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Open the discussion on a router table…

May 26, 2010 by  
Filed under Router Tips

Rick: I started this thread about buying a router table and come across Joe’s response to my post in the Router Forums. Thought it would be good to open the floor and have a discussion on some of the different thoughts about the router table.

Caution: Some of my responses to Joe’s comments have irritated me, hopefully you will be able to see past my frustration.

Click here to see the thread, I welcome all comments at the bottom of this blog post or as a post in Router Forums.

Rick: So let’s get into it…my posts are in black, Joe’s comments are in red and my response to Joe is in blue.

Quote: Originally Posted by BobandRick View Post
I was told by my son Mark that many members were interested in comparing the router tables out in the market. He wants to know, what is needed to compare commercially built router tables? The first thing that come to my mind was, what do you need a router table for? You are a beginner and you received your grandfather’s Sears router complete with the packaging. This router has rounded over three boards and then was quickly put back in the box and left there for the next 30 years.

Joe: Ummm.. not the case for most here. Some of us have been using routers for quite a while and have never invested in a commercial router table.

Rick: I was talking to the the beginner and the use of a simple router table. Down below Joe talks about your commercial fence, so what is it you have a commercial router table, fence or you don’t…

Quote: Originally Posted by BobandRick View Post
You found this tool and have heard that it is the most versatile tool in the workshop. Now you own one of these tools and you want to know more…so why the router table? Most of them out there can round over a board and cut a rabbet joint, that’s it. Each of the manufactures create the same style with subtle differences but for the most part they are all the same and of course they can round over the board and make a rabbet joint. So again why do you need to spend hundreds of dollars for something as useless as that? You can have the same thing by just taking the sub-plate off your router then using this sub-plate to match and drill the holes on a piece of 1/2 Good One Side plywood approx. 24″ X  48″. I would put the router at one end of the plywood leaving it equally from the two sides and the end. The commercially built ones would have you put the router in the center of the plywood. Mount the router and screw the 1/2″ plywood on the end of your workbench and you are set…you now can round over a board and create the rabbet joint. Cost about 10 bucks…

Joe: Not so. There are large and significant differences between manufacturers of router tables. And none that I know of uses plywood. Thankfully. Also not every table has the router mounted in the center. Many are offset. The better manufacturers offer options. Also, for that $10 cost you’ll get about $10 worth of accuracy. Stay away from plywood and go with an MDF core surface, it’s rigid and flat.

Rick: Now you are really blowing a pile wind, MDF??? give me a break? Rigid? Plus what is the material on the face and back? 13 layer Baltic Birch is the best core with Formica mounted on both faces. But let’s not move onto this just yet we are still just learning how the use the router in the router table position. Remember this is your first router table…it needs to be simple.

More of Joe’s dribble…$10.00 gets $10.00 worth of accuracy. hmmmm….so how much you spend determines how accurate your router table is to make the round over cuts?

Quote: Originally Posted by BobandRick View Post
So again you ask what router table to buy? There must be more to the router tables out there right? No there really is not much more out there, they have no idea how to make the rabbet/dado joint or the box joint to say the least. They make it virtually impossible to change router bits, remember the hole for the router is the middle of the table leaving no place to put the router while changing the router bits. They all do it this way so is that really what you want to do?

Joe: Actually there is plenty out there. A diverse group of products. They do not make it virtually impossible to change the router bits. Those are changed the same way on any table, lift out the plate. Simple.

Rick: More wind without merit….Identify the tables please that don’t mount in the center of the table leaving no room to place the router on the table top?

Quote: Originally Posted by BobandRick View Post

Next two questions are related to router bit storage. So question 2, where do you put the router bit after you have taken it out? and 3, where do you get the next router bit from? Is there a system used to hold your router bits built into the table? Again the answer is over at the workbench in a box full of plastic cases…

Joe: Ummm no. Why are there a box full of plastic cases? Why not one large case where all your bits can fit? or a drawer in your workbench to store them? I’m not sure what the point is here. Is there some magic bullet? The bits have to go somewhere no matter what router or table you use, right?

Rick: Commercial tables out there do not address this issue…if they do give examples.

Quote: Originally Posted by BobandRick View Post

Next, let’s talk about the fence. Did you ever look closely at the router bit and really decide for your self how much fence you really need to mold the edge of a board. Using just the bearing it is about 1/4″ so why a 30 inch fence. We agree that router bit does the cutting, right? And you agree with me that you need a small amount of fence to get the board on the router bit and off the router bit, right?

Joe: Simple, the longer and straighter the fence the more support, safety and accuracy in the cut. Not every piece cut is 10″ long.

Rick: So for a 10 foot piece you need a 10 foot table fence? Joe says, The longer the fence the more support, safety and accuracy? Hummm…I don’t think so, how much fence support do you need after it has been cut. If anything the addition of more fence is more dangerous. I can see adding more table support that is the same height as the router table for long pieces.

OH…by the way the height of the tables in your workshop need to be 5 inches lower than the distance from your bent elbow to the floor. Everybody is different heights so there is no general height used for everybody. Having 2 or 3 smaller work bench tables at the same height as the router table is better than one large router table. With these extra tables we can position them in the correct table support positions used to cut all your pieces.

Quote: Originally Posted by BobandRick View Post

Being cautious let’s say 6″ on the in-feed and 6″ on the out-feed. So then 4) why do all these router tables make the same sized fence leaving it to be 24 to 30″ is length…To be honest with more fence you have the chances of not getting your board to touch the router bit at all, it becomes a real problem. A bit of a warp in the project piece makes it difficult to mold the edge. So why such a long fence?

