It's interesting how router table design and construction has evolved. If you were following woodworking periodicals 10 or 15 years ago. you saw plans for smallish bench-top units: maybe a three-sided plywood box with a VV inch plywood tabletop, or something with short legs. Often, the router was hung directly from the tablctop— you'd rout a recess in the plywood and hang your machine from the or Ya inch of material left. Or you'd cut a hole in the plywood, then hang the router from a piece of hardboard with which you covered the entire tablctop. (A tempered hardboard surface would be slicker than plain plywood.)
rials, ones that can be purchased in small towns across America and that can be worked in the typical home woodworking shop.
MDF is a good core material. It is dense, made up of very fine particles, and very stable. But it isn't as readily available as plain fir plywood. If you have access to it, if you like it. then use it. But laminate both sides to maintain its flatness.
Particleboard is probably okay as a core for your tabletop. While some routerheads recommend par-ticlcboard for this use. others contend that it disintegrates from the vibrations of a router. My guess is that a behemoth router and a cheap particleboard make a poor partnership. For an occasional-use table equipped with a midsized router, particleboard is probably okay. For a heavily used table with a big router, go to plywood. As you may know, particleboard is a sheet product composed primarily of sawdust and glue. It has no grain structure, so it lacks
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.
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.
Then a crafty woodworker modified a sink cutout, purchased cheaply at the local lumberyard, and captured the slickness and durability of plastic laminate for the router tabletop. With this sort of tabletop, a mounting plate was needed. Usually, it was an aluminum plate.
More recently, woodworkers have been applying plastic laminate to both sides of a plywood, particleboard, or medium-density fiberboard (MDF) substrate, then cutting a hole in it and suspending the router from a mounting plate of acrylic, polycarbonate, or even phenolic plastic.
The older approaches arc generally regarded, these days, as deficient. But remember that a decade ago, the typical router was a 1- to 1 ^-horsepower model that weighed 6 to 8 pounds. Three-horse. 18-pound behemoths weren't common. A lot of those old tables were built, and many arc still in use.
Consider the criteria for a good router tabletop. (This is the most important part of the router table, after all.) It must be flat, strong, and stable, must both withstand and dampen vibration, must have a hard, tough, slick surface. It must also be made of fairly commonplace mate
plywood's strength. It's made in a variety of grades for a variety of purposes, but it surely is the most common substrate for laminate-covered kitchen counters. Thus, the sink cutouts I mentioned are likely to be particleboard.
As far as I can tell, the big motivation to use a sink cutout for something like a router tabletop is that it's already laminated. Oh. and it's cheap. The hitch is that your table-top should be laminated on both
Plywood can be edged several ways. Yoii can carefully square the lop before applying the laminate, then laminate the edges as well as the faces (center). You can apply the laminate, then glue on '/> to I-inch-thick edge banding cut from maple, oak, or other durable hardwood (top). Or you can edge-band the ply wood and run the laminate out to the edge of this assembled core (bottom), which is how we handled the tabletop in the router-table project "Cabinet Router Table."
sides if it is to maintain its flatness throughout die seasons. The low price and the labor saving thus may be illusions. You buy the cutout, but you still need laminate and contact cement. You laminate the second side, but you still have a less-than-ideal tabletop because it's particle-board inside.
Plywood, in my book (this book), is the ideal substrate. Because its individual veneers have grain direction and strength, and because these veneers crisscross in layers, plywood has great strength diat the other sheet goods don't. The big shortcoming of plywood is that it isn't always perfectly flat. You can compensate for this, however, if you glue up a substrate from two pieces of the plywood. You will probably do this, since in most instances you'll want a table-top at least 1 inch thick.
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