One of the other projects that I have completed without blogging all the details is a new router table for my shop.
Previously, I had a Grizzly cast iron router table with an aluminum slider, but I hated it. The way the router mounted to the underside of the table sucked and you couldn’t adjust the bit height from above the table. The fence system was very poorly designed and I had build a wooden fence as an improvement. Lastly, the legs splayed out at an angle and I was forever tripping on it. I sold it, and never looked back.
I wanted to build the Norm Abrams style router table from the New Yankee Workshop. This project has been on my “to-do” list for a long time and I had been given the DVD and plans for Christmas several years ago. This is an expensive project as there are a lot of items and parts to buy in addition to a router, mounting plate, and lift.
A few years ago, I bought some sheets of pre-finished maple europly from my local hardwood dealer. They were marked down from somewhere near $120 to about $25 as they were delaminating in places. I figured that I could glue it back together where and when needed. This is a pain in the backside as it really slows down your build process. I’d cut a piece to size, only to watch it pop apart. Glue and clamps fixed it every time, but after an overnight wait for the panels to properly cure. But for that price, it was worth the extra work. I thought I had just enough for this project but I was wrong. I ran out just before finishing and didn’t have enough to make the false drawer front for the bottom drawers. I used other ply with some golden maple stain, but you can see how that turned out. Oh well, it’s a shop project I suppose.
I used red oak for all the trim pieces. These are finished with mahogany gel stain and water based poly.
I did several things differently than the Norm plans. In his, he used slots cut through the table top for the fence anchoring bolts. I opted for T-track instead. I also chose to use T-track in the fence adjustment system. Norm used a T-slot cutting bit directly into the MDF. This certainly works, but I thought T-track would be more durable over time. I don’t plan on ever building another router table, so this one has to last.
When I built the table top, I found that it wanted to warp quite severely. It was one layer of ¾” MDF and one layer of ½” MDF. I think that the varying thicknesses combined with the laminate on one side caused it to warp. I discovered that I needed to laminate both sides to keep it flat. This was an added expense as I had to buy some more countertop laminate. It had to be done though, the top was like a Lay’s potato chip until the under side was laminated.
A good friend of mine was upgrading his system to an Incra lift and offered to sell me his Triton router and woodpeckers mounting plate. This is the large Triton Router at 3-¼ HP. I already have the smaller 2-¼ HP Triton that I use for freehand routing and knew that when the time came, I would want the bigger brother for my router table. It worked out really well that my friend wanted to sell his. The great thing about using this router in a table is that you don’t need a lift. Removing the plunge spring allows you to use the built in lift mechanism of the router. With the correct mounting plate, you can make above the table adjustments to the height with a crank handle. Raising the router to it’s highest position also locks the spindle, making bit changes easy with a single wrench.
I added a new branch into my dust collection system and plumbed it into the new tool. The dust collection on this router table is awesome! That was always one major problem with using my previous set up as it made such a mess.
The top drawer is great for storing the interchangeable router plate throats, the height adjusting crank, and the collet wrench.
On the New Yankee Workshop plans, the top right is a blank fixed cover. Also, the plans leave the table top free floating and not fixed to the carcass, gravity holds it in place. With this system, if you want to access the cables or wiring, you just lift up the top. On mine, I was really concerned with the table top warping. I added blocks to the carcass that allowed me to screw it to the top tightly and help keep the top flat. With the top firmly attached, another way of accessing the cables was needed. I decided to make a false drawer in the top right position to allow access to the cables. The false front is held in place with rare earth magnets.
I haven’t given the router table a lot of heavy use yet to really put it through its paces, but I have used it a few times for small jobs and it’s amazing. It is a massive improvement to my previous setup.
In my next post, I’ll being showing an interesting project that I’m working on now. A fancy (and very heavy) leather strop for keeping chisels and plane irons razor sharp.
– Jonathan White