Router Table Rebuild

Building a standalone router table.

In my recent plans to organize the shop was a project to pull the router lift out of my 4’ x 8’ assembly table and drop it into a dedicated, smaller router table.

Waaaay back in the beginning of building out my shop I made two simple work tables from a single sheet of plywood, per the Jay Bates/Nick Ferry/April Wilkerson collaboration video below.

These were very useful for a long time- they were home to, over the years, my spindle and belt sanders, my small drill press and bandsaw, and as a general work table to set junk on. Early on I tried my hand at making drawers for them and… the drawers did not turn out well. Like, they were sorta functional in a way that drawers should be but the dimensions were bad and I don’t think they were square. Lots of binding and stickiness to them.

The new plan was to disassemble one of the work tables completely and recover the hardware (drawer slides and casters) and turn the other one into a dedicated router table.

Step 1: Remove drawers

I started by removing the ill-constructed drawers from the table, recovering the drawer slides for an upcoming outfeed table build. One of the drawers was a gigantic one I stored all my finishes in, and I’m thinking of “deconstructing” the drawer itself with a reciprocating saw to reclaim and reuse the large plywood panels.

This opened a bunch of space on the lower shelf for storing all my routers and router accessories, both for the beefy Porter-Cable router in the lift as well as for my palm and plunge routers. I’m incredibly excited to be able to store all this stuff in one place, as before it was spread all around my shop in various places.

Step 2: Beef up the Top

The top was already ¾” MDF. The lesson I learned from dropping the lift into the ¾” plywood top of the assembly table was that it wasn’t enough thickness—the lift was held down on a very thin remaining shelf of plywood. I had some extra MDF from the countertop of the shop cabinets I built last fall, so I jigsaw-pieced it into a 1½” thick top.

Step 3: Cut Router Lift Hole

My router lift template became near-useless from accidentally cutting into it with the bit. The hole ended up being relatively good looking. I went slightly deeper than necessary so that I could use the leveling set screws to bring it into perfect alignment with the table surface.

Test-fitting the router lift into the hole

Step 4: Add Trim

I had some extra ¾” basswood from some cutting boards I made for gifts over the holidays, and so I cut it into 1½” strips to use as edge banding on the table. I mitered the corners for a nice look, and then hit it with a roundover router bit in the palm router. More sanding and things were looking really good.

Once the trim was on, I could also attached the Stop/Start paddle to the front of the table.

Step 5: Route Dados for T-Track

Next up I had to route the dados in the top to accept the T-tracks that the router fence would ride in. It was fairly uneventful, with the added note that I should really get a ¾” straight bit for routing dados for things like T-track and to accept plywood thicknesses.

Test-fitting router fence into installed T-tracks

Step 6: Assemble Dust Box

Dust collection for the router lift embedded in the assembly table was never good. I hooked up my Dust Right quick connect hose to the fence, but 100% of the dust and chips that fell below the table just collected in a pile I’d have to suck up every so often.

I was determined to get better dust management for the new table, so I picked up a Rockler Dust Bucket to manage the dust and chip situation under neath the lift. It went together easy, but was not the easiest thing to get attached underneath the table. Once installed, however, it’s been fantastic. I can quick connect my hose to the back, and from there I get 2-in-1 suction both from the fence and from below the table.

Assembled dust box + router and router accessory storage.

Step 7: Finish

Finally, I wanted to get a nice finish on there. I ended up putting four coats of water-based polyurethane over the op, once I’d taped off the t-tracks and router lift surface. I gave a light sanding after the third coat and then some steel wool after the 4th coat.

Up and Running

I’ve already used the table to do some flush trimming of some small tool trays I’d made a long time ago but never refined or finished- I’d just been throwing wrenches and screwdrivers in there. It was a delight to use, and I’m looking forward to using the table with my new monster flush trim bit on some templated pieces.

Evolved to its final form

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Shop Changes

Big changes coming to the workshop this spring!

The Problem

My workshop is about 2½ years old at this point, and I’ve come to a crossroads. I spend less and less time there, and I haven’t been working on the projects I aspire to. Of late I’ve been doing a lot of plywood stuff (cabinets and shop furniture) and not as much aspirational home furniture.

