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    How to Build a Simple Router Table

    Learn how to build a simple router table using a sheet of scrap plywood or MDF, a few screws, and a single piece of hardwood.

    The handheld router is perhaps one of the most versatile tools in the workshop. With it, you can run edge profiles like ogees and roundovers, cut joinery like rabbets and dadoes, you can even turn it upside down and mount it to a table.

    And while most beginner woodworkers don’t have access to a router table, they can easily build a bare-bones model in mere minutes. This is a great trick taken from the trim carpentry industry, where craftsmen often screw a router to a piece of scrap plywood, turn it over, and presto; they’ve got a basic router table that can tackle edge profiles, rabbets, dadoes, and more.


    Here’s how it works:

    Unscrew the router's base plate.
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    Begin by unscrewing the base plate of your handheld router. These plates are typically held into place with three screws.
    Drilling with a Forstner bit.
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    Now grab a scrap piece of plywood or (in this case) MDF and drill a clearance hole large enough for the router bit you intend to use, to pass through. You’ll want to make the hole somewhere near the end of the plywood.
    Position the router centered over the clearance hole in the table.
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    Now position the router over the hole so that the bit will be centered in the opening.
    Use an awl or a small brad to mark the holes you wish to drill.
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    Use an awl (or in this case) a brad and a hammer to mark the three screw holes that attach the base to the router.
    Drill countersunk holes.
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    Now drill and countersink the three holes. The countersink is important. Since the screw heads will be on the top side of the plywood or MDF, you need to ensure they will be set just beneath the surface so as not to catch on workpieces while guiding them past the bit when cutting.
    Screw the router to the MDF and clamp the assembly to a work table.
    click to enlarge
    Next, screw the plywood or MDF to the router and clamp the entire unit firmly to the corner or end of a work table.
    A simple router table fence.
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    For a fence, I use a piece of scrap wood that’s nice and straight. I cut out a semi-circle in this case, so that my fence wraps slightly around the router bit. This is a great set-up for cutting rabbets.
    Using a basic router table.
    click to enlarge
    The fence is simply clamped to the makeshift router table. That’s it!

    A bare-bones router table like this is best-used for smaller jobs like routing dadoes, rabbets (as seen here), and simple edge profiles. Larger bits that require more "purchase" on the workpiece really need a more solid table to be used safely and effectively. Still, if you're making boxes or other smaller projects, this method works just great. You can see this set-up in use in our Getting Started in Woodworking video series on building a Shaker nightstand. We put this same unit to work in episode 7.


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