Commercially made router tables are everywhere these days. Some of them come with more gizmos and gadgets than a ’59 Edsel. By the time you tally up all the add-ons, the price approaches a medium-duty shaper. Here’s my short list of “must-have” features for a good router table:
• A table the size of a carrier deck.
• Compact design so it can store easily.
• A stout fence that’s long and easy to adjust.
• Easy bit-height adjustment with no stooping.
• Great dust collection.
• A $50 price tag.
With all these features in mind, I hit on the idea of using my folded-up Workmate stored under the stairs. Can’t I just make a top for it? Then I remembered the great idea from Contributing Editor Nick Engler in our January 2000 issue. Nick made the top of his router table tilt up for easy adjustments. Bingo. Now my Workmate/router table goes right back under the stairs and takes up only another 1-1/2″ of space, the thickness of the router tabletop. You can also use this router table without a Workmate. A simple pair of sawhorses will suffice.
Customizing Your Table
While the fence is generic to any router table setup, the table needs to be customized for your needs. You may have a different brand router than mine, so you will have to relieve the underside of the table to accommodate the shape of your tool. You’ll have to locate the mounting holes for the base to suit your router. You may prefer a different table height. If you are below average height, you’ll want the make the angle at which the table props up less steeply.
The top is made from two pieces of birch plywood that are glued together and banded with 3/4″-thick solid birch. Before gluing anything together, it’s best to work on the top plywood piece. Since you must rout out the underside of this top piece where the router base will be mounted, do it before gluing the two sheets together. The hole in the bottom sheet can be simply cut with a jigsaw.
First, lay out where you want your router base to be mounted and find the exact center of the base. I put the centerpoint on my table 8″ in from the back edge and centered right to left. So once the point is established, drill a 1/16″ hole straight through to the other side. You’ll need this location for work later on.
Now set up a router with a circle-cutting jig and a 1/2″ straight bit. Set the bit so it will cut to a depth that will leave a 3/8″ thickness in the plywood top. Cut a circle (assuming your router has a round base) on the underside of the top that is approximately 1/4″ larger in diameter than the router base. Place the circle jig’s indexing pin in the center hole you just drilled. Rout the circle and the remaining waste inside the circle.
Next, turn the plywood piece over. Use your center hole and circle jig to cut a 1/8″-deep circular rabbet or ledge for your plastic inserts to fit into. The insert diameter is 4-3/4″. But before you use this insert size, check the size of your router’s base. You may need to make a smaller-diameter insert based on the size of your router base. The router I mounted in the table is a massive Porter-Cable 7518. I made the insert hole size large enough to accommodate the largest diameter router bits.
Now make the hole the router bits pass through. Leave a ledge about 1/2″ wide all around for the removable inserts to rest on.
Now take the second sheet of plywood and jigsaw the cut to accommodate the router base. Also, make any cuts necessary to allow for your router base’s handles. When done, glue the two sheets together. Keep the edges flush.
When the glue is dry, trim the top to finished size on the table saw. Now prepare some stock for the solid-edge banding. Miter the corners and glue it on. Make sure it is flush to the top. When dry, sand everything flush, then rout a roundover profile on the top edge.
Make the round tabletop inserts from 1/8″ acrylic. I made three inserts to cover most of the router bit sizes I’d encounter. First set the circle jig to cut a circle that is the same size as the insert hole. Set your router to make an outside cut instead of an inside cut. To rout the acrylic, just drill a hole to accommodate the circle-cutting jig’s pin or nail.