How To: Make a Router Table Out of Your Tablesaw Drop Top With an Adjustable Solid Wood Fence, and Solid Wood Fence Plate

Make a Router Table Out of Your Tablesaw Drop Top With an Adjustable Solid Wood Fence, and Solid Wood Fence Plate

Materials

  • 4 - 5" long bolts
  • 4 matching nuts
  • 8 heavy duty flat washers
  • 4 to 6 - 2" taper head screws
  • Longer bolts to mount the router base to a thicker surface. These must match the thread of the original bolts that came with the router.
  • 1 hunk of wood - 1 1/2" thick x 4" wide x 36" long minimum
  • 1 board 3/4" thick x 2" wide x match above length

Tools

  • Drill 
  • Drill bits
  • Possibly a hole saw
  • Jig saw
  • Chop/cutoff saw
  • Countersink bit
  • Wrenches or sockets
  • Screwdrivers or drill/screw gun
  • Possibly allen wrenches depending on your router base bolts

Tip

  • If you have no tablesaw drop top, you can make a table and follow these instructions.

Step 1 Find a Place to Work

Locate a place that you will be able to work comfortably, and that will not move around when you put various pressures on it. In my case, I have a 4'x8' sheet of melamine for a drop top. It is attached to the cabinets below it, and takes a forklift to move, but you may need to fabricate something sturdy.

Make sure that it will support long pieces in both directions. Parallel to the fence, and perpendicular to it.

Step 2 Lay Out Pattern

Next, you will need to lay out the hole pattern for your particular router plate on the table. Just hold it down tightly, and trace all the holes that are pertinent to your needs. The holes that the screws go through, and the hole for the bit to go through.

Step 3 Drill and Countersink Screws

Drill and countersink the screw holes just enough to position the top of the screw a few hairs lower than the work surface. If the screw heads stick up they will drag on work pieces, and make scratches. It will probably cause the work pieces to stick, jump, tweak, bind, etc. If you go too deep, you lose strength in the assembly.

Find a drill bit that is larger than the router bit you intend to use by an 1/8 or so, and drill through the center of the circle you traced for the router bit hole. Dead center is important.

If you intend to use a dust collector, you may want to leave more space for around the router bit for air flow. Mine is about 3 1/2" around now because I have some huge bits. I just use a jigsaw to rough the hole out when I need to enlarge it.

Step 4 Mount Router Base

It is now ready for the router base to be mounted to the bottom side of the table top. These need to be pretty tight, or they will vibrate loose over time. Periodically check their tightness for safety anyway, ideally each time you use it.

Step 5 Work on the Fence

Now we concentrate on the fence.

Get a thick hunk of wood. I chose a 2" thick x 5" wide x 36" long piece of poplar. You can use a 2 x 6, or a 4 x 4, or something along those lines. Bear in mind that you will be putting screws into, and removing screws from it frequently. Also keep in mind that it needs to be as straight, and twist free as possible for optimum results.

Step 6 Drill Holes into Table

For ease or attachment, and adjustment, you will want to drill oversized, or slotted holes in the table top to mount the fence to, and drop bolts through holes in the fence into them.

Place the hunk of wood on the table top where you want it to go.

The business edge of the hunk should run across the center of the hole you made for the bit. You need to place it in such a way that you can comfortably push material through the router bit. Center it lengthwise, or put more on the drop end. Once you feel you have it where you want it, trace it on the table top so you can put it back if you move it somehow.

Mark 4 holes along the length of the hunk, about 2 inches from the business edge of the hunk. Make sure you are not going to drill into your router base. Clamp the hunk down in place, and drill holes through the hunk, and table top simultaneously. Make the holes just big enough to slip your bolts through without it being too snug.

Step 7 Run Slots

Take the hunk off the table top and either run slots perpendicular to the direction the workpiece moves, or enlarge the holes for adjustment purposes. Use the holes you just made as your starting point. You need to be able to move the fence up to a half inch back and forth, and possibly side to side a bit.

Step 8 Mount

Mount the hunk with the bolts, and washers. Put washers on the top, and the bottom. Otherwise you will dig holes with the bolt heads, and nuts. Make sure the bottom washers are very strong, since you have a loose hole. Assuming everything went smoothly, and fit well, remove the bolts, and move on. If not, you probably just need to wobble the table top holes out a little bigger.

Now you need to cut a chunk out of the hunk that will accomodate the router bit you chose. Since it will be located directly over the bit, it needs to be a cave like opening. I just used a jigsaw on a 45 degree angle, and chiseled the cave out from that. Later I added a 4" hole for the dust collector, and made the cave into a tunnel, but we'll discuss that in a minute. Make the cave oversize.

Step 9 Add Fence Plates

Now we move on the the fence plates.

The best way is to get a 2" to 4" wide flat board the same length as the hunk/fence, and cut it in two pieces. The harder the wood is, the longer it will last. Make the cut where the bit goes, creating two equally thick plates, that will reside on either side of the router bit. Make sure you keep the two freshly cut ends toward eachother. This is the best way to have an even surface on each side of the bit.

Step 10 Fit the Plates

Here is the tricky part. Now you need to fit the plates to the bit.

Put everything together, and adjust the fence so that the plates line up with the business side of the bit, or bearing when they are held against the fence. Basically, where it will be when you are running material through. Lock it down with the bolts. Adjust the height of the bit, and tighten the base.

Turn on the router, and VERY CAREFULLY slide the plate along the fence, into the side of the bit. This will cut the end of your fence plate to the shape of the bit. Repeat for the other plate. Remember to do this to the ends that go towards the bit, where you made your cut earlier.

Turn the router off, and hold the plates up against the fence. Hold them 1/32" to 1/16" away from touching the bit, or bearing. The bit should be partially within the plate. Clamp them there. Drill and countersink 2 or 3 holes through each plate, into the fence. I recommend 2" holes and screws, or longer. Don't drill into your bolts.

Screw the plates in place.

Step 11 Do a Final Placement Adjustment

Do a final placement adjustment of the fence now that the plates are attached, and you are ready to go. The way we made the plates should drastically reduce chipping, splintering, and blow outs.

Repeat the plate making process for any bit you desire.

Use the plates to set the bits close to the desired position, and this will help speed things up. They will get worn and will not make good set up jigs later.

Tips

  • I recommend running a set up piece of wood for each bit once you have it dialed (make a set up jig), and write save on it. This way every time you use the bit you can use the jig to set the bit at the exact same height you had it before. Match your own stuff for years to come.
  • If you do not have a vacuum attachment on the router base, you may want to read on. I just drilled a 4" hole through my fence with a hole saw, but you can use a jigsaw. Then I jigsawed my cave into an arch, making it into a tunnel to the 4" hole. Then I bought a 4" hose flange, and dropped a 4" dryer hose down from a new port I made in my dust collection tube. You can use any dust collector size, and or hose size, depending on what you have. I just have 4".
  • Check out the video gallery below for a detailed process.

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