I’ve thought a lot about why my engagement has flagged…

No workbench. The 4’⨉8’ modified Paulk workbench I built as one of the very first things in the shop has served me well, but it’s difficult to use it to build fine furniture. It has too much bounce to chisel well, it doesn’t have good vise options to hold work pieces and it moves too much to hand-plane pieces on it. It’s also too big relevant to size of my shop—in a 20’⨉40’ shop it would be a great assembly table with lots of room to work. As the the sole working surface in a small shop, however, it doesn’t suit my needs.

Bad flow. When you don’t want to use your jointer, planer, or bandsaw because it’s such a pain in the ass to move them into a position where you could use them you know your shop has bad flow. Related to the above point, when you can’t rearrange things for better flow because your giant assembly table dominates the available space then something has to change.

I could list other reasons, but they’ll really just relate back to the above two.

The Plan

My ridiculously circuitous plan has five steps:

  1. Move router table from paulk assembly table to its own housing. In order to try and reclaim space last summer I modified the paulk assembly table to include a router lift. It worked ok, but I had no dust collection options and it was hard to swap it back and forth when I wanted to go from router table to assembly table functions. The plan is to move the router lift to another smaller 2’⨉4’ work table I made a long time ago.
  2. Build simple hand tool workbench. I’ve purchased some southern yellow pine to use to build a simple hand tool workbench. My goal is to add at least two vises (if not three) to this workbench to give me maximum ability to hold workpieces.
  3. Break down paulk workbench and reclaim usable lumber and components. The next step to take apart the large paulk assembly table and salvage as much lumber and hardware as I can. I can reclaim drawer slides, casters and some nontrivial cuts of lumber. This will free up a large amount of floor space in the shop.
  4. Build small outfeed table. Using the recovered materials from the large assembly table the plan is to build a much smaller outfeed table to sit near the table saw. I’m thinking I’ll pattern it after the shop cabinets I made but on casters so I can maximize the drawer space.
  5. Junk all excess crap. Once all this is done I’m going to order a dumpster to be placed in the driveway so I can junk all the excess stuff in the shop, including old materials that are getting in the way, as well as the other small work table I built way back at the beginning.

Once all this is done I should have more discrete work surfaces available, with better vise options and more ability to move things around and free up space. I do have dreams of acquiring a small lathe and a drum sander, which would never fit in the current layout but may fit once I clear away the footprint of the big assembly table.

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Cable Storage and Plyo Box

In order to improve the storage and functional options in my home gym, as a lifter, I want better cable storage and a plyo box.

Since I’ve gotten back into weightlifting I’ve spent a lot of time in the unfinished part of my basement. Spending five hours a week in a room with concrete floors and no walls makes me start to do Fantasy Interior Design in between sets.

In between jobs I did a week-long project to build a new set of cabinets out in my shop, and I ended up with one full 4’ x 8’ sheet of ¾” birch plywood left over. I’d been wanting a plyo box for workouts for awhile, mainly for box squats and step-ups. Rogue sells a CNC-cut one for $135 plus shipping (!) but I wasn’t about to buy when I could build.

There are a variety of build videos on youtube for making plyo boxes; I liked the one below specifically because of the effective cut-list diagram at 13s into the video; it helped for easy breaking down of the plywood sheet.

It went together easily, though when I tried to add a whazz stencil I didn’t apply the stencils correctly and got quite a bit of paint bleed. The stencil pieces are just paper, and I didn’t think to mask with blue painter’s tape first and then tape stencil over and cut out the tape to match the stencil. I’d do that next time to get a much better effect.

30in x 24in x 20in wood plyo box

Once the stencil dried I added two coats of Watco Exterior Finish, both because it was on-hand and because I expected it would get some rougher treatment. I’m going to wait until it’s seen a bit of use and then decide whether to add a few coats of polyurethane.

Once that was done, I still had some plywood scrap leftover, and a problem to solve.

I have a variety of bands that my wife and I use for different exercises, and as I’ve accumulated them I just throw them over the multi-purpose storage rack. Now, however, there are a ton of bands draped over the thing and they’re getting in the way.

I sketched out a simple wall rack to hold them, and thought it would be nice if I could get a small shelf on there also, to hold notebooks, drink cups, bar collars, and markers for the dry erase board. Basically a little work center for in-between sets.

