Mobile Router Table

So I guess I should start by explaining that I didn’t actually make the router table itself, or the router, or the fence. I purchased all of that. (Yes, I clicked on “Buy Now” after so much pondering.) What I made is the base that it all sits on, and in my case, it is full of drawers, and is on wheels. The base gives the table more weight, which helps dampen the vibrations and makes it sturdier – plus all the drawers give me places to store all the stuff that goes with a router table.

For those not quite up to speed on their woodworking tools, here is a quick review about routers by Jonathan Katz-Moses . I have had a palm router for 10-15 years. My standard sized Porter Cable fixed base/plunge base router is probably more than 25 years old. What was missing, was a router table with a beefy, powerful router motor in it.

Recently I purchased a new router motor and lift (to allow the user to make all the bit and setting changes from above the table) that are mounted in a table top, that I also purchased. Lastly, a fence slides on the table to use when you need to guide the wood through the router bit – and I purchased one of those too. Now that the big box with all the stuff has arrived, I could get on with making the measurements needed to build a cabinet on which to mount the table.

The overall dimensions would be determined by the size of the top. In my case, that was 27″ by 43″. I wanted the table to overhang a bit on all sides in case I needed to clamp something to the work surface so that had to be factored in. I wanted it on wheels, so I had to account for the height of the casters, and then determine the working height of the table itself. Lastly, I had to sort out the layout for the drawers. I needed to leave room in the middle for the router motor itself (it mounts to the underside of the table, with the bit sticking up and through the table surface), but I could place drawers on either side. The motor could be enclosed, but would need easy access – and a hole in the back of the cabinet for the dust collection to attach. So after working out all those dimensions and sorting out how to mount the table top itself, to the wood frame I was building, then I could get to sketching the basic frame, with dimensions to start cutting.

I flip flopped a bit here as I could simply make a cabinet, and mount the wheels to the bottom like I did for the mobile base on my bandsaw – or I could make a frame and then slide the cabinet in to the frame. I went with the latter. I thought it would be sturdier overall, and allow me to more quickly get the router table mounted on the frame, and functional. That allowed me to use it when I was making the drawers for the cabinet that went underneath.

The frame was made from 2x4s that I milled down on the table saw to make them straight and square. Then I cut notches in the uprights, to allow for the crosspieces to rest on them, cut my top and bottom pieces, and some stretchers to keep things in line, and got down to assembly. It’s all done with a bit of wood glue and some Grex screws.

The top that I purchased came with pre drilled/tapped holes on the bottom, and the screws that went with them. These were designed to quickly allow it to be mounted to a metal frame base, that I had opted not to purchase. I made a wood frame of similar dimensions and used small metal L brackets to attach the top, to my wood frame. Now that it was secure, I could actually attach casters, and flip it over to use if needed. Now, I also had the exact dimensions for the cabinet that would slide inside that frame, and provide the structure for the drawers. It worked out to 36″ wide, 26″ in height and about 24″ deep.

The cabinet box is made out of the same 3/4″ radiata pine plywood from the Home Depot that most everything else in the shop is made from. Essentially it is a bottom, two sides and a back. Then I added two dividers, so that left to right there were three sections. The left and right sections got a top for stability (and to hold the plywood in place) and for the same reason, there is a small stretcher at the front of the middle section – but the rest of that section it open to the top so that the router motor would fit. Lastly there is a shelf in the middle section that divides the compartment for the router motor, with the drawer below. Without that shelf, all the dust would fall in to the drawer. The remaining space below the shelf would be one extra tall drawer that would store my old Porter Cable router along with the two bases and an edge guide.

With that basic construction in place, I could move on to the drawers. There were 9 of them and once again, I made them from the same 3/4″ plywood for the front/back and sides. The bottom is 1/2″ plywood, just like the other drawers I have made in the shop. Quick and simple construction using pocket screws front and back, and the bottoms are just glued on and pin nailed in place. This has worked great on my other cabinets, and so I went with the same here. For the drawer slides, I again used the Centerline overtravel medium duty slides like my other cabinets, but this time in 22″ size. I have been very pleased with these previously, and I love the overtravel on them – the drawer extends all the way out.

Once they were assembled, I did all the roundovers, top and bottom, on the router table, which was fun. Then I cut the drawer fronts on the table saw from 3/4″ plywood, and did all roundovers on the router table as well. Then came lots and lots of sanding to get everything smooth to the touch and ready for finish. The drawer fronts got several coats of water based polyurethane – except one panel that I set aside sanded, but unfinished. That one got marked and shipped to my daughter who is away at school. More on that later.

Now that the drawer fronts were complete, I installed them using screws from the inside to hold them in place. Now the cabinet was nearly complete – except for the drawer pulls. I have sort of made it an unofficial rule that each shop cabinet has a different set of drawer pulls from the previous one – and all are in walnut. My first outfeed table, and then its replacement each have similar handles, and the band saw base has very different pulls. This time I know I wanted to cut a recess in the back using the router table – it seemed only fitting.

While visiting my parents, my father provided me with a piece of walnut about 6 feet long and roughly 1″ by 1 1/4″ – and only surfaced on one side. I cut the piece in half on the miter saw to make it more easily managed, and then I configured the router fences to be slightly offset, and aligned on the left of the bit (when facing it) so that as I fed the wood from right to left, it would cut like a jointer – only on the side instead of the bottom. Now there was a delay in doing this as I needed a bit with a cutting edge of more than an inch, which I did not have. Bits and Bits to the rescue. Once I had the bit, it was reasonably quick to make two passes on each piece of stock, and then I could comfortably clean it up on the table saw. While doing this I got the idea to inlay some basswood strips (leftover from a kumiko project) in to the handles, so I cut a groove in the front of each board. Then I could slice them in to 5 inch wide pieces and start adding the rest of the details.

First up, routing a recess in to the bottom/back so there would be room for fingers. This also required a new bit – that I ordered at the same time as the one from above, so I had it on hand. This one has a nice rounded profile with a slight flat top. This way I could make multiple cuts that would create a recess wider than the bit, with rounded sides and a flat top. This proved time consuming. I didn’t want the recess to be exposed on the sides, meaning I had to start and end the cut before it reached the outside edges of the wood. I made it about 3″ wide, so there was an inch on each side where I would be able to connect it with screws to the drawer fronts. To keep the wood from chipping, or working the bit too hard, I had to make many small passes. Considering I was making a dozen handles (two spares) and each one needed about a dozen passes to get the depth and height I wanted, it was a lot of slowly feeding a small piece of walnut across the router bit. In the end, it worked as planned. The on the table saw, I cut an angled profile on the front so the top of the handle was thinner than the bottom – for looks, and to minimize the dust it would catch. Then a 45 degree angle on each end, so that they would not catch on my pants when I was working.

Next up was sanding and in this case, it was all done by hand. Each grit – 80, 100, 120, 150 and 220. This was several hours of work but in the end, I was pleased with the results. I think it is worth the time on the handles, as that is the one surface you will typically “interact” with. It is a tactile element, and if it doesn’t feel right in your hand, it will annoy you each time you open a drawer. On the plus side, when it works out right, it brings a little smile. Worth the time in my book. After all that sanding, I did not want to go through the process of water based poly and more sanding – or wetting them first, and sanding again, so I went with a hard wax oil finish on the handles. No more sanding, and it feels nice to the touch.

The last step was to mount them on the drawers. They are simply mounted using through holes in the drawers, and after pre drilling the walnut handles, I just used simple wood screws from the inside to hold them in place. This actually went reasonably quickly and then the drawers were ready for use. Now one extra quirk here. The top center panel is not a drawer – I need to have access to the router if I wanted to adjust the motor speed, so this drawer front is actually held in with magnets. The handle lets me pull it free, reach in to make an adjustment, and then the magnets align it right back in place. I actually really like how that works. Now in the top section where the router motor is hidden, I built a ramp to direct the sawdust to the hole at the back where the dust collector hose attaches. That ramp created the opportunity for a second “dead panel” that was a drawer front, with no drawer behind it.

In this case, I shipped the panel to my daughter and she was gracious enough to take it over to the school’s makerspace. There she loaded up the logo for this website, and using a laser, she etched it in to the wood surface. Kind of like all the youtubers making personalized cutting boards, only in this case, it was for my router table. She brought it home at spring break, and then I could lightly sand away some small burn marks and get some water based polyurethane on it to match the others. Once that was ready, I again used magnets to hold this panel in place. No handle on this one as I don’t really have a reason to remove it on any kind of regular basis – but if I ever get rid of the cabinet, I can keep the Sawdusting panel.

Now that it is all assembled, and functional there was one more small task. I needed to add the dust port and some elbows and blast gates to the back so that I could connect the 4″ dust collector hose to the cabinet – and a 2″ offshoot from that, to the fence on top. So far, the dust collection has worked well. I need to find or make better blast gates, but for now, they work well enough.

So that’s it, all complete. I had a foam router bit holder, that I trimmed down to fit in the new cabinet drawers and moved all the router table tools in to the cabinet. I moved my standard router in to its custom home in the bottom middle drawer. Half the drawers are still empty, but I know that won’t last, just as I am sure there will be more router bits in my future. I had fun building it, and it came out just as I had pictured it in my head. Now I am pondering some projects that might require some template making, and pattern routing, but I haven’t settled on anything yet. I still need to make a new cross cut sled for the table saw so that might be next, and I am eager to try out the new kumiko sled I recently made. The again, maybe I will venture off in a different direction. That’s the beauty of woodworking as a hobby and not a business. No clients waiting on a project I am running behind on. Just me and whatever project calls to me next.

Thanks for reading along.

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