Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Benchtop Router Table (Part 1)

This is the project I'm working on right now. A router table for my Harbor Freight trim router.

Click on the image to the right for a copy of the plan I drew up.

One thing I haven't decided yet in the drawing (marked with a "?") is whether to fully open the hole for the router, or leave a band of wood for a little extra support. I'm still working on that...

The main material is 3/4" white melamine. The top has an additional sheet of 1/2" particleboard glued to the underside for strength. Sand the melamine until it's very rough, then apply a 2 part epoxy in a thin film. Quickly clamp the 1/2" pb to the melamine. It helps to have the clamps adjusted and ready to go. I used cheap squeeze clamps to hold the two together while getting the bar clamps in place.

While it makes the top quite heavy, it also provides the structural integrity needed when cutting the 1/2" deep dados for the T-Track and the 3/8" deep dados for the legs.

The top is wrapped with doweled 1x2" pine to protect the edges of the particleboard. I've already seen how brittle the top surface is. The white melamine is already chipped at the edges (grrr...)

A note about those squeeze clamps is needed here. They suck. At least the cheap ones do. I used some small ones on there and while they fit over the 1 1/4" thickness of the wood, after a minute or two they snapped. Sounded like gunfire and I had a piece of one go whirrrrring past my ear!

I'm liking the little wood screw clamps. There's one on there in the pic, the only one I own. I'd never tried them before, so when I saw them on sale for 99c, I figured I'd get one and try it out. I *love* the adjustability! And the wood probably won't mar the surfaces it's working on! I suspect I'll be buying a bunch more in the future.

Once the glue for the top dried I fitted the 1x2" to the front edge. Of course I figured out too late that I had failed to stop and buy another length of wood... The 1x2" I had was just long enough to do the front edge. Sigh. But I ran 4 dowels into the border between the two boards, thinking the dowels and glue would reinforce the joint there as well as hold the edging. Once that was clamped I turned to the legs.

Having a true scaled drawing made this part super easy. (I'm glad I took that drafting class in high school, though I'm more than a little rusty...) I was able to duplicate the drawing on the wood with no trouble at all.

I cut up a pair of squares 15" on a side, then stuck them together with double sided tape. After double and triple checking my cut lines I went at the thing with my 5amp Skil jigsaw. I think I'm getting the hang of using this thing. I found if I turn on the orbital feature, it locks the scroll knob. Whew.

After cutting the lines, I went after them with a router and a 1/2" trim bit to make sure the two pieces were perfect matches. I also drilled the dowel holes for the bottom 1x4" stretcher. I used a drilling guide ($12 at Rockler) to keep them straight since I don't have a drill press anymore.

Then I slid my framing square between them to cut the tape holding them together.

I don't want bare square edges, so I hit the front and back sides with my router. I used a 1/2" roundover on both sides and ended up with a bullnose edge. (I don't have a bullnose bit.) The top and bottom edges I left square.

Using 1/4" dowel centers I marked the holes in a 17" 1x4" for the bottom stretcher. Glue and clamp.

I ran into a problem with the drill guide mentioned above. It isn't very stable on the end of a 1x4". After the drill wandering off center and cutting away from what I needed, I discovered putting my wooden screw clamp on the board flush with the end provided the necessary stability.

Today I will finish the base and buy some 1x2's for the table edging. I haven't decided what color to do the base... Either satin black or use up some old minwax I have. I'll probably do the minwax just to use it up.

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