While there are a good number of high quality router tables in the market today, highly experienced and well-skilled woodworkers often find that the market is unable to provide them with a product that they can customize to their exact specifications. The only route open for such professionals is to build their own router table from scratch. Alternatively, folks may find that perfectly good pieces of wood lying around the house that would otherwise have to be thrown away. In such cases, learning how to build a router table is more economical than buying one. Regardless of which category you fall into, you’d be happy to know that constructing router tables – at least when they are basic ones – is a skill-intensive but not overtly difficult task and as we shall see below, can be completed in a few hours.
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- Tabletop material: Hardwood measuring about 36”x26” or roughly 3’x2.15’, with about 1” extra on each side to compensate for error. Some folks prefer a larger size if they have to fit in huge pieces of wood or are using complex setups. Regardless of size, the wood should be 1” thick at the least and most importantly, perfectly flat.
- Fence material: Softwood/featherboard of length equal to the breadth of the tabletopie 26” or 2.15’. Fence frames made of iron can be purchased from the market to provide better customizability. If frames are purchased, one should ensure that the frame’s length does not deviate from that of the table by more than 1-2”.
- Stands: Unless the product is a latch-on variant, it would require a stand. As we noted while studying the key features of the best router table, stability is necessary for the ideal cut and so the stands must be stable and of equal height. Height of the stands can vary but ideally they should not raise the tabletop above the user’s waist level. Cast iron with rust-resistant coating is ideal for most situations.
- Screws and bolts (depending on router variants to be used).
- Drill and drill bits for cutting holes into the wood.
- Forstner bit for widening the holes.
- Ruler, protractor and pencil
Preparing the Tabletop
Estimated Completion Time : 45 min-1 hour
Any course dealing with how to build a router table must begin with the tabletop because it is on the tabletop that actual cutting occurs. To prepare the tabletop:
- Cut the piece of hardwood to proper size, ensuring that there are no rough edges left. While rough edges will not hinder actual functioning, splinters might cause injury since the body is pressed close to the table during operation.
- Use a ruler, protractor and pencil to draw straight lines from the four sides that meet at the centre of the table. This will provide you with the exact centre and thus avoid creating a lopsided table.
- To make learning how to use a router table easier, you should refer to the specifications required by your router’s manufacturer. In most cases this can be ascertained by placing the largest base plate of the router on the table and drawing a circle on the table to mark the hole at the centre of the base plate. If you haven’t purchased a router, you can look up the specifications of the most common router models on authority sites like Amazon.com.
- Remove the base plate.
- If the base plate’s size is small, you can use a standard drill to make the hole. Thereafter you can use a forstner bit to widen it to the desired size. If the base plate’s size is large however, you would need a saw to cut out the hole.
- Replace the base plate on the table and mark out the places where smaller holes would be needed for fitting screws, etc.
- Use a standard drill bit to drill these holes.
- If you wish to make maintaining a router table easier, you can choose a router mounting plate that supports height adjustment from above the table and add an additional hole for the height adjustment lever to go through.
Preparing the Fence
Estimated Completion Time : 30 min – 1 hour
- Take the piece of wood designated for the fence and place it on the tabletop such that it sits just behind or on top of the cutting bit hole.
- Use the protractor to ensure that the entire length of the fence sits on the table when it is perfectly parallel to the breadth of the table.
If you wish to use a free-moving, single-piece solid fence, you can stop here. However, if you have purchased a fence frame or possess one from a previous product, a few additional steps are in order to complete learning how to build a router table fence:
- Take the frame and place the piece of wood in it. It will likely be a little too big for the frame since provision has to be made for the thickness of the metal frame itself.
- Measure out the parts that would need to be cut to fit the wood into the frame.
- Cut out the pieces and try placing the wood in the frame again. Continue this process till the wood fits snugly.
- Take note of whether the frame requires a single wood piece or two. If a single piece is required, drill holes in appropriate places and screw the wood onto the frame, thus completing this phase of learning how to build a router table.
- If two pieces are required ie the unit is a split fence, you would need to take note of the sizes of each wood piece.
- Cut the pieces according to the size requirements.
- Most units have rails along which special washers can travel, allowing the wood pieces to be adjusted according to the cut. Take note of the size of the rails and drill washer holes into the wood accordingly. Attach washers on them.
- Fit the washer-embedded wood pieces onto the rails. Move them to the extremities to see if any resistance is encountered. Now move them to the middle and see if they touch completely. If both conditions are fulfilled, the split fence is ready for use.
Attaching Stands and the Router
Estimated Completion Time – 15-20 min
- Take the stands and place the tabletop on them. Place your palms firmly on the table and push gently forward, taking note of whether the table shows any signs of instability, wobbliness, etc.
- If the table appears perfectly stable, decide the positions where you wish to place the stands.
- If you’d like to use temporary stands, you can use clamps to hold them to the table surface. However, it is advisable to use permanent stands/legs.
- Most permanent stands would come with holes for attaching screws. Place the stands underneath the table at appropriate places and mark out the points on the tabletop where you’d like these screws to be placed.
- Remove the stands and drill the holes for the screws.
- Attach screws and secure the stands in place. Check for signs of instability and/or lateral movement between the stands and the tabletop.
- Place the mounting plate screws in their designated holes.
- Place the router in the mounting plate and attach the screws. Note whether the cutting bit is placed at the centre of the cutting bit hole.
- If you have chosen to create a height modification hole, you can place a screwdriver (or a special tool provided along with the mounting plate) to see whether the height of the cutting bit can be adjusted. If not, you may have to realign the router and mounting plate.
Once the router is secure, it is time to run a test of the unit and see whether all the benefits of using a router table – fast and accurate cutting, ability to carry out complex inlay work, etc. – are available. While such benefits would vary from build to build, it is true that the basic procedure we’ve outlined for learning how to build a router table is still capable of producing a unit that offers most benefits possible.