Router Table Cabinet
Thursday 04 December 2008
John Bullar helps keep your it tidy and reduce dust with this project
Router tables with built-in lifts are great. At the turn of a handle, they provide fine-height control needed for precision routing. However, there are three problems; the router table spreads dust everywhere, there is nowhere nearby to keep router bits and the powerful motor left running between cuts makes one heck of a noise. But this one simple project has helped to solve all of these.
Of course, you can attach the clear plastic dust shroud to the router when it is under the table. While this method does not shift much air at the best of times because of the small size of the vacuum hose connection, it will help matters while the table lift is raised to full height. The real problem comes when you lower the lift, creating a gap between router sole and table. Then the shroud becomes practically useless because most of the dust flies out through the gap between the lift and table and then spreads across the floor. Apart from the bother of having to sweep this mess up from between the table legs, I am also troubled by the thought that it propels fine dust through the air, where much of it remains, waiting for an unsuspecting pair of lungs to breathe it in.
ModificationsGood router tables can be pricey and I wanted to keep any modifications to mine to the absolute minimum. The table I used was a Jessem, but you might wish to apply your ingenuity to adapting this dust and storage cabinet design to fit different makes. In my workshop, I use a high-volume, low-pressure type extractor, the sort with an upper and lower dust bag and a large centrifugal fan in a snail shell casing to shift the air. It is connected via a 100mm (4in) diameter duct system joined to all of the equipment that produces dust. You might adapt the design to different sizes and styles of collector, but the main thing is to ensure that it uses a fine filter because routers can produce some very fine dust. The last thing you want is a collection system that simply launches this dust into the air.
The sturdy frame that supports a Jessem table has square section alloy extrusions for legs, braced by L-section rails near the floor and beneath the tabletop. By using the lower rails to support the base, you can fit the sides and rear panels between the legs and inside the rails, pressed firmly in place by the central shelf without needing any glue or screws into the frame, other than those that hold the door hinges.
Start by accurately measuring the gaps between the table leg pairs, front and rear and pairs of rails. It is worth making these measurements in a couple of places to ensure the frame is not slightly twisted. Any inaccuracies at this stage will lead to gaps around the panels when they are in place, permitting unwanted leakage into the vacuum extraction system.
MaterialsThe material used for this cabinet is 12mm- (1/2in) thick marine plywood. This may be thicker than you would expect for a utilitarian piece of equipment, but there are two good reasons for this. Firstly, there is very little springiness to plywood of this thickness, enabling the sides to stand rigidly between the legs without bowing in when the suction is applied. Secondly, it contains the noise - weight and stiffness are two of the main factors that determine how good a partition is for preventing sound transmission. MDF would do the job equally well, although I prefer working with ply. Chipboard is slightly less dense so it would be less effective - it is also very difficult to cut clean edges.
Cut the base panel as a rectangle to fit tightly into the frame formed by the lower rails and cut out the corners to fit around the legs. Drop this panel into place allowing you to measure the height from its top surface to the underside of the upper rails. This measurement will form the height of the side and rear panels which are cut as simple rectangles.
Test fit the side and rear panels and remove them to fit support ledges for the mid-height shelf.
Choose the height of this shelf so that, with the router in its lowest position, there will still be a gap of at least 50mm (2in) between the router base and the shelf top. This will prevent any possibility of obstruction to the router air vents.
SupportMake the support ledges from 25mm (1in) square section softwood batons and cut to length to match the panel width. Decide which will be the outer face of the plywood - the one with the tidiest surface - and glue the batons across the inner face. Use clamps or weights to hold them in place while the glue sets. Make the mid-height shelf in the same way as the lower shelf, but this time it has to fit inside the gap between side panels and between the rear panel and doors. This means the main dimensions are 24mm (15/16in) less, and each of the cutouts around the legs is 12mm (1/2in) less.
DoorsMake the doors from the same 12mm (1/2in) material, cut to length to fit between the edges of the upper and lower rails. The horizontal dimensions need to allow a very small gap at each side around the hinges and a small gap in the middle - aim for around 1mm. Any less than this and the doors will jam, any more and too much air will leak in. 'Easy fit' hinges are quite suitable - the thin steel type designed to fit in a small gap without needing rebates. The barrel of the hinge fits in front of the doorframe formed by the table leg. Magnetic catches are the most suitable. These can be fitted to the edge of the shelf with the steel plate in a corresponding position inside the door. A pair of simple handles completes the doors.