July 15, 2011
A new router table design is now complete, read about it here
A router table is a very handy addition to the workshop, especially if it has a dedicated router. Having to pull the machine to use free hand is bothersome and changing out faceplates is tedious. I came to the conclusion that for the router table idea to work for me, the router would need to be permanently installed in the machine.
I've had a few over the years, most that I'd built and one that was a gift - a Craftsman tabletop model that, for the sake of politeness, I'll say nothing about here. The problem with the ones I've had in the past is that they did not have a lift to quickly adjust the cutter height. Another inconvenience was that you would have to remove the machine from the table to change bits. Although these may seem like minor issues to some, they are virtual deal breakers for me: if it isn't easy and quick to set up and change, I'm not going to be using it.
So, knowing this I did some research and my first resource was the router table that was featured on The New Yankee Workshop. This has elements that I really liked but what it didn't have was a lift mechanism. Further digging and I found Woodgears.ca - Matthias Wandel's lift mechanism seemed to be just what I needed. A marriage of the two was the answer.
First, I built the lift:
The unit is compact and fully self contained, needing only to be attached to the support structure of the router table. Having run out of Baltic birch plywood, I had to make the bottom gear from 1/4" hardboard. I submerged it in thinned urethane overnight and after letting it dry for a full day, it had the consistency of tough plastic. Indeed, this gear has stood the test of time - nearly 3 years and many rotations later it shows no sign of wear. These were the first gears I ever made and I laid them both out using Matthias' Gear Template Generator and very carefully made the cuts on my table saw.
The clamps that hold the router body were "cove cut" on the table saw to the exact radius of the body, then bolted in place with 1/4"-20 threaded rod.
I adapted Matthias' design but the basic functionality is the same: 2 gears, the one on the front has a crank handle and drives the one on the bottom. The bottom gear turns a threaded rod which raises and lowers the router. Here, I used a ratio of 1:2, so for every full turn of the front gear, the router would raise or lower 1/8". Good for quickly moving up or down but still precise enough for fractional cuts.
Two hand screws lock the mechanism after the adjustment is made.
With the lift made, I moved on to the table itself:
Basic construction is 3/4" maple plywood for the outer panels, 5/8" melamine for the interior. All of the joints are just glued and nailed butt joints.
The drawer was already built, left over from another unrelated project. Since it was nearly exactly the right size, I adjusted the cabinet width to fit it.
Mounting the router lift was a matter of screwing it in place to the main divider and adding structure around it to adequately support it:
The space behind is the dust collection plenum, that links the area under the router with the feed from the fence, above the table. This scheme works well, removing nearly all of the dust produced during operation.
A look at the top of the lift and how it is supported:
I wanted to make sure that the router was very rigidly attached and that it would not vibrate excessively.
As shown, the lift is at the top of its travel, and that puts the collet up out of the table, for easy bit changes. There is about 3" of vertical travel available, for those bigger bits. I find it's very handy to have extra range, even if you only use it occasionally.