ROUTER WORK STATION
Customizing an already popular design.
SHOP OWNER: Jason Young
LOCATION: Austin, TX
It took exactly three weeks of work, probably fifty hours, or so, but the router table is finished! I wanted to make a router table that was similar to Norm Abram's on the New Yankee Workshop. While I liked the design, I didn't want to build it from plans, and I wanted to modify it a bit to fit my situation. My friend Giles was kind enough to burn a copy of this episode to DVD so I could reference Norm's techniques during construction.
Unfortunately, I didn't take pictures of each step during construction. I would generally grab the camera and take a shot when I remembered. The first thing I did was to build the carcass. The body of the table is 3/4" plywood; maple on the show side and birch on the inside. I carefully cut the 4x8 sheet so that the sides of the finished project would have a matching grain pattern in the final piece. In fact, I spent a lot of time thinking about cuts to avoid unwanted grain patterns.
I started on the drawer support assembly next and glued up the carcass. This step took about two days.
Next, I attached the 1/4" back with finish nails from my nail gun. I then cut some very thin pieces of walnut and glued them over the nail holes. This was a persnickety part of the project as the tolerances were very small and the strips of walnut were very thin. It's a nice effect, even if no one will probably see it. After that, I trimmed up the front of the cabinet in more walnut.
I did this for two reasons. I wanted to hide the edges of the maple plywood and I wanted to get some more experience machining walnut. It's a very nice wood that’s fairly dense and very forgiving, and it finishes up nicely with oil. I'll be building furniture out of walnut in the future and want to be able to make mistakes on my shop projects. Trimming in hardwood is a little more expensive than leaving the edges open (an option), but I discovered that once you disregard the fast, cheap, unattractive option in favor of the slower, more expensive, attractive option a few times, you have to continue down this road or the ugly shortcuts will really stand out. This has the effect of doubling or even tripling construction time, but in the end, the results are always worth it. The trim took a whole day to get right. The joints are all perfectly flush. I used nails in a few places and wish that I hadn't as the holes are bigger than I would have liked. Lesson learned! This step required another two days.
Next, I got two pieces of 3/4" MDF for the top. The pieces were slightly oversized. I had the guy at Home Depot make the rough cuts since the 4x8 sheet of MDF weighs almost 100 lbs. It's awfully hard for me to maneuver the sheet through the table saw alone so for safety's sake Homer did it. Once trimmed to size, I glued the pieces up with standard yellow wood glue and used every clamp in my shop (25). I could have used more! This step took one day.
The next step was to use contact cement to apply the plastic laminate to the top of the table. I lucked out and got a 3’x6’ cutoff piece from Home Depot. A full 4’x8’ piece costs $49. Since the cutoff wasn't standard size, the salesman sold it to me for $5! On top of that, I even liked the color.
I spent the next several days building the five router bit storage drawers, two full-size drawers, and the huge bottom drawer that's on full extension drawer slides. After I finished, I trimmed the edges of the big drawer with walnut.
While the top was drying, I spent some time practicing making the cut for the router plate. As I posted before, it is critical to make this cut exact with no slop in the final opening. I worked out my technique using a scrap piece of 1/2" MDF. It turns out that I had to build some rather funky jigs to get the hole right. There was about .005" of slop in the final cut but I thought about it and figured out what I had done wrong.
I then turned my attention to cutting the clear dust and debris shield for the front of the router compartment. I cut a piece of ¼" clear Plexiglas, drilled 1 ½" holes in the front for air circulation, and epoxied it into a piece of walnut. Removing the shield takes only a second.
Next came the fence system. I built the fence with some scrap 3/4" MDF and more white laminate and contact cement.
After applying the laminate on the fence pieces, I very carefully cut some grooves in the top of the table for the miter slots and the aluminum T-Track for the fence. It took me several hours to carefully cut the dadoes, using a router. Laminate can chip if you're not slow and deliberate with these cuts and I didn't want my beautiful new top to have dings in it.
I got silly with the detail on the split fence faces. First, I covered all four sides with white laminate and trimmed them in walnut. Then I cut slots for some more T-track and cut a 45-degree chamfer along the edges. I actually was able to use the table for this cut and it went great! When I finished the two fence faces, I attached them to the aluminum "L" bracket I got a few months ago at the Houston Woodworking Show.
I made another trip to Home Depot for some electrical boxes, a 20-amp switch, and various other electrical supplies. I spent the next day reading about how to wire the electrical system correctly. It wasn't hard but since it involved messing around with electricity, I took things slow. When I finished, I had a main power cable coming from the wall into a switch mounted just under the table. The switch controls the power to an outlet that the router plugs into. It also activates an outlet that is on the back left of the table. With the Shop-Vac plugged into this outlet, the switch controls the router and the Shop-Vac at the same time.
I spent a few hours sanding everything to 220grit and applying a coat of Tried and True Varnish Oil. The final step was to install some Phillips head drawer pulls that Erin found on sale at Restoration Hardware.
I designed the table to match my hanging tool cabinet and I'm very proud of the results. I'm also glad to note that I've gotten a commission of sorts to build an entry bench for a friend-of-a-friend's house. The router table and tool cabinet served as my application for the job! I’d like to thank all the good folks here who helped with questions during this project.. . . Jason Young
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P.O. Box 493
Springtown, PA 18081