New guy needs help with router tables

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Forum topic by mickeyg197 posted 12-14-2014 04:20 AM 1574 views 0 times favorited 19 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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17 posts in 1229 days

12-14-2014 04:20 AM

I am new to the site and I have only been turning perfectly good lumber into saw dust for about a yesr.

My specific question is regarding router tables. Phenolic,aluminum,cast iron, and high pressure laminate. Aside from the materials used, what is the real difference between them all? Is one better than another?

I currently have a Craftsman aluminum top benchtop model. I have two issues with this table. 1. The mitre slot does not allow for aftermarket jigs,etc. 2. And the main beef I have with this table is the fence. The outfeed side moves independently from the actual fence and both inserts are about as square as eggs. Getting this thing square and to actually stay square is directly responsible for an increase in my blood pressure medication.

I am really restricted on space (1/2 of a 2 car garage) and probably need to stick with something I can keep on the bench top. I have looked at the Benchdog and Kreg. The larger Craftsman is out because it also has the same simulated mitre slot.

Any help and knowledge y’all can throw this way would be greatly appreciated.


-- Mickey Winder Ga

19 replies so far

View a1Jim's profile


117063 posts in 3544 days

#1 posted 12-14-2014 04:38 AM

Hi Mickey
Welcome to Ljs
I’ve found that making my own Router table,because the store bought router table tops are too small. I usually make my table tops out of melamine . I know you said you are limited on floor space so you might consider a fold up router table or one that can be hung on french cleats or fold down.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View bondogaposis's profile


4683 posts in 2318 days

#2 posted 12-14-2014 05:38 AM

Build your own. They are easy and cheap to make. There must be a gazillion plans out there. Surely you could find one that suits your needs. A router table is one of the most versatile tool in the shop, having one that functions well is essential to good work. I also work in half of a 2 car garage and have a full size router table because I couldn’t live without one.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View RogueOranum's profile


8 posts in 1228 days

#3 posted 12-14-2014 08:34 AM

Hi Mickey, When starting out its best to build your own router table, not only will it save you money but you will be able to design a router just the size you need.

-- Rogue Oranum The Author Of :

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155 posts in 2655 days

#4 posted 12-14-2014 12:22 PM

I started out with a ryobi table it worked pretty well until i built my own

View Sandra's profile


7207 posts in 2042 days

#5 posted 12-14-2014 12:34 PM

Mickey – I second the comments about building your own. I built my own cabinet around a top that was given to me.
You can either build the top, or purchase a top only and then build whatever stand, case, cabinet you want. The take away lesson I got when I was looking into router tables about a year and a half ago is that the main goal is for it to be dead flat.

Wood magazine has a neat plan for a flip up router table. Might be an option if you have limited space and want to keep your work area clear.

Good luck

-- No, I don't want to buy the pink hammer.

View Patrick's profile


41 posts in 1309 days

#6 posted 12-14-2014 12:50 PM

I think it’s a good idea to order the top and fence from someone like Rockler or Grizzly. They have great deals on router table tops. Then build your own base or cabinet.

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2871 posts in 2140 days

#7 posted 12-14-2014 12:58 PM

The fence on a router table does not need to be square. You are moving by a single point. A lot of bits don’t need a fence as they have some kind of pilot. Most tables and inserts come with a removeable guide pin to guide the material. Those small benchtop router tables don’t support the wood well you are better building your own.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View Rob's profile


316 posts in 2954 days

#8 posted 12-14-2014 01:06 PM

I agree with the others. Build a Router Table. You will be much happier. I used to have a shaper. The table was way too small for the type of things I make. I sold it and built this and it’s on wheels that lock so I can keep it out of the way when I’m not using it. I couldn’t be happier.

View Patrick's profile


41 posts in 1309 days

#9 posted 12-14-2014 01:48 PM

Beautiful table Rob

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1594 posts in 1391 days

#10 posted 12-14-2014 05:01 PM

It is a mixed bag between building your own and buying the top from a reputable company.

If you have the skills and the tools, I suggest building your own out of a material that is not easily affected by humidity or moisture. Birch plywood would be my recommendation if you decide you are up to the task. Laminate two pieces together for the greatest stability over time. Phenolic is very stable and is a great work surface material and would be my first choice if money is no object.

I would stay away from granite, quartz, and cast tops. Great work surfaces until … drop something on them.

It will also pain you less when\if you make a mistake with Birch plywood. You can always run out and get another sheet without spending an arm and a leg. It seems many people have trouble cutting the router plate opening to match the plate so buying a template with router bit size recommendations is recommended for a fairly new wood worker. The bit radius must match the the plate corner radius.

You can laminate it afterwards with melamine to provide a smooth work surface, if you like.

I would stay away from MDF or particle board. They are to susceptible to warping and absorbing moisture over time. Some say they have no problems but trust me, over time, Birch plywood is far more stable. And, this is why the big companies laminate MDF layers together under pressure with a special adhesive to prevent warping and the affects of moisture.

You can look in my project folder for more idea for the base and top. I use torsion boxes to prevent sagging and to support the weight of the router over the long haul. I suggest you do the same.

Good luck with your project and your homework. You can view my project folder for more insight into how I built my router table. It has become my favorite station in the shop.

P.S. Is it just me or is the forum link still busted after two days?

-- Brad, Texas,

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6595 posts in 2166 days

#11 posted 12-14-2014 05:54 PM

Have to give one more + for building your own. And if you are really short on space, an extension for your table saw will let your fence serve double duty. And as pointed out, the fence does not need to be square to anything, just perpendicular to the table top (and depending on what you are doing, even that may not be that important or necessary). Plywood with a melamine top works great and you can find most of the material you need pretty cheap.. I built mine entirely out of stuff I found dumpster diving the local construction sites.


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

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2649 posts in 2244 days

#12 posted 12-14-2014 06:30 PM

Another recommendation for building your own cabinet and purchasing a top with fence package. You can customize the cabinet to suit your needs for storage…....Mine pictured below. The cabinet I made about close to 20 years ago. The top is a replacement from Rockler’s purchased maybe 4 years ago.

-- Measure "at least" twice and cut once

View mickeyg197's profile


17 posts in 1229 days

#13 posted 12-14-2014 10:57 PM

Thanks for the responses and insight. Looks like I will be building a table or at least the base. I think I may stick with buying a top and fence for now. I am not sure that I have developed the skills necessary to make one completely flat just yet.

Y’all have made some nice ones. I will look into birch. Although not as bad as it was where we lived in Fla. we don’t lack humidity here in NE Ga.

Thanks again. I have been on other boards where nobody responded. This seems like a good place to hang out.

-- Mickey Winder Ga

View Woodmaster1's profile


918 posts in 2554 days

#14 posted 12-15-2014 12:19 AM

I have made three router tables. One I bought the top, plate and fence from rockler and the other one I made everything but the guides for the miter and a kreg plate. My very first was a table top the unit where everything was made including the plate. The first one I gave to a friend just starting out in woodwork. He also got the craftsman router that the table was made for.

View joey502's profile


525 posts in 1485 days

#15 posted 12-15-2014 03:26 AM

I have a pvc coated phenolic top, bought the top, lift and fence about 8 years ago. At the time I did not feel I was capable building the quality or accuracy I was looking for in a router table. I have yet to regret buying any of it. The top is very stable and parts move across it with no effort.

I built the cabinet that the top is mounted to. I would suggest you do as well. Building your own cabinet allows the storage design to fit your specific needs.

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