As easy to use as it is to build.
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the March 2008 issue of American Woodworker. Adjusting for inflation, the correct title would be “$121.49 Router Table”
Sometimes, less really is more. Take router tables for instance. It’s not at all difficult to ring up a $1000 tab for a manufactured router table, complete with a new router, loaded with convenience, durability, adjustability, and precision.
But to me, the compelling thing about a router table is that it converts a portable power tool into a stationary power tool and thus expands its utility and versatility.
A router table can be simple and quite inexpensive to make without sacrificing functionality. A basic table can be just as versatile, accurate and easy to use as one of those $1000 grandees but cost far less.
I’ve just finished a $100 router table (excluding the router). I bought most of the materials and hardware at a local home center.
There’s no router mounting plate to buy; the router attaches directly to the hinged top.
This is no bare-bones table, it’s packed with great features such as an easy to adjust zero-clearance fence with sacrificial faces, an offset router mounting that allows you to use more of the table for work support, table inserts to accommodate different bit sizes, a tilt top for easy access to the router and quick bit changes (even with a plunge router), and built-in dust collection.
Of course there’s a host of enhancements to the basic router table including enhanced dust collection below the table, a front-mounted switch, and even bit storage.
All these add-ons are covered at the end of the article.
100$ Router Table Cut List
Overall Dimensions: 24″ D x 36″ W x 34-1/2″H
Part Qty. Dimensions Material
A Tabletop 1 3/4″ x 24″ x 36″ MDF
B Frame front/back 2 3/4″ x 2 1/2″ x 27 1/2″ hardwood
C Frame ends 2 3/4″ x 2 1/2″ x 17 1/8″ hardwood
D Stretchers 2 3/4″ x 1 3/4″ x 17 1/8″ hardwood
E Legs 4 1 1/4″ x 2 1/4″ x 33″ 2 x 6
F Side aprons 2 3/4″ x 16″ x 15 3/16″ plywood1
G Back apron 1 3/4″ x 13 1/8″ x 29 3/16″ plywood1
H Bottom 1 3/4″ x 18 15/16″ x 29 3/16″ plywood2
J Edge band 1 3/4″ x 1/4″ x 29 3/16″ 2 x 63
K Fence base 1 3/4″ x 3 1/2″ x 42″ hardwood
L Fixed face 1 3/4″ x 3 1/2″ x 42″ hardwood
M Sliding faces 2 3/4″ x 4″ x 24″ MDF
N Dust pickup block 3 3/4″ x 3 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ hardwood4
P Dust pickup cap 1 1/4″ x 3 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ 1/4-in. MDF
Q Clamp jaws 2 1 1/2″ x 2 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ 2 x 63
1 Miter ends at 87°
2 Bevel edges at 3°
3 Cut from scrap
4 Stack and glue
BUILD THE BASE
Cut the leg blanks (F) oversize from 2×6 lumber that’s been seasoned in your shop for two weeks or more.
Cut 3-degree compound miters on the tops and bottoms of the legs. All the cuts are made with the head tilted 3- degrees. Divide the legs into 2-pairs consisting of one front and one back leg.
Cut the plywood panels (G-J). First, crosscut a 30-3/4-in. piece from a sheet of plywood. Rip it into a 19- in. wide piece for the bottom, a 13-in. wide piece for the back apron, and a 16-in. wide piece for the side aprons. Crosscut the side-aprons piece in half.
Tilt the tablesaw blade 3-degrees and cut bevel on all four edges of the bottom panel, reducing it to its final length and 1/8-in. shy of its final width.
Glue a 1/8-in. strip of solid wood to the front edge of the bottom panel. Trim flush after the glue’s dried.
Return the tablesaw blade to 90- degrees and set the miter gauge to 3- degrees. Cut the tapered ends on the side and back panels.
Lay out marks for biscuit slots on the ends of the side and back aprons. Align the legs with the aprons and transfer the marks.
Lay out biscuit slots on the bottom shelf and transfer them to the bottom edge of the aprons.
Cut the biscuit slots. Set the joiner’s fence to 87-degrees to slot the beveled edges of the bottom panel. Glue and clamp the two side assemblies together (Photo 1) as well as the back and bottom panel assembly.
Join the two leg assemblies to the back and bottom panel assembly (Photo 2). Use masking tape to attach the tapered scraps from the panels to the legs so clamps will have parallel bearing surfaces.
BUILD THE TABLETOP
Cut the tabletop panel (A). Chamfer all four edges, top and bottom, to minimize chipping.
Lay out the bit hole location on the top (Fig. A.).
Install a V-groove bit and park the router with the bit on the penciled crosshair. Orient the router exactly the way you want it—handles side-toside, front-to-back, or on a diagonal. Mark the center points for the mounting screws (Photo 3).
Drill and countersink the mounting holes in the top. Mount the router to the tabletop.
Cut the support frame parts (B, C and D). Cut rabbets in the ends of the front and back pieces.
Dry assemble the frame on the tabletop. Use your router base to determine the spacing between the stretchers . Lay out the dadoes and rabbets in the front and back frame members as well as the cutout in the front.