The size and shapes were largely dictated by how much scrap I had, so I fit the dimensions to the pieces of plywood rather than the other way around. I also wanted to trim it with some kind of dark hardwood but I’m loathe to start chopping up the nice 8/4 walnut for a project like this. I had some spare sapele from a box I made awhile back, though, and it worked perfectly.

Gluing up the main assembly

I cut dados in the sides and back to hold the shelf in a little better, then glued everything up after using a Forstener bit to drill out the holes for the pegs to hold the bands.

Gluing on the hardwood banding

The sapele was already planed to just over ¾” thick, so I ripped ¼” thick strips. This worked well because it was slightly wider than the plywood edges. I glued them on then flushed them up with a flush trim bit in my hand router.

Fill loose joints and cracks with glue and sawdust

Before starting the sanding process, I mixed some glue and sapele sawdust from cutting the trim to length with my dovetail saw and filled in anywhere the banding did not meet flush. This worked great to hide some places where my precision in cutting the banding wasn’t as high as I would have liked.

Glue in the rods

A few years ago someone gave my a couple of old closet rods. Over time I’ve cut them to lengths at the bandsaw when I needed rods for hanging items in the shop. This was an opportunity to nearly finish off that stock, but I didn’t have enough to match them and the rods I had left were two different diameters. I unfortunately didn’t find that out until I’d already drilled holes of the smaller size across the bottom of the rack, and so I needed a way to fit a 1½ inch rod into a 1⅛ inch hole. I ended up using my disc and belt sanders to narrow one end of each rod until it fit in the hole, then glued all four in, using a speed square to make sure each was perpendicular to the base.

Attaching the cleat

Finally, I added a french cleat to the rear of the rack. Since my studs are exposed in the basement, it would be easy to mount the wall side of the cleat and then the rack could easily be hung. I liked that method because then it would be easy to move around in the basement if we decide to fiddle with the gym equipment layout.

Finish was shellac and then lacquer

I didn’t do a ton to finish this; I went with two coats of 1.5 pound cut shellac and then a coat of spray lacquer over the top. Similar to the plyo box I’m going to see how that holds up given its use in the basement and if I need to beef up the layers of finish I can take it back in the shop and hit it again.

Hung next to the deadlift platform in the basement

And that’s it! Each of these items was a one-day build in and of themselves, and I was able to turn that extra sheet of plywood into some functional additions to our home gym! Coming soon: EZ curl bar rack made out of laminated ½” plywood I have in the shop!

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Spring Has Come Early

It’s the middle of January but things are going really well and let’s start blogging regularly again!

What’s Changed?

Professionally I’ve moved from Mobile Doorman to I’m excited to be working on a high-traffic Elixir site— I’d previously only worked on it for a small experimental project. Plus lots of folks I work with are transferring over from a Ruby career, and I’m eager to see training and adoption of a functional language at scale.

Since about mid-November I’m back on the keto train as well. It was refreshing to lose 10 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s instead of gaining 10, and it’s been a helluva lot easier doing it with my wife along for the ride since I no longer have to make two different dinners every night.

On a related note, I’m working back into olympic weightlifting again. Still rediscovering my form and working up slowly in weight, but the change to working from home has helped immensely in my ability to get into the (home) gym regularly. In particular, I used to fail because something would be happening in the morning and I’d have to miss a workout without the ability to make it up, which left me frustrated and demotivated over time. Now I can flex my workout in the morning before work, over lunch or at the end of the day before the family is back from work/day care and it’s been great!

What’s Next?

I’ll have a post coming up about a few utilitarian woodworking projects to enhance my home gym, and then some musings about getting back on the horse working on those adirondack chairs as well as some video gaming.

See back here at the end of the week!

PS- Here have this tweet.

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Back to School

Nightstand updates and a new site feature!

#NightstandBuild Update

My last post detailed that I was about to get started on the #NightstandBuild build back in May. The good news is… I’m almost done!

I’ll be compiling all of my photos into a monster project page once I’ve completed the whole shebang, but I’m very pleased to be just about finished.

Technical Talks

I’ve added a new section to the site to house transcripts of my tech talks at various meetups and conferences. My hope is that they provide some expanded context for those that were there as well as be accessible to those that may not have been able to make it when I was speaking.

The first talk up is one that I gave at the Madrailers Meetup on August 27th details how to use webpack with rails.

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