Router Table / Table Saw Extension
I've been borrowing my dad's smallish (but very portable) router table for years. It works well, but it's a hassle to go get it every time. Two years before this writing, I finally bought myself a table saw--a nice, used Jet contractor saw with a full cast iron top and wings. The table saw's fence rails stick out about 17" past the end of the right wing, which takes up lots of storage space in my garage without providing any support for cross cutting long boards. I decided to kill two birds with one stone by making myself a router table that mounted in the empty space between the fence rails. I already had a DeWalt DW618 portable router kit, so I merely needed a table to which to bolt the motor.
You can buy pre-made tables like this from several tool retailers, including Rockler. Here's a few others:
The problem I see with all of these is that they make you stand at the end of the table and pass your wood across the short dimension. I occasionally have had to route edges along some relatively long pieces, and it sure would have been nice to have a longer support for the infeed and outfeed. By making the router table so that the fence runs parallel to the table saw's rails, I now have an 18" infeed table and a 45" outfeed table, all while using the same size extension table as the pre-made tables listed above. Of course, this setup requires a different mounting mechanism for the fence, so merely buying a pre-made table would quite work for me. Besides, simply buying something when I could make a better one myself simply isn't in my nature. I managed to put the whole thing together for just over $200.
The table itself is 27-1/8" long (to match my saw's table) and 23-1/2" wide (a convenient size that worked well with the 24" scrap of laminate I covered it with). I originally planned to use a leftover scrap of melamine-covered particle board that I had left over from a shelving project. Unfortunately, that piece absorbed a little mosture while awaiting this project and was no longer flat when I dug it out. Instead, I used 3/4" thick, high-density particle board for the base (donated by my Dad from his scrap pile).
I covered the top with Formica laminate that I bought from a counter top installer's scrap pile. The color (a slightly mottled light beige) perhaps isn't perfect, but it's not bad considering I only paid $2 for a 2x7' piece of it. This stuff normally sells for nearly $2 per square foot brand new. When buying laminate, make sure it has as smooth a surface as possible, and that it's a light color. Surfaces with more texture will add resistance when sliding heavy wood across it. Darker colors, especially the salt-and-pepper patterns that you often see, tend to hide small bits of wood. Light, solid colors are better.
I chose to secure my router table's fence using two miter slots. One sits in my table saw's cast iron table, 20" to the left of the router bit. I installed a matching one in my new router table about 6" to the right of the bit and parallel to the one in my table saw. These miter tracks are 3/8" deep and 3/4" wide with a T-slot in the bottom. I bought an aluminum insert for the track that fit into a dado that I cut into the table. Rockler's miter track doesn't have the T-slot and some other manufacturers don't countersink the mounting holes, so pay attention when shopping. I bought mine from PriceCutter.
In addition to the miter track running parallel to the table saw, I also added another one running perpendicular to it (parallel to the saw's fence rails). This one will be used for retaining a miter gauge when using the table lengthwise. Of course this miter track stops abruptly when it hits the cast iron table saw wing, but it's better than nothing, and I don't plan on using it often. On the rare occasion when I need a full-width miter track, I can always stand at the end of the table and use the track that normally retains the fence. In that case, the table saw's fence would be used instead.
The widespread location of the miter tracks that retain the router fence mean that the fence itself is about 42" long. This is great when working with longer wood, but it also means that you have to make your own fence rather than buying a premade one. I considered using steel or aluminum angle iron as the support for this fence (similar to the factory fences offered by Rockler), but metal angle iron is expensive and hard to cut slots into. I chose instead to make the fence from MDF.
Here's a list of things I'd do differently the second time around:
Apply the laminate to the table surface BEFORE cutting the shelf that supports the router mounting plate. This ensures that you cut the shelf to the correct depth. Also, since the plate is only 1/4" thick, you can't get a flush trim bit with a narrow enough bearing to follow along the outer edge of the shelf when trimming your laminate. This means you have to line up the router template again and hope you get it in the same spot as before.
This isn't a problem with the miter track dados, since they're just deep enough (nearly 1/2") to get a flush trim bit into. Although if you do cut the miter track dados, before applying the laminate, be sure to take its thickness into account when setting your depth.
Since I have a router base that I can dedicate to my router plate, I was able to remove the handles from that base to reduce its footprint. With the 3/8" wide support shelf that I made under the router plate, I now have acres of clearance for the router. I should have made the shelf considerably wider to support the plate better. With my DeWalt DW6184, I could get by with 3/4" wide shelves along the long sides and 2" wide shelves on the ends.
The template that Rockler makes for their router mounting plates is slightly larger than the plates themselves, which mean the plate will slop around inside the cut-out. This strikes me as bad, since it would make it hard to line up the bit precisely. I plan to shim the opening to make the plate fit more snugly. Perhaps I could have stuck a couple layers of masking tape to the inside of the template to correctly size the opening before cutting it.
If I had made the 2" wide support shelf mentioned above, I could have run screws up from below into two factory threaded holes in the mounting plate to clamp it down before use, making the sloppy fit a non-issue.
I bought many of the following parts (among others) to build my router table. Please help support my web site by clicking through the links below when you buy these parts for your own router table.
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last updated 4 Sep 2008 Obi-Wan (firstname.lastname@example.org)