Fully Armed Router Table

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This article is from Issue 36 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Flush with custom storage, built-in wiring, and dust collection, this mobile workstation has it all.

Overall dimensions: 32"w × 24"d × 341⁄8"h

No shop is complete without a good router table, the Woodcraft shop included. Recognizing this need, the Woodcraft Magazine editors and I put our heads together to design this practical, hardworking table. But “practical” doesn’t mean it’s without amenities. In fact, we incorporated all the best features you could want in a router table, including voluminous bit storage, three graduated, full-extension drawers for your router accessories, great dust collection, and easy mobility. The joinery is simple, but don’t expect to build this table in a weekend. However, once it’s done, you can expect it to provide a lifetime of rock-solid service. It’s definitely time well spent.

Because every router table deserves a good fence, we also designed a full-featured model that’s a real pleasure to use (see “Router Table Fence,” page 29). For those of you with more cash than time, this router table design allows use of a commercial fence and/or top. See the Convenience-Plus Buying Guide for project supplies.

When sawing dadoes, apply downward pressure while holding the workpiece tight against the fence.

Outfit your router with an auxiliary base and straight bit to hog away most of the edging excess. 

Build the case

1 Saw the sides (A), bottom (B), center panel (C), lower divider (D), upper dividers (E), and tops (F) to the sizes in the Cut List. For efficient sheet layout, see Plywood Layout on page 28.

2 Lay out the 7⁄32"-deep × 23⁄32"-wide dadoes and rabbets to join the parts (see Figures 1 and 2). Rout or saw them as shown in Photo A. Also, see "Joinery For Hardwood Plywood", below.

3 Make the maple edging (G). Plane a board to 3⁄4" thick, and then rip the edging strips slightly over 3⁄4" wide. Glue a strip to the front edge of each cabinet component, cleaning any squeeze-out from the dadoes. Later, you’ll cut the edging pieces to suitable lengths. Also make the bottom rail (H), which is essentially just a wide piece of edging.

4 Trim the applied edging a hair shy of the plywood surface as shown in Photo B. Finish up the job with a block plane or sanding block.

5 Cut the 7⁄32"-deep × 15⁄32"-wide rabbets on the rear edges of the sides.

Joinery For Hardwood Plywood

You may wonder why the dadoes and rabbets in this project are shown as 7⁄32" deep and 23⁄32" wide instead of simply 1⁄4 × 3⁄4". It’s to account for the fact that nominal 3⁄4"-thick hardwood plywood is usually 1⁄32" shy of that. If you make the dadoes 1⁄4" deep in the case sides, for example, the overall width of your project (and its compartments) will be too narrow. And if you cut a dado 3⁄4" wide, you’ll suffer a visible gap and compromised joint strength.

Place shims equal to the thickness of the flush-trim saw blade in the dado, insert the divider, and trim the end of the solid wood edging to fit.

Install the tray guides using 3⁄4"-thick spacers for accurate, foolproof location.

6 Trim the edging where appropriate to allow the end of a panel to tuck behind the adjacent edging. I do this by shimming the panel in its dado, and then trimming the edging with a flush-trim saw, as shown in Photo C.

7 Lay out the location of the tray guides (I, J) on the left side (A) and on its opposing upper divider (E) as shown in Figure 1b.

Install the guides using glue and brads as shown in Photo D.

8 Lay out the outlet opening in the upper divider (E) where shown in Figure 1b.

Cut it out with a jigsaw as shown in Photo E.

9 Dry-assemble the vertical dividers (D, E) to the bottom panel (B) and center panel (C). Drill clearance holes, countersink them, and screw the parts together as shown in Photo F. Then disassemble them, apply glue in the dadoes, and reinstall the screws, making sure all parts are square.

10 With the unit upside down on a flat surface, glue on the case sides (A) using cauls and clamps as shown in Photo G.

11 Install the case tops (F) into their rabbets with glue and brads.

12 Make two 3⁄4 × 3⁄4 × 11⁄2" glue blocks from scrap, and glue them behind the switch support location where shown on Figure 1b. Make and install the switch support (K), gluing it to the blocks.

Drill clearance holes for the switch box tabs and blade start holes at opposing corners of the layout, and then cut out the opening with a jigsaw.

Make the bit trays

1 Cut the tray fronts (L, M) to size, and then locate and drill the 3⁄16"-diameter holes for the pulls.

2 Cut the bit trays (N) to size.

3 Lay out and drill a series of bit holes to suit your current and planned collection. I dedicated one tray to 1⁄4"-shank bits, and three trays to 1⁄2"-shank bits.

