Making A Bench Top Router Table Homemade Machines & Jigs
Very much like my recent wooden clamp project, I’ve also lost count of how many router tables I’ve built over the years. Some were quite elaborate, while others were very simple – basically just a board with the router mounted underneath. All of the more recent ones ones have had lifts to raise and lower the router to set the depth of cut, and the lift is a turning point in the evolution: once you have one to use, you won’t want to go back.
This table is somewhere between those simple ones and the more complex I’ve built. First off, it’s designed to be compact so as not to take up a lot of space. I’ve learned since my early years of doing this that even though a router table is a nearly indispensable tool for a home shop, it may not be used enough to justify the space it consumes. So it makes sense to have one that is easy to store out of the way when it’s not being used.
And even though it is smaller in size, it is still fully functional and includes a lift for fast and accurate height adjustments, my precision router lift. In fact, this table was designed around that lift from the ground up.
To get started on the build, I first printed off the plans and cut out all of the parts. I used lower cost sanded 1/2″ plywood to make the cabinet of the router table and the fence, but went with Baltic birch plywood for the top. While the top on a router table doesn’t need to be precision machine-shop flat, it does need to be within reason, so I recommend the better quality ply for that. Another possibility for the top is melamine or even MDF, but these are considerably less durable than plywood.
Keep in mine that when working from plans, you may have to adjust some dimensions to make up for material thickness that varies. Usually plywood is thinner than the stated thickness and I cover how to deal with that in this video.
After cutting the top to size, I machined the slots for the fence in each edge with my trim router and a 1/2″ bit:
I just clamped an offcut of plywood on to act as a fence for the router and cut the slot in two passes.
Next, I cut out the hole for the insert. This is done in passes as well, using my circle cutting jig:
I cut halfway in from the top, then flipped it over and routed in from the bottom at the smaller radius to end up with a hole that has a lip for the insert to sit on.
I also cut a notch in the lip to make cleaning the dust out easier:
I chose to make my insert opening round like this, but it can also be cut square. Round has the advantage of having no corners for dust to get lodged in.
Next, I cut the dust port through the top with a 2-1/8″ hole saw:
This connects with the fence to improve dust collection on the top of the table.
I eased over the edges of the dust port hole and the slots with a chamfering bit in my trim router:
And used sandpaper on the edges of the insert hole. That’s something to avoid on a router table top – sharp edges that can catch of the stock as you are feeding it through.
Even though I don’t think I’ll use it, I cut a miter slot that is the standard 3/4″ wide:
It makes sense to do it now while working on the top, even if you don’t think you’ll need it.
And here’s what the top looks like when it’s finished:
Since the top is the most complex part of the project, I made a video showing how I made mine:
I made the insert plate next and took the time to make sure they were exactly flush with the top of the table:
I used plywood from the same sheet I cut the top from, to avoid any mismatch in thickness. Another option for an insert is to use 1/4″ thick plastic or even metal.
I made three at the same time, since setting up to make the rabbet cut around the rim of each insert takes the most time. I drilled one with a 1″ hole, and another with a 2″ hole for slightly larger bits. The third I left blank for future use:
I made these inserts to just sit into the hole, but they can be secured with small screws, if you want. One reason to secure the plate is to use a starter pin that would screw into the plate. I’ve always used the fence in a situation where a starter pin would be used, so I didn’t add one to mine. Also, the exhaust from the router can lift the insert plate, so you may want to add screws to stop that from happening. Small magnets set into the plate that stick to steel screws in the recess would also be an option. I did that on an earlier router table.
I made the parts that clamp the fence to the table next:
The handles have 1/4″ threaded studs that screw into t-nuts in the keepers:
Note the small screw to keep the t-nut from coming out.
I can move on to assembly, starting with the side panels:
My goal with all of my projects is to make them as practical and easy to make as possible, with no odd cuts or complex joinery. This is a good example of that – just rectangular sides with straight cuts and solid wood cleats glued on. I used pin nails to hold the cleats while the glue dries.
Same goes for the mounting cleats that hold the table down. Just glued in place:
These cleats will be handy for clamping the table down to a workbench while using it, and can also be used to bolt it down to a stand for a more permanent installation.
The back panel is screwed on next:
I didn’t use glue on this, just in case I need to take it apart in future.
I installed the lift next, and screwed on the front panel:
I then added the hand wheel and locking knob. Note the smaller, more low profile locking knob.
I took the router out of the table saw extension wing it was in, and mounted it in this new lift:
This is one that I’ve had for around 20 years, and it looks it! But it still works well and that’s really all that matters.
Long ago I cut the cord on this router to use in an earlier table, so I’ve got to work with that here. I’ll just repeat what I did in the extension wing router table for the wiring on this.
I mounted the switch box in the front panel:
But another option is to surface mount the box, like this:
If using a router with a cord that is not cut, you can use an extension cord that has more than one plug on the end, to run the router and the shop vac. In mine, the router is wired directly into the switch box and the other end of the cord has a plug for the shop vac:
Of course, this can be simplified if you are not switching a shop vac on with the router, but I do recommend (strongly) that there be some kind of effective dust collection for this table. All you need to do is cut the same size hole as your hose inlet in the side panel if using the router table on a bench or assembly table. If mounting on a stand, you’ll want to connect the hose directly below the router lift in a panel (or the top of the stand) that completely encloses the bottom of the router table cabinet.
With the wiring out of the way, the top can be installed. The plans show measurements, but it is always best to line up the top with the router installed:
And to fasten it in place, I used four screws through the top:
The screws are countersunk flush and are the most practical way to attach it. If screws through the top like this triggers some kind of quality obsession that some people have, they can be driven from the underside.
Assembly of the fence is next, and that is fairly straightforward:
Again, just glue and nails to hold the parts together. I show a simple way to cut the slots in the fence backer in this video.
With the movable fence fronts installed, it’s mounted on the table:
Those fence fronts open and close to accommodate different size bits. The out-feed side one can also be shimmed out slightly to use the table as an edge jointer.
Wing nuts on the back loosen and tighten to adjust the fence fronts:
Overall, the fence design is simple, but also has advanced features like those movable fronts and the integral dust port. It has a wide range of movement from front to back using the hold downs.
I made a video showing the assembly from beginning to first test cut:
If you are interested in building one of these for yourself, plans are available:
Note that the router table plans do not include the router lift plans, which is sold separately.