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Router Table Top Material

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  • #16
    Thanks! The discussion on melamine/HPL/Formica really clears things up. I've never use HPL because my experience with MCP kept me away. I looked at the Formica at HD and will now consider it in the future for materials choices.

    As for the router top, I may now "cheat" and buy a comercial top (I feel guilty doing this but I have a hope chest to build for a wedding present). I was adding up the costs to build the router table and they added up to nearly the cost to buy. I'm also now reconsidering an insert plate and the comercial tops seem a decent value. I'm looking at Woodpeck's top with the Aluminum plate. It will be more than I wanted to spend but I know from first-hand experience that the most expensive tool is the one you regret. My first router and table cost ~$180 total and is pretty much a loss after a few short aggrevating years of use.

    Thanks for everyone's input! I've learned something that will probably affect future woodworking and that is always good!


    • #17
      I have a Woodpeckers top with their phenolic plate (all they offered at the time). It's a nice top. Looks like they are selling them from about $130-190 w/o insert.

      Please forgive me tossing out another choice. If I were going to go out today and spend a buck-fifty on a router top, the one I would get is Jessem's 3/4" solid phenolic, hands down. It's a beauty, doesn't have the sensitivities (humidity, weight, sag) that an MDF top has. It's $149 from Woodcraft. Jessem's matching aluminum insert, "Mast-R-Plate" is $69.99.

      [edit]Bleargh... Belay that, I forgot that you were going to use an Incra. There isn't enough space on the Jessem for that fence.


      [ 06-05-2003, 02:38 PM: Message edited by: Dave Arbuckle ]


      • #18
        Dave A
        I want to let you know I was wrong, got it mixed up. Per government spec LPL (low pressure laminate) is melamine.


        • #19
          So, do you know which resin is being used in HPLs, if it isn't melamine?



          • #20
            Dave A
            I do not, I was invloved with government spec for LPL, it did not hav HPL and I have not looked it up. Maybe I will and let you know one day.


            • #21

              I'm glad you didn't erase your post about the Jessem top! Jointech ( has a bigger (24" widex32" long) solid phenolic top with the Jessem plate for slightly more than the woodpeck's. The jointech plate (though re-branded by jointech) is the jessem plate.

              My concerns with the jointech top are that there is no t-track/miter slot for a featherboard and since the top is 0.75" thick, you can't add one. Also, Jessem's master-plate doesn't seem as nice as woodpeck's aluminum plate (woodpeck's plate has bearings in the side). Also the jointech top is 24" wide and the woodpeck is 27" wide. I had hoped for 32" so it keeps going down (I can always add foldable extensions though).

              I've also looked at the benchdog offset top . While I'm sure it is a good top, I've heard it is phenolic coated particleboard so the woodpeck seems a little nicer.

              So Dave, what is your input? Do you have experiences with the sensitivities (humidity, weight, sag) with the woodpeck top? If so, how annoying are they and are they worth the small tradeoffs for the jointech? I want this thing to last.

              PS- I don't really care but the yellow jointech top, green plate, and incra gold fence would make an ugly combo [img]smile.gif[/img]


              • #22
                The primary reason I went with the Jessem top is the fact that it is made of solid phenolic. I did not want to invest in a router table again in a couple years when the MDF core started to sag, and I don’t care what anybody says, it will sag. I’ve seen 2” thick workbenches sag with MDF cores. I have not experienced any difficulties with the Jessem mast-r-plate, it stays snug and level so I would not let that deter your choice in the Jointech combo. Good luck with your search.



                • #23
                  The Benchdog tops are MDF, same as most of the others who don't use phenolic, steel, aluminium, coated with HPL both sides. The insert is now phenolic as standard and aluminum for extra cost. I don't know anyone who uses particle board for Router table tops. Cheap kitchen or bedroom cabinets come to mind for the stuff.

                  You seem to have had a bad experience with particle board...I can understand that! But I have not seen the stuff used in any reasonable WW'ing product, not even from HF!!

                  Ah well, it looks as though those of us using MDF for router, outfeed, drill press, bandsaw and workbench tables are in for a surprise over the next 2-3 years.

                  However, I have the ultimate answer for a non-sag top with a miter track. If 1 1/2" of laminated MDF isn't the answer, if phenolic is no good because of the inability to cut a track, try cast iron:


                  Good luck with your project.


