While many woodworkers spend
weekends making stationary router
tables, mine have always been very
simple, driven by expediency, and the
desire to get other things done. My
first was just a router base screwed to
the underside of a piece of plywood.
I simply clamped the plywood to a
workbench, installed the router and
bit, clamped on a board as a fence, and
let her rip.
Things haven’t changed much in
my shop. I still like the convenience
of a router table that I can quickly
disassemble and store, so I don’t
lose the floor space that a stationary
router table would require. One thing
that has changed, however, is that
the router table I use today is more
sophisticated. It has an aluminum
router plate and a pivoting fence with
dust collection. This table takes only an
hour or two to build, and it can last for
years. To make your own, you’ll need
a router plate and a plunge router
equipped with a template guide.
Manufactured router plates work
great. They include zero clearance
inserts for safer routing and they
make it even easier to put the router
table away when I’m done with it.
The method I use to install the router
plate is nearly foolproof, and it’ll work
for any square or rectangular router
plate (the one shown here came
from Rockler, see Source, below).
This method is very accurate, too, so
it’s suitable to use on even the most
deluxe router table.
Make the table
and install the plate
The first step is to choose a suitable
piece for the table (A, Fig. A, page 3),
which must be absolutely flat and
very rigid. I usually use 3/4" plywood.
The table’s dimensions can vary, but
I prefer a large surface, with at least
12" of support on both the infeed and
outfeed side of the bit.
Clamp the table with one end
overhanging your bench, so you can
rout the hole for the router plate.
Locate the plate on the table so it’s
centered between the sides and
offset toward the front edge. This
orientation makes the table more
versatile: The short side works for
most routing operations; the long
side provides additional support for
large pieces such as door panels.
Use the router plate to create a
template to rout the hole. Position
the plate on the table and then
frame it with scrap pieces that are
uniform in thickness. The pieces
at the ends of the plate must be
exactly the same width as the plate.
Securely clamp the pieces around
the mounting plate, making sure
the joints are flush (Photo 1). Then
remove the router plate.
Use a plunge router equipped
with a 3/4" O.D. template guide
and a 1/4" spiral bit to cut out
the center (Photo 2). Move
counterclockwise around the
form and hold the template guide
fast against the template. For the
best results, complete the cut
in several passes, plunging the
router bit slightly deeper with each
Install a 3/4" dia. pattern bit and
use the clamped-on template to
rout a 1/4" wide rabbet to house
the router plate in the table (Photo
3). A pattern bit is a plungestyle
flush-trim bit; its bearing is
mounted above the cutters. Set
the plunge depth slightly shallow
to start, and rout only a small spot.
Measure the depth of the rabbet,
adjust the plunge depth and go
again. When the depth of the
rabbet exactly equals the thickness
of the mounting plate, go ahead
and rout all the way around.
Remove the template pieces. Then
mark and drill the 3/8" pivot hole
for the fence.
Disassemble your router by
removing the motor from the base
and the base plate from the router
base. Then screw the router base to
the router plate, using the screws
from the base plate (Photo 4).
Reinstall the router motor and then
install the router plate assembly in
Build the fence
The table’s pivoting fence is easy to
use and adjust, and it includes dust
collection. A wing nut at one end and
a C-clamp at the other hold the fence
securely, and it’s adjustable by tiny
increments—a slight change at the
C-clamp end of the fence translates to
a fraction of that change at the center,
where the bit is located. The fence
itself consists of two pieces. Shape
the face (B) and drill a 3/8" hole in the
base (C) at the pivot point. Then glue
the two pieces together (Photo 5).
Miter the dust collection box top
(D) and sides (E) and glue them
together. Cut the back (F) to fit and drill a hole in it for the dust collection
hose. To create a durable connecting
piece, I saw off an old extension tube
from a vacuum cleaner and glue it into
the hole, using construction adhesive.
Vacuum parts can often be found at
Install the pivot fence and make sure
its face is absolutely square to the table’s
surface (Photo 6). Then create clearance
for the router bit (Photo 7). Pivot the
fence over the router and mark the
center of the bit. Remove the fence and
drill a 3/4" dia. hole in the bottom at the
mark. Reinstall the fence over the router
and incrementally raise a slightly larger
bit through the hole and into the fence.
Screw on the vacuum box and you’re
ready to rout.
(Note: Product availability and costs are subject to change since original publication date.)
Rockler Woodworking and Hardware, rockler.com, 800-279-4441,
Aluminum Router Table Plate, #24060, #27556,
#27563, #28347 (different versions for
Fig. A: Exploded View
This story originally appeared in American Woodworker February/March 2010, issue #146.
February/March 2010, issue #146
Purchase this back issue.
Click on any of the images to view a larger version
1. Start by positioning the router plate on the router table blank. Clamp pieces of
uniform thickness all around it, to create a routing template. Then remove the plate.
2. Remove the waste by plunge routing,
using a spiral bit and a template guide.
This operation leaves a 1/4" lip inside
the clamped-on routing template.
3. Rout a rabbet to house the router
plate, using a pattern bit. The depth of
the rabbet must match the thickness of
4. Fasten the base from your router to
the router plate. Reinstall the router
motor and then fit the router plate
assembly in the table.
5. Assemble the pivot fence with biscuits
and glue. Make sure the joint is flush on
the bottom when you clamp the parts
6. Check the fence to see that its face is
square to the surface of the table. If it is
not, use the jointer to make it square.
7. Mark the location of the router bit and
drill a pilot hole through the bottom
of the fence at that point. Then raise
a larger router bit through the hole
and into the fence to create a suitable
opening for routing and chip removal.