Having completed my tool cabinets, the next step in organizing my workshop was to build a router table. The goal was to use my modular toolbox design to create a cabinet with a fully functional router table on top with drawers for tool storage.
I already had a basic store-bought router table, but its design left me wanting for more. So, I set out to design a new router table, one with drawers for built-in storage, and better dust collection to help keep things clean.
Table of Contents
- Designing the Router Table
- Assembling the Frame
- Adding Side Panels and Drawer Slides
- Building the Router Motor Box
- Adding a Safety Power Switch
- Finishing the Cabinet
- Attaching the Router Table Top
- Installing the Router Lift
- Router Fence
- Adding Drawers
- Organizing the Drawers
- Adding LED Lights to the Motor Box
- Final Thoughts
- Tools and Materials
- Other Posts in this Series (Background Reading)
Designing the Router Table
I started iterating my design using SketchUp. I was able to base the router table on the rolling tool storage cabinets designs I already modeled and built, saving me from having to start from scratch. The basic cabinet is 54.5″ wide, 28″ deep and ~33″ high (28″ for frame plus ~5″ for the 4″ casters).
My plan was to center the router in the middle of the top and put a box inside the cabinet to contain the dust. Underneath the top I decided to fill all the internal space with drawers, which I prefer over cupboards or open shelves.
I also left space at the rear of the cabinet to store the router fence when it’s not in use. With the router box in the middle, I was left with space for 17″ wide drawers on the left and right. They wouldn’t have the same full 24″ depth as the drawers at the bottom, since I needed 9.5″ to build a shelf for the fence in the back.
Assembling the Frame
With my design locked in, I purchased and assembled the frame in a similar manner as my tool cabinets. The framing consists of:
- 4x 54.5″ Faztek 1515 T-slot aluminium for the width
- 11x 25″ T-slot with anchor bores at both ends, for the height and depth
- 51.5″ T-slot with anchor bores at both ends for the shelf at the rear
- 3x 12.5″ T-slot, 1x 11″ piece and 1x 14.5″ piece for the Y section at the front
- 4x 4″ locking casters
- 5x 8′ of black T-slot inserts
The main components of the frame are held together using the anchor fasteners. The Y section at the front is then installed using end fasteners:
Including the casters, aluminium extrusion, and fasteners, the cost of the frame came to around $350.
Adding Side Panels and Drawer Slides
The sides, center support, and rear of the cabinet are made from 1/2″ finished plywood. They are routed down on each side to slot into the T-slot of the aluminium framing. The drawer sliders are then installed and ready for the drawers.
For a full walk-through on this design see Part 2: Adding Sides to Modular Tool Cabinets.
Building the Router Motor Box
Next up was the router box, which in addition to trapping the dust, also stores the router fence.
The front of the box, which holds the motor, is built from 3/4″ MDF laminated with Formica, and the rear compartment is made from 3/4″ beech plywood. All the pieces are assembled using Kreg’s Pocket Hole system.
Finally, I drilled a 2-1/2″ hole through both rear panels for the vacuum port. On the outside of the box I installed a Rockler 2-1/2″ dust port and the right adapter so I could plug in my Dewalt Shopvac.
When using a router box it’s essential that the heat and dust generated is vented from the box, otherwise the life of the router is going to be impacted. My plan is to use a Y-adapter on the hose from my Shopvac so I can have dust collection at the fence and the router box.
Both boxes are then placed into the cabinet and rest on the center drawer support and horizontal aluminium support at the back. The top sections of the aluminum frame, not shown in the photo, holds everything in position.
Adding a Safety Power Switch
I value my hands, and so I’m always keen to ensure all my tools are nice and safe to use. I wanted an on/off switch in an easy reach location at the front of the cabinet. This switch has a large paddle lever for turning off power to the router, and it’s a large enough target that you can bump it with your body in case both hands are occupied or in an emergency.
First, I installed a piece of 1/4″ black acrylic into the section on the right and installed the safety switch above it. In the left section, I installed a piece of clear 1/4″ acrylic sheet, which is impossible to see in the photo! All these pieces are slotted into the T-slot and the frame is then firmly held in place using the end fasteners. I place 1/4″ foam weather stripping into the T-slot on all sides to ensure a tight fit.
Finishing the Cabinet
To prevent dust getting into the drawers from the router box, I installed 3/4″ MDF Formica, recessing it into the frame on the left and right sides of the cabinet.
These are installed using my “Flush Mount” approach outlined in Part 3: Durable and Low-Friction Work Surface.
Attaching the Router Table Top
For the top I created a 28″ x 54.5″ work surface.
