The other day Aldi had one of their "get tools for cheap" days and we snagged a 1250W router for less than £25. A bargain in anyone's eyes!
We did think about the router table, but it didn't look particularly study, with everything being made from moulded plastic. And from the photos on the website, it doesn't look like it is for particularly large pieces. Far better (although not exactly safer or inline with "elf-and-safety") to make one for our new router.
So this weekend, a few hours were needed at the BuildBrighton hackspace.
We cut some 18mm ply and marked it so that there was a minimum of 500mm from the cutting head of the where the router bit would be and the edge of the board. This should allow us to easily cut and rout sheet materials up to half a metre in size.
One of the great things about having wooden workbenches is that they're pretty easy to fix stuff to. As it turns out, someone had already drilled some M7 sized holes in the bench (it looks like a pillar drill or something had previously been mounted there). So it was no bother to find a few coach bolts that were long enough to fit through both the 18mm piece and the 40mm thick worktop and make some holes in our board.
After the centre hole was drilled and some holes placed 46mm apart (centre-to-centre) either side of the main, large hole, we were ready to mount the router.
It's actually far easier to mount the router to the board, and then fix the board to the workbench in this case. But it didn't take long to mount the router and leave the cutting head raised 6mm or so through the "tabletop".
Now at this point, it's fair to point out that this isn't exactly the safest way to go about using a router. There's no guard and no fence, and no feather boards or any of that stuff. But there is a cutting head and, placed 423mm from the centre of the router (so 420mm away from the cutting blade of a 6mm wide straight routing bit) there's a piece of wood, running parallel to the bench edge.
It took only seconds to pass the 3mm mdf sheet along the fence, cutting it with the exposed cutting head, then rotating through 90 degrees and repeating, to create two, perfectly square, pieces of 3mm mdf (420 x 420mm).
The edges left a little to be desired. We tried at fast speeds, slow speeds, feeding the wood quickly, feeding the wood slowly - none of it seemed to make much difference: the cut edge of the mdf had this feathered look no matter how it was presented to the router bit.
Luckily it's nothing that a quick wipe down with a piece of sand paper can't deal with.
Now we're probably not going to use the router table for actually cutting wood (it creates a lot of dust) but as a proof of concept, we're pretty happy with this so far.
Next we need to make a number of "offset" pieces to place along the fence, to allow us to quickly and easily cut channels into mdf sheets, at equal distances apart. After all, that's ultimately what the router table was set up to do!