A router table doesn’t have to cost a fortune or weigh a ton to deliver professional results. My version’s 1″-thick top doesn’t even require a cabinet base or legset — it simply clamps to my workbench. The project features an adjustable split fence with dust collection, plus a router lift made from ordinary home-center hardware. By removing three pairs of carriage bolts and wingnuts, I can remove the lift, router and fence easily for convenient storage.
I designed my router lift to suit my Festool OF 1400 plunge router, because it plunges without the need to engage a release lever. The lift may work with other routers, too, but study the Drawings carefully to verify the compatibility with your machine.
Installing the Router in the Table
Get started on the project by ripping and crosscutting the tabletop and two mounting blocks (pieces 1 and 2) to size. Notice in the Drawings and the photos at right that, instead of hanging the router from a removable plate, I make use of the two metal edge guide rods that come standard with the tool. My router sits in a 3/4″-deep recess milled into the table’s bottom face. The mounting blocks clamp the guide rods in grooves on the table, and that’s what holds the machine in place instead of screws.
If your router does not have guide rods, then you will need to modify the tabletop to accept a router table plate or simply mount the base to the table with screws.
For those routers with guide rails, mount them by first centering and locking the guide rods on the router’s base. Position the router on the table blank, and trace the base and rod shapes onto it. Rout the router base recess freehand with a straight bit in a series of deepening passes. Now, switch to a core box or a straight bit with a cutting diameter that matches the guide rod diameter. Run your router against a clamped straightedge to rout a pair of shallow groove for the guide rods into the table. Make their depth match the radius of the rods. Mill pairs of matching rod slots across the mounting blocks. Space these to line up perfectly with those on the table. Finally, set the router into place, fit the mounting blocks over the rods and drill a single, centered 3/8″-diameter bolt hole through both blocks and the table.
1/4″-deep counterbores in the tabletop to recess the heads of the carriage bolts (pieces 17) that will attach the mounting blocks. Bolt the router in place, and use a 1/4″ straight bit to plunge a hole through the table. It marks the centerpoint of your bits.
Assembling the Router Lift
My router lift’s open framework uses the rear mounting block as its top piece. It has a round crank that turns a threaded rod through a nut captured between the lift’s base and bracket. The rod pushes against a small lift plate to move the router. Begin building the lift frame by cutting pieces 3, 4, 5, 6 and 10 to size and shape.
Align the lift bracket flush with one end of the lift base, and mark the centerpoint of these parts. Use a drill press to bore a 5/8″-diameter hole through both workpieces at their centerpoints to fit the threaded rod (piece 8). Drill a 5/8″ centered hole through the round crank, too. Then switch to a 1″-diameter Forstner bit to drill a counterbore into the inside face of the lift bracket. Its depth should match the thickness of the captured nut (piece 9). Tap the nut into this counterbore.
Biscuit and glue the mounting block, lift sides and base together to form the lift framework. Orient the mounting block so the slotted side faces out. Next, bore a 5/16″-diameter hole through the center of your crank knob (piece 7) and another hole through the round crank, 3/4″ in from its edge. Assemble the knob and crank with a 5/16″ x 2-1⁄2″ carriage bolt and a pair of nuts tightened together. Use the remaining two big nuts to attach the crank to the end of the threaded rod. Wind the rod through the captured nut and fit it into the lift base hole. Fasten the lift bracket to the base with glue and screws.
The motor cap on my Festool router has four deep machine screw holes molded into the top. In order to prevent the router lift plate (piece 10) from spinning around when I turn the lift crank, I drove four wood screws partially into the plate, aligning their heads with the hole pattern on the motor cap. That way, the protruding screw heads engage the router without actually attaching to it. (Note: You may need to modify how the lift plate makes contact with your router if your motor cap is designed differently or if the tool’s internal cooling fan must vent through it.)
Drill a shallow 5/8″-diameter hole in the lift plate to fit over the end of the threaded rod. Set the lift plate on top of the router, and bolt the router lift to the table. Crank the rod until it seats in the lift plate hole.
Making the Fence
My split-fence is easy to build. Cut the fence base and back (pieces 11 and 12) to size, and lay out pairs of attachment bolt slots in both of these parts. Use your drill and jigsaw or a router and a 3/8″-diameter straight bit to form these slots. Mark and cut the fence’s large router bit openings now, too.
Four triangular braces (pieces 13) stiffen the fence back and square it to the base. Make these braces now.
You’re ready to assemble the fence. Pull out your biscuit joiner and cut #20 slots in the base, back and braces. Glue and clamp the back to the base, making sure they’re square. Then, glue on the braces.
Next come the fence facings (pieces 14). I suggest that you cut them from one long strip of plywood to ensure that their thicknesses will match perfectly. Miter-cut the ends that will meet in the middle to 45°. Carefully lay out and drill a 3/8″-diameter through-bolt hole and counterbore in each fence facing. Mount the facings on the fence back with carriage bolts, washers and wingnuts (pieces 17). Drill two carriage bolt holes through the table to fasten the fence through its slots.
Last comes the dust port plate (piece 15). Cut it to size, and bevel-miter the ends. Cut a hole through it that fits your shop vac hose nozzle. Fasten the plate to the fence back between the middle braces with a hinge (piece 16).
Completing the Final Details
You still need to cut a larger opening in the tabletop for router bits to pass through. Use a hole saw equipped with a 1/4″ center mandrel to enlarge the bit pilot hole you created earlier. Depending on your bit collection, a single hole may work with every bit you own. A 1-1⁄2″-diameter hole will accommodate many bit styles. Or, you can make insert rings. Disassemble the table and cut a 3/4″-wide slot along the front edge to fit your table saw’s miter gauge bar. Mill it with a straight bit in your router or using a dado blade. Give all the project parts a thorough sanding, and apply a few coats of durable finish. When the finish dries, I recommend adding a safety power switch so you can turn the router on and off easily or quickly in an emergency. Now, bolt the parts together, clamp the table to your bench, and you’re all set for routing.