing my Rousseau insert. This thing is impossible to set level since the plate is “warped by design”. According to Rousseau, “The base plate is molded with a slight crown to ensure the center is the highest point. ” Really? I wouldn’t call this a crown, more like a speed bump as you pass the material over the center. Don’t try coming in from the side, it will hit the lip. Then, there’s the insert rings.. they should provide a pry-bar. Enough ranting, as I have decided to get rid of this junk..

Now the real purpose of this post.

For the beginner weekend hobbyist, does the type of insert (assuming flat) really make that much of a difference? I know that a lift is a nice touch as it allows for above the table changes and micro adjustments, buts focusing just on the insert material Aluminum vs Phenolic (with a PC 690 1 3/4 HP router), what should I be looking out for? What do you guys use/recommend?

-- -- Nelson

15 replies so far

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2422 posts in 2890 days

#1 posted 01-22-2012 03:33 AM

Jessem has always been my favorite, but Lee Valley also sells a great insert.

-- Randy "You are judged as much by the questions you ask as the answers you give..."

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10260 posts in 3612 days

#2 posted 01-22-2012 03:41 AM

Make the “insert” the whole router table. Here’s how.

Get a second base, melamine and screw the extra base to it. A square
3” mortise 1/4” deep in the top around the bit allows for custom
zero-clearance inserts made of hardboard.

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3039 days

#3 posted 01-22-2012 03:58 AM

I really don’t understand why Rousseau’s insert would be “warped by design”.

I use a Woodpecker lift and I have always assumed that it was very close to being perfectly flat. I’ve never sensed that it was not.

Your questions was based on “assuming flat” does the choice of insert matter very much. My first reaction is “no”. My intuition is that aluminum is better than phenolic, but I can’t prove that and I am not confident it is correct.

I will opine on the objective of getting the insert to be perfectly flush with the table top around the insert. I think that is very important and it seems like some inserts are better than others in this regard. Some inserts expect you to adjust from the bottom with screws up through the table top. Others, have adjustment screws in the insert itself that you adjust from the top. In my opinion, that is better. My woodpecker lift has 8 height adjustment screws (2 on each side) instead of, the more common, 1 on each corner. I think that is better, but I have no imperial evidence of that.

Let me digress a little and talk about router lifts. I never thought I needed one until I bought one. Being able to pop the router to the top for a quick bit change is nice but the real reason to have a lift is precise micro adjustment of the bit height. Previously, I had a router that I could adjust from above, but getting just the right height was a hit and miss proposition. Nothing beats precise micro adjustment of the bit height.

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

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10260 posts in 3612 days

#4 posted 01-22-2012 04:00 AM

Better to have the area around the cutter a little proud than shy. That’s
why some commercial plates are domed. Any sag and accurate router
table joinery becomes problematic. Read Rogowski’s router book
to understand.

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183 posts in 2777 days

#5 posted 01-22-2012 04:22 AM

Loren, Any pics of a setup like you describe?

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10260 posts in 3612 days

#6 posted 01-22-2012 04:29 AM

Here’s a Lumberjock who made one kind of similar.

I don’t think I have my Rogowski style router table anymore, but
I used it for years. I don’t have or use a conventional router table
currently but I still have the fence I made from the FWW article
from issue #123.

View TrBlu's profile


386 posts in 2590 days

#7 posted 01-22-2012 04:31 AM

I have a phenolic plate in my larger router table… an aluminum plate in my smaller table.

I recently an additional plate for my larger table out of a piece of Corian solid surface material.

-- The more I work with wood the more I recognize only God can make something as beautiful as a tree. I hope my humble attempts at this craft do justice by His masterpiece. -- Tim

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1359 posts in 2628 days

#8 posted 01-22-2012 05:00 AM

I also have 2 of the woodpecker lifts and one w/ plain plate w/ 1101 makita. If I understand you right, my pic would be an alumminum plate, as I started with all homemade. I had 3/8” sheet of lexan and over a short period of time it sunk down around bit and caused some problems. As Rich said you must have a easy way to adjust the plate to your table so material doesn’t hang up as you run it by bit. My router tables are all homemade, I built tops of laminated 1/2 and3/4” mdf w/ formica on top and bottom, then I routed in hole for plate w/ 8 adjusting screws, under where the adjusting screws hit the mdf, I countersunk a small wood screws to strengthen that area. As for the lifts, as Rich said being able to bring router to top of table to change bits is great, versus releasing router from base twisting body out of base, ect. and replacing it, has no comparision. That said I used my old 690 for years and have pased it down to my son, it it his only router.

-- Bob in Montana. Kindness is the Language the blind can see and deaf can hear. - Mark Twain

View NelsonP's profile


12 posts in 2284 days

#9 posted 01-22-2012 05:10 AM

Loren, I did think about making the table “insert-less” as it obviously addresses the flushness/flatness issue but how does one deal with changing the bit?

Rich, to me I also don’t see why there would be a difference between an aluminum insert, a quality phenolic or “insert-less” as described by Loren. Provided that the inserts have been properly installed, the result should be indistinguishable.

Honestly, I don’t use my router table too often but when I do I have certain expectations.

Currently, I have been going back and forth between a few candidates.
1) Incra MagnaLOCK Rt Plate – I love the thickness, adjustments and that now additional tools are required for changing inserts. I can get one for about $100 CAD.
2) Jessem Rout-R-Lift II – Phenolic plate but has many of the bell’s and whistles of the more expensive lifts. I can grab one for $140 CAD.
3) Generic phenolic plate – Pros. Cheap and may be very well all I need. I can grab one for $35

Now for some, this may be a no brainer. Option 2) for an additional $40, but I question why so cheap?? Ugh.. Why don’t the voices stop!!!

-- -- Nelson

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10260 posts in 3612 days

#10 posted 01-22-2012 06:37 AM

You drop the router motor out of the router base,
change the cutter, and put in back in the base.

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2736 posts in 2541 days

#11 posted 01-22-2012 07:31 AM

Loren, that’s how I do it, and how I’ve been doing it for a few years now.
My router (690) is bolted to the bottom of a piece of formica laminated MDF.
I plan to upgrade a bit and put an insert plate in place when I can. The main reason is for the bit inserts. I really don’t want to make my own as they would have to be held in place with screws. I’m between the incra magna lock plate and the woodpeckers.

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

View ksSlim's profile


1274 posts in 2854 days

#12 posted 01-22-2012 08:07 AM

I’ve used a Woodpecker lift for several years and am very happy with the flat aluminium plate and wouldn’t trade the precision height adjust or the quick and east above the table bit changes.

-- Sawdust and shavings are therapeutic

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15280 posts in 2583 days

#13 posted 01-22-2012 08:12 AM

Ah, y’all are talking about powered routers… I thought the talk was about using a wood plate on the bottom of a vintage router plane. :-)

Carry on, sorry for the interruption.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

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62 posts in 2649 days

#14 posted 01-25-2012 04:49 AM

Love my woodpeck lift…

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2656 posts in 2887 days

#15 posted 01-25-2012 05:06 AM

I’ve been using my Rouseau for 6 years and no problem. Makita 1100 router phenolic plate.

-- Life is good.

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