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Thread: General Elementary Router Table Questions

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Vancouver Island, Courtenay/Comox Valley, British Columbia

    General Elementary Router Table Questions

    Hi all:

    I haven't posted much lately because my head is full of sawdust.

    But I have some basic router table questions that I need your input on. These are elementary questions I warn you.

    It's pretty clear to me that I'm going to need a heavier duty router than the one I have with a 1/4" collet, and a router table. There are 2 things I don't understand.

    1. Whenever I look at router tables (and yes I know I could make one) some have lifts and some don't--and the lifts are always sold separately. Is it necessary to have a lift? Can you mount and use the router without a "lift" and adjust the router height on the router itself under the table? Or do you really need a lift? Also, could the lift be added at a later date if it's a luxury?

    2. I have seen in books a router also mounted above the table sideways. How do you mount it like that? Are there mounts that you can buy for that or do you have to jerry-rig something, or is that actually a rare and unnecessary need?

    3. So, the big question is if I can spend max $750, what should I buy for a new router, table, and/or lift? And BTW, there is a Lee Valley within driving distance, but I'm happy to buy online from someone else if that's what you guys recommend. And I'm in Canada.

    AKA Young Grasshopper Woodworker
    AKA The Rookie

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Escondido, CA
    OK, up front, I am biased.

    A lift is a luxury. If you are dying to get one, you can put off the purchase. The purpose of a lift is to raise the bit up and down (and lift the collet above the table to change bits.). However, you can set the bit height without a lift. You just have to take the router motor out of the table. Personally, I prefer this. The fewer variables, the less opportunity to screw up.

    Yes, the router is where bigger is better. My router choice for a table is the Porter Cable 7518. Built like a tank. Variable speed. If not maximum horsepower out there, darn close. It is not a plunge router, however.

    That said, I don't like plunge routers in router tables. Super fine height adjustments have always been problematic for me with plunge routers. And if you are planning a lift now or in the future, you don't want a plunge router for your table.

    The PC 7518 will be near half your budget. A lift will be nearly all of your budget.

    And then there is the table. I have little information on ready-made tables, as shop made are much better. The most important thing is that the top must be and stay dead flat, or registration between the cutter and the table will always be a problem.

    Other things to consider are dust collection, the fence, and inserts.

    But my timer dinged. I gotta run. I'll weigh in again later.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    No, not all of SoCal is Los Angeles!
    I'm biased too.

    A lift is a luxury and one I would loath to give up. I did run my Milwaukee 5625 (the other favorite router-table "locomotive") using the built in above the table crank. It was OK and you can get along. You do have to learn to "feel" the amount the bit is going to shift when you lock the motor via the cam lever; I got pretty good at it.

    Either the PC or the Milwaukee will serve you well and I can't back Carol enough on the table being and staying flat. I have had a couple commercial tops and both required so much additional support and modifications that building one would only be a bit more effort.

    You may want to consider that a simple well supported MDF top and clamp on fence would serve you pretty well for awhile. During this initial touchy-feely period of router-table-dom, you can learn what is important to you and what is not. Some people want a fence system that costs as much as a good router. Others are fine with a shop made version out of plywood. Both are right. But not necessarily for each other ;-)
    Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
    - Arthur C. Clarke

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Delton, Michigan
    well cynthia. first of you should definitly listen to your lady that spoke to you previously..she has forgot more than most of us will ever know.. get her book somehow ans you can see what she is talking about.. i for one say make your own table good experience and will give you some skill sets that you may not have yet..i would love a high dollar lift but have went with out one just because i have gotten lucky to get the router set close enough to make a cut i needed..and glenn makes a good point and one the carol has said before as well just a piece of mdf on a box frame work will work till you are ready to go bigger and better..
    If in Doubt, Build it Stout!
    One hand washes the other!
    Don't put off today till tomorrow!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    RETIRED(!) in Austintown, Ohio
    LISTEN TO CAROL! She's a well-renowned expert in the field of routers. For many years before ordainment in her current chosen field, she was known North America wide as "The Router Lady."

