Try This

If you have to switch over to a custom baseplate for a quick operation, you can save yourself a little time if you attach the baseplate to the router with double-sided ear-pet tape. Cut three little pieces, and stick them on whatever baseplate is already screwed to the router. Peel the waxy protective paper from the tape's second side and press the baseplate you need to use in place. After the operation is completed, pull off the baseplate and peel off the tape.

carbonate, and without knowing that you could buy a "generic" polycarb and save a little money.

Both acrylic and polycarbonate plastics are pretty commonly available. they're stocked in sheets in a range of thicknesses, lengths, and widths, but you can usually buy odds and ends that arc perfectly suited for baseplates. Best thicknesses: '/■» inch and Ys inch.

The practical difference between the two types of plastic? The acrylic is crystal-clear, rigid, and quite strong, and as such is well regarded as a less fragile glass substitute. Nevertheless, it is possible to break. Polycarbonate. conversely, is very hard to break (it's the stuff safety glasses are made of), but it is less rigid than acrylic. Under stress, polycarb will tend to give, and the stress of supporting an 18-pound router can produce measurable sag. So make durable, unbreakable baseplates for hand-held routing from polycarb, and router-table mounting plates from acrylic.

Both materials arc quite easily worked with carbide-tipped woodworking tools. These plastics are popular primarily because they are available in clear sheets. Ostensibly, a baseplate made of either affords a nearly unobstnicted view of the work at hand. But both plastics scratch easily, so after being used a while, baseplates made from them become webbed with scratches and thus fairly opaque.

Phenolic plastic is gaining popularity for custom baseplates. It's the material that the factory baseplates have been made of for years. Phenolic sheet is a hard, dense material made by applying heat and pressure to layers of paper or cloth impregnated with synthetic resin. The layers can be made of cellulose paper or cotton, synthetic fabric, or glass fabric. Under the heat and pressure, a chemical reaction—polymerization—transforms the layers into an industrial laminated plastic.

Phenolic wears and slides extremely well, it's heat resistant, and depending on a particular phenolic's composition, it can be very rigid and strong. I: machines well and doesn't tend to melt and stick like the other plastics. Typically, phenolic plastic is brown or black.

The range of grades is bewildering, and it's difficult to know whether a particular piece will be suitable for your purpose. Try NEMA XX, the lowest grade. The cost of Winch phen-olic in this grade is comparable to the cost of Va-inch acrylic, and so is the strength.

The problem with phenolics Is availability. The plastics dealer who sells you scraps of acrylic and polycarb is unlikely to have scraps of phenolic around. Few of the wholesale-retail dealers even stock phenolics.

There are, however, a few mailorder tool companies offering small pieces of phenolic material for custom baseplate use.

Polyethylene is a lubricious white plastic that can be used to make accessories for baseplates and router tables. Because it is pretty soft and very limber, it isn't a great material for a baseplate. Rut for add-on guide strips, it's great. Credit that primarily to its inherent slippcriness. It's easily worked with woodworking cutters.


Plastic has some worthy uses in woodworking, especially in making strong, practical baseplates, naturally slick router-table sleds, and virtually bulletproof router-table bit guards.

The plastics we are talking about here arc easily worked with typical woodworking tools—saws, drills, sanders. And, yes, routers.

Acrylics and polycarbonates are easily scratched. For this reason, most of these plastics are covered on both sides with protective masking paper. Leave the paper on while you work. Do your layouts with a pencil on the masking paper. After you've cut it. bored the holes, and sanded the edges, peel the paper off.


Almost any rigid plastic, from a laminate to an acrylic to a phenolic, can be cut on your table saw with a carbide-tipped combination blade. The band saw, fitted with a metal-cutting blade, cuts plastics well, especially curves. Of the portable power saws, the saber saw is the most versatile, since it will handle a range of cuts, from bevels to curves. It's especially good for cutting tight-radius curves. And don't forget the router.


With the appropriate bit (see "Bit Drawer" below), you can cut out your plastic baseplate, as well as plunge-bore a throat for the bit and slots for adjusting hardware. Equipped with either a pattern bit or a flush-trimming bit, your router will produce as many duplicate baseplates as you want from a pattern.

Acrylics and polycarbonates arc thermoplastics, which means they are sensitive to heat. Generate too much heat in working them, and they'll gum up that work. So when cutting, back the blade out of the cut as soon as it starts to bind. The length of the band saw blade keeps it cool, so this is less of a problem with the band saw. (In addition, the band saw blade clears chips well, producing a very smooth cut.)



Bosch makes a straight bit just for cutting plastics (catalog number 83611M). It's a V-inch bit with iwo I-inch-long flutes. The cutter geometry gives a surprisingly smooth finish. According to Bosch, this geometry also reduces heat buildup, thus helping to prevent the bit from being "welded in the cut."

Use a Push-trimming hit to duplicate a router baseplate in clear acrylic. Bond the factory baseplate to the acrylic blank using carpet tape. Cut away most of the waste on the band saw or with a saber saw, then use the flush-trimming bit to trim the edge to match the factory baseplate.

Drilling and Counterboring

Drilling holes in plastic is more problematic than cutting it because of its incompressibility, brittleness, and/or low softening temperature. The usual advice Ls to use a highspeed twist bit that's been reground slightly to keep it from splitting or cracking the plastic. The idea is to change the cutting edges from an acute angle to a right, or even an obtuse, angle. What usually happens with an unaltered bit is that it augers into the plastic like a screw, rather than boring a hole. Chuck the customized bit in a variable-speed drill.

Clamp the plastic to a bench top or in a vise. Back it up with a clean board, and protect it from clamp or vise jaws with another wood scrap. Feed the bit into the work slowly and steadily; the drill's speed should be 500 to 1,000 rpm. If the hole is deep and the material a thermoplastic, back the bit out often to clear the chips. Don't stop the bit in the hole: it may get stuck there. As the rip nears the breakthrough point, slow the bit even more.

All this advice notwithstanding, I've found that standard brad-point

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

There are a lot of things that either needs to be repaired, or put together when youre a homeowner. If youre a new homeowner, and have just gotten out of apartment style living, you might want to take this list with you to the hardware store. From remolding jobs to putting together furniture you can use these 5 power tools to get your stuff together. Dont forget too that youll need a few extra tools for other jobs around the house.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment