When my wife and I bought our first house, I finally had a place to set up a “real” shop. It was a one-car garage, stuffed with our car, trash cans, a mower and bicycles. Floor space was so cramped that there was hardly room for a bench, the table saw and me, let alone other stationary tools. So, my router table had to adapt to the space. It amounted to a piece of countertop hinged to the wall, and it rested on a 2x4 brace. Not much for looks, but it worked, and equally important, it flipped up to stay off that tiny floor.
I’ve got a lot more floor space now, but I still hate to waste it. So, the project you see here is my high-tech evolution of that first router table ... and this one is WAY better! It features a full-size 24" x 32" laminated tabletop that rests on a pair of removable support arms during use. When not needed, it tips up and tucks into a cabinet that’s just 12" deep. Even your router and plate have a dedicated storage spot: they slide into a pair of dadoes between the shelf dividers. I souped mine up with Freud’s SH-5 Fence so I’d have dust collection and micro-adjust features. You could easily adapt any router fence you have, or build one instead. My fence mounts on T-tracks, but bolts run through long slots in the table or a series of holes would work, too. You don’t even have to remove the fence to close the table up; just slide it back, lock it in place, and it tips right into a cabinet cubby. I bored a hole through the cabinet wall for my shop vac hose and added an on/off switch with a plug for my router cord. If you like what you see, here’s how to add this space saver to your shop.
Starting with the Table
The table’s center area is a sandwich of 1/2"- and 3/4"-thick MDF covered with plastic laminate. To make the core, cut the bottom (piece 1) to size, according to the Material List dimensions. Cut the top core (piece 2) about 1/4" larger in both dimensions, and glue the two pieces together. Using a flush-trim bit with the bearing riding on the bottom core, trim the top core to match it. Now, cover both faces with oversized pieces of plastic laminate (pieces 3) and rout them flush.
There are a number of ways to make the router plate cutout in the tabletop. Here’s how I did it: I fixed Rockler’s plate installation template to my tabletop with double-faced tape. Then, with a 1" O.D. rub collar and a 1/2" upcut spiral bit installed in my plunge router, I routed down through the cutout area to remove the center waste piece. The offset between the rub collar and bit will also create a 1/4" lip for supporting the router plate. Switch to Rockler’s piloted pattern bit to create the shallow plate recess. Carefully set the bit depth to match the thickness of the router plate, and test the cut on a piece of scrap. Once the correct depth is dialed in, rout around the inside of the plate template to finish up the cutout.
The front, back and side edging (pieces 4 through 6) give the table a sturdy finished edge, but they also help stiffen the MDF core and provide a sturdier substrate for securing the pivot bolts. Mill your edging pieces from hardwood stock, and attach them to the core with pairs of #20 biscuits (pieces 7), spaced evenly around the core.
Insert a pair in the joint between the back and side edging to help reinforce these joints. Radius the corners of the front edging on your band saw, sand these curves to refine them, and glue and clamp all the edging in place. When the glue dries, plane or sand the edging joints flush and ease the sharp edges with a 1/8" roundover bit.
At this stage, your table is nearly done, but you still have a few tasks left to do. Cut a 1/2"-deep, 1"-wide dado slot across the table for the aluminum miter track (piece 8), and screw it in place. Then, figure out how you’ll mount your router fence. I routed dado slots for 10" lengths of T-tracks, squared up the ends and mounted the tracks with screws.
Finish up table construction by boring 3"-deep pilot holes for the 5/16" x 4" lag screws (pieces 19) that will serve as pivot “hinges.” I used a doweling jig to ensure that these holes would be perfectly square and centered on the table’s thickness. Using a 1/4"-diameter bit, drill them 1" in from the back edge of the table.
Assembling the Cabinet
Next up for assembly is the plywood cabinet. Notice that each cabinet component with a “show” edge (pieces 10 through 13, 15 and 16) will receive a strip of solid-wood banding (piece 17) to hide the plys. Cut these carcass parts to size and apply the banding with glue and clamps. Carefully rout, plane or sand the the banding flush with the part faces and ends.
