The Dust Collection System

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Collecting all the dust and chips generated by a router table is a challenge. After all. making dirt just may be the one thing that routers do best of all. The conventional approach is to integrate a pickup into the fence, the theory being that suction to one side of the bit will capture all the chips and dust.

Well, if you've used a router table at all. you know that chips go everywhere. If you rout the edge of a board, a fence-mounted shop-vacuum pickup will capture a lot of the dirt. But if the bit has shear-cutting flutes, and if the bit is not fully elevated above the tabletop, it will throw much of the dirt below the



Chips drawn off the bit via the fence's dust pickup are carried into the plenum by the jumper hose. They drop to the bottom of the plenum and are sucked into the shop-vac hose.

Dust pickup incorporated into the fence

, Mounting plate

Hose to shop vac

Chips thrown below the mounting plate fall to the floor of the router compartment and are swept under the baffle into the shop vac's hose.

Air slit

The Dust Collection System—Continued

Om tabletop surface. That fence-mounted pickup just can't get it all. You need some form of containment under the table, too.

What this router table's dust collection system provides is a two-level approach. It pulls dust and debris off the top of the table through the fence's pickup. And it sucks dust and chips from the router compartment as well. Both levels are cleared by one shop vacuum. The drawing Dust Collection Schematic shows how it is supposed to work.

The system depends upon the venturi effect in two places. One is the intake below the threshold. As air is pulled through the narrow slit, it speeds up, and this rush of air helps sweep the dust settling on the compartment floor toward the vacuum port. The dust baffle forms the second venturi, a Ji-inch-high slot through which all the air in the compartment is pulled by the vacuum. Speeding up the air helps it keep the dust in suspension so it can be swept into the vacuum hose.

To make the system work as advertised, you have to be diligent about sealing the router compartment, so that air enters the router compartment only via the jumper hose from the fence's dust pickup, through the mounting plate's bit opening, and through the narrow slit beneath the threshold. The more free air in the system, the less effective the dust removal will be. If you run the system with the router compartment door open, the shop vac will be overwhelmed and won't be able to capture the router-generated debris. Even a dust collector with a 4-inch hose won't be able to clear the chips in this situation. But even seemingly Insignificant infiltration will rob the system of effectiveness. If you find that chips and dust accumulate in both the fence's pickup and the router compartment, check for a gap between the case and the tabletop. You have to keep the system sealed.

To this end, I stuck foam weather stripping to the top edges of the case's back, dust baffle, and partitions, around the door, and even to the top of the threshold. Keep the door closed when you are routing.

When the shop vac is operating, it creates enough suction to pull the dust and chips from the fence into the router compartment.

It's a good system, and it captures a lot of the dirt.

Even so. it isn't perfect. If you rout a groove with a straight bit, the workpiece blocks that fence-mounted pickup. While some dirt is captured in the router compartment, chips blow ou: the groove, too. What I'm saying is that, as you build your two-level router-table dust collection system, you need to accept that you just can't contain and capture all the dust.

Router Fence Dust Ports

Seal the router compartment well to ensure that your shop vacuum isn't overwhelmed by too much air. Apply foam weatherstripping to the top edges of the case's back, partitions, and dust baffle to seal the gap between the case and the tabletop. This view shows the plenum formed by the dust baffle, as well as the two ports in the case back.

Split Fence

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and they just won't close in on a small hie.

You can make a fence like this to fit any size router table. The plans and directions following show a version sized to the Floor-Standing Router Table (page 212) as well as one for my Table Saw Extension Router Table (page 183). The clamps on the latter arc designed to grip the rip-fence rails rather than the tablctop.

Making the Fence

The hardware is central to the easy function of this fence, and you won't get too far into this project before needing it. While the bolts arc common, the plastic knobs will have to be ordered from a catalog. I'd recommend waiting until you have the hardware in hand before beginning.

1. Cut the parts. The fence requires only a few of them. The two fence faces are formed by glue-laminating two pieces of '/2-inch plywood, so you need four pieces alto gether. Since the faces must be flat, use a good-quality plywood (or MDF). I used standard birch plywood.Thc faces are relatively small, so you may be able to use left-over plywood from another project.

The other parts should be made of a straight-grained hardwood, like oak. maple, beech, or even cherry. Again, not a great deal of material is needed, but the parts are all different thicknesses and widths. Dress the hardwood to the required thicknesses, and cut the pans to the sizes specified by the Cutting List.

Split Fence

Every router table needs a first-class fence, one that's more than a straight board clamped to the tablctop. The straight board gets the routine work done, but this split fence does more than the routine. Tliis fence has built-in clamps, which allow you to adjust the fence's position without fumbling widi it, AND a separate clamp that takes two hands to work. With their big, plastic wing knobs, the built-in clamps are a cinch to use.

'Ihc fence has two faces that can be adjusted independently of one another. Surfaced with plastic laminate, the fence faccs won't add any drag to the movement of your work across the router table. Moreover, the faces are high enough to support a tall workpiccc.

The fact that the faces are adjustable in two planes means you can easily alter the gap between them to accommodate most any size bit. It means you can use your router uble as a jointer. You'll be able to joint small parts, which are dangerous to machine on a jointer, and glue-laden sheet goods, which really abuse steel jointer knives. All you have to do is shim out the outfeed fence face.

These features alone are enough to make this a worthwhile workshop project. But there's more. You can remove the faces completely and use the fence without them. And the faces arc sufficiently easy to make that they can be replaced quickly and inexpensively.

Why would they need replacement, you ask. Because the edges shrouding the bit will probably get chewed up enough to lose their effectiveness if you use a wide variety of bits. Close them in on a big profile bit enough times,

Here's a first-class fence for any router table. Its separate faces adjust independently for jointing operations and for near-zero clearance work.




Cutting List


Qty. Dimensions



i ^x3y2Bx39,•



2 1 Va" x 2" x 14"


Face plies

4 W x A'A" x 1 7"


Clamp blocks

2 Wa" X.2W xlW


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