I started with a sheet of 3/4″ MDF cut to size. On the sides, I installed black FastEdge, peel and stick edge banding from Fastcap. For the top, I laminated Formica’s excellent Microdot surface.
Using a router, I then cut the hole for the router plate. I did this by using my old Kreg table top as the template, replicating the hole using a jigsaw for the rough cut before cutting it flush with a trim router bit.
I routed a channel in front of the router plate for a Woodpecker’s Combo track, which has a T-slot track and also a miter track for use with a miter gauge. I used a Freud flush trim bit in my Festool router, mounted on guide track, to get a nice accurate fit. The combo track is 48″ wide, and so I didn’t have to cut the groove down the full width of the table. If this makes using a miter gauge a challenge, it will be easy to extend the channel the full width of the table down the road.
Finally, the router fence I planned to use required two T-slot tracks, placed 17″ apart, at the left and right of the router plate. The fence attaches using 1/4″ hex bolts, so I used the same technique to route grooves to fit Woodpecker’s Dual Purpose track. If you look carefully you’ll notice a design feature (aka mistake) that I made when measuring the cut. The fix was to expand the groove to have two tracks on both sides, ensuring I had the required 17″ spacing!
On the bottom of the table I installed an additional piece of 1/2″ MDF to give the table some additional support. With all the material removed for the tracks I was a little worried the table would be weak. Most router table tops I’ve looked at are at least 1″ thick, and so I think this is a common consideration. In this photo you can also see the bolts holding all the T-tracks in place.
Installing the Router Lift
With the top done, I installed Kreg’s Precision Router Table insert plate levelers in the four corners of the cut-out.
I mounted a Kreg Router Lift fitted with a Dewalt DW618. The plate levelers have eight screws which allow you to get everything perfectly flush with the table top. Once aligned, there are four screws that hold everything securely into place.
My first router table featured a simple router plate, but I soon discovered the difficulty adjusting the position of the router, especially when accuracy was essential. A router lift allows you to raise and lower the router table from the top which drastically improves the usability of the router table.
I researched router fences and ultimately decided to go with Woodpecker’s SuperFence. I was tempted by JessEm and Incra router fences, but felt that the Woodpeckers would suit me best.
I am able to store the entire fence at the rear of the cabinet, allowing me to push the whole cabinet under my stationary benches when it’s not in use.
You can also see on the left the power outlet that runs through the cabinet to the paddle switch. These are mounted at the rear so they are out of the way when the table is not in use.
The final step was to build the drawers. I went with six 4″ high, 17″ x 18″ drawers to go on either side of the router box.
Below the router motor box, I built two of my standard 6″ high 24″ x 24″ drawers on the left. I also wanted a nice deep drawer, so I built a 12″ high 24″x 24″ drawer for the bottom of the right side of the cabinet.
My previous post discusses how I build these drawers – Part 4: Every Tool Cabinet Needs Drawers.
Organizing the Drawers
The left set of drawers are used for storing router bits in removable plastic bins, and on the right are all the tools, jigs, and parts for the router, router mount, and fence.
Full details on the different organizational approaches I have taken can be found in my previous post – Here are Some Ways to Organize your Drawers
Adding LED Lights to the Motor Box
Finally, I went a little overboard and installed a strip of LED lighting inside the router box. It looks awesome, and it actually lights up the router too, so it’s actually quite useful, plus it’s a good visual indicator that the power strip is plugged in and turned on.
This particular table was a result of being snowed in for 7 days in January. There was nothing horrendously wrong with my previous router table, but I felt that a custom-made DIY router table setup would serve me better. Most importantly, I wanted better dust collection and built-in drawers for more efficient use of space.
This new router table exceeds my expectations. The large top is a pleasure to use, there’s a lot of easily accessible storage, there’s room to store the fence when it’s not in use, and it matches the styling of my tool cabinets.
Would I change anything in this design? I think I will end up adding baffles to the router box to help channel the dust more effectively towards the dust port.
I hope this brings you inspiration. Please let me know if you have any questions!
Tools and Materials
- Sketchup 3D Modeling (Free Download)
- T-Slot Framing
- Drawer Hardware: GlideRite 2075-ZC-10 Drawer Slides (via Amazon)
- Router Table Top Surface
- Router Lift, Fence, and T-slot Channels
- Router: Dewalt DW618 (via Amazon)
- Route Box:
- Drawer Organization: Schaller Boxes (via Schaller Corp)
- Power and Lights
Other Posts in this Series
This post builds on techniques and design principles I’ve discussed in some of my previous posts: