Building Router Tables
How to Build your Own Router Table, a Step by Step Guide
The router table is one of the most versatile and popular tools in the workshop. But sometimes they can have very big price tags. If you are thinking about making your own to cut some of the costs, this article can be a big help. I would like to help you walk through the decision process and the building process for this very fun project.
There are a number of questions you need to ask yourself before you let one ounce of sawdust fly.
- What kind of features do you want on the table?
- Where do you get the parts for this project.
Those two questions are the two you need to start with since they will drive all the other decisions you need to make along the way.
There are some real nice features to have on your table and some you might not need. There is no sense in adding features you do not need if you are trying to keep the cost down.
This allows you to use aftermarket jigs such as featherboards and coping sleds. This will come in handy if you plan on making some raised panel cabinet doors
Router table Insert.
Unless you have either the Triton routers or the Freud above the table router, you will need an insert. The insert is what the router is attached to and allows you to take the router in and out of the table. The Triton routers and the Freud routers would allow you to bolt them directly to a table top provided you had some sort of Ring set that you could pop in and out of the table. Most router tables use inserts.
Fences with dust collection
Fences come in two basic flavors, split and fixed. Split fences allow you to to move the fence extension wings in and out towards the router bit. Fixed fences are usually one piece of solid wood or mdf with a dust port opening. You can really go prehistoric and just use a straight piece of wood clamped to your table top. It really depends on the projects you are going to make. Most fences ride on some T-track that is flush mounted into the table.
Either your table will sit on its own stand or be a bench top model. This always depends on how much room you have.
Now that you have picked your features, and have an idea of what you want, its time to determine the size of the table. Size is usually predicated on how much room you have in your shop. A full size table is usually approximately 24" x 32" Bench top tables can be anything smaller than that. Most of the time bench top tables don't have all the features of the larger full size tables, but this is changing. The Super Benchby Router Table Depot is a good example of this. They also carry a kit in which you can buy all the components for building your router table. This makes things much simpler.
Building the top is the hardest part of the whole process. You basically are building a table top. If you are wise, build it as thick as possible. I whole heartedly recommend 1 ½ inches thick. You can do this by glueing two sheets of ¾ mdf together. Use contact cement to make the job go faster.
- Cut two pieces of MDF to your desired size.
- When they are dry, inspect them to make sure they are absolutely flush.
- Draw two diagonal lines from corner to corner to find the absolute center of the project.
- Line your insert up so that it is centered over this hole perfectly, do not be in a hurry here.
- Trace a line around the insert with a very sharp pencil.
- Now make a box inside that tracing that measures 3/8" from the outside.
Cut it Out
7. Next you want to cut out the middle or inner box. You can use a jig saw if you are careful not to bend the blade. Try to use a high quality jig saw. I have seen some woodworkers cut it out with the router as well.
Cut the ledge
8. This leaves you with the original insert tracing, now for the tricky part. You want to make a ledge for the router insert to sit on. Take a straight bit and rout out the 3/8" line so it looks like the diagram below. Try to make the depth the same as the insert or slightly deeper (1/100th or so)
This is how it will look when you place the insert in
That is the hardest part of the whole assembly.
There is another way to go about that is worth mentioning. Instead of routing out the 3/8 lip you would skip the step of drawing in the box inside of the insert tracing. This would leave you with just the insert tracing which you would cut out with a jig saw or any other method.
Then you would take some hardwood and make a small square that would fit inside the hole you just cut out. It would be like the ledge you routed out in the previous example but a little easier to make. You could just cut out one piece at a time and glue them in.
If you can cut out this piece in one piece it could look like this
Applying Laminate to the router table
Alright moving down the highway of learning ( and more of the fun stuff)
Next you will apply the laminate. You can get plain old white laminate at Lowes or Home Depot. If you do not want to buy a sheet, you can maybe swing into a cabinet shop and ask them for some scraps.
Take some contact cement and coat the entire top with it as well as the bottom side of the laminate. Follow the directions on the can. When dry apply the laminate to the mdf and roll out the bubbles. When this is dry take a flush trim bit and trim the laminate around the mdf. The flush trim bit makes the laminate perfectly flush.
Now your top is covered, you can elect to make it even more attractive by putting some hardwood trim around the edges. Use standard ¾" wood and glue on one edge at a time. Be careful to make sure the hardwood is flush with the laminate.
Applying hardwood trim, Diagram 11
Lastly if you choose to have a miter track you will need to either rout out a groove to accept the miter track or use a dado blade on the saw. The depth of the groove should be the same or slightly deeper than the miter track.
Miter Track Groove (dado)
T-tracks for the fence can be flush mounted.
T-tracks for the router table
Finally, the finished router table
Last but not least you can construct the stand of your choice and install the fence. Whether you buy a fixed fence or a split fence, they both are easy to ride in the t-tracks. Again a good kit will give you everything you need to make the top with the features you want.
Router Table Builder Video
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Scott Gese on April 17, 2018:
I built one from plans out of a woodworking magazine several years ago. I use it a lot.
Any woodworker that doesn't own one doesn't have a complete shop in my opinion.
As a woodworker I believe in making whatever jigs and tools I can myself. It's all part of the fun of having a woodworking hobby.
sam on March 25, 2013:
yea good explaining through the steps properly....... NOT!!!
DEPAK on May 14, 2012:
NO-36 300*3000*12MM @ 9.73 PLEASE ANSWER TOTAL K.G
Michael Parks on February 09, 2012:
Great help man, your are the man
Ted on January 30, 2012:
when cutting out the slots for the t tracks, do you do that after the lament is glued down?
Bandook on August 29, 2011:
In response to Hillsboro Carpenter.
I am working on my table now and perhaps where i live things are cheaper?
