The router table does for the router what a saw table accomplishes for the circular saw blade. It transforms a portable tool into a stationary one—and in the case of the router, enables it to perform tasks that can normally be managed only with an expensive shaper.
Mounted upside down and fixed in position, the table-mounted router allows the operator to use both hands to feed a workpiece into the bit, producing safer, more consistent results. And because stock also can be guided along a fence, or by a miter gauge, a template, or a jig, table cuts can be executed with more precision. Another benefit of the router table is that larger cutters, like those shown starting on page 30, can be used. Such bits would be dangerous and virtually impossible to control in a hand-held tool.
Although there are several makes and models of router tables on the market—and a range of accessories to spruce them up (page 36)—this chapter will show you how to build one in your shop. The table illustrated on page 38 is as sturdy and versatile as any commercial version, and it is simple and inexpensive to build, using readily available materials.
The heart of the router table is its top. A good choice is }U – or 1-inch-thick medium density fiberboard (MDF) sandwiched between two sheets of plastic laminate. You can also use good-
quality hardwood plywood, but what you gain in strength, you may sacrifice in stability and convenience. You must select a perfectly flat, unwarped panel. And, given the dimensions commonly available for plywood, be prepared to glue two sheets face to face to create a top of adequate thickness. As shown on page 41, the top can be hinged to the leg structure, enabling it to be lifted for easy access to the router when it comes time to change bits or adjust cutting depth.
One of the most useful features of a router table—the fence—can be built from plywood and scrap lumber (page 44). For feeding stock, you can use either a miter gauge that rides in a slot in the top (page 46) or one that is guided along the edges of the table (page 48). A shop-made router table can also incorporate all of the essential safety features normally found on commercial models, including remote on/off switches, dust collection hoods, and bit guards. Instructions for adding each of these elements to the basic table design are presented starting on page 49.
In addition to basic edge-forming, a shop-made table is tailor-made for performing complex routing and shaping operations. The chapter shows a range of useful router-table cuts, from stopped grooves (page 53) and a raised arched panel (page 54) to a cope-and-stick joint (page 57).
The curved top of the arched panel shown at left is being beveled on a table-mounted router fitted with a vertical panel-raising bit.
A two-piece jig clamped to the fence has an identical curve cut into it, helping the operator feed the workpiece evenly. The featherboard holding the panel against the fence has been clamped to a thick shim to apply pressure high up on the workpiece, minimizing wobbling.