    Carol has forgotten more about routers than most of us have ever known.
    Jim D.
    Adapt, Improvise, Overcome!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    ABQ NM
    You've gotten good advice so far, Cynthia. As has been said, lifts are a luxury to some but nearly a necessity to those who like them. There are less expensive lift options available. As Glenn mentioned, the Milwaukee 5625 has lifting capabilities built in. There's also the Router Raiser, which is not as smooth and refined as the high-dollar lifts, but it's a workable solution for a lot less money. (That's what I have on my Hitachi M12V.)

    The horizontal router tables can be bought from at least one place, MLCS:

    I've not used one, but I can see cases where it might be a good idea.

    I have a store-bought router table extension on my tablesaw with a Router Raiser and the M12V. I have a Incra fence on my tablesaw that doubles as my router table fence. That setup, minus the Incra, cost me probably about half the $750 you are looking at spending. Even with the Incra it cost me less, but part of my Incra setup was won in a drawing a few years ago.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

  7. #7
    Well Cynthia here is my .02 cents. You can have my lift when you can pry it from my cold dead hands!!!!!

    I have done the router screwed to a piece of plywood for many years and did just fine with it. I also didn't use it very much like that until recently. Then I bout a router raizer for a plunge router I had and that was a night and day diference. But that bearings in that router started to go bad. I had bought the freud ft1702 I think it is the right number. Anyway it has above the table adjustment and it was ok. I'd say it was a tie with the router raizer. Then I went ahead and just bought a lift since I already had the pc 7518 router. All my frustrations went away and had no problem repeating cuts.

    To me there is no comparison and depending on how much you intend to use the router table might help you decide what to do. I do know that since I got the lift I do use mine alot more now since it's a pleasure to set up and use.

    I think you just missed the sale jessum had on a router lift for $129. Regular price was close to $300.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    GTA Ontario Canada
    I will give it to you from the rookies point of view. Buy Carols book. Then decide what you want to do. Also no one has mentioned but you can have the best table lift and router if you buy Canadian tire router bits you might as well be using your hand to turn em.

    I am off to take a pic of my new router mortising jig from Carols book. You need to buy the book to be able to see how to build it etc, but i will take a pic or two of router bits and do a post on them from what i have learned. I think it will help other rookies avoid they same waste of money i experienced. Its again school fees but had i joined this forum and asked the question years ago, i would have saved a small fortune with the advice given here. There are times i wonder if the beneficiaries that lurk realize the value of the advice given here.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Between Aledo and Fort Worth, TX
    Recently there have been some good prices on top notch lifts. The Woodpecker PRL version 1 is (was?) being closed out at 199.95. It is a tank, and I love it. It is set up for the PC 7518, but you can get an adapter to fit other motors. There was also a Jessem lift for about 129.95. It was the Asian knock off of their US built lift, but many say they work fine.
    I agree on building your own table. Be sure to build it at least an inch thick. I used two layers of 3/4" MDF and covered with some laminate. Be sure to have a good grid under it to keep it flat. In fact, start with that, and use a hole saw to cut a hole for the biggest router bit you plan to use. Bolt the router in it, get or make a decent fence and play. When you are ready, get the lift you want, if you want one, and you can still cut the opening out for it where your original hole was. That way you won't have to start over.
    I also have the Incra router fence, and it adds to the repeatability factor, but it is expensive and not for everyone. I think you could get a nice set up for 750 or less. Jim.
    Last edited by Jim O'Dell; 09-20-2010 at 11:41 PM.
    Coolmeadow Setters...
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  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Vancouver Island, Courtenay/Comox Valley, British Columbia
    Well thanks for the advice. I guess I should listen to the Router Lady.

    One question: If I make my own table, how complicated/difficult is it to rig up a store bought insert and/or lift?

    AKA Young Grasshopper Woodworker
    AKA The Rookie

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