Fence or Lift... Which is more important to you?


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I was thinking adjustable so that it could conform better to the width of the bit so that It could be supported near the bit.  I guess I wasn't thinking about a disposable piece of plywood held perpendicular to the table.  A basic frame might be useful still to maintain squareness.

 

With a horizontal bit a strip of plywood with a half circle cut out is clamped to the table. A large diameter bit should have a piece added over the top of the bit cutout to house the bit in case something goes bad like the bit breaking or carbide coming off. A shaper has a proper hood made from heavy metal usually cast iron to catch a exploding cutter. Also the fence uses a sacrificial face pushed into the cutter so that it conforms to the cutter profile. All these things on a router table are a matter of convenience but even at that you still need to learn how to use the tool safely. It may be easier to just push the two sides of a fence up close to a cutter and go at it but its not the safe way to get the job done.

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I have the Rockler top....which has been hacked up and modified for my needs.  I love the lift to be quite honest.  I just use the fence that came with the table top, which I affix to my Delta T2 table saw fence (router cabinet is a custom extension to my table saw station).  I use my jointer for all my jointing needs though.  I don't really have a need for my router table to do that job.

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First and foremost, for a router table you want a stable, flat surface.  Pay close attention to how the insert mates up with the table and make sure you get it perfectly flat.  And deviation there can telegraph to your routed profiles.   That is where you want to invest your time/money.  If your table surface sucks then a fancy lift or fence will do you no good.   If you are on the fence (ha!) between which table to buy, go for the one with more weight.  

 

After that I guess I'd go for the lift.  A router fence is pretty simple and does not need to do a whole lot.   I don't have a lift, I just adjust by hand.  I have not found that to be burdensome at all.  

 

That being said, I try to get as much of my workflow away from the router table as possible.  The amount of time/money that you need to make it a precision machine really adds up.    I make dados on my table saw.   I also have a Festool router and track, whenever possible I use that set up.

 

It really depends on what you build.  If you do a lot of smaller work, decorative boxes, picture frame profiles, etc, then you will spend a lot of time at the router table.   I tend to build larger furniture pieces where bringing work to the table just isn't practical or safe.     

 

Or get a shaper (had to say it).  

"It really depends on what you build"   Most of what I have done since starting any woodworking has been refinishing, mostly replicating and reshaping damaged profiles, however, I have built a few small projects.  I have a porter cable 690 and love it, but again some of the applications would really be easier with a table.  Based on what you are saying, "the table is the most important," would I be better off with a phenolic rather than High Pressure Laminate.

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I have used my split fence as a jointer by shimming out the outfeed with a few playing cards and lining it up with the bit. A shear angle bit did better than my jointer could on some curly maple.

 

You can do that with just a plain board or strip of plywood also. Just run the board along the existing straight fence the depth you like to joint at 1/16, 1/8 whatever stop halfway down the board and notch for the bit. Clamp to the table adjust even with the bit. This lets you make a fence much longer than your table is wide so that your not jointing wedges.

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I think the router table may be the most personal choice in all of woodworking. I strongly disagree with most of what Don has said, but that's okay. I've done the simple bolt it down fence, and I think that's for the birds if you've got the money to buy or make a nicer one. I love having a split fence, the biggest perk for me is dust collection. You could make an excellent one, and most any of the ones to purchase, you could make zero-clearance options for your bits.

 

Some don't want any kind of track on their table, I want T-track to clamp the fence in, and the best for me is at minimum a miter bar track on the table to run sleds. I can use featherboards in the miter track as well. I like T-track in the fence for the same purpose. Fences for routers are a bit different from anything else in that it doesn't matter if it's parallel to anything at all. Set it at the distance you want and go to town. If you build your own table that is a square or rectangle with overhangs, you can use the table in any direction you care to.

 

The router was my first woodworking tool outside of carpentry tools, so I have a special affinity for it. I'm on my fourth (probably iteration of my table, as after I've used something for awhile I find a way to improve on it. I would say take the recommendations here as a general guide, and don't knock anything until you try it. I will say I remember one big reason why I moved off the Rockler plate - their insistence to keep using screws to secure the inserts. Kreg and others that use a simple tool are light years ahead. Kreg also has the better system for attaching and leveling, IMO.

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Thanks, everyone, for the advice. I have learned something valuable... everyone has an opinion.  Regardless, I have a greater knowledge of who likes what and why. Therefore, I may make a better informed decision.   When I started this thread, I really was wanting someone to make the decision for me, however, after much discussion, I can make my own decision based on better information.  Thanks all. 

 

Aaron

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