Do it yourself

When you need something for the shop, even though several may be commercially available sometimes they just aren’t what you want or need. No problem.

Years ago I cut down a commercial router table and adapted it to fit the right extension on my table saw. I could have bought a new one sized for the saw, but since I already had the router top I saved a few bucks and used the old one. Wasn’t pretty, but it’s worked great for nearly a decade. I want a router extension for my new table saw, but can’t just take the extension from my old machine – it won’t fit, plus after all those years it’s really taken a beating. Time for a new one.

Unfortunately, the many router extensions I’ve researched are either too darned expensive or just not quite the right size. So I’m making my own.

I’m using 3/4″ melamine-coated particleboard for the table, and affixing it to a “mounting box” attached between the fence rails on the right side of the saw. I did the tough part already, routing out the inset for the new router plate, and it came out just right – the new plate drops down into the inset and is perfectly flush with the table. The next step is to add some hardwood trim to the raw edges of the particleboard (it will then exactly match the wood-trimmed melamine tops of my assembly/outfeed table, and those cabinets I made last year), followed by routing a groove for an aluminum miter slot of the same color as the new plate.

Although this has saved a lot of money over commercial extensions, a factor that’s very welcome in my shop, that’s not the point. The result will be an exact match not only for my saw, but the entire shop. It’ll work great, and look great in photography. Most important, this is turning into a fun project.

And for many of us, that’s the whole point of doing something yourself out in the shop in the first place.



  • Sawdust says:

    This may show my inexperience, but I’d love to know how you routed out the inset. For the life of me I can’t figure out how to copy-route the recess for my router plate for an exact fit. Is there an easy way to make a “negative” of the router plate insert, to use for flush routing the recess in the table top? Thank, Steve

  • I am in temporary…and very cramped…shop space and no additional commercial equipment will fit. So I have to improvise on all “improvements” to make my life in the shop easier and more efficient. Since no one is taking pictures of the space for publication[s]….the improvements need only be functional and not pretty. That gives me a lot more flexibility of design. My space is too small indoors to wrestle with any 4 X 8 panels, so I cut those to size outside….then the outfeed surface for the table saw handles nothing wider than about 10″….so it is a tilting-into- place hollow core door section fitted between studs of the outside wall!
    My [older] planer sits IN the wall space between two other studs and work pieces start/feed from in the shop and finish/exit outside. It all works for me!

    All “stationary” tools are “plumbed”, with separate gate valves, to an outside located JET sawdust collector.

    Dr. Rick Kaufman,, Medford, Oregon

  • Roger Muller says:

    Go to a Rockler store and look at the templates they have for doing this for the various plates they sell. If they don’t have your plate size, look at the ones they do have and measure the templates as well as the plates they are made for. You will soon catch on to the differential you are going to make a template to cut the master hole. You will make the template yourself and you will also see how they use a small rabbeting bit to get the “lip” you need to support the plate. Mine fits like a glove

  • Danny H. says:

    Take your router plate and lay it in the place you’ve chosen on your router table top. Now trace around it with a pencil. Remove plate and cut out area 1/4 ” inside the line you’ve drawn with a saber or jig saw.This cut doesn’t have to be perfectly straight or pretty. Now cut four pieces of 3/4″x 3″ wood( wide enough for your router to ride on). Cut two of them long enough to stretch across the whole length of the table( So you can clamp them to the top while your cutting the inset). The other two pieces of wood will be cut to the exact length or width of your plate. Now fasten the four pieces of lumber together using dowels or pocket screws to the exact size of your router plate. Lay this frame over the lines you drew and clamp to the table top at the edges of the table. Now chuck a hinge mortice bit in your router and cut the inset by letting the top bearing on the bit ride along the edge of the wood frame. Be careful to adjust the depth of the cut to match the exact thickness of your plate. If your plate has adjusting screws on it, then you can go a little deeper and use them to bring it up flush.If this seems like to much work then you may want to just purchase a top and plate already done.

  • I appreciate very much the fine job various vendors do with their commercial items and occasionally I just have to purchase one. However, there is nothing quite like making it yourself and having it work perfectly.

  • A.J. Hamler says:

    Sawdust — Some good advice in earlier comments, but here are some more thoughts.

    The plate I got was from from Rockler, and they offer a matching template for it. Just stick it to the table with some double-stick table, chuck up a 1/2″ pattern bit in the router and set it to the thickness of the plate, and rout it out. Then trim the center waste out with a jigsaw. Bingo bango. For cutting the inset for a different plate, follow Danny H’s advice above. To match the curved corners of your plate, choose a pattern bit with a guide wheel and cutter of the same radius as the corners of your plate. That’ll ride your template perfectly and leave rounded corners to match your plate.

    No matter what plate you’re using, if you want it to sit perfectly flush with the table it’s best to kind of sneak up on the depth to be careful you don’t go past it. As Danny noted, though, if you’re going to use leveling screws to adjust the plate flush, the actual depth of the routing should be a bit deeper than the thickness of the plate. Actual depth isn’t critical. For leveling screws, you’ll want a bit more of a lip than the 1/4″ Danny noted to allow room for installing the screws.

  • Val T. says:

    To add to that, when you build the table top make it least one and a half inches thick. It must be very well supported. The weight of the router will, after some time, make the area around the plate sag a little if not thick enough. With a lot of the work it may not matter, but some cuts must be very accurate such as making frames for a raised panel door. Also, I recommend a metal plate because the phenolic resin plates will sag from the weight of the router. Ideally you should not leave the router hanging there when not in use

  • Sawdust says:

    Danny H. Thanks so much. Sounds easy and should result in that perfect fit I want. Only thing I’m wondering about is the corners. If the bit radius is smaller than my plate corner radius, I’ll have gaps. I’ll have to take a look at my bits and plate and see if I have a match. Thanks again.

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