Joe: Again, what about long workpieces? Board not touching the router bit at all?? You guys work with boards with warped edges? That’s not safe or smart. Square straight stock is pretty basic to all woodworking. Unless you’re working with curved pieces in which case you wouldn’t be using a fence anyway.

Rick: I addressed these concerns above…

Quote: Originally Posted by BobandRick View Post

Now let’s look at a real gem, how they mount the fence to the table? This is suppose to be a feature…each have a T slot, a T-nut with a bolt and I think they want you to make the fence parallel with the side of the table. That is so you can use your table-saw miter gauge to do cross cuts. That’s right they want you to use a tool designed to be used with the table-saw to be used with the router.

Joe: Sometimes it’s desirable to have the fence parallel with the edge of the table. A miter gauge is useful in keeping the work piece square to the fence. And the miter gauge is not used exclusively on the table saw. It can be used for a variety of tool applications.

Rick: When do you think that the fence needs to be parallel to the edge of the table…the minute you put the fence on the table it is parallel to the router bit. The router bit cuts the material and not the edge of the table, right? Don’t get confused by this person and his mis-information.

Quote: Originally Posted by BobandRick View Post

So that is just a few things to ask when looking for a router table…I think you will find that most of these commercially purchased router tables are basically the same and work as described above…So to start you should use my plywood table with a 2 X 2 fence with two C-Clamps to start…

Joe: Again, some c-clamps and a short fence are fine for small pieces, but what about larger ones? How does a 2 x 2 fence give you support for vertical work?

Rick: Vertical work hummm…in one breath he talks about safety then in the next breath he describes work from the vertical position. A very unsafe way to rout. The only two reasons that I see is vertical panel raised bits and the lock miter bit. For either of these cuts requires a special fixture and some talent to complete. The vertical panel bit is a very poor solution that is dangerous at best.

Joe: What material are you using for the fence? will it remain straight? High quality commercial fences will. What about safety? where is the bit guard mounted on your homemade fence? How about dust collection? Your fence account for that? Mine does. As do most well made commercial fences. As well as safety, something you failed to mention. What type of surface does your “plywood” table have? Is it rough? Won’t that require more effort to feed the stock through? Sounds like that might be unsafe.

Rick: Hummm…wood is a good start and yes pick a piece that is straight and true. I assume here we are talking about a aluminum extrusion, which you can’t cut the profile into the in-feed side of the fence and is at best a good fence to round over the edges. A wood fence that has two 1/2 holes cut in the center, one to receive the bit and one used to clear the router chips is a good start. The router bit guard in most cases is clear piece of 1/4 Plexiglas mounted over the two 1/2 holes. The router fence is a piece of equipment that gets used and abused by the routed chip break cuts of each and every new router bit set up. They come in various shapes and sizes used to rout your material safely. It is best made of a simple piece of either wood or polyethylene and remember they are replaced based upon the router set ups you do. In most cases they are changed out often.

Rick: Dust collection is best served depending on the amount of router chips being cut. 1/4 round over bit or a 3/8″ rabbeting bit can be done easily with a vacuum hose clamped in place over the clearing 1/2 hole…again fancy is not always the best way to make your cuts.

Rick: Plywood surface is Good One Side Plywood with either a Formica cover or a good coating of floor wax. Remember this is your first router table used to get you started. Keep it simple.

Joe: It seems to me that it it is more important for someone just starting out using a router to make the learning process as easy and as safe as possible and NOT to focus solely on the cost. High quality well made tables provide large flat work surfaces. High quality well made fences provide straight true rigid, accurate and safe work surfaces and include protection from sharp bits and include dust collection.

Rick: More wind without merit, no examples etc…

Joe: My advice for someone purchasing a router or router table, as with all tools, get the best quality tool you can afford. There are a myriad of manufacturers out there and a wealth of information about them on the internet. Educate yourself.

Rick: The only bit of advice with merit is in his last comment.


5 Responses to “Open the discussion on a router table…”

  1. john stark on May 26th, 2010 5:09 pm

    Rick, Some people just have to learn for themselves. If he starts with a simple table he will realize you are correct in your advice. If he spends real money and gets a “quality table and fence” he will still realize at some point that you were correct. It doesn’t sound like he understands the geometry relationship of the bit and the fence(the fence does not need to be parallel to a table edge). In fifteen years I have never had a commercial table or fence except for dovetail joints. It has never been a problem.

  2. Deb on May 26th, 2010 7:07 pm

    Rick I hope you will post this rebuttal in the original thread. That guy was something else!

  3. Leon E. LeBoldus on May 26th, 2010 8:11 pm

    With respect, why give Joe so much editorial space? Indeed why did you give him any at all? He contributed virtually nothing to the discussion.


    The only reason I addressed this RF post in my blog is because this was published on the web at RF and most of his comments are off base by a long way. I wanted to open the discussion and have feedback from you guys as well…Rick

  4. stairguy on May 27th, 2010 5:24 pm

    Rick, I watch all your video’s, and I learn a lot. This post is good for me too because even though your router table works great, I still get side tracked occasionally with the fancy ones. But, the more experience I get with the simple, the more I have to agree that simple is best. It does it all. Besides, adding dust collection and safety covers doesn’t take rocket science!

  5. Stewart Scott on May 28th, 2010 12:09 am

    For a few years I had the Sears router and router table. I lookled at your table and it had many good features.;Then I saw one that was pattern by Norman at Rockers and felt that this is what I needed.
    I built this table including the vacumn system. I think that I even extended the table width a bit but am very [pleased with it, I make wine racks and rout the front and the back. This set up uis superior to the tables that you buy and also have storage for all my bits and small routers