Another Router Table Top Question

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Forum topic by mattm posted 08-21-2008 04:19 PM 2454 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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27 posts in 3825 days

08-21-2008 04:19 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question router

I was trying to look for a recent on-point topic about router table tops to post in, instead of making another topic about it, but I couldn’t fine one, so my apologies.

Anyway, having finally secured one of those Triton 2.25 HP plunge routers, I am now in the process of gathering materials to create a router table for it. I have found a lot of information about the table tops, but I have one last question.

Seems like a lot of people are recommending a “sandwich” of melamine, MDF, and melamine. My question is, should the MDF core be 2 sheets of MDF, or can I get away with just 1? Also, somebody said that since MDF doesn’t hold hardware very well, something like baltic birch plywood might be better. Is that the case? I’m working with a fairly tight budget here, so I just want to make sure that I get things reasonably right the first time.

Thanks much!!

9 replies so far

View SteveKorz's profile


2139 posts in 3892 days

#1 posted 08-21-2008 04:31 PM

Well, you’re probably going to get varying ideas on this, but this is my 2 cents.

I like to build things more stout than they probably need to be, I don’t like sags and warps, bows, etc. My Grandfather used to say my projects were “Hell for stout”... lol. I would go with at least two sheets of PLY or MDF. The thing about MDF is that it just falls apart with any prolonged moisture. My shop is not temperature controlled, so I would go with two sheets of 3/4 birch PLY, simply because I know then that it won’t get screwed up (which, somehow, I would do.).

As far as attaching hardware to MDF, there are pros and cons. If you are careful, and the screws in the MDF aren’t going to take some serious abuse, then you’ll be ok, I would think (esp with 1 1/2 thick MDF). I always, always, always predrill MDF. There isn’t a lot of “give” for the screw like the PLY, and sometimes it makes me wonder if the crushing action of the screw in the MDF isn’t what makes it weak (esp for thick shafted screws like the old wood screws). Make sure you don’t use a heavy torque setting on your drill when you screw them in. If it were me, I would use bolts with washers wherever possible, but depending on the application you may not be able to do that.

I prefer PLY over MDF. I think it’s easier to work with, and more durable. MDF, however, is traditionally more flat (so I’ve heard), if stored properly. If you do go with MDF, I think I would seal every single open part of it up that was exposed. If you couldn’t afford the laminate on the top AND bottom, then I would seal up the rest with a good sealing paint or something. I have heard others swear by MDF, but I’m just not that guy.

Hope that helps… Good luck

-- As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17) †

View lew's profile


12385 posts in 3933 days

#2 posted 08-21-2008 04:36 PM

How are you planning to connect your router to the table top and are you planning to make a stand alone router work station or replacing one of the wings on your table saw? Many of your decisions would be based on these options.

MDF does not hold hardware due to its composition but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t adapt it to a table top- especially if you were using an aluminum or Plexiglas router mounting plate. The melamine surface would provide a smoother, slippery surface making for smoother movements. You could add a layer of high pressure laminate (Formica) to the MDF and achieve similar results. A double layer of MDf with a high pressure laminate top might be a less expensive option- especially if you live near a custom kitchen shop. They mite have a scrap piece of laminate for little or no cost.

Definitely go with a thicker top. It will reduce vibrations and sagging problems.

Hope tis helps.


-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View NY_Rocking_Chairs's profile


516 posts in 3775 days

#3 posted 08-21-2008 04:47 PM

If you are going to install T-track for fences and such you will probably want to have a layer of plywood which the screws will grab better and be less likely to tear out than the MDF or particle board.

-- Rich, anybody want a peanut?

View mattm's profile


27 posts in 3825 days

#4 posted 08-21-2008 06:45 PM

This is all very useful information, thank you. I had been planning on a stand alone table using an aluminum plate. I was also going to toss some T-tracks on it, which now that I think about it, I’m not sure how well the melamine top would do with that.

Edit: Well shoot, after running some numbers, it looks like getting the materials I’d need to do this would actually be more expensive than just buying that Rockler router table top package – especially with the 20% off coupon I got this morning via E-Mail.

I do want to build my own, but now I’m thinking the Rockler one is looking to be cheaper, quicker, and since I am still pretty new to all this I have a fear that a home-built top might just not be up to snuff. Hmm.

View DaveH's profile


400 posts in 3956 days

#5 posted 08-22-2008 12:13 AM

My router table top is 2 pieces of 3/4” mdf laminated on both sides. My T-tracks are gorilla glued and screwed. I’d be really surprised if they loosened because the screws were 1” long.

My router table project...

-- DaveH - Boise, Idaho - “How hard can it be? It's only wood!”

View CedarFreakCarl's profile


594 posts in 4232 days

#6 posted 08-22-2008 02:43 AM

Matt, I’ve got one from Rockler and it’s made of the often maligned MDF with laminate on both sides. It’s been ok for the most part. My only gripe is that the fence will flex sometimes depending on which bit is in it.
I’m in the process of finishing up a new table that’s made up of two pieces of 3/4” MDF sandwiched between countertop laminate on both sides. I ran 3/4” red oak around the sides and it’s got a bench dog 3/8” aluminum router plate attached to a Triton 3 1/4 hp router. If you’ve got the Triton 2 1/4 hp, you’ve made a great start. But if I were you, I’d think about building your own table, or at least something a little more substantial than the Rockler. Just my $0.02.

-- Carl Rast, Pelion, SC

View Microsuffer's profile


52 posts in 3743 days

#7 posted 08-22-2008 07:10 AM

I did mine with three layers of 3/4 MDF capped top and sides by 1/4 Birch ply. Attachments have been by lag screws and threadserts, with some cap screws where loading isn’t an issue. Nothing has pulled out. Heavy and solid, I can pound on it to my heart’s content. Router vibration is well damped and it just doesn’t bow under any load that I can give it. Shellac on the ply made it slick, attractive and it shrugs off glue. Pictures on Router Forum – same nickname.

-- "Those are my principals, if you don't like them....I have others." - Groucho Marx

View sIKE's profile


1271 posts in 3932 days

#8 posted 08-22-2008 07:35 AM

One of the things that I have learned is that if I want to use MDF and screws, is to bore out a hole and glue in a dowel where I want to place my screw. Once dry you can screw into the wooden dowel and get both the holding strength of wood and the density and flatness of MDF. Can be a lot of work but is worth it, this approach also works well in particle board, and repairs to particle board.

-- //FC - Round Rock, TX - "Experience is what you get just after you need it"

View Alex Lane's profile

Alex Lane

539 posts in 4068 days

#9 posted 08-22-2008 08:47 PM

If you want some good stock for a table top go here. It’s pricey, but you’ll be able to pass it on to your grandkids!!

Otherwise go to a kitchen shop and ask to see any old/returned pieces of countertop (especially see if they have an island top, as there is no backsplash to worry about). You might be able to get a nice piece (i.e. 24”x48”) for $20 to $30 MAX! My local kitchen shop just GAVE me a piece for free!! Cut off the backspash (which makes a great fence…), glue a piece of MDF underneath to make it more stable and flat, and you’ll end up w/ a great router table. Scott Phillips of The American Woodshop told me via email, that that’s how he makes work tables for his shop!!

By the way, congrats on the Triton!! It’s a fantasy of mine… ;-D

Go get ‘em

-- Lane Custom Guitars and Basses

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