4 Cut slots for two #20 biscuits in the front edge of each tray and the rear of each tray front for joining the parts, as shown in Figure 1b.

5 Glue the fronts to the trays, making sure the parts are square to each other under clamp pressure.

Drive screws through predrilled clearance holes for a hassle-free assembly, checking for square as you go.
Clamp the sides to the case using slightly crowned cauls to spread pressure evenly across the joints.

Build the drawers

1 Cut the drawer box parts (O, P, Q, R, S, T, U) to the sizes shown in the Cut List, and mark them for easy identification. (For efficient layout, see Plywood Layout on page 28.) I cut the false drawer fronts (V, W, X) later, during drawer installation.

2 At this point, drill two 1⁄2"-diameter holes through the drawer box fronts to allow easy installation of the centered pulls on the false drawer fronts later.

3 Cut rabbet-and-dado joints for the drawer box assemblies as described in “Perfect, Simple Drawer Joinery” below.

4 Glue up the drawer boxes using cauls to distribute the clamping pressure along the joints. (For maximum strength, glue the bottoms into their grooves.) Assemble the boxes on a dead-flat surface, making sure they’re square before setting them aside to dry.

Perfect, Simple Drawer Joinery

Building drawer boxes from 1⁄2"-thick plywood doesn’t get much easier than this. All you need are your precut drawer parts, a good quality dado head, and some scrap to test your setup.

1 Set up your dado head for a 1⁄4"-wide cut. Stand a piece of plywood drawer stock on edge against the fence and position the fence so that the outer face of the plywood is flush with the outer edge of the saw teeth. Make test cuts, and adjust the blade height until it creates a dado exactly 1⁄4" deep. Lock the blade, leaving it at that height for all following steps.

2 Saw the dadoes in the drawer sides as shown in the photo at left. Using the same setup, cut the drawer bottom grooves on the inside faces of the drawer sides, front, and back.

3 Reposition the fence (toward the blade) until test cuts yield a rabbet with a tongue that fits snugly without force into the dadoes you cut in Step 2. Then saw the rabbets on the drawer fronts and backs by standing the stock on end as shown in the center photo.

4 Reposition the fence about 1⁄64" closer to the blade. This will allow the drawer bottoms to slide easily in their grooves for simpler assembly. Cut the rabbets on all four edges of each drawer bottom as shown in the photo at right. The drawer is now ready to assemble.

Use spacers when installing drawer slides in the cabinet to ensure perfect horizontal alignment.

Orient the non-swiveling casters parallel to the case front. Align the long edge of each swivel caster plate with the case side

Make the doors

1 Cut the small door panel (Y) and center door panels (Z) to the sizes shown in the Cut List.

2 Cut and apply the 3⁄4 × 3⁄4" edging (G) and the 11⁄2"-wide edging (AA) for the bottom of the center doors. Trim the faces of the edging flush to the plywood surface.

3 Cut the bottom trim on the center doors to shape as shown in Figure 2.

4 Install the no-mortise hinges and fit the doors. Plane a slight back-bevel on the long, non-hinged door edges to prevent binding.

5 Locate and drill the holes for the pulls where shown in Figure 2.

Install the drawers, casters, and doors

1 Apply your finish of choice to the case. I used three coats of wiping varnish.

2 Install the drawer slides following the manufacturer’s instructions (Photo H).

3 Test the fit of the drawers, make adjustments if necessary, and then remove the drawers.

4 Make and install each false drawer front (V, W, X) using four #8 × 1" flathead woodscrews. Then insert the drawers in the case and check the gaps. Make any necessary adjustments to create consistent gaps all around, and then install the pulls.

5 Make the caster support blocks (BB) and glue them to the bottom of the case. The easiest approach is to make them as full-length boards as shown in Figure 1b. To save material, I made custom-sized blocks, but it’s a fussier process because of the individual caster orientation.

6 Screw the casters to the support blocks using #8 × 1" roundhead screws and washers. For best stability and access to the swivel caster locks, align the caster plates flush with the case edges as shown in Photo I.

7 Hang the doors and install the pulls.

A cord-wrap mount can be made from two pieces of wood screwed together and attached to the case back.