Machine the frant and back rails. Then, assemble the frame on a surface you know is flat.
Drill 1/4-in. holes though the frame edges. Set the frame on the tabletop and transfer the hole locations to the tabletop (Photo 4).
Drill and tap stopped holes in the MDF for 1/4 – 20 machine screws (Photo 5). Threaded MDF has better holding power than wood screws driven into pilot holes.
Mount the tabletop to the frame (Photo 6). You could glue the frame, but if you eever changed routers, you’d need to build a new top.
Drill the holes for the hinge bolts in the frame (Photo 7, Fig. A). Cut threads in the rest bolt holes for 1/4 – 20 bolts.
Set the top on the stand. Use shims between the top edge of the stand and the MDF top. This keeps the top floating above the stand so all the weight from the top is carried by the framework underneath.
Transfer the hinge boltholes from the top frame to the back legs of the stand. Drill the hingebolt holes through the back legs (Photo 8). Install the hinge bolts and rest bolts.
Mount the stay to hold the top open (Photo 9 and 10).
BUILD THE FENCE
Cut the fence base (L) and fixed face (M).
Cut the bit opening in the two fence pieces. Bore a 2-1/4-in. hole centered 1-in. from an edge using a Forstner bit or a holesaw. From the near edge, saw into the hole, transforming it into a U-shaped notch.
Assemble the base and fence. Glue the edge of the base to the upright’s face (Photo 11).
Round off the outside corners at the ends of the fence on a band saw, then sand smooth.
Cut and glue-laminate scraps of hardwood to form the dust-pickup block (P).
Bore a 2-1/4-in. hole through the block (Photo 12).
On the bandsaw, cut a U-shaped hole and the outside profile of the block. Sand the sawed surface smooth.
Cut the dust pickup’s cap (Q). Bore a hole to fit your dust collector hose. Glue the cap to the dust pickup and the pickup to the fence (Photo 13).
Square the face of the fence to the base on a jointer (Photo 14)
Cut two clamp jaws (R) (Fig. A, Detail 1) from scraps. Sand the faces and edges.
Lay out and drill mounting bolt holes in the fence base and the clamp jaws (Fig. A).
Drive a roundhead or panhead screw into the block near the bolt hole to act as an alignment screw. Drill oversize holes for the bolts in the fence base and add a shallow hole to house the alignment screw head (Photo 15).
Make the adjustable facings (N) from pieces of leftover MDF. Cut faces to size, then use your new router table to rout stopped slots for the mounting bolts (Photo 16).
Drill mounting holes for the adjustable facings in the fence (Fig. A).
Use your largest bit to rout the opening in the tabletop. Cut a narrow rabbet around the opening, its depth matching the thickness of the material you use for the inserts.
Cut one insert that fits nice and snug, and use it as a pattern for routing out a half-dozen more. When you put a hole in an insert, label its diameter.
Capturing all the chips and dust generated by router-table operations is a tough proposition. A fence-mounted pickup is important, but without a pickup under the table, a lot of the dust will escape capture.
You can use the support frame’s stretchers as the basis of a very effective dust chute. Make a twopiece cover from scraps of MDF or plywood. Insert rounded baffles to close off corners where dust gets trapped. Fit the caps as close as possible around the router base and drill a hole for a dust-hose connector (Photo A).
Extend a hose from this under-the-table channel and splice it into the hose from the fence-mounted pickup with a wye fitting. Leave enough slack in the hose to permit tilting the tabletop (Photo B).
Powering up a table-mounted router with the router switch is usually a nuisance. And lots of us are uneasy about fumbling for an out-of-sight switch in an emergency. So a front-mounted switch is a worthwhile addition to any router table. I wired the switch to an extension cord. The cord wrap is made from hardwood scraps.
Bit storage is a practical addition to the table, and there’s enough plywood left to construct a small box for two or three drawers. The drawer fronts require an additional 4-ft. piece of 1-in. x 4-in. oak. The drawer bottoms are 1/4″ plywood and are cut wide enough to fit in slots cut in the box sides.
Two drawers have the bottoms drilled for 1/2-in. and 1/4-in. shank bits; together they’ll accommodate about 80 bits. The top drawer holds wrenches, collets, bit-opening inserts, and other accessories. It is exposed when the tabletop is tilted up for easy access during bit changes.
Woodcraft, www.woodcraft.com (800) 225-1153, 2 – Wing Knobs, #85J94, $4.
Switch Jet, www.jettools.com, click on “Shop Parts”, # 994542 Switch, $26, # 523028 switch box, $4, # 998654, 2 – strain relievers, $4, Hardware Store, 12/4 extension cord, $12
Dust Collection Woodcraft, www.woodcraft.com (800) 225-1153, 2-1/2-in. x 10-ft. hose with 2 end fittings, #128689, $16, 2 -1/2-in. Y fitting, #144282, $4, 2-1/2-in. end fitting, $3.
Bit Storage 3/4-in. plywood parts cut from leftover material 1/4-in. plywood for drawer bottoms 3/4-in. oak for drawer fronts and pulls
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