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Most of you'll know that I've falled afoul of the recent unemployment avalanche thanks to the rabid zombie flu. It is what it is. I'm also mid-move from this place to our new home, so guitar builds are off the table....but planning a new space to work is. Part of that is to get around to building a proper router table and improving work capability in general. Buying a new home comes with a lot of expense, and certainly, having your own tools and capability to do the work yourself from raw materials makes tools pay for themselves. Things like door frames, skirting boards, picture rails, coving, architrave, door thresholds, etc.

So I introduced @ScottR to my spirit animal, who also happens to be a Japanese guy. His router table isn't anything particularly innovative or original, but certainly very well-built and organised. I need a bit of that in my life, especially since I'm built like the 70s  and deeply disorganised.

 

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I took the design and re-jigged it a little for my own personal circumstance. A slightly shallower pair of side racks and router cabinet space. The top is going to be the same 30mm MDF, however I'm going to see if I haven't outstayed my welcome at my former workplace and see if I can get it laminated there.

Let's look at my thought processes and see how faulty they are. Please, do comment!

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I won't be going the route of soft sulphuric anodisation of aluminium. It looks good for video but isn't a patch on hard anodising. I also seem to be finding it difficult to source the same sort of aluminium extrusion used for the fence. Basic 8040 or similar types of extrusion will do the job fine here. Maybe even 8080 and using the central channel for extraction. I'll investigate the T-track rail distances in case I ever want to upgrade to say, an INCRA LS fence/positioner in future.

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The biggest choice in this is the router and lift. The Makita RP2300/2301 here has an M6 threaded hole in the body casting, allowing a threaded adjuster to draw the router closer to the plate or be released from it. This doesn't seem like a very good long-term solution to me as the threaded fastener will eventually wear through the threadform in the casting of the router and then you're royally King Screwed.

One option would be to use that as an anchor point and attached a block with a larger Acme thread and have a larger diameter adjuster that can be replaced if needs be. This takes me down the path of modifying a plain aluminium table insert which I really don't want to do. It's not that I can't do it, but I'm seeing this tool as a longer-term investment. A straight plate and shonky lift mechanism is however, the cheapest route. Too many points for failure and a less than sturdy finished mechanism, which translates to poorer finished surface quality.

That leads me to dedicated lift mechanisms. The Makita is a big motor at 2300W or a hair over 3HP (I won't go into why figures aren't that meaningful or descriptive elsewhere) and fits lifts such as the Jessem Rout-R-Lift Prestige. The fact that it's a unibody plunge router means that it will need attaching semi-permanently to the platen of the lift and loses a few mm of reach because of that. I'm unsure where the Makita can have bits changed above the table or not. It's hardly the worst issue, and there's no dealbreaker here. That's a big 3HP motor that will do virtually anything you ask of it; raised panels, mouldings, etc. Pricewise, this option is about midway. The only negative other than bit changes is perhaps that it is "mechanism upon mechanism", or the rigidity of the router plunge mechanism when locked off plus that of the lift itself. Any play would affect cut quality. Difficult to quantify hands-off.

The most expensive route has distinct pluses and negatives. This is an INCRA Mast-R-Lift II coupled with an AEG MF1400KE router. In Europe, this is the only non-trimmer router unit that comes with a cylindrical body that fits this style of lift. You 120VAC users have this so easy. The downside is that the motor is 1400W or just over 1,8HP. Still not shabby by any means, but might mean additional passes for the heaviest moulding operations. Without a plunge mechanism in the way, the bits are easily changed over the table without having to do the typical router table reacharound. My only fear (beyond cost) here is that AEG discontinue the router that fits in these lifts, meaning the only resorts would be second-hand, Chinesium no-name motors or getting a backup "just in case" at some point.

To be honest, if I can afford the AEG and Mast-R-Lift II, I'm going to go that route. Having as accurate and convenient a mechanism as possible that is built for the task, rather than built around a compromise makes sense. If it proves to be prohibitive in terms of cost, then I think I can save €200-300 by going the Makita and Rout-R-Lift avenue. Not the worst compromise in the world, but certainly not one that you can upgrade out of, only replace.

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So, as usual I drew everything up in Rhino. The major changes are that the upper racks have a single open drawer on top and a rack underneath. Instead of using ball-bearing drawer slides, I'll likely use something like Grass Dynapro because reasons. The entire table will maybe have two side castors and rubber buffer feet. I might hinge the top and use internal clasps to tension it securely against the sealing strips. This is one reason I changed the layout of the upper racks to full extension undermount drawer slides instead of up-and-over ball bearing slides.

preview_render_1707201334.jpg

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  • 3 weeks later...

