Episode 16 The Router Table

Episode 16 The Router Table.

The router is an incredibly versatile tool, capable of many, many tasks. One method of using the router is to mount it underneath a table, so the router bit is exposed, and bringing the workpiece to the router, rather than the other way around.

This video looks at using the router table, using the router table fence as well as bearinged versus unbearinged router bits. It is a followup to the blog post on Stu’s Shed “So just what is a Router Table?” on the 25th November 07

Circular Saw Blade Tip Speed

Recently, I did some web research about the typically accepted range for router bit tip speeds so I could construct my own table for safe operating ranges of router bits of various sizes in a variable speed router. I found the speed range was between 100 and 150km/hr.

That has lead to another question that I’ve been asked: what is the normal tip speed of a circular saw, and do manufacturers make their small saws run faster to obtain a similar tip speed on their 7 1/4″ (185mm) model(s) versus their 9 1/4″ (235mm) model(s)?

This is comparing no-load speeds (Note, where there wasn’t a 235mm model, I’ve taken the next size down)

So just had a quick look, at 5 different company’s products, and calculated tip speed in each case and this is what I got:

Triton 235mm 4100RPM 181 km/hr 2400W

Triton 185mm 5000RPM 174 km/hr 2000W

Makita 235mm 4100RPM 181 km/hr 2000W

Makita 185mm 4700RPM 164 km/hr 1050W

GMC 235mm 4500RPM 199 km/hr 2300W

GMC 185mm 4700RPM 164 km/hr 1800W

GMC 185mm 5000RPM 174 km/hr 1200W

Dewalt 185mm 5800RPM 202 km/hr 2200W

Dewalt 210mm 5800RPM 230 km/hr 2075W

Hitachi 235mm 5000RPM 221 km/hr 2000W

Hitachi 185mm 5800RPM 202 km/hr 1710W

Gives one a real appreciation how fast a kickback from one of these things is……..

Wins and Losses

Spent a few hours out at the shed today, shooting footage for some new episodes.  37 -38 degrees C (100 F) out there, so we’ve gone from raining on me every shoot, to trying to melt me, and the camera!

Had some wins, and some failures – hopefully the footage is usable – I’ve deleted a few hours of footage recently that didn’t make the grade, and that is so frustrating when shed time is at a premium.

Speaking of failures, it is a bit of a worry when reviewing a tool which fails before the review is complete…….

50,000 year old timber

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This is a beautiful example of New Zealand Swamp Kauri. Approximately 50,000 years old, it has incredible luminance, and is just a stunning piece, dragged from the depths of anaerobic mud.

So just what is a Router Table?

Before I begin, this will be the subject of a video in the near future – if a picture is worth a thousand words, nothing beats 24000 words a second for clarity…….

If you asked me what was a router table, and what it was good for just a few years ago, I wouldn’t have had a clue. I had a basic idea of what a router was, but that was about it.

A router is, in simple terms, a motor with a chuck, able to hold various profile router bits, and spin them at high speed.

Without going into all the details, there are routers that are fixed (ie, a fixed depth), others that plunge (ie, you can push down to expose the router bit to a desired depth). There are fixed speed, and variable speed routers, and they take different common shaft diameters, with the most common here being 1/4″ and 1/2″.

To control what the router does, there are baseplates with fences to rest against the edge of the work,

router bits with bearings, and template guides. There are also more elaborate mounts that support the router as it is presented to the workpiece.

The alternate is to secure the router, and bring the workpiece to the bit. (Other than one or two notable exceptions) the router is mounted upside down, under a table with a hole that the bit passes through. Thus we have….the router table.

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Detail View of Router Bit

The router table is made up of three main components. The table (and stand), the fence, and at the heart,the router itself. Choosing a suitable router is important, and in my opinion, is not the time to be concerned about cost cutting – getting a router that is ideal for the job is critical to how successful your router table is. This is not to say that a cheap router cannot do the job, but when you experience the power, the microadjustments, and the bit changing convenience of a good router, it is hard to look back.

So, some features to look out for, and honestly, I am basing these on the Triton 2400W router, as it is one of the best routers in the world for table-mounting applications (it is a bugger to handhold, so I am not recommending it for those situations!!)

Power – 2400W (3 1/4 horsepower) is excellent. If you don’t plan to drive really large bits, then sure, you can decrease the router size to 1400W or so.

1/2″ collet. You want to be able to mount 1/2″ bits. There are some applications where you want a 1/4″ bit, but for those there are reducers you can use. I have found the 1/4″ a bit too prone to shaft breakage (such as when you hit a knot in the timber)

Microadjuster through the entire range (and able to use the macro and micro adjustments at any stage- I have seen a router where there was a microadjuster, but you had to engage it at full router height, then wind all the way down the microadjustment shaft to the required depth – stupid.)

Above-table bit changing.

