Woodworker's Central
Woodworker's Gazette
Gazette Archive

by Joe Johns

D iscussion on the woodworking list at The Oak has basically covered everything you ever wanted to know about router tables but were afraid to ask. And so, what prompted me to write this article? Well, there was general chatter about which router - fixed or plunge - worked best mounted in the table, some friendly bantering as to whether or not a vacuum port should be in the router area and whether to buy or build. Indeed, it appeared that some folks were about as vague on router tables as most woodworkers are on nuclear physics.
So, in an effort to assist those wishing to build a better router table, I decided that it wouldn't suffice to just write an article about it, but that I had to actually build the table and document the project with pictures. The anal types will note the classification, based on the construction techniques, should be labeled as a cabinet and not a "table". Technically they'd be right, but since the traditional terminology is router table, that is what I'll call it.

T he best place to start, I suppose, is to determine the need for a router table. Quite simply, if you have a router then you need a router table. A table allows the woodworker to perform operations that would normally be virtually impossible without one. Since the purpose of this article deals with building one rather than the how-to and/or uses of a router table, I'll leave the reader to their own devices in finding this information. However, I will point you in the general direction of Patrick Speilman, perhaps the most well-known authority on the router; his books on the subject are quite extensive.

N ow that the issue of need has been resolved let's cut to the chase and start making your new router table....

Step 1 - The Carcass

The size of the tabletop for a router table shouldn't be much greater than 2' x 3' therefore the size of my carcass was 21" d. x 33" w. while the height should be determined by the user (my basic carcass is 30 1/4" from the floor but add the tabletop and the feet, the overall height is 32 1/2").
This dimension allows the counter top to extend past the carcass by 1 1/2" on three sides and 4" on the front, providing for easy clamping of jigs and accessories. The size shouldn't be much less than this either because of the work you can expect to perform at the router table. I've seen them larger and smaller but this size has always been my favorite.

Just like the workbench, the router table's height should be where you can stand comfortably over it while work is being performed. This is also a safety issue because being able to see exactly what is going on while using the router table should be of paramount concern to the operator.

The actual dimensions of this carcass are 20 1/4" d. x 33" w. x 30 1/4" h.

4 partitions - 19 3/4" x 24 3/4"
1 intermediate shelf - 11 1/2" x 11 3/4"
1 intermediate back - 11 1/2" x 14"
1 bottom - 19 3/4" x 33"
1 back - 25 1/2" x 33"
2 toe-kick - 4 3/4" x 26
4 toe-kick - 4 3/4" x 18 1/4"


I made the toe-kick 4 3/4" high so that by the time the face frame is placed onto the carcass, the resulting space between the bottom of the face frame and the floor will yield 3 1/2", which is pretty much standard for a toe-kick. I also allowed the toe-kick to surround three sides so that a person can stand comfortably anywhere around it.
The toe-kick and the carcass are made entirely from particleboard. The hole for the dust collection port in the router compartment is drilled at a point centered on 5 3/4" from the left and 5 7/8" from the front of the intermediate shelf. It is advisable to drill or cut this hole before you assemble the carcass. Make this hole big enough so that the large end of the 3" PVC adapter fits tightly. Strike your lines on the bottom and back where the partitions will sit then glue and staple (or screw or nail or whatever) the carcass and toe-kick assembly together. I wouldn't recommend gluing the toe-kick assembly to the bottom of the carcass because you may have to remove it at some point in the future. The intermediate back sits on top of the intermediate shelf so that 7 1/4" lies in-between the back and the intermediate back.

Step 2 - The Face Frame

Face frame cutting list (stiles are vertical, rails are horizontal - I used Red Oak because of its hardness but use what you wish)

2 outside stiles - 2" x 26 3/4"
2 inside stiles - 2" x 22 3/4"
2 outside rails - 2" x 29 3/4"
6 drawer rails - 2" x 7 1/8"
1 shelf rail - 2" x 11 1/2"

Assembly of the face frame is straightforward, however be sure that the shelf rail is 12" down on the center stiles and the drawer rails are 4 3/16" apart. If the carcass was assembled correctly, the inside edges of the center stiles will be flush with the center partitions and the shelf rail should be flush with the shelf.

The face frame will probably get your vote as the section most likely to make you set your hair on fire. This is because of the number of pieces all needing to be glued and set into their proper places all at the same time. But, if you work on it with a plan and don't get excited, you'll adapt and overcome.
With this particular glue-up, be sure to have your clamps at the ready. I used polyurethane glue, which has about the same working time as regular yellow carpenter's glue, because I like the way it expands as it cures. Use whatever glue you feel comfortable with. A biscuit jointer could also be used but since strength within the frame isn't necessary, it would really be overkill and make assembly that much more hectic. I used 7 clamps and glued the entire assembly together at the same time. Once the face frame is assembled and in clamps, set it aside to cure.

Continued on Page 2

Back to the Gazette

Contact Us
We encourage all our visitors to send us
their thoughts, suggestions and complaints.