Building Your Own Router Table Top

There are plenty of good router table tops available from woodworking suppliers, but they can be fairly expensive. If you already have some basic woodworking tools, you don’t need to shell out several hundred dollars for a sturdy table; you can make your own. Use the tips below to build a top that meets your needs.

Router-Table-Top

Build a Thick Router Table Top

A good router needs a sturdy top, which should be anywhere from 1-1/8” to 1-1/2” thick. The thicker your router table top, the less likely it is to sag. This is important for precise joinery work like lock miters or dovetails, because errors of even 1/64” can cause big problems.

Choose a Flat Material

Consider Phenolic or UHMW

Even thick materials can bow or cup, so be sure to select the flattest stock available from your home center or lumber supplier for your router table top. Often, you’ll find this at the very bottom of a bunk, where the material on top has kept it flat and dry. Don’t be afraid to dig through a stack to get to the good stuff; it’s worth it. Although they’re much more expensive than MDF or particleboard, hard plastic sheets like phenolic or UHMW make excellent router table tops that will last longer and provide better performance. UHMW is an ultra-low friction material that will allow your parts to slide effortlessly across the table top. Phenolic is commonly used for commercial woodworking fixtures, but will definitely cost more.

Use MDF or Particleboard Instead of Plywood

You’ve already learned about the importance of choosing a flat material for your router table top, and MDF tends to be the flattest sheet good you can buy. Particleboard is also a good choice, but either one will almost certainly be flatter than a typical sheet of plywood. The faces of these materials can be somewhat rough, so you should plan to laminate them.

Laminate Your Table Top

Band the Edges for Extra Durability

If you’re going to build an MDF or particleboard top, you should adhere a sheet of plastic laminate to the top surface to reduce friction and protect the top from moisture. You can buy a 4’ x 8’ sheet of Formica or other brand of plastic laminate from your home center. Spray a thin layer of contact adhesive on the back side of an oversized piece of laminate and the top face of the MDF or particleboard, let the glue get tacky, apply the laminate and trim away the excess. Raw MDF or particleboard edges are ugly, but they’re also fragile. The last thing you want in a shop fixture that you’re going to use as much as a router table top is a weak edge that’s prone to chipping or breaking. Apply PVC edge banding or t-molding to all four edges of your top with contact adhesive.

Cut a Recess for Standard Router Insert Plates

A router insert plate makes it easy to install a router in your router table, so your table top should have a cutout for a standard insert plate. You can find the dimensions for the cutout in any woodworking supply catalog that offers inserts. If you prefer, you can even make your own insert out of ¼” acrylic or another flat piece of plastic like phenolic.

Make Your Top Removable

Add a Miter Slot for Versatility

Sometimes you need an extra sawhorse or workstation in your shop, and by making your top removable, you can use the stand when the need arises. Drill four matching holes in the underside of the top and the stand. Then place removable dowels into the stand and drop the top into place. With a good router table, you can make all sorts of joints, but you’ll often need an accessory like a coping sled or miter gauge. To accommodate jigs for door making, joinery and other tasks, cut a miter slot a few inches from the front edge of your router table top. It should span the entire length of the top and be open on both ends so that you can slide jigs into it.

How Much Will It Cost To Build a Router Table Top?

No matter what material you choose or how you go about building your own top, you’ll undoubtedly spend less than you would on one that’s commercially made. A flat, sturdy top should cost you between $40 and $200. To stay at the lower end, build your router table top out of MDF and plastic laminate

Don’t Forget About the Fence

Router table plans

No router table is complete without a good fence, which you can make yourself or buy from a retailer. Take a look at the fences online and in woodworking catalogs to see how they connect to a router table top. Some require holes or slots in the top, and you’ll have to cut those yourself. You can find some plans on the following pages.

You Can Buy a Good Top Online

In case you’re wondering what a good factory-built router table top costs, take a look at the Kreg PRS1025. It includes an aluminum t-track, insert plate and several round plastic inserts to accommodate bits of different sizes. It is a great deal.