An exercise in accurate jig making.
SHOP OWNER: Dan Barber
LOCATION: Mt. Juliet, TN
This is my version of a shop made Multi-Router. You may have seen one of these used on TV or advertised in the Highland Hardware catalog. At a retail price of $2395 a copy, I decided that I would likely never own the commercial version of one of these. The ability of these tools to make mortise and tenon joints easily; even at an angle along with an array of other joints intrigued me. So, it was off to the scrap pile at work to recover some discarded machine components and construct my own version of this versatile machine.
I closely patterned the design of this multi axis router after the commercial version produced by the JDS Company. The dimensions were determined solely by the length of the slides I was able to locate for use in its construction. The slides for the X and Y axis are a THK ball bearing dovetail type slide, while the Z axis features Thomson rods and Frelon lined linear bearings. The combination makes for a very smooth and solid slide arrangement. Locking of the Z axis is accomplished with the use of clamp collars around the Thomson rods. If you look carefully at the pictures, you should see one just above the top linear bearing housing on the right rod. There is another just below the bottom bearing housing on the left rod. A Z axis is required to accommodate different mortise locations in different thickness woods. The capacity is about six inches in the X and Z axis and four inches in the Y axis.
I looked to the JDS version for the initial inspiration, but after that, the design kind of evolved into what would work for me. Overall dimensions are 27" long x 13 1/2" wide x 26" high. The worktable surface is 13 1/2" square. I utilized a box beam construction for the base to ensure stability and strength. The vertical support was made 8" deep to provide rigidity for the Z axis. I may need to add a gusset or two eventually, but I've made 3/8" diameter cuts 3/8" deep per pass with little problem. The entire construction used 3/4" Baltic Birch plywood. It took a little less than one 5 x 5 sheet. Hold-downs are some Harbor Freight $3.99 specials. I placed the T-tracks in a cross pattern to allow fixturing either perpendicular or parallel to the router bit.
Anyone with the typical woodshop tools could construct this unit, however it does require some special attention to accuracy. The degree of square of the component pieces is very important, as is the assembly of the overall framework. A little extra time spent on careful preparation will pay off on this project. As you can see, I made use of T-nuts and machine screws in the assembly of the slides to the tables and used plenty of screws and wood glue in the frame construction.
I was able to build this for less than $100, but I scrounged the major components from a machine being scrapped. If you wanted to build your own version of one of these, the slides will be expensive if bought new, but some careful Ebay shopping could provide the slide elements for less than $300. I made the T-slot hold down track from some conveyor guide rail extrusion that I milled flat on the back with my Mini-Mill. That saved some funds too. The router is an old faithful PC 690 I already had.
I have detailed AutoCAD drawings of this system; if you are interested, e-mail me, and I will be happy to share them with you. I still need to clean them up some, but they are probably useable as is. You might need to adjust the dimensions to fit the size of slides you acquire though.
Still to come is a handle for vertical axis adjustment and possibly a different style of lock for the axis stops. I still need to devise a way to adjust and lock the tilt angle of the worktable too. The truly flexible feature of this tool is the ability of the worktable to tilt. This allows the machine to make angled mortises with ease.
I have a ton of mortises, including angled ones, to make on some upcoming projects. I can't wait. I have yet to exercise it fully, but the initial trials are very promising. I also want to add a coat of finish to this at some time in the future, but once I begin using it that may never happen.. . . Dan Barber
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