French Cleat Router Table

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.

french cleat router table (1)

To keep the weight down I am using primarily 1/2” plywood.

french cleat router table (2)

The cool thing about this lift is that all of the mechanical parts are on the outside once the router is boxed in.

french cleat router table (3)

No fancy joinery. Just pre-drilled holes for drywall screws

french cleat router table (4)

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.

french cleat router table (5)

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.

french cleat router table (6)

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.

french cleat router table (7)

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.

french cleat router table (8)

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.

french cleat router table (9)

With the slot done I cut the top to it’s final depth and added the front brace.

french cleat router table (10)

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.

french cleat router table (11)

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.

french cleat router table (12)

And the center section is just boxed in. The entire fence is constructed with glue and brad nails.

french cleat router table (13)

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.

french cleat router table (14)

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.

french cleat router table (15)

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.

french cleat router table (16)

And finally adding the lift arm. Nothing fancy here.

french cleat router table (17)

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.

french cleat router table (18)

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.

router table on wall

Download

Although this plan is free to you remember that it isn’t free to produce. If you would like to show your thanks please consider using the donate button at the bottom of this page. If you liked this project and found it useful please share it so others can do so as well. Thanks for stopping by folks and have a great day! NOTE: As stated above, this free plan DOES NOT include the ibuildit.ca router lift. You may use any router lift you choose or you can purchase the same lift I used on ibuildit.ca. A link to those plans is in the beginning of this post.

featured-size-french-cleat-router-table

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19 Comments

  1. Gary Roofner

    I can see a major problem with your design almost no movement with your fence? It looks like only about an inch of usable space?

  2. Jay Bates

    That’s not a problem at all. I can move the fence more than what is needed to do edge work. The only instance where you would need to move the fence back more than the radius of the router bit is to do dados. I cut dados on the table saw. And, if one were to really want to cut a dado on this router table you could remove the fence and clamp a board where needed.

  3. Mark

    Jay, thanks for the video, and I can say that after building John’s Box Joint Jig, his plans are WELL worth the investment. Hell, I actually felt like I stole them at that price. A lot of work gos into more complex jigs like his. The work pays off because it makes it easier for ‘us’ to build.

    Anyways, the reason I am writing is to find out why you say that you’ll never put a router in your table saw extension? I just bought an upgraded TS, and it has a blank extension. Just wondering why you wouldn’t do that again…maybe convencing me that I shouldn’t either…lol

    Finally, I remember you going to HD to buy their Ridgid Hybrid TS. For some reason, you have a Grizzly now…what happened? I am sure you explained it somewhere…but I can’t for the life of me find any info!

    Thanks,
    Mark
    Dallas, TX

    1. Jay Bates

      It was a pain in the butt to move between “router mode” and “table saw mode” when I had it in my wing. I always had it setup for a router operation then make a mistake and need to cut another piece on the table saw. Very annoying. I suppose one could make the argument that taking this off the wall and hooking it up would be equally annoying though.

      Regarding the Ridgid R4512 click here: http://jayscustomcreations.com/2014/02/my-new-table-saw-ridgid-r4512/

  4. Bob Stanish

    Looks good Jay! Only have a couple of comments.

    If you get into using larger router bits, such as special joinery bits or raised panel bits, you may need to make the bit opening larger. Problem with that is that you then have less control when using smaller bits. You may find that case you may need to build a removable center insert in the table to reduce the size of the bit hole (probably with dovetail sliders). Not a show stopper, just a possible future consideration.

    Also while template guide bits should work with this design, you may find a problem if you need to accommodate brass template inserts. Using an insert in the center section of the table could solve that problem too, since it would relatively easy to create the socket to accommodate the brass inserts.

    French cleats are fantastic inventions! It’s amazing what one can do with them.

  5. Don Fillenworth

    Does the router run hot being enclosed, or does the vacuum of the dust collection provide enough cooling?

    1. Jay Bates

      The router has never gotten hot with no dust collection running. I wouldn’t run it for hours on end in a production environment. Any hobby work would be just fine for the router in this setup. With a dust collector running you could run it forever without it getting hot.

  6. kevin

    the french cleat system for holding your router table nice idea! now expand on it ! sharpening station! bench grinder! beer holder! the list is endless.

  7. Brandon

    Do you need a router lift for this router table? I don’t really want to build a router lift. If I built this router table, how would I mount the router to the table?

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