Half sheet of 3/4" mdf, 12.00
1/4" sheet mdf, 7.00
2x4's for stand, 10-12.00
I used one of those finished shelves that you can buy for the fence. Cost about 3 bucks.
Odds and ends....maybe another 10 bucks.
So i'll come in under 50 bucks. I made some changes, but this will work for me and my budget, and still be 100x's better than the cheap metal crapsman table that I am using now.
Changes I made, I used 3/4" mdf and glued on 1/4" mdf that had cutout for router plate. The 3/4" has a smaller opening to support the router plate which is just 1/4" mdf. There is really no flex at all in the plate, and if it ever does sag I'll take 10 minutes and make another. Instead of laminate, I'm just building up some shellac, which I will wax for a silky smooth surface.
I plan on putting in t-track, but for now, on a budget, this table will surely get the job done.
Thanks for the write-up!
Harvey on August 18, 2011:
Thank you for posting this!! I've been looking for so long for someone to post something like this. However, I have a few questions. Would it make a difference whether the insert pocket is machined before or after applying laminate (so I could skip the trimming of the insert pocket)? What type of material is recommended for the insert? Once again thank you very much.
Hillsboro Carpenter on June 26, 2011:
While I would agree that making a router table would provide a great deal of satisfaction and consume spare time on a weekend. However, if one looks at the financial aspect of the effort one has to question whether the effort is truly worth it. Example:
MDF 2x4x0.75 $23 (Homedepot)
Laminate $12 (Homedepot)
Stand $60 (Bench top from Router Table Depot)
Fence Kit $88 (Bench top from Router Table Depot)
Hardware Kit $155 (Bench top from Router Table Depot)
From my research a decent pre-made bench top router table could be acquired for significantly less and be put into immediate use.
Dust Magnet on February 26, 2011:
Have any idea how to make a horizontal router table?
Multiman on February 03, 2011:
Very good step by step!
Ken Schulte (author) on December 19, 2010:
Thanks John, one thing I have learned there is more knowledge in 73 year olds than a dozen 30 year olds.
John Carr on December 19, 2010:
I am a 73 year old fool I think that you have made things essey for me to build a router table
Ken Schulte (author) on September 21, 2010:
Yes that would work, you can make one out of just about anything as long as you have a decent thickness to the top.
Joey Grimland on September 20, 2010:
I have a modular desk that I can't use anymore and thought the top of the table would make a great router table. It's thick. Do you think it would work as a router table? I could send you close up pic...
Lenny on July 01, 2010:
Ken Schulte (author) on July 01, 2010:
You do not bolt it, it sits down in that groove and is held down by the weight of the router.
Lenny on June 30, 2010:
This is a stupid question but how do you bolt the router plate to the MDF lip. Thank you.
Ken Schulte (author) on June 12, 2010:
Cool, glad to help out!
Mark S. on May 24, 2010:
Thanks for these instructions. Very clear. I've got my woodworking workbench made and I wanted to tackle the router bench next. This is a great help.
Ken Schulte (author) on March 17, 2010:
No you can put it anywhere you want. The center example is where most people want to put theirs.
andy on March 16, 2010:
Is there a reason to pick the center of the table for the insert? I'd like to offset mine to the rear of table more in case I want to edge a wider piece and have enough table under it.
Ken Schulte (author) on December 09, 2009:
It really does not matter, I would buy something that has snap out rings so that you could use some bigger bits later on down the line. I go to router table depot or the router maniac or rockler.
Steve on December 09, 2009:
Hi, I am happy with my Dewalt products and am thinking of buying the 618Dewalt combo. My question is which router plate insert would you recommend? Which is a good company to buy router products? Thanks for the help.
Bren on November 17, 2009:
Great work easy to read ,as a novice woodworker a bonus.
Chamanlal on September 13, 2009:
Extremely helpful tip. Thank you ever so much
Ken Schulte (author) on June 29, 2009:
Cool, thanks for the good details. It helps everyone.
Bob Jones on June 29, 2009:
Thanks for the info! After some trial and error trying to drill the holes exactly aligned with my router (into the "bull's eye" router plate) I finally got it and thought I'd share with others. The first problem was the (non-removable) posts and location of the holes on my router base made it difficult to get my drill in straight. This was solved by lightly spray-painting the base (at the holes) so that little circles showed on the plate. Then it was simply a matter of carefully drilling in the middle of the painted circle. (Those of you who have a drill press can skip this next problem.) In addition, the drill was really beating up the plate as I increased bit size. I ended up drilling through a 2x4, carefully lining up the screw from the bottom, clamping the plate onto the 2x4, then using the 2x4 as a guide - worked like a charm! The third problem was counter-sinking the screws. I didn't have a large enough counter-sink bit, but I did have a large enough (1/2") bit to counter-bore deep enough to accommodate the screw head - same process with the 2x4.
Thanks again for the info Router Maniac!
Ken Schulte (author) on July 23, 2008:
andred hunte on July 22, 2008:
thanks so much for taking the time to save me hours and hours of stress
Ken Schulte (author) on June 09, 2008:
I would'nt say genious, but thanks!
Pedro Malave on June 07, 2008:
Hi router maniac : To be honest, i feel a special feeling for routers, i love them and i have searching on the web good ideas to adapt a router to a table , yes, there are a lot of pages on that subject, but not to clear to my low intelligence, until i found your wise, simple bright ideas to do the job,oh man you are a genious! God blees you.
Dan Ragnoni on January 31, 2008:
Thanks for the help...this makes it so easy!
Peter M. Lopez from Sweetwater, TX on January 31, 2008:
Great hub, very informative. I will give this a try some day.
BobLaGatta on January 30, 2008:
You make this so simple. Great job.