Long time lurker, first time poster: router table question

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Forum topic by JustSomeGuy83 posted 03-31-2014 09:32 PM 1076 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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15 posts in 1721 days

03-31-2014 09:32 PM

Topic tags/keywords: please forgive me its my first day

Hello all. I have purchased my first router and I want to make a table for it.

My idea is to get a desk and turn it into one. I recently picked up a free desk off Craigslist. It is kind of vintage and the top is made of 1×4s, so I really don’t want to use it as the top. Amazingly, the top is on a gliding system that slides right off. My next step is top choice and insert plate. The top dictates the plate in my case. I was thinking I would use a cutting board I have (white polyurethane, super sturdy) as the plate. But I’m afraid that if I use MDF, that it wouldn’t be strong enough to hold the router and plate once I’ve routed out the space for the cutting board. Does that sound like a good assumption?

Honestly, using MDF kind of makes me nervous, it just seems like it will crumble. But if I found a strong piece of metal thin enough, I think it could work. I just don’t know what else I could use for the plate. The mounting plate they use for the router displays at Home Depot would actually be perfect, but I out of the 3 associates that I spoke with, none of them would walk over with me to so I could show them. They just said it “wasn’t their department”. So I gave up.

Should I just bite the bullet by paying the extra money and use cabinet grade plywood? I trust that would hold even after a thick section of it would be routed out. But obviously the least expensive route is more desirable if possible.

I’m new to any type of woodworking so any advice is appreciated. I intend on posting pics of the finished product when it’s all said and done.

-- -Excuse my work, it's my first day.

9 replies so far

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30061 posts in 2540 days

#1 posted 03-31-2014 09:44 PM

Lots of MDF is used for router table tops. Usually doesn’t hold up as long. I still prefer the plywood.

Welcome to Lumberjocks.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View DIYaholic's profile


19709 posts in 2877 days

#2 posted 03-31-2014 10:05 PM

I used ply for my original RT, it has held up for ten years. I’m about to embark on building another, out of Corian solid surface material. It can be cheap or free. Check for a local cabinet/counter fabricator and ask about a sink cut. I would think that 3/4” or 1” MDF (or 1/2” doubled up) laminated on both sides, would work.

You can do a search, here on LJs, for RT builds, to get more info and ideas.

Welcome to LumberJocks….
A great place to feed your wood working insanity!!!

-- Randy-- I may not be good...but I am slow! If good things come to those who wait.... Why is procrastination a bad thing?

View JustSomeGuy83's profile


15 posts in 1721 days

#3 posted 03-31-2014 10:40 PM

Thank you for the replies.

-- -Excuse my work, it's my first day.

View Pie's profile


187 posts in 3608 days

#4 posted 03-31-2014 11:20 PM

Sometimes the DIY approach ends up costing more than purchasing one. Of course you don’t get the satisfaction of saying all kinds of curse words, throwing stuff and repeatedly asking yourself “Why didn’t you just go buy one.”
My first router table was a Ryobi with the dust extraction port, etc. I hated and still hate the POS because I messed up cuts etc.. But, I did learn a lot, having to figure out why things were not coming out correct. I bought it at a big box store. I have a different set-up now so I haven’t used the Ryobi in a while.
The less expensive tables use MDF and the costlier ones use phenolic material. So MDF will work, I just hate cutting it. DIYaholic has a good idea. Maybe go to a local place and ask for some leftover.

-- Pie

View NDakota's profile


72 posts in 1748 days

#5 posted 04-01-2014 12:12 AM

Check Harbor Freight they have a router plate for about 15$.Ive never used one but alot of people use them

View bondogaposis's profile


5092 posts in 2553 days

#6 posted 04-01-2014 12:48 AM

MDF for router top is fine if you double it and support it underneath in some way. I also like plastic laminate on the top and bottom for added durability. There are a zillion plans for router tables out there, it makes a great beginner project, just pick one and go for it.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2892 days

#7 posted 04-01-2014 12:58 AM

Mine is doubled Baltic birch ply (1/2”) with no router plate and I have had no sag since I built it several years ago.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View NiteWalker's profile


2738 posts in 2779 days

#8 posted 04-01-2014 01:44 AM

It doesn’t matter what you use for the top, so long as it’s flat, smooth and supported.
I use a single sheet of 3/4” mdf with formica on one side and white oak braces underneath. It’s flat to within .005”.

The support braces are the absolute key to a flat router table. It doesn’t matter if you use 2 or more layers, if it’s not supported, it WILL sag eventually.

I’m actually rebuilding it this summer with a slightly bigger surface; I’ll be using columbia purebond plywood (since it’s what I have on hand) with formica once again, and the same braces as on the current table top.

No plate is necessary. I took the biggest bit I regularly use (2” diameter) and made the hole slightly bigger (2 1/8”). It works just fine. If I needed smaller clearance, like a 1/4” bit being used with small pieces, I’d make a quick auxiliary top out of 1/4” plywood or whatever with a smaller hole, and clamp that to the main table.

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

View Silverhill's profile


101 posts in 1847 days

#9 posted 04-01-2014 04:29 AM

You can get a Rebel by Woodstock for $235 from Grizzly, with plate, split fence for jointing, cast iron table top, cast aluminum legs with a miter groove and miter gauge. I priced router table tops everywhere, every which way, and the Rebel is the cost effective winner hands down. It is just a tad smaller the most common MDF tops, but only by 3” on 3 sides. Mine came the other day and I and putting it together now, so not road test on it, but lots of praise anyway. I knew I wanted cast iron, and the BenchDog was $450, plus needs to buy a plate, and build a fence and support stand or cabinet. My Rebel will serve my needs for a long time, I think.

-- 1st Cor. 15:1-4

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