My cheap Wolfcraft router table has served me well, but it’s time to upgrade to something a little larger that can accommodate my new Rockler Router Lift FX. Rather than buy one of the pre-made router table tops, I decided that I would build a new router table top.
Why would anyone want to build their own router table top when they could buy one pre-made? I can think of at least three reasons:
- You can build one with the options you want cheaper than you can buy it.
- You like building things yourself.
- You want a larger sized table (most router tables are 24″ x 32″.
Besides the router lift, I purchased a 3′ section of Bench Dog Dual Track for the miter gauge slot. This track has both the standard 3/4″ miter slot and T-track side by side in the same extrusion. While you can use an expanding piece that wedges in the miter slot to hold feather boards and jigs in place, the T-track is just that much easier to use.
Router Table Top Materials
Finding the right material was one of the hardest parts of planning my new table. I started by looking at an article on Rockler about choosing a router table where they talk about the pros and cons of different top materials. The best material is cast iron of course, but that’s right out since I neither want to spend that much nor have the ability to work the cast iron. It’s also very heavy. Phenolic is another wise choice, but it’s expensive and very hard on bits. The last material they talk about is MDF.
Of course there are other materials you could use, I was toying with the idea of using some phenolic faced plywood I had picked up on sale, but after I let it acclimatize to my shop I found that it was slightly warped. Of course there are ways to flatten it like using some angle iron to pull it flat on the underside, but I didn’t want to deal with it. Stone whether natural or man made, or solid counter top material would also be good candidates.
I finally choose to screw together two pieces of 3/4″ MDF because it’s cheap and stable, even with temperature and humidity changes. After almost a year my drill press table has remained flat going from the 80ºF and 70% humidity to 40ºF and 10% humidity. Also you can replace the top sheet, with a little work, if it becomes damaged.
Some would cover the MDF with a smooth laminate material. I seriously thought about this until I had trouble finding laminate locally that was smooth, and if it was smooth it was patterned after some type of stone and not a single uniform color. I could special order a sheet, but at that point I was waiting for it and paying at least $40. We’ll see how well bare MDF works. If I need the surface to be a little slicker I might try waxing it.
Leveling the plate
To level the router plate I decided to use a variation of the system I used on my drill press table insert, a screw and jam nut threaded into a threaded insert in the MDF. Only this time I’ll use 10-24 sized hardware.