                  [ 06-05-2003, 06:53 PM: Message edited by: Cutbuff ]


                  • #24
                    I agree with woodslayer that I don't want to have to replace the top in 7+ years. It is too much of an investment. Woodslayer, thanks for the Mast-r-plate first hand experience as well!

                    Cutbuff, I saw the cast iron while looking around. I'm not positive on its availability (some negative postings on Amazon and elsewhere) but it definitely won't fit an Incra fence [img]smile.gif[/img]

                    As for the sag of MDF, I plan on using bracing underneath MDF, phenolic, or anything else (as I would imagine everyone does). I would expect the glue in MDF to break down over time though which is why it would not be my first material choice.

                    Dave, any first-hand insight from your woodpeck top? Also do you like the phenolic insert (compared to an Aluminum insert)? I'm also still considering forgoing the insert and getting a piece of phenolic sheet and putting it on furniture-grade plywood. For a 24"x36" sheet, 3/8" phenolic is $60, 1/2" is $80, and 3/4" is $115. I think flatness of sheet stock should be OK and the price is reasonable; of course I may regret not having an insert plate (also missing from my last table top ).


                    • #25
                      My Woodpeckers top is unstable in two fashions:

                      1) Sag. As you mention, this is handleable readily by simply bracing it underneath. Mine is braced with two pieces of angle steel.

                      2) Humidity dimensional change. With the seasons, the thickness of the MDF changes slightly, requiring the insert height to be adjusted. No huge deal, but something else to do.

                      Don't get me wrong though. It is a well-built top, and these issues exist with all MDF based tops. Like Cutbuff said, that includes the Bench Dog tops.

                      If you wanted the Jointech (though I agree the color combo would be a little jarring ), you might investigate an edge bolt-on slot like Bench Dog uses. Or, just clamp to the top.

                      Aluminum inserts are supposed to sag less than phenolic. I've had a Freud FT2000e hung on my phenolic one for 2 1/2 years and it has no noticable sag.

                      (for the purposes of this posting, please assume that "handleable" is a word...)


                      • #26
                        Dave, "handleable?" I'm an engineer, that are the chances I would have even noticed that this isn't a word As an engineer, I also really wish this board had spell check!

                        Since you braced your top with angle iron, do you have any problem with sag? Also how long have you had your top?


                        • #27
                          Since you braced your top with angle iron, do you have any problem with sag?
                          No. Had to shim one of the braces once. Old business cards make really good shims, by the way.

                          Also how long have you had your top?
                          Bought it in October 2000, if I recall correctly. It's the one that attaches to an Incra-mounted tablesaw.



                          • #28


                            • #29
                              I wanted to post an update w/ pics on my router table and thank EVERYONE who replied to this post. You all helped so much!!!

                              First I bought the phenolic top from Jessem with the master-plate. The plate set up an unusual vibration with my bosch router. A nickel on the plate bounced 1.5" in the air continously when the router was on even though the Bosch router by itself has no vibration at all. The vibration was so bad that the plate leveling set screws vibrated completely out of the bottom of the plate. Both Jessem and Woodcraft were baffeled. I returned it to woodcraft but didn't want to risk my $250 on another one that could have the same problem down the road. Woodslayer on this forum has the Jessem and doesn't have the vibration so I guess I got one with a bum connection that hit a natural frequency. Jessem was very friendly though.

                              After this, I decided to build my own top out of solid phenolic. I ordered a 3/4" thick phenolic sheet (Garolite grade XX) from McMaster. When it came it had an ever so slight double crown (checked with a straight edge). Since the veritas top is designed with a double crown, this didn't bother me and I put the crown on the top. I mounted my router base to the underneath and raised a 1/4" spiral bit through the top. I then used this hole as a center for a hole saw drill bit. I then rabbbited the hole with a rabbiting router bit to countersink 1/4" thick acrylic disks into the top. The discs are $1.50 a piece and so much cheaper than commercial insert rings. I couldn't be happier with the end result which cost something like $100. The top has so little vibration that you can't tell the router is on by touch and a penny on edge doesn't even move.

                              To make the table even sweeter, there is a herc-u-lift plus caster system on it. Some pics are below. I recommend this top to anyone. I was a little worried working with the phenlic but shouldn't have been, it was too easy.


                              • #30
                                Very sweet indeed! Very well done. You have something to be very proud of.
                                John E. Adams<br /><a href=\"\" target=\"_blank\"></a>