Your thoughts on router table tops?

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Forum topic by Cornductor posted 04-16-2011 04:58 AM 2887 views 0 times favorited 19 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Cornductor's profile


208 posts in 3277 days

04-16-2011 04:58 AM

I’m in the finishing process of my router table build…now here’s the question. I have a scrap piece of 1/4” plastic sheet that I thought about using as my smooth top. I would secure it to the 3/4” birch ply with counter sunk screws or use Formica. What are your guys opinions? I know that I can order the Formica from the big box stores but I don’t need a 4×8 sheet…what to do.

-- An investment in knowledge pays the best interest. Benjamin Franklin

19 replies so far

View Stormin's profile


193 posts in 3400 days

#1 posted 04-16-2011 05:08 AM

If you went to a cabinet shop I’m sure they have scraps maybe even in a color you like also sometimes the building supply people have stuff that was damaged.

-- I started off with nothing I have most of it left

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 4258 days

#2 posted 04-16-2011 05:20 AM

In my experience MDF or particleboard is flatter than Baltic birch.

Some guys get around it by using a big plastic or metal insert plate,
which is a PITA to fit and all that if all you want is a router table to
do some work.

For a router table in a hurry, look at the “crown” of whatever you’re
gonna use and put it facing up. It’ll sag a bit anyway, esp. with the
heavy plungers a lot of guys (not me) like to put in tables.

Formica is usually particleboard core and pretty flat. A sink cutout makes
a nice router table, and anybody fitting a laminate kitchen is going
to have one or two on hand.

1” or thicker makes a better router table top for heavier routers. The
regular 3/4” thick stuff is fine for the 1.5 HP fixed-base routers I like
to use in a table.

View lanwater's profile


3113 posts in 3544 days

#3 posted 04-16-2011 07:50 AM

I used formica on mine. I bought a sheet from lowes.

I use it also for several other things.

-- Abbas, Castro Valley, CA

View knotscott's profile


8364 posts in 3986 days

#4 posted 04-16-2011 06:24 PM

The plastic should work fine as long as the substraight is flat. As others have mentioned, MDF or pressboard tend to be flatter than ply, but it really varies with each sheet so check it out.

FWIW, I’ve never had trouble finding free formica/pressboard counter scraps, and have used a few for router tables.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 3880 days

#5 posted 04-16-2011 06:39 PM

Whatever you choose, make sure it is flat without any imperfections to catch on when using. I had a friend that used MDF painted that he had to keep sanding flat as it caught everything. I told him to try waxing it and he had better luck until he gave it up and bought a cast iron one.

I don’t think you need to go so far as cast iron – mine is formica (I made mine from a countertop reject from the Borg) was inexpensive and fit my needs perfectly – I asked one of the floorpersons in the house remodel area if they had any damaged counter tops.

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

View tedfrk's profile


4 posts in 3502 days

#6 posted 04-17-2011 04:54 AM

Im in the process of building a router table,and was thinking about installing it on my table saw fence extensions,since there is no table there.Is there any reason not to do this?i was going to use 3/4 marine grade ply for this covered with formica.any help is appreciated.

-- Ted NJ

View bubinga's profile


861 posts in 3278 days

#7 posted 04-17-2011 05:23 AM

I made a router table top from plywood a long time ago, and it is long gone to its grave
It was not a good choice , for a lasting router table ,MDF is much better
If you just want a table to get working, use what you have , and seal all surfaces
If you have some plastic ,on hand ,fine ,but don’t screw it on ,glue it on
Router tables ,available for purchase are made from ,MDF,because ,its the best, for the purpose

-- E J ------- Always Keep a Firm Grip on Your Tool

View Cornductor's profile


208 posts in 3277 days

#8 posted 04-17-2011 05:34 AM

Thank you all for the excellent advice. I think what I’ll do for the mean time is use what I have like bubinga mentioned. Although I’ll skip the plastic and move forward with the plywood top. I’m guessing it’ll get me by till I’m in a position to really upgrade. I’ll post pics later when it’s completed. Thanks again guys you are all a great help.

-- An investment in knowledge pays the best interest. Benjamin Franklin

View Cornductor's profile


208 posts in 3277 days

#9 posted 04-17-2011 03:35 PM

As I thought about this last night the question came to mind. We all want the top to be flat but what is tolerable, and does it really matter if it’s off buy…..3/16? Just curious guys.

-- An investment in knowledge pays the best interest. Benjamin Franklin

View bubinga's profile


861 posts in 3278 days

#10 posted 04-17-2011 04:05 PM

I forgot to mention, the router table I built from plywood was covered on all sides with plastic laminate .
Straight flat cleats screwed to the bottom could flatten it out, if it’s only three quarter stock.
And you could also put shims under the cleats , to raise a spot here and there.
As for being off by 3/16, that’s not real good, but I guess I depends out what you want to do.
Countertop sink cut outs ,as Loren mentioned ,can be had for free, would most likely be flat, and have laminate on one side

-- E J ------- Always Keep a Firm Grip on Your Tool

View Uncle_Salty's profile


183 posts in 3683 days

#11 posted 04-17-2011 04:12 PM

So… is it 3/16 out of true flat?

That is a grand canyon of distance in my world!

If mine was that far out, I’d start over!

Doubled up MDF with plastic laminate on top will work wonders for 1. keeping it flat 2. taking out vibration while operating larger router bits, even with an insert.

I am also a big fan of 3/4 melamine doubled up on 3/4 mdf.

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

3102 posts in 4048 days

#12 posted 04-17-2011 04:35 PM

I glued together 1” high by 1 1/2” think fir pieces then used my planer and also hand leveled it. Then a little poly and wax. Anything 3/4” will sag giving you fits especially with a 3 hp router. Been there and learned. Anyway, my solution and it works for me.

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

View KnickKnack's profile


1099 posts in 4177 days

#13 posted 04-17-2011 10:30 PM

I’ve been watching this discussion with interest, and in particular, to the whole “flatness” issue.
I wonder what the experts here have to say about this router insert plate from trend in the UK.
“It is constructed from Thermoset phenolic plastic and moulded with a slight crown for distortion free cuts.”
So it’s basically designer not quite flat. Is this good, bad? Why exactly would a “slight crown” help distortion free cuts?

-- "Do not speak – unless it improves on silence." --- "Following the rules and protecting the regulations is binding oneself without rope."

View bubinga's profile


861 posts in 3278 days

#14 posted 04-17-2011 11:12 PM


The key word here is slight, a slight crown. Is Good, even if it does sag a little with heavy router on it ,it will not be concave.
If it is concave the cut won’t be consistent over the length, because the front and back of the stock will dip down
If it has a slight crown, the cut will be consistent over the length of the stock

-- E J ------- Always Keep a Firm Grip on Your Tool

View John Gray's profile

John Gray

2370 posts in 4496 days

#15 posted 04-17-2011 11:26 PM

I purchased a Rockler one with several aluminum center plates for my routers. FWIW it has worked very well for me.

-- Only the Shadow knows....................

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