Alright, we've moved and I'm more or less set up in the new workshop/office room. Not much space, but I've added a LOT of storage, so a router table will live in here happily without ending up being used as storage....

I weighed up my options with regards to the router, and as much as I would love one of those Mast-R-Lift II router lifts I don't know if the AEG router is the way to go. Digging into the company a little, it seems that their tool section is merely brand licensing and behind the big AEG name is TTI; TechTronics Industries. One of my pet hates when it comes to power tools. They license or own brands such as Hoover, AEG, Ryobi and Milwaukee. Generally I'm not impressed by the build quality of their tools, even Milwaukee which has a lot of strength behind the branding.

Anyway. I see buying the only router model available in Europe that works within a router lift as a risk. Certain accessories for that router appear to be discontinued, so I take that as a bit of a warning sign that this is not a router model that will be one of the classic workhorses. An expensive risk at best.

The Makita RP2301 on the other hand seems the right idea. The corresponding router lift for this unit is cheaper, but doesn't really facilitate easy "over the table" bit changes unless I add an extension collet. That I can behind, because this router in the Makita lineup has been a solid heavy lifter for many years and is clearly very very well built. The second option would be to use the Makita's built-in height adjustment mechanism and simply mount it under a good aluminium plate as mentioned, and exactly how JSK fitted his router. I do however want to have swappable locking bit collar inserts in the table, and also the Porter-Cable bushing compatible insert. These will see a lot of work.

The plywood will likely be bagged next week or the week after. Then we can have some real fun. Time for me to shop around for contact adhesive for that top....

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Thanks Scott! I'd say so too. I've used a number of router tables over the years and they've all fallen short for one reason or another. I absolutely thrive on precision, clean work and working to an exact target and a poor table can make this impossible very easily. The size and solidity in the table should allow crazy jigs and operations such as neck side profiling and curved rod slotting a breeze. The cross-cut slide should also allow me to dial in neck tenons including any angles in the shoulders, however that is likely more of a money-maker for furniture joinery work tenoning kitchen door frames and similar.

As usual, the router and table are the small purchase. The real money disappears when one starts purchasing bits!

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Ah, the gatekeepers to the walled ecosystems. Much like battery ecosystems....bringing me back neatly to TTI. They have multiple battery ecosystems in their brand portfolio, and in spite of them being 18650s under the hood....why so incompatible?

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Alrighty, enough of the silliness. (there is never enough silliness)

The plywood was collected today, and I put together the main part of the carcase. The top, central chamber, drawer and rack fronts have been put in place just for a little positive reinforcement. In general it's a very straightforward build, and a lot of the work comes from the precise cutting of the materials. Currently, I have no access to a table saw so I provided Levy Jaati with a cutlist. It really was worth it on the basis that I could just move straight on with the job.

The camera angle (24mm pancake) makes a nice job of reducing the apparent scale of the table....the plywood is 24mm (just under 1") and the MDF top (which I'll be laminating with melamine) is 30mm. Drop some 75mm or 100mm castors on the bottom and woo, table!

IMG_9436.JPG

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I posted this elsewhere (in the NTD thread) however the router is in the bag. It's a beast and the right choice for a router table. I'm sure that I'd have regretted the AEG version in spite of the router lift being exceptional. The downside of opting for the Router-R-Lift Prestige is that it is designed for plunge routers, and hence loses a little in terms of final cut depth/height. The base of the router has its black (phenolic?) plate removed, and the base secured to the router lift's platen.

IMG_9446.JPG

According to the Dieter Schmid Fine Tools site (where I will likely buy this lift from), this loses 12mm of maximum cutting depth, which isn't a big problem. It is however highlighting a design choice that I made, which was to reduce the depth of the tool housing cavity to nearly to the absolute minimum. Additional depth here felt like a waste of space. The router may bottom out in the cavity, especially if the adjustment nut is removed from the upper plunge stop that allows the machine to rise up higher on the base's posts. As it stands, it looks like about 70mm of plunge depth, 85mm if that nut is removed.

This is what I will be aiming for....

https://www.fine-tools.com/prestigelift-with-makita.html

Having looked at the option of using the long lifting (M5?) bolt included, I think it's a short term solution. That bolt will be a consumable item, and after a point the threaded post in the metal case will wear. I suspect that it'll be sintered metal rather than machined billet, so I expect it to be less than durable in the long term. Buying an aluminium plate for the table now will leave me ending up buying a full lift eventually, so I might as well do it now rather than pay twice.

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Okay. I made a small corner radiusing template from one of my many scraps of squared up plywood, rounded the corners of the MDF core and applied two sheets (top sheet plus balance) of "snow white" P3091 Formica. I bought a bottle of Titebond Melamine glue for this purpose, which I'll explain in a bit. Once dry, these were cut close to the finished size before routing flush with my palm router. White iron-on edge banding went around the exposed MDF edges, and we're done here.

IMG_9448.JPG

 

A little about product choice and method. Glossy laminate was used only because of price. Ideally a finely-textured satin laminate would be better as there is less friction between surface and workpiece. I am hoping that this won't prove to be a continual pain in the arse, but this is where we are.

Titebond Melamine glue has specific working properties that make it a better choice than a basic D2 (Titebond Original), D3 (Titebond II) or D4 (Titebond III) glue, however it's still a PVAc-based product. Whilst normal PVAcs could be used to adhere laminate to substrates such as MDF and plywood, their specific working properties lend themselves to use when one has a hydraulic laminate press available, which I no longer have.

Importantly, the melamine glue has a very high tack strength and reasonable open time, meaning that the laminate will tack well on initial application but can be repositioned and continue to be worked for about half an hour if necessary. This 600mm x 1000mm sheet used a little over 200ml per side (not sure what the spec sheet says) applied with a short nap paint roller until consistently wetted and a good tack can be felt through the roller. The laminate is rolled into place from one edge to the other to prevent air bubbles. Using a hard roller helps, however I just used a long round stick of Sapele hand rail. The top was flipped and the same thing done. There were zero drips and runs from this glue which was very welcome, however careless application or overuse could easily cause these. A sheet of plywood was placed on both sides after a final rolling, then a bunch of heavy items placed on top to prevent any curling back. The tack stops this also. In general there is a fraction of the pressure needed for HPL than for wood. I chased around the surface methodically with a clothes iron on medium heat to ensure a perfectly flat surface, although in general this shouldn't be required if you're applying even clamping pressure and the glue is applied consistently. I literally rolled this glue back and forth within an inch of its life.

After trimming back, edge banding was ironed on from the front centre around the border. Taping the banding loosely in place keeps it from twisting or flying off. Iron-on edge banding has EVA thermoplastic adhesive pre-applied, needing only a clothes iron to apply. Medium heat is sufficient. The edge banding must be worked outwards from the starting position (hence centre-front) to prevent kinks and loose areas, especially corners. Never work backwards, otherwise you can easily push open remelted glue and introduce gaps. By this point, you might as well start again.

Using a plastic customer "loyalty" card as a spacer plus a razor-sharp chisel, the excess around the borders was trimmed back. Finally, a scraper (here's looking at you, @Andyjr1515!) run at around 20° or so from horizontal brings this back flush. 240 grit paper takes off any sharp edges, and burnishing with cloth to generate heat smoothes it perfectly.

Now I need a router lift!

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Thanks Ron. It isn't a project outside of the bounds of most people as long as the basics can be covered, so that "good" is something within the reach of most with the right working information. The main thing is a flat and stable top with sufficient mass or reinforcement so that it doesn't sag. The rest is entirely optional.

I've used several router tables over the years, the best of which was a CMT branded unit. That was okay, except for the abuse it had been given and needing to change bits under the table. Again, that had a good flat top and a usable fence. Everything else has been less than adequate, whether by design or quality. I didn't even like the Festool mobile table, mostly because it is wobbly and I guess intended for contractors and site work; building up and knocking down. I've wanted something that is that step above for a long time, and a good router table can be a money printer with the right work on the table.

The point where this sort of project becomes a difficulty for most is the cost of the router. The Makita RP2300FC/RP2301FC is a beast and at a realistic price point. Dewalt don't come close, and Festool are for a different audience.

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On 8/12/2020 at 12:19 PM, Prostheta said:

Currently, I have no access to a table saw so I provided Levy Jaati with a cutlist.

So, it's an Ikea router table?

I don't own anything Makita, but always lusted after a 3620 router. It's a perfect guitar building size, kinda in between a trim router and a big hog. 

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IKEA?! Don't tempt the dragon, man. I hate that place with a passion. I always overbuild everything I make, and IKEA is definitely not that....! The convenience of having a company cut your plywood to size to a fraction of a mm is fantastic. Their (I think it's an Altendorf) table saw will literally be printing money and paying for itself. Very cool. Like I said though, a router table is only as good as the top, the router and the accessories like the fence, etc. The rest is storage, which I crave like hell.

I've used a Makita RP0900J (the updated version of the 3620) a couple of employers back. It's something like half the price of the RP2300FC, and I think the only advantages are price and it having less weight/bulk. I think the base is compatible with Porter-Cable guide bushing kits, and the same applies to common Makita things like micro-adjustable edge guides. The depth stop turret is great if you get into the right habits of dialling it in, locking it down and keeping the thread and locking knob well-maintained. The employer was an idiot and got rid of those because he didn't understand how to use them. Here in Europe the RP0900J comes with an 8mm and 6mm collet, so in the US you're talking what, 1/4" and 3/8"? It looks like it has the same collet locking issues that I find with the smaller RT0700C palm router; the spindle lock is a bit of a liability as you can over-torque it and potentially stress crack the housing. I bought a pair of spanners/wrenches (13mm and 22mm) and ground the 13mm thinner so it fits into the narrow spindle slots. Way better than the supplied flat steel plate affair. Placing them close together (6 o'clock, 7 o'clock) and squeezing is enough to get the collet open without smashing your hand again the router when it gives (who hasn't done this, right?) and something like twice that (5 o'clock, 7 o'clock) to lock. The old spanner flip. Same as the RT0700C, I suspect that the collet uses single locking cones which need regular cleaning to keep true, and they can easily increase runout in bits because of their super short length.

You're right; it's definitely the middle ground, but it has too many of the less desirable aspects of the smaller models and not enough of the things from the larger ones to stand on its own. It is good when you understand its limitations, but it looks better on paper if you see what I mean. Consider comparing it to the Makita RP0910 or RP1110C body. Those use proper double-locking collets and in spite of looking very very 80s, are a significant step up from the RP0900. Hell, I made my RT0700C palm router do tons of jobs it wasn't intended for, and its been a champ. Paid for itself? You betcha.

 

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Maybe missed the Ikea sarcasm? 🤔

Clearly yours is one step above an Ikea router table. 🤔😬🤣

I'm really jealous of it, because I have 4 routers and no table.

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Bummer 😕 I'd say that if any of your routers fit the bill, you'd get a lot of return out of going that route. The main difference - which as I always teach this - is that a table turns the user > tool > workpiece paradigm into user > workpiece > tool. Aside from a completely different mechanical advantage manipulating the workpiece, the reference surfaces become a different game.

Being a furniture designer/maker, IKEA is a mixture of respect for their absolutely engineered minimalism both in design and manufacturing cost and blind rage over the same. The CEO of the last company I worked for stated that furniture fitted in public spaces must be strong enough to **** on. I'm sure that this was flippancy in spite of the internal truth, since there are also a different set of hygiene standards within the design work required....! So yes.

What were we talking about again? Oh yes. What routers do you have? Let's see what we can convince you to do!

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I've got a Bosch 1613evs for my hog, and then some older medium and small routers that have followed me home from garage sales. Also a Porter Cable trim router, I probably use all of those equally. I've built temporary base plates to allow mounting upside down in the WorkMate, jigs like the scarf jig, and a pin router like thing, but none of that would beat a great table as you are doing. 

But let's not derail your build. You've inspired me and I will now start furiously drawing up plans for **** furniture.

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Derail away! Related conversation is always good. That Bosch 1613EVS is a nice plunge router. I think that tying one of those up in a table without a quick way of going back to say, a plunge or fixed base is a pain. This lift I'm looking at will need the router to be unbolted every time, however that's not the end of the world. If a job really needs it, then it's do-able. Changing it every five minutes would be painful though. I've seen builds where people use the edge guide rails as a method of fixing the router into a base, which might be a realisible option for yourself if you want to add table routing to your arsenal.

Hey, everybody needs furniture man. You don't ask the question, "so what're you going to do with that chair?" for several good reasons.

My main objective with the router table was to gain a precision routing station. Not just in terms of the router lift, but clean and ordered work. I've done way too many jobs using hand routers when really it was completely inappropriate or imprecise. Other than guitar work, this table will be doing a lot of Sapele work for mouldings around our home, plus joinery for our kitchen remodel, door frames and even new doors. Like most good tools, it should evolve as I find new uses and ways of doing things better. I thought of pin routing as well, and since I am likely using aluminium extrusion as the basis for the fence, it shouldn't be too difficult to concoct some sort of overhead pin gantry that locks into the fence and can be centred by the router spindle and locked. That might require a bit of precision engineering though, however not entirely an unlikely proposition. Making things to make other things is part of the joy.

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