The second part of a router table is the table itself. This can be as simple as a flat board, or as elaborate as one with built-in height winding (if your router doesn’t already have that), zero clearance inserts (or at least close clearance), and dust extraction. So long as it is flat, anything else goes. The base can be as simple as 4 legs, or as complicated as a fully enclosed base, with drawers for router bits, templates etc etc.

Here are a couple of examples:

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This first one is a commerically produced table (by Triton – made in Melbourne). It has a removable central section for easy access to the router, an elaborate fence, and plenty of hold-downs. It is made from pressed steel, and is generally an excellent introduction to table-mounted routing. This is where I started (and it still is used a lot for demos etc – very portable, and capable)

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This second table is more where I am now (although another upgrade is in the pipeline). The top is laminated, and around 1″ thick – very flat and stable. The insert (black part) has the router mounted below it, and has a number of interchangable close clearance inserts (depending on what bit I’m using). There are rails for stops on the fence, and a track for a mitre gauge, or featherboards.

The fence is about to be upgraded – here it is a RHS aluminium fence, that I have fitted with tracks and a micro-positioning system, but I am looking at the Incra Wonderfence to go with the LS positioner that you can see behind the fence.

The Incra LS Positioner is quite unique, and means I can accurately, and repeatably set the fence position accurate to within 1/1000th of an inch. Certainly that much accuracy is rarely needed, but if it is that accurate, then it will more than suit any other positioning job I can throw at it.

The base at this stage is nothing to write home about. It is a temporary arrangement, that so far has been there for about 1 1/2 years. One day it will be the work of art with drawers and Incra jig holders, bit holders etc that I definitely plan on doing sooner or later. (Depends on how long before I really get frustrated with the current arrangement).

So that is it in a nutshell. I’m currently working on a video that will shed some more light on the topic, so hopefully that won’t be too far away.

Work-in-progress Dinosaur #3

Thought I’d post a pic of the dino that I’ve been working on. Currently at the test-assembly stage. You can still see the remains of the pattern from the plans I photocopied, then stuck to the prepared timber. The timber was originally 19mm stock that I resawed on the bandsaw, then ran through the thicknesser until it was the required 6mm thick.

The next step is to sand each part, and glue the sculpture together, followed by a coat of stone-effects paint (for that fossil look).

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It is strange, changing from one bandsaw to another. Wouldn’t have thought I’d notice much difference, and it was subtle, but there. (This is between the Triton 12″, and a Jet 14″, both running a 1/8″ blade). Thinking about it, I’m not sure if one doesn’t have finer teeth than the other, that may make some difference. I don’t think that either stood out as being particularly superior to the other, just that it was a different feel between the two machines.

The Shed and I

Had a bit of an excursion down to the shed tonight – nothing too dramatic, just an hour and a half or so. The only difference – no agenda, no camera, and no rush, and it was just a pleasant time.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about abandoning videos or anything, I’ve still got heaps of topics that I think would be worth covering, lots of tools to look at etc. I think what I mean is; when I’m shooting a video, I’m concentrating on that, what I’m demonstrating, what I’m saying, whereas tonight it was just about what I was doing, and it reminded me why we enjoy this hobby (passion…..obsession…..) as much as we do.

So what was I working on? Actually, backing up a sec, the other times that I have been doing any woodworking recently, have been when I have been demonstrating at stores/wood show/club and running the woodwork course at Tafe. The reason tonight seemed even more of a contrast is because I was finishing off a project that I started at the wood show, and continued last weekend at the Mitre 10 Mega demo. Been making another dinosaur – bandsaw/scrollsaw project. So tonight was the first time that I’ve done anything on this project where it hasn’t been in front of an audience.

Is there a lesson in all this? I guess, for me at least, is to remember that this is an activity that we do because we enjoy it, getting to create things with our own hands, one that requires some physical dexterity and challenges you to think about how to achieve the result you want. If the activity has stopped returning the enjoyment it once did, it is worth standing back and working out what is getting in the road.

Is it not having enough time, or having too many other distractions, so it means actually setting time aside to head to the shed for some quality time?

Is the shed too messy, that going out there isn’t the sanctuary that it once was? Deciding to put some time into restoring it to a working condition could be beneficial. Perhaps the shed is too small, or is only a temporary space shared with the family car. Can a way around this be found? Is there a corner of your property that can be put aside for a permanent structure? Are there some tools that don’t get used often that could be stored better to free up space for the popular ones? Christmas isn’t too far away – have you considered seeing if a new shed will fit into the stocking? (I have a birthday the day before Christmas, so sometimes that proves rather beneficial when negotiating larger items 😉 )

Are there too many unfinished projects getting you down, so you can’t feel that you can start a new one without feeling guilty? It can be frustrating having them around, but it really does give a sense of satisfaction to put aside the apathy and really jump into one or two of them and knock the projects off. I have some projects that have been hanging around for years!

Whatever it is, figure out where the barriers are, and make a real effort to overcome them. After all, we got into this because we enjoy it. Don’t let frustrations take that away.

And when you can’t get out to the workshop for some quality time, there’s always Stu’s Shed! 🙂

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