Complete the case

1 Saw the case back (CC) to size. Lay out the electrical box opening where shown in Figure 1b, and then cut it out.

2 Lay out the dust-port hole by tracing inside the dust-collection fitting, making sure that the opening is tangent to the center panel location as shown in Figure 1b. Cut out the hole.

3 Drill the hole for the strain relief cord connector and install it.

4 Install all three electrical boxes as shown in Figure 3, but don’t wire them yet.

5 Rout a 45° chamfer, 3⁄8" deep, on the inside edge of the dust-collection port cutout. Install the dust-collection port using #8 × 1⁄2" roundhead screws.

6 If you like, make a simple cord-wrap mount like the one shown in Photo J, and screw it to the back.

7 Install the cabinet back with 18-gauge 11⁄4" brads.

Fabricate a switch-mounting support from a piece of 1⁄16"-thick steel 1" wide × 65⁄16" long. 

This MDF jig, with its 3⁄4" center spacer, makes an easy job of routing the T-track slots using a pattern-cutting bit.

Wire the table

1 Using electrical plugs and 14⁄3 SJ cord wire, assemble the main power cord and two jumper cords as shown in Figure 3. Wire the outlets and attach their cover plates.

2 Install the power switch as shown in Photo K, and plug the jumper cords into their appropriate outlets.

Make the top

This top, with its particular T-track configuration, was designed to accommodate the shop-made fence on page 29 as well as some commercial models. If you plan on using a different fence, position the T-track to suit your needs or omit it and simply clamp your fence to the top. We also designed the top to accommodate Woodpeckers’ router table insert. If you plan to use a different insert, amend the table cutout to suit.

1 Cut the 1⁄2" MDF and 3⁄4" MDF panels for the top (DD, EE) slightly oversized. Glue and clamp the two pieces together using cauls and clamps.

2 When the glue is dry, trim the top to final size as shown in the Cut List.

3 Make the maple edging (FF, GG) and glue it on.

4 Trim the maple edging flush to the MDF surface. Cut the radius on each corner with a jigsaw and sand it smooth.

5 Glue plastic laminate (HH) to both faces of the top. (See “Laminate in the Shop” on page 32.) I applied Titebond melamine glue with a foam roller. For clamping, I used MDF cauls covered with packing tape at the perimeter to prevent the glue from sticking.

When routing the insert recess, clamp the top to your bench and the MDF template to the top.

Install countersunk flathead screws under the insert plate leveling-screw locations.

6 Lay out the T-track slots where shown in Figure 1a.

Make a jig from MDF as shown in Photo L to cut the T-track grooves in the top. Clamp the jig in place as shown and cut the 1⁄2"-deep grooves with a 5⁄8"-diameter, top-bearing pattern-cutting bit.

7 Rout the edges of the insert opening recess (Photo M). To make the job easy and accurate, I used a pre-manufactured MDF template and 5⁄8"-diameter, top-bearing pattern-cutting bit for a perfect fit. Locate the recess where shown in Figure 1a.

8 Lay out the router opening by measuring in 1⁄2" from the insert perimeter you just cut.

Top Options

Purchasing a pre-manufactured top is a timesaving alternative to building your own. The Premium Router Tabletop is dimensionally identical to our user-made top. We used the Woodpeckers Premium aluminum router table plate, but the “standard” 91⁄4" × 113⁄4" opening will accept a wide array of plates, including popular varieties that feature router lifts.

Then cut out the opening with a jigsaw to create the rabbeted edge for the insert plate.

9 If your insert plate has leveling screws, as does the one I used, install #6 × 3⁄4" flathead wood screws in the rabbet at those locations (as shown in Photo N) to create a wear-free surface.

10 Cut the T-track to length. I shaped the radius on the inner end of each track using a disc sander. Screw the T-tracks in their grooves.

11 Apply finish to the maple edging.

12 Attach the tabletop to the case tops (F) from underneath, using #8 × 11⁄2" flathead wood screws.

13 Install magnetic catches for the doors, screwing them to the underside of the router tabletop. 

About Our Author

Craig Bentzley has been restoring antiques and building furniture for nearly 40 years. In addition to writing, Craig also teaches at guilds, woodworking shows, and at Woodcraft stores.

1 Comment

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  • jv from new milford
    This is a great project! I built it last year, with very few changes. The storage is huge, plenty to accommodate three routers and all accessories, plus a ton of bits. The top is dead flat, almost as perfect as my TS. I use it for layout, and when needed, roll the cab over to provide outfeed support.

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