A Disposable Router Table
Mar 2007, Jan 2010
(click photos for larger versions.)
A Work In Progress...
There are lots of fancy full cabinet router table plans out there. I frankly don't have the space for one of those in my shop, unless I do some serious rearranging, and get rid of some tables or such.
There are also lots of commercial tables out there, priced all the way from (piece of junk) to (not bad) and right up to (sound of passing out). Some are portable, which would work in my current small shop.
But, as this is (so far) still a hobby, cost is an issue that cannot be ignored or claimed as an expense on my taxes.
Finally, I'm also trying to see how long I can get along with this old (ancient?) Rockwell router that I my Dad gave me when he retired. I've got a nice Hitachi plunge router for hand work, so I thought that this old D-handle router could live out it's life permanently table mounted. I could buy a new one, but do remember the previous paragraph.
So this is what I came up with as a cheap, simple, accurate, and portable, router table solution. It is a sort of a cross between an article in the April'05 Popular Woodworking magazine, and Pat Warner's basic design, and of course my own humble design skills round out the plan and bring it all together.
I call this a "Disposable" router table, as the cost is low enough to be practically free. Also, the effort to build it was pretty minimal, so if I only get some limited use out of it -- even if only enough use to find out what I want to change in the next one -- even then it will have been worth while.
I started with a Seven Dollar piece of half-inch MDF, 24x48" in size, from the local big box home store. Along with that I also picked up a short extension cord, and a few electrical bits. Net cost for the whole table, therefore, was no more than about Twenty dollars.
The MDF was cut down to 24"x24" to give a top, pictured here.
(In the photo it was being used with some Woodline dovetailing jig
parts.) A hole is drilled for access to the router bit, and some
holes counterbored for mounting the router base. I removed the D-Handle,
to make the base smaller for mounting.
(NOTE: see below for later changes to the top size, 24x24
was too large!)
The rest of the MDF was cut into a sort of horseshoe shape to fit around the router, and then glued and screwed to the top in a torsion box arrangement to keep the top flat and strong. I purposely made this smaller than the top, as I'll want the edge open for clamping.
This underneath photo shows the sub-top assembly. It also shows
the electrical hookup. The extension cord was cut, fed through a
switch, and out the back. The sides are some random scrap plywood,
ripped to about 12" tall and fastened to the two sides of the torsion
That brings us to the end. No fancy router raising gizmos, or above the table bit changing options. Just take the motor out of the base and do the work from above. The fence is a simple affair, which is clamped to the table for use. I will be making some adjustable sacrificial faces for sliding closer to the bit, but haven't gotten around to it just yet.
The top was finished with a quick coat of Tried-n-True "original wood
finish", which is just a mixture of beeswax and Linseed Oil. Wiped on,
allowed to sit, and buffed out.
That's all for now. More details after I've used it for a few months.
I know, it's hardly anything fancy. Let me repeat: Even if I only get limited use out of it -- even if only enough use to find out what I want to change in the next one -- even then it will have been worth while.
I've had this router table for 3 years now, and should have updated this web page a long time ago.
The one change I have made is to the size. Very quickly after building this table I realized that the table was just too big and unweildy. Instead I partially dismantled the table and trimmed it down so the top was 18" deep by 24" wide. (as opposed to 24x24) This was a bit tricky, but the result was a much more compact unit.
The other tweak is that I later picked up a current model Porter Cable PC690 router which I mounted permanently under the table. (That router is basically the "grandson" of the Rockwell router that I had been using. The company has gone through a few owners in the intervening decades, but that PC690 router has hardly changed. The two motors, though separated by 30 years of age, at a guess, both fit in the other's bases.)
Otherwise, the basic design of the table has passed the test of time. For a hobbyist with modest shop space, and modest router demands, this router table has worked fine for me. It can easily be packed away when not needed, which saves valuable space, and has a large enough table surface.
Here are a few snapshots of the updated table, showing the new router, as well as the smaller top. Doesn't look much different...
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