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To realize its full potential, a router table should be carefully designed. You can make a router table as simple or as complex as you want.

Most of the Build-Your-Router-Table plans you'll see are for fullblown (even overblown) "industrial models" that do everything and have options for even more. But don't feel that you have to have a 24-inch by 36-inch Formica top mounted on

Routing Techniques For Woodworking
Need to conserve space in a small shop? Hang a router from your table saw's extension wing. This homemade table extends the saw's capacity to accommodate full-sized sheet goods, and it doubles as a router table. The rip fence can double as a router table fence.

a million-dollar cabinet. For some woodworkers, a piece of plywood clamped over a couple of sawhorses is all that's needed. Cut a hole in the center and hang the router in it. Consider the other possibilities shown in the photos below.

When you first think about a router table, think about what you arc going to rout on it and about what router you are going to use. Ask yourself where you are going to put it. (Do you have a spacious shop, or only a tight comer?) The answer to this—along with your thoughts on what work you'll be doing and what router you'll be using to do it— may help you determine how big the tablctop will be. A foot square? One foot by 2 feet? Two feet by 3 feet?

And how will that tabletop be supported? Short pedestal legs to clamp to a bench top? A small plywood box for bench-top use? Trestle legs of some sort, or a leg-and-apron structure? How about a full cabinet, with storage for bits and accessories?

Router Placement

While we're at this stage of the design, here are two recommendations for you to consider.

1. Offset the router toward the front of the tablctop.

2. Don't completely enclose the router in a cabinet.

Offsetting the router does several things. First, it makes the router table more comfortable to use. by locating the center of the action— the router bit—close to you. You don't have to bend and reach. For most operations, you need support on the left and right, not between

the bit and the table's edge. For those occasional operations that do need broad support between bit and edge, address the table from die back.

Keeping the router close to one edge also allows you to use a sled rather than a miter gauge. (See the chapter "Router Table Accessories.") A sled does the same work as a miter gauge, but it rides against the table's edge rather than requiring a slot in the table. Slots arc a nuisance: They gather dirt, they catch your work and cause mistakes, and they usually cause your table to warp.

With the router offset, you can run a suppon under the center of the table to ensure that it stays straight.

Finally, if the router is close to the front edge, it is accessible. It's easier to adjust. You can even changc bits without taking the router out of die table, a really handy feature. Even if you use a drop-in mounting plate, even if you routinely pop the machine up out of the table to changc bits, there will be times when you'll want to adjust the router without moving it. For example, you want to hog out a groove with a straight bit. then switch to a dovetail cutter for a final pass. If you leave your fence set up, you know that the final pass will center up on the groove cut by the first pass. But nine times out often, the fence is across the mounting plate. If you're going to save your setup, the router has to be accessible.

But there's another aspect to accessibility—openness. If the router's behind doors, it isn't particularly accessible. That's one of the reasons Fred and I recommend that you not completely enclose your router in a cabinet.

The second reason has to do with the router's longevity. Your router needs some breathing room. An electric motor, especially one under load, generates heat. And routing generates chips and dust. Your best efforts at bit-side dust collection notwithstanding, chips and dust are going to funnel out of the cut and cascade down over your router. Enclosing the router—concealing it behind doors, for example—will keep all the dust and heat in. In that constricted area, it will have to recirculate the same air over and over. The router's fan will suck the heat and dirt through the motor. Clearly, this is bad.

If you're into doing a lot of small, detailed work, try building a bench-top motlel. This configuration is well suited for small-scale work, because you don't have to bend over to see what you're doing.

If you're cramped for space, try hinging a work surface to the wall. Swing-out braces or legs (or drop-down legs) supifort the tabletop when it's in use, and they fold or collapse out of the way when the table drops (or is raised) against the wall. This configuration limits some operations, but it saves a lot of space and can he better than no table at all.

If you're into doing a lot of small, detailed work, try building a bench-top motlel. This configuration is well suited for small-scale work, because you don't have to bend over to see what you're doing.

MATERIALS AND CONSTRUCTION

With the router offset toward the front of the router table, it's easy to change bits without removing the router. You can sight through the clear baseplate to see the collet nut, and the wrenches are long enough to clear tin-edge of the tablctop.

The first router table Fred made for the Rodale shop—built about 12 years ago and still in regular use— has an aluminum mounting plate. Over the years, having been used with a half-dozen different routers, it's acquired enough perforations to be called the Holey Router Table.

Don't take these recommendations as arguments against mounting your router tablctop on a cabinet. That's not what they arc. Build a cabinet, by all means, including bit and accessor)' storage. But somehow create an open area for the router, so it is accessible and well ventilated. See the chapter "Cabinet Router Table" for an example.

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