The Ultimate Router TableCabinet-based unit devours dust and decibels and puts controls on the outside
Synopsis: The ultimate router table would be as convenient as a shaper or a tablesaw — all of the common tasks and adjustments are done from above or outside the unit. It would also have the dust-collecting ability and vibration-dampening mass of a cabinet-mounted tool. John White of Fine Woodworking designed and built a router table that does all that and it’s quiet to boot. He used a screw-driven mechanism to raise and lower the router and also attached a shopmade mounting block. Simple parts, smart function — detailed drawings and complete explanations on how to build your own are included in the article.
I have always been dissatisfied with the popular designs for router tables and the versions available on the market. In some way or another, they are all less convenient than standard woodworking machines. For one thing, you have to reach under the table a lot to adjust bit height, change bits or hit the power switch. The ultimate router table would be as convenient as a shaper or tablesaw—all of the common tasks and adjustments are done from above or outside the unit. It would also have the dust-collecting ability and vibration-dampening mass of a cabinet-mounted tool.
I came up with a router cabinet that meets all of the above criteria and is super-quiet to boot. The design relies on the JessEm Rout-R-Lift, a screw-driven mechanism that allows you to raise and lower the router and bit by cranking a handle inserted from above. The JessEm unit is also sold by Jet as the Xacta Lift, for the same price—around $200 in many catalogs. By adding a shopmade mounting block to the lift, I was able to raise the router high enough to allow bit changes from above the table as well.
Eliminating the need to reach underneath the top let me mount the table on a cabinet, which could enclose a shop vacuum and muffle its sound and the roar of the router itself. A dust-collection manifold fits under the tabletop and behind the lift unit. A fence system with a dust port ties into the system below.
I mounted a switched outlet for the router and vacuum unit outside the cabinet. Just for fun, I threw in racks for bit and tool storage. Casters under one end of the cabinet make it mobile—like a wheelbarrow—but still stable on the floor.
Materials cost just over $300, including the shop vacuum and the router lift but not a fixed-base router (the more powerful, the better for use in a table). The investment in time and money was significant but reasonable, considering the performance and convenience I gained.
From Fine Woodworking #153
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