Over the past two weeks I have been working on the top for my new router table. In my last post I described the dilemma I faced concerning a new router lift. My solution was much more affordable than buying a router lift and a new router. Affordable was good because as I continued to purchase items for the table top, I began to rack up a sizable tab.
I picked up some melamine coated particle board for the top – this is the same material I used for the little table that previously resided adjacent to my table saw. I picked up a Kreg Precision Router Table Insert Plate PRS3030 at Woodcraft. I also purchased a Kreg t-track and a 80 tooth table saw blade which hopefully will mean chip-free cuts in the melamine. These items totaled more than $150.00 – it is funny how things can add up in a hurry.
Making the top is challenging work
The first step towards a new table top was to cut it to final size. For cutting the melamine, I followed the recommendations of Todd Clippinger. The Freud table saw blade Todd recommended made perfect cuts in the melamine – zero chipping along the new edges.
Next up: create the hole for the router plate. The unforeseen problem I mentioned in the photo caption above is this: the corners of the new plate have a rather large 3/4 inch radius curve, which means I had to use a 1 1/2 inch drill bit to cut a matching hole in the melamine top. The Kreg router plate did not have any handy tips for making this cut, but I did find instructions for a very similar router plate at Shop Notes.com. I followed their instructions and this is what I created…
The corners don’t align with each other and they are mostly out of alignment with the straight cuts. For me, the Shop Notes tip was largely useless; with my drill press table being too small, I was relegated to using my cordless drill which does not provide the accuracy needed. I did have good results cutting melamine with a router bit, so I explored a solution of my own (all photos are clickable for a larger view).
Using the same 1 1/2 inch bit in my drill press, I begin creating corners for a MDF template which my router could ride against. Making individual corners means I can position them against the router plate for a tight fit. I added strips of MDF to fill in between the corners to complete the template. I stick the template in place with some double-sided tape.
I love these sawhorses. I have had them only a short time and they have been very handy. Here they provide elevated support for the melamine top while giving me plenty of room to route with no worries about the bit coming into contact with something it shouldn’t. I have it positioned near my table saw so I can use some dust collection.
With the router plate cut-out completed, time to complete the table top…
An important part of the table top is the structure which will support the router. For this, I loosely followed the Fine Woodworking article which inspired me to build this router table. The undercarriage you see above is similar to what was shown in John White’s article. Just like Mr. White, I utilized sheet rock screws for much of the joinery. To attach it to the table top, I used pocket screws and 100% silicone as an adhesive (thanks to Todd Clippinger for the silicone tip).
I used my #4 bench plane and a card scraper to smooth the table edge flush with the melamine and then I added a slight chamfer on the edge.
Attaching the top to the case
As you can see from the photos, my shop floor is concrete which has subtle undulations here and there. I had to devise a way to compensate for this knowing I wanted the table top to align perfectly with the surface of the adjacent table saw. Since I have casters at the base which don’t adjust vertically, I needed to come up with an adjustable top. To do this, I added a board to the inside of the case sides…
The top rests on four sheet rock screws which I can simply screw in or out so the top aligns with the height of the table saw. The banding which surrounds the top over laps the case sides hiding any gaps from the leveling process. Later I will use additional screws to lock the top in place and I’ll add a wooden clamp to secure the top to the table saw.
At this point, I am really pleased with the progress. After I get the top totally finished, I’ll move on to building the fence. And then I have a variety of small tasks to take care of (like an on/off switch) before the router table is 100% completed.
One of the items to complete for the table top is mounting my new router. I decided to purchase the Bosch 1617 EVSTB router which has some router lift style features built into it. In the comments from my last post on the router table, Ben Johnson and I were thinking the same – he suggested I look at this style of router. This is an affordable option and I can still move up to a true router lift at some point in the future. I’ll mount the router to the plate this week and begin seeing how this router works.
Move to the next post in this series by clicking here.
NEW WOODWORKING PLAN: How to make a large painted bookcase – this plan covers the construction of a bookcase I built for a co-worker and was designed to be simple to build, yet stylish. See the free plan by clicking here.
Previous posts in this series
New Router Table: Getting Started
New Router Table: Making Progress and Making Mistakes
New Router Table: Drawer Construction
New Router Table: Adding the Base
New Router Table: To Lift or Not to Lift – That is the Question