Router tables come with a variety of different designs as we shall see in our router table reviews and best router tables. That said, there are a few optimization techniques that would work well on any router table. These are:
- Use ½” shanks/bits: ½” shanks/bits tend to be more durable than the smaller and thinner ones. Since substantial pressure is applied through the wood on the bit, a sturdy bit is far more important for a router table than it is for the free-wield router. Weaker bits may bend and if they do so, the cut would be poor.
- Ensure bits are smooth and sharp: While the shape of the bits may vary tremendously, one of the constants as far as bit construction is concerned is smoothness and sharpness. Without smoothness, the bit would face increased resistance from the collet and this would result in an uneven cut. Without sharpness, the cut would be poor and multiple rounds may be required to achieve the desired results.
- Bit speed should be calibrated to bit size: The manufacturer of the bit normally offers a guide to the maximum safe speeds at which the bit can be run in different scenarios. This guide should be followed diligently as running the bits above safe speed may result in their breaking free – a dangerous scenario that can lead to serious physical damage. Further the highest safe speed is not always the optimal one. One should always try out different speeds to figure out which is the best one for the wood being cut.
- Take note of the bearings: Bearings decide the depth of the cut. Generally, subtracting the bearing depth from the bit size gives the effective depth of the cut. Experiment with different bearings to obtain the perfect cut.
- Ensure that the table is stable: An unstable table would cause the bit to rise up and down as the cut progresses and this can lead to a zig-zag cut that would be of little use. Hence, a stable table must be ensured by checking the feet of the table and whether the weights on the table are adequately balanced.
- Opt for light cut-through fences: Cut-through fences allow for bearing isolation, a necessary step in obtaining the perfect cut. Further, if the fence is light, it can be easily adjusted during operation and this allows for some correction even after cutting has begun.
How to make a Router Table
While making a router table may not be the easiest of woodworking projects, you can always take a shot at creating your own little table provided you have the basic tools. These tools are –
- A standard drill with drill bits.
- Forstner Bits for widening drilled areas.
- Clamps and/or stands for the table.
- One piece of plywood of decent thickness and length (depends on the size of the wood you would cut) to be used as the table.
- Another piece of plywood to be used as the fence. The length of this piece should match the width of the table and its width should be not more than 3-4 inches. It should be somewhat thicker than the wood used for the router table itself.
- Screws and bolts of appropriate thickness.
To make a router table, you would have to:
- Measure out the large piece of plywood and place it on a smooth surface. Use standard tools to figure out whether the surface is completely flat. Use a sandpaper to flatten out minor bumps and bits sticking out from the surface.
- Take the base plate of the router and place it on the surface you wish to work upon. Use a pencil to mark the circumference of the plate. Measure only the outer circumference – not the inner one.
- With the base plate still on, take your drill and a normal drilling bit to make holes corresponding to the ones in the base plate.
- Take a forstner bit and use it with the drill to make a larger hole at the centre to correspond to the point where the cutting bit of the router would come out from.
- Remove the plate.
- Enlarge the already drilled holes with the forstner bit.
- Replace the plate once more.
To make the fence:
- Place the second piece of wood on the table piece in a way that it sits on its thinnest side and the length of the piece is perfectly aligned with the width of the table.
- Carefully align it with the bit hole (the big hole you cut for the cutting bit) such that its edge is just obscuring the edge of the hole.
- Mark the point on the edge of the table where the piece of wood sits.
- At a point a little away from the edge but far from the hole, drill a normal hole with your drill.
- Place a standard screw into the hole and secure it with a bolt from the other side.
- Move the long piece of wood a little to see if it can be adjusted according to the need of the cut.
- If the piece of wood moves freely and to the right extent, the fence is ready.
To mount the router:
- Place the router’s screws into the holes made through the plate earlier.
- Turn the table over and mount the router and its fixture through the holes. Ensure that the fence is not damaged.
- Turn the table back to its original state and tighten the screws.
- Attach the clamps to hold the table to the edge of a workbench or to stands if the unit is to be a free-standing one.
- Run the router to see if everything is working correctly.
Note : The fence should be able to move freely over the base plate. If the base plate and fence are conflicting, use an allen wrench to fix the plate or loosen the screw of the fence a little.
How to repair a Router Table
Despite being some of the hardiest offerings in the market, it is true that even the best router tables can on occasion become so severely impacted by one or more problems that operation grinds to a halt. While some of them require extensive disassembly, others take only a little special care to fix. We shall focus on the latter in this section:
1. Slipping Bits:
The bit assembly consists of the cutting bit fitted into a chuck and collet assembly. If the bit is slipping and/or being pushed away from the wood, chances are the chuck is loose. Using the chuck key to tighten the chuck is the easiest means of fixing the problem and falls more in the realm of maintenance than repair. However, if this does not solve the problem, it is necessary to remove the bit and then check whether the chuck has become worn out. If this is the case, the chuck would need to be taken out by carefully rotating it using a wrench. This done, a replacement chuck would have to be installed by rotating it into place.
2. Drive Belt Problems:
Some router tables use a drive belt to either move the wood or the router along the wood edge. If the belt is getting stuck or is moving erratically, there is a chance that the belt itself may have been damaged due to extensive use. To check, unplug the power cord and dismantle the router. Check underneath the table with a flashlight for signs of wear and tear on the drive belts. Note that drive belts cannot be repaired – they must be replaced. To replace a belt, remove the carriage and housing of the unit (differs from table to table) and put then carefully take out the belt. There may be residual wood dust and debris stuck in the belt so wear eye protection while carrying out this step. Follow this up by attaching the replacement belt till it is taut. Attach the carriage and housing and test the unit by running a piece of wood on it (manually, without use of electricity). If the belt works fine, reattach the router and insert the power cable to resume operations.
3. Raised Bits:
Bits need to remain about 1/8” above the collet for efficient operation. However, as dust and resin collects in the space, the bit is steadily raised and this raises and destabilizes the plane of the cut. To fix this, remove the power supply and then dismantle the bit. Use canned air to blow away the dust. If a lot of resin is present, you may have to replace the collet as removing resin is a tough task. Once the collet has been replaced, put the bit back in and resume operations.
How to clean a Router Table
One of the first questions asked by users after purchasing a router table is how to maintain a router table. While there are many aspects to maintenance, perhaps the most important part of it deals with regular and thorough cleaning of the unit. To clean the router table:
- Remove the fence and let the cutting bit spin freely for some time, allowing the dust and debris stuck in and around it to come loose. Stop the router motor.
- Remove the power supply and disconnect the power cord. In the majority of modern router tables this should not require removal of static. In older units though, the table may have to be touched by a grounded wire to remove static.
- Take out the router and the associated drives and belts.
- Use an indoor air blower to blow away the dust and dirt that may have gathered on the upper surface of the table.
- Follow this up by vacuuming the underside of the table to remove dust and dirt. You may also use the blower if a vacuum is not available.
- Take a piece of sandpaper and rub the upper surfaces quite thoroughly. Focus on the area around the base plate and the part where the fence sits.
- Remove the base plate and clean it in the same manner. Set is aside for the moment.
- Use canned air to blow away minute dust and debris from the router fixtures and the drive carriages (if present).
- Take the router and remove its bit assembly. This can be done by using a chuck key and/or wrench to unscrew the chuck system.
- Blow canned air through the collet and chuck to clean out any debris that may have accumulated there. As noted above, resin is tough to remove and if this is present, the collet may need to be changed. Further, this is an excellent opportunity to check for signs of wear and tear on the collet.
- Use a blower to blow away dust from the outer surfaces of the router. A gentle rub with a sandpaper or dry cloth can be carried out for even better results. Set the router aside for the moment.
- Take the fence and blow the sawdust away from the exterior. Be sure to wear eye protection as the sawdust will scatter in various directions.
- Take a damp cloth and rub the exterior and interior surfaces to remove any remaining debris.
- Replace the belts and drive assemblies.
- Now put the router back into place and replace the base plate.
- Replace the fence and run a quick check to ensure that everything is working properly.