Twenty years ago, I barely had
enough money for a router,
much less a router table. So
I built a quick, crude version from a
hunk of old countertop supported by
steel rails from a bed frame. I always
intended to upgrade, but when I test drove
other tables, I always found
that I liked my homemade
one better. It’s
tough, easy to take to
job sites and easy to
store. But my favorite
feature is the
screw-on fence face.
In two minutes, I
can switch to a face
with a larger hole for
larger bits or a super-tall
face for vertical
routing. And since it’s replaceable, I
don’t mind driving screws into it to
secure featherboards or guides.
Over the years, I’ve built three of
these tables—including an 8-ft. version
for making long trim. The only
tricky part is cutting the hole for the
router plate, so this article will focus
on a goof-proof method for that. For
the rest of the project, cut and assemble the parts as shown in Figure A.
Stuff You'll Need
Countertop: At least 6 linear feet to build a 3-ft.-long
table. Go Dumpster diving or check the bargain bin at a
Metal rails: If you can’t find a bed frame to cut up, buy 6
ft. of 1-in. angle.
T-nuts, washers and eye bolts: I used 3/8-in.
hardware, but anything over 1/4 in. will do.
Vacuum port: I used a rubber vacuum hose adapter.
Miscellaneous: A 1/2-in. pattern router bit with bearing at top, router
table insert plate, wood glue, coarse-thread screws (1/2, 1-1/4, 2 in.).
The first step is to cut up the section
of countertop. Some countertops have
a hump just above the rounded front
edge. If yours does, you’ll have to cut
off a couple of inches and lose the
finished front edge. Next, cut off the
backsplash. Lay the countertop upside
down and clamp on a straight board to
guide your circular saw. You can make
the other cuts with a circular saw
or table saw. Keep in mind that saw
teeth leave chips as they exit plastic
laminate. To avoid chipping, cut with
the laminate face up on a table saw or
face down with a circular saw. A cut
laminate edge is sharp enough to slice
skin. To dull those sharp edges, make
a few quick passes with sandpaper.
After the table’s cut to size, create a
hole for the router insert plate. Place
the insert plate 3-1/2 in. from the back
edge of the table and build a guide
around it (Photo 1). My guide is 1/2 in.
thick; perfect for a 1-in.-long pattern
bit. For a shorter or longer bit, use
thicker or thinner material. Before cutting
the groove (Photo 2), set the router
bit depth. Stack two scraps of the guide
material and the plate. Set your router
on the plate and adjust the depth. To
finish the hole, cut along the inner
edge of the groove (Photo 3).
Figure A: Router Table Fence
All parts are cut from 3/4-in. particleboard
covered with plastic laminate. The table (not
shown) is 20-1/2 x 36 in. The steel rails that
support the table are 34 in. long.
A complete cutting list is available in PDF form in Additional Information below.
Build the fence as shown in Figure A.
Assemble the fence with screws and glue where particleboard meets particleboard;
screws alone where plastic laminate
meets particleboard. Drill pilot holes
and use coarse-thread screws; fine-thread
screws won’t hold. To cut the slots in
the fence base (A), drill 1/2-in. holes and
then cut with a jigsaw. Two of the fence
brackets (E) are double thick. To make
them, glue scraps together back to back
and then cut them to size. The size of the
dust pen hole depends on the size of your
vacuum hose. I bought a rubber vacuum
hose adapter and cut off the stepped end.
To fasten the fence face, drive 1-1/2-in.
screws through the backer (B) into the
face. Before you drill the T-nut holes and
install the T-nuts (Photo 4), mark their locations using the fence base as a guide.
Perfect For a Crowded Shop
This router table is bigger than most but
takes up less storage space because it isn't
mounted on legs or a cabinet. To use the
table, lay it across sawhorses. To store it, hang
it on a wall or slip it into any narrow space.
Back to Top
Choosing a plate
Insert plates made for router tables start at about $30
for a basic model like the one shown here (Rousseau 3509, available through our affiliation with Amazon.com).
Search online to
browse a huge selection.
For about half the
price, you can also make your own plate
from an acrylic sheet (at least 1/4 in.
thick; available at home centers). Despite my
legendary cheapness, I prefer the manufactured
versions; better results, less
fuss. My one complaint is that they’re
not always perfectly flat. But when I
sentence them to a couple of days of corrective clamping, they flatten nicely.
For More Information
- Learn more about using routers and router tables.
- Workshop crowded and crammed? See these
shop storage ideas to maximize your space.
- Turn your table saw into a precision crosscutting
machine with a table saw sled.