UPDATE: I no longer use this table as it was specifically built for my last shop. After moving into my new shop I designed something different. You can see my new homemade router lift here and the extension wing for my table saw here.
I think a router table is one of those tools that we often think “Bigger is Better!!” And the ideal standard seems to be Norm’s huge router table from The New Yankee Workshop. I’ve been without a router table for a few months now and have been pondering the route I want to take to make a new one. I definitely don’t want to add another router to my table saw wing again. For me one of the biggest annoyances was switching back and forth between “router mode” and “table saw mode” so that was definitely a no-go. And since rearranging the shop and adding a French cleat wall I’ve really started to understand the importance of not restricting floor space and utilizing wall space. So with that in mind I decided to make a French cleat, compact, fully featured router table that could easily be stored up and out of the way when not in use.
The core of this router table will be the homemade router lift. I just built my third ibuildit.ca router lift and will basically turn it into a box for the router table. The plans available at the end of this post include everything except the router lift. You can use any lift you choose but if you are interested in making the same lift that I used you can purchase the ibuildit.ca router lift plans HERE. They are well worth the asking price in my opinion.
To keep the weight down I am using primarily 1/2” plywood.
The cool thing about this lift is that all of the mechanical parts are on the outside once the router is boxed in.
No fancy joinery. Just pre-drilled holes for drywall screws
The French cleat is screwed directly into the back of the box. I’m not too worried with screw length on this project so I used 1-1/4” drywall screws for everything. If they poked through the other side oh well. It won’t effect performance any. The French cleat and both lid braces are the only 3/4” plywood pieces on the build.
To eliminate the need for insert plates I hinged the top to the top of the French cleat. This also raises the axis of rotation on the table surface. This is necessary because I am not using any insert plates. If the hinges are level with the working surface then, depending on how high the router bit is, the table top will hit the router bit when the top is lifted. Elevating the axis of rotation for the hinges will eliminate this from happening as it will actually push the top forward as it is being lifted up.
Because the box was only attached to the French cleat via the back piece there was a fair amount of flex left to right. To eliminate this I cut two triangular support brackets and attached them to both the french cleat and the box via pocket hole screws. I’m sure 8 pocket hole screws per bracket is more than necessary but it sure doesn’t hurt anything. I had to notch the left bracket to fit around the lift.
To locate the center of the router bit I used a small v-groove bit at a very shallow height and lowered the top down onto the bit while running. This gave me a small pilot hole to use a 1-1/2” forstner bit to drill out the router opening at precisely the correct location. Because I didn’t have the bottom plate installed I was able to switch the router on manually. Once the bottom plate is installed I will use a switched extension cord to control the router.
To aid in dust collection I added a second 1-1/2” hole spaced 4” on center to the rear of the router hole and connected them with a jigsaw to form a slot.
With the slot done I cut the top to it’s final depth and added the front brace.
The fence design I came up with is very basic. For the front I drilled another 1-1/2” hole 1-1/4” from the bottom and trimmed out the opening on the table saw.
The fence is the same 24” wide that the top is so to clamp it down I slid the center sections out by 2” on either side. This will give some overhang to add a carriage bolt to.
And the center section is just boxed in. The entire fence is constructed with glue and brad nails.
A few 1/2” plywood blocks formed an arm and I used some maple blocks with t-nuts in them to form a knob. This works very well to clamp the fence down as needed. Each side is done the same way.
To change the bit I can use my shoulder to hold the top up. You can add a lift support or simply set something in the way to prevent it from falling if you want.
For dust collection I cut an extra Harbor Freight blast gate in half. This gives me a perfect size 4” dust port without having to make a trip to the store. I simply screwed it on to a piece of plywood for the bottom. If you don’t have a dust collector you could make the top slot larger and use a bag or bin to collect the chips.
And finally adding the lift arm. Nothing fancy here.
In the end I’m left with a compact, light weight router table with a router lift, dust collection, and an adjustable fence. My total materials cost for this build is just shy of $100 and that is INCLUDING the new 2hp router that I purchased. The area I’m using it in is an area that I would never put a dedicated tool in so this wall space will never be covered up.
And when it’s not in use I can hang it high on my french cleat wall. I know this router table won’t be the ideal solution for some but I hope you were at least able to get some ideas from the design. Bigger isn’t always better.