Not very long ago a woodworker really only had two choices when acquiring a router table. They could buy a small shaper (motor permanently mounted) or build one from scratch. In fact, the first “router table” review I was able to find in a magazine was printed in 2000!
Today, you have many more choices. You can build completely from scratch; buy a router table package ready to work, or anything in between! You can make those parts you wish to and buy others. Pretty much every part is now available for sale.
This huge pool of options can be a bit daunting to wade into, so for the next several blog posts, you can follow along as I build a complete router table from fence to legs. I will be making most of the major parts from stock materials, but also showing you “off-the-shelf” parts you can buy if you choose to.
The work surface is the soul of the router table, so the router table top is where we will start this project. The router table I am building is designed to be large enough to do most router table tasks, but small enough to fold up for storage or transport. I decided on 28” wide and 18” deep.
The top must remain perfectly flat for precise milling. Many commercial router table tops are made from MDF an inch or thicker and faced with high pressure laminate. You can buy solid phenolic or even cast iron tops if you wish. These tops stay flat, but since this table will be folding and traveling, I wanted a durable top that was lighter weight. I laminated two layers of 1/2" Finnish plywood and topped it with high pressure laminate. I used polyurethane glue since it hardens completely and will resist movement. The parts were cut slightly oversized and I used a vacuum press to insure uniform clamping pressure as the glue cured.
The blank was then trimmed to size, and a quarter inch thick edge band was added. Next I laid out the positions for the router and miter slot. I will be using a mechanical lift for the router, but the process is the same for a standard plate as well. I attached the plate template where needed and used a small pattern bit to cut the channel for the lift to sit in according to the instructions on the template, and the waste in the center of the opening was cut away with a jigsaw.