Mill two 1/4"-deep dadoes in each cabinet side: the top one is stopped to house the divider shelf, and the bottom dado runs across the full width of the sides to fit the support shelf. I plowed these dadoes using a shop-made, slotted jig that clamps in place and guides my router and 1" O.D. rub collar. An undersized, plywood-cutting straight bit fit my plywood thickness perfectly for milling these dadoes. Once those dadoes are cut, step to your table saw to cut 1/2"-wide, 3/4"-deep rabbets along the back inside edges of the side panels to fit the back panel a bit later.
Locate the big hole in the right side panel for your shop vac hose and the smaller slot just below it to fit the on/off switch power cord for your router. That way, you can keep the cord in the cubby below the table for easy access. Bore a 5/16"-diameter hole in both side panels for the table pivot bolts.
It’s finally time to bring the cabinet carcass together. Start by gluing and brad-nailing two braces (pieces 16) to the side panels, just below the support shelf dadoes. Shorten the right brace length to 10-1⁄2" first so it will clear the power cord cutout. Glue and clamp the subtop, divider and support shelves and bottom panel between the side panels, reinforcing each of these joints with counterbored flathead wood screws.
You can also install the dividers (pieces 15) after milling a dado along the inside face of each to fit your router plate. Make these dadoes 7/16" deep and 5/16" wide. Slip the dividers into position, and drive screws down through the subtop and up through the divider shelf to secure them. With the dividers done, prepare a piece of solid stock for the top (piece 9) and drive counterbored screws up though the subtop to attach it.
Fitting the Support Arms
Follow the layout shown in the Drawings to make the two cabinet support arms (pieces 18) from 1"-thick, dimensionally stable stock. Ease the part edges, and slide the arms into place in the cabinet next to the braces you’ve already installed. They should fit with a bit of “give” beneath the support shelf. If you’re building this project during the winter, allow a little more room by taking a few shavings off the bottom edges of the support arms at the jointer. Once summer rolls around, the arms may expand across the grain, and you don’t want them to fit too tightly at that time.
You still have two remaining braces to install, which will complete the support arm slots in the cabinet. Again, you’ll want to provide a bit of side-to-side clearspace between the braces and support arms. I inserted three playing cards on each side of the arms at both the front and back cabinet openings to act as spacers. Slide the inner braces into place, and attach them to the support shelf and bottom with counterbored screws.
The hard work is nearly finished on this job! At this point, give the cabinet a thorough sanding up through the grits to 180 while the back panel is still off. Cut a power switch mounting plate (piece 21 from spare solid stock, and attach it to the right side of the cabinet with counterbored screws. Fasten the power switch to it. Feed the short “female” cord through the cord slot into the bottom cubby area.
At this point, you can cut and sand the back panel (piece 14) and install it in its rabbets with glue and screws. Fill all the screw counterbores with matching plugs, and sand them flush. Wrap up by applying a durable topcoat to the bare wood surfaces.
Installing the Project without Stress
It might seem logical to mount the table in the cabinet, then hang the whole works on the wall, but don’t do it like this. The table just adds weight and gets in the way. Here’s how to go about it: first, determine the working height you’d like for your table; about waist high works well for me. Locate the two closest wall studs to your installation spot, and screw a long cleat temporarily to them to support the cabinet bottom. Drill pilot holes for four 5/16" x 4" lag bolts through the back panel, spaced 16" apart. Now, tip the cabinet into position on the cleat, extend the pilot holes into the wall studs, and sink the lag screws and washers.
Attach the table by resting it on the support arms and driving the pivot bolts home. Unscrew the cleat. Finally, chisel a notch into the subtop edge so you can install the barrel bolt latch.
Now, pull up a shop stool right where a big ol’ floor-style router table would sit and take a load off. When that second wind hits, just plunk your router into place and you’ll be ready to give your new drop-down table a workout!