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  • Router Table Top Material

    I'm getting a new router setup for my anniv (Bosch 1617EVS and an Incra Ultra Lite Fence). The fixed base of the router combo will be mounted under the table permenantly.

    I'm trying to figure out what material to surface the router table top I'll build. I don't have any experience with the materials I've thought of so far so any input on them or another material would be great.

    From the traditional sources I've read, laminated MDF is the standard for tops but my experience is that it dings easily and my router table will have to serve many functions because of space constraints.

    Some ideas I have are
    1. 1/8" thick phenolic or garolite over MDF, this should hold up well from what I've heard.
    2. UHMW over MDF. Slick and slightly cheaper then phenolic but I don't know how it would hold up because I've never used the stuff.
    3. Acrylic over MDF. This option is interesting because I could cut a viewing window in the MDF so I could see my hands for under-table height adjustments through the table top. I don't know how Acrylic would scratch/hold up over time though.

    Any input is greatly appreciated. The top will be 32"x32" so solid surfacing from a sink cutout is probably out. Thanks!, -Robert

  • #2
    You could try phenolic coated baltic birch plywood from Woodpecker's. It comes in several sizes, so you could cut down their 32x48 to fit your desired 32x32. It comes in either 3/4" or a full 1" thickness. With a proper support setup underneath the top, it should be strong enough for you.

    [ 06-03-2003, 02:49 PM: Message edited by: Stuart H ]

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    • #3
      I didn't realize that Woodpeck's birch it was phenolic coated, I thought that it was just plastic laminate. My drill press table is made with it (1") and I'm making a sled (0.5") now with it.

      It is good stuff but does ding/scratch. The phenolic is probably too thin for much impact strength. That is why I'm looking for other materials now. Now that I know about Woodpeck's Birch, I'll be sure to get thicker phenolic if I go that route.

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      • #4
        I've used the stuff that is used for countertops (can't think of the name)in the past with 1 1/2" plywood glued together and sealed oak edge banding and it's held up well. This table has remained outside under my carport since inception and is also used to place a drill press on or act as outfeed. It hasn't warped nor has it chiped.
        I believe a recent edition of American Woodworker had a complete edition devoted to router tables and theirs looked pretty good -- I just can't remember what they used for the top. When I get home, I'll look it up and get back with you.

        The only thing I see with the phenolic-coated birch is how does one seal up the sides, like most table plans call for. Usually you band the table then trim or plane the excess off of the banding to make it flush with the table top then apply your surface material of choice which covers the top and bottom edges of your banding. This is designed, I thought at least, to keep moisture from the core of the table and prevent warping down the road.

        Do you have a plate in mind? I don't know if the Incra fence includes this. I have the router and am very pleased with it. If you plan or think you may eventually get a 3 1/4 HP router like I dream about, I wonder if you can get a large plate designed for large routers but cut your table and mount the the 1617 to it. This way you wouldn't have to build / buy another table if you ever decided to get even more juice than you'll already have.

        Just a thought.
        Patrick<br />patrickssmith@cox.net<br />members.cox.net/patrickssmith

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        • #5
          used for countertops (can't think of the name)

          High pressure laminate is my suggestion also. With the exception of a couple solid phenolic or metal ones, that's the facing of every commercial table I've ever heard of.

          Dave

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          • #6
            Is high-pressure laminate very different than a laminate top that you do yourself with contact cement? From the name, I would assume that high-pressure laminate is done at high pressures and would be more uniform and much stronger.

            As for banding the edges of Woodpeck's birch, I didn't on my drill press table. It is indoors and Woodpeck's drill press table doesn't seem to be banded. Maybe I should go band it?

            From my reading I was not planning on buying a router plate. It seems like extra complication/possible movement. The Bosch 1617 motor slips down and out of the fixed base so I don't think the plate is necessary. Feel free to disagree with me in a reply, I welcome any input! As for insert rings, I will probably buy a bunch of 1/4" acrylic discs of the apropriate diameter for a buck each. I'll drill a through-hole in the top with a hole saw and use a rabbit bit to sink a concentric circle for the inserts.

            As for metal for the top, I looked into it and a 1/4"x24"x24" Al2024 plate and it was $150. The commercial solid phenolic tops were what gave me the idea of attaching a 1/8" or 1/4" solid phenolic sheet to a MDF base. Then I thought about UHMW which is slightly cheaper...

            So if I was going to go the high-pressure laminate route, do I get a pre-laminated counter-top from HD and cut it to size? Any thoughts on phenolic or garolite (a stronger phenolic composite) over MDF or UHMW over MDF?

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            • #7
              Some other ideas are here.

              Go to www.mcmaster.com and type workbench tops in search.

              They have phenolic-particleboard, plastic-laminate, UHMW and others. These were where I got some ideas from.

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              • #8
                High Pressure Laminate (HPL) brandnames include Formica. The high pressure referred to, is how the HPL is made, not what you have to do with it.

                8' x 4' sheets in Lowes or HD for about $35. Various colors, with or without pattern! It's around 1/16"+ thick and should stand up to a fair amount of abuse. Phenolic of this thickness would be better, but is generally not readily available and will be much, much more expensive.

                David

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                • #9
                  So everyone agrees high pressure laminate is the standard though cutbuff mentioned that phenolic laminate should be better. 1/16" phenolic sheet is actually slightly cheaper than Formica though 1/8" sheet is more so I'll look into that route. Does anyone have any comments about UHMW? Would it likely stand up?

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                  • #10
                    I will have to agree on Formica. I've put it on several things, including the table saw extension wing, and am very happy with it. The router table wing I purchased is MDF coated with Melamine, and it chips very easy. I will more than likely construct my own sometime in the future, and will use Formica.

                    I like the fact stock slides over it very easy, glue and finishes scrape off easy with a sharp putty knife, and you can apply Johnson's Paste Wax for even greaty slide. It's nice looking, durable, and is easily routed. Cuts without chipping with my cordless trim saw with a cheap plywood blade.
                    John E. Adams<br /><a href=\"http://www.woodys-workshop.com\" target=\"_blank\">www.woodys-workshop.com</a>

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                    • #11
                      Woody, I'm curious about using Formica on a table saw extension? Guess you're not talking about the cast iron kind as on my Craftsman.

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                      • #12
                        I think formica is melamine. Formica is a trade name and melamine is a type product including Formica and others. The thickness will vary, thinner ones I feal sure would chip easier.
                        SCWood

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                        • #13
                          Formica is a trademark name for a high-pressure laminate product. Melamine is a type of plastic, developed by American Cyanamid in 1938. According to the Formica company history, they were buying all the melamine AC made by the end of that year.

                          http://www.formica.com/history.jsp?page_id=1 , the history of Formica.

                          Dave

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                          • #14
                            HPL is now made form melamine resins, that was one of great break throughs.
                            I do not mean to argue, but this is an interest subject, especially Formica

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                            • #15
                              We are in agreement.

                              Where people may be likely to misunderstand, however, is that a lot of people call melamine coated particleboard (MCP), "melamine". MCP is most definitely not the same product as HPL.

                              Dave

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