A Router Table Tale

A friend of mine over in Japan asked today about the story behind my router table, and although its history is covered (and spread) over many posts both here and on the Australian Woodwork Forum, I haven’t ever really bought it all together into one consolidated tale. So here goes.

When the whole Triton thing exploded for me back in about 2002, one of the items I really became interested in was the router. It seemed to be a more versatile machine than just a bit of a roundover of edges, and the Triton video made that very clear. So the idea of a table-mounted router came into my awareness, and shortly thereafter, I was the proud owner of a Triton Router table, and 2400W Triton router.

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And it was on this table that I learned a huge amount about routing, and about woodworking. It is a very versatile form of a router table, and despite all my various upgrades, it still gets a regular use (particularly on site – good portability) It has an excellent fence, hold-downs, dust extraction, microadjusters etc. If you are looking into woodworking, this is an excellent point to start.

After a number of years, I started pushing the tolerance limits of the Triton, so started to seek ways of improving it. (Remember here, I still fully believe in the Triton tools as excellent products – I could not demonstrate them if I didn’t. I just got to the point that I was looking for greater and greater accuracy, and as I’ve said before, I rarely own something that I don’t try to fix/improve/modify and or rebuild!)

My next iteration was adding a single-piece top to the Triton, and a number of people have since copied my design (with my blessing).

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This was a very successful upgrade, as it retained all the functionality of the original table, could still fit all the commercial jigs, and still allowed the full use of the Triton fence. It is removed along with the router holder, and the entire process can be easily reversed. Constructed from 6mm structural grade aluminium, it is attached to the router mounting plate, so is lifted off at the same time as the mounting plate if you need to remove the router. Small shims of the same plate are added to each jig so all the Triton jigs still work.

The beginning of the end happened when I discovered a little thing called Incra. The sort of accuracy that owners can enjoy for years. I originally spent quite a bit of time trying to work out how the Incra system could be adapted to fit directly onto the Triton, but kept finding there were more compromises than I was prepared to make. I am a bit of a strange bird where it comes to accuracy, but this path is not a logical progression for everyone. I have made (and continue to make) quality items on the Triton router table, and where it comes to something like dovetailing, a Triton router table coupled with something like a Gifkins Dovetail Jig is a powerful combination. In all likelihood, I may not have progressed much further anyway if I hadn’t become a Triton Demonstrator. I know that seems strange, but I really do like the Triton Router Table, and didn’t want to loose having one. Once I had my demonstration gear, I was assured of not being without the Triton Router Table, so was free to indulge in this process.

Be assured too, we are not comparing apples with apples here. The Triton Router table is around $200 and for that price is a brilliant addition to the workshop (in fact, once I discovered table-mounting routing, I was absolutely sold). By the end of the journey, (which I haven’t reached as yet), we will be talking of a router table costing around 5 times that of the Triton.

So let me take you on the path that I took.

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My first test iteration was a combination of parallel decisions. Firstly, that the Triton table and the Incra was not going to be combinable without costing functionality. There was going to be no advantage to maintaining the original table, so it was best to start from scratch, than adapt. I got this router table top from Professional Woodworker Supplies, designed for the Incra positioning system. There is a lot of table behind where the router sits, and you will soon see why.

This was the original Incra positioner, and it did two things. Convinced me of the concept of fence positioning, and convinced me (personally) that I wanted more!

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To start using the router table, it was precariously balanced on two Triton multistands (well not unsafely, but not exactly a router table to speak of!) It was only a temporary arrangement, so I could test out concepts.

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I caught up with a mate and once seeing what was available from Incra, I couldn’t resist. (The mate was Steve Bisson, who sadly passed away earlier last year).

So the Incra LS Positioner was added to the lineup. As has been gone into in quite a bit of detail already in other posts I won’t talk about the fence, but as you can see here, I have the materials laid out for construction. Also too, the base has been improved (but sadly, is still in that sorry state, and will be the subject of a complete rebuild at some stage soon. There is some advantage in staging a project – you work out exactly you want in the final design!)

In the end, I was enticed by this, (from www.incra.com)

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and if there was a router table that could do that, I wanted it!

As detailed in an earlier post, I had the LS positioner with a home-made fence, and finally, the current version is thus:

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Now I think you can appreciate why I needed such a large top, with a significant area behind the router, and why I couldn’t adapt the Triton enough to take this monster. I have a whole set of the templates for the Incra, but the secret, if you can call it that is simple. Incredible, repeatable accuracy. Because of this accuracy, you can precisely position, say, a dovetail bit and make accurate joints. The templates are nothing more than a standard ruler with the lines you don’t need for the current job removed.

This is why I don’t consider the Incra system to be a dovetail ‘jig’. It isn’t. The fact that I can precisely position the dovetail bit where I need it means I can make dovetails, but I see the Incra as an accurate fence system, and not a jig (by my definition). (Accuracy to 1/1000th of an inch)

So that’s my router table tale. Even so, I still have a long way to go before this tool will be considered “complete”.

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