Is MDF appropriate for router table top? - Router Forums
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post #1 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-08-2010, 08:49 PM Thread Starter
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Default Is MDF appropriate for router table top?

Another question from a newbie -

I realize that the router table I have, not a quality premade one let's just say, is difficult to use because nothing adjusts very well - a lot of play in the adjustments, etc..., and am contemplating making a new one.

Question: is MDF suitable for a router table top? It seems stable enough and routes well although I've read it is very hard on router bits. I assume it can be slicked up with paste wax or something.

I've read that phenolic coated plywood is good to use but it seems expensive.

Any suggestions are greatly appreciated.
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post #2 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-08-2010, 09:04 PM
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In short, MDF is a great material. Many commercial table tops are made from MDF, albeit covered with Formica or the like.

Just laminate two pieces of MDF, which will give you a 1-1/4" or even 1-1/2" thick top. After cutting out the opening for the base plate (if you want one; you don't need one), seal the top on both sides and the edges with several layers of poly or use paste wax as you suggested. Dress the edges with 3/4" strips of hardwood, and you've got yourself a beautiful table. To make it even better, mount a frame underneath that fits on top of the cabinet. The frame keeps the top flat. There are many examples of such tables throughout this site. Check here:

http://www.routerforums.com/table-mo...our-table.html

Cheers! MM
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post #3 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-08-2010, 09:06 PM
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Hi Mike:

Yes, MDF is suitable. In fact, it is commonly used.

Yes, there are different ways to seal MDF. Wax, shellac, varnish, laminate.

Yes, phenolic coated plywood is also good.

My router table top consists of two 3/4" layers of MDF glued together, then the edges trimmed in red oak, and the faces of the MDF covered with laminate. Works well.

I see that Mischa beat me in answering. Boohoo! Great work, Mischa!

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Last edited by Cassandra; 08-08-2010 at 09:09 PM.
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post #4 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-08-2010, 09:39 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks, guys. Quick response! Question: is there a benefit to using a base plate vs not using one?
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post #5 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-08-2010, 09:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fireflyva View Post
Thanks, guys. Quick response! Question: is there a benefit to using a base plate vs not using one?
There are many benefits to using a plate.Just a couple here : It is easier to change bits and adjust bit height. Also with the inserts you can use guide bushings. Harbor freight has a good one for about $20.00.

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post #6 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-08-2010, 10:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RStaron View Post
There are many benefits to using a plate.Just a couple here : It is easier to change bits and adjust bit height. Also with the inserts you can use guide bushings. Harbor freight has a good one for about $20.00.
Sorry, Ron, but one doesn't need an insert for these "benefits". See my postings in http://www.routerforums.com/table-mo...uter-lift.html where I have these benefits without using an insert.

One disadvantage to using an insert is that it weakens the top, thereby increasing the need for bracing on the bottom of the top.

Another potential problem is that the cheaper insert might bend under the weight of the router.

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Last edited by Cassandra; 08-08-2010 at 10:44 PM.
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post #7 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-08-2010, 11:55 PM
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MDF is great for table tops even better if, like me, you find a piece of 19mm laminated on one side in the offcuts bin for 5 euro.
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post #8 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-08-2010, 11:57 PM
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HI Guys

I'm big fan of the insert plate, it doesn't need to be 9" x 12" the normal size, it can be as small as 8" x 8" if you want it to be.if you remove the handles that are not needed in the router table the norm,, the real advantage about the insert plate, you can pop the router out if nothing more than to blow out the router motor, routers are not made to run upside down all the time, plus you pop the router out to change out the router bit easy, you will hear many say they have a hard time switching out the bit in a router table not so with the pop out router, the nut(s) are wide open when you pop it out of the table..the PC type routers are easy ,it can unscrew the router motor and do the same thing but you are on your knees, why not just do it right from the get go..

Some will say that big hole in the top will weaken the top, I say the router is only 14 lbs. the norm it's not a 40 lb. motor hanging on a 1 1/2" thick top..

Now Cassandra new lift may be a 40 lbs. + and no way to lift that monster out of the top of the router table so she may need some help supporting that much dead weight.

But maintenance must be put into any design , it's just a open motor and in time will fall without of some..TLC.. that makes the job easy with the pop out router, little air and the motor is clean inside the motor case once aging, many have switch errors and that is from router dust filling up the small switch box so the parts inside can't move inside the switch box, they are have a little bit of lube in the switch and that's like a dust magnet, most have a vac. hose right at the router table but most don't use it for the maintenance work that's needed from time to time..
but it's hard to do if the router is bolted in place..

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post #9 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-09-2010, 10:05 PM
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Another issue a plate (pretty much) resolves is clearance/depth of cut. If you direct mount/hang a router from 1 1/2 inch tabletop, you lose that much off your depth of cut which must be addressed somehow. A plate is let into the surface of table, resting on a ledge.
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post #10 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-10-2010, 08:20 AM
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Insert plate or not? It seems to be an eternal 'debate' with no right or wrong answer. There are respected proponents of either method. The advantages of a plate have been listed already. Not using a plate has its advantages as well, even if you don't use a router lift. Two more comments:

1. Advantage: The table surface will be minimally adulterated. It can even be done such that there are no holes in the top of the table other than the opening for the router bit. No snagging of stock during routing.

2. About bit height: you won't lose the full thickness of the table top. In fact, you'll lose about as much as with a plate, if done right: from a 3/4" sheet of MDF (say, 32"x24" or larger or smaller, whatever), cut out an opening to fit the router base through (around ~6" in diameter). Glue a 1/4" piece of MDF on top (same size as the thicker piece). Mount the router base into the opening, either with screws (semi-permanent) or with toggle clamps (removable). You lose 1/4" of bit height, which is not much more than the thickness of a plate (some even are 1/4" thick).

The trick is to keep the MDF totally flat. Not easy if you don't have a totally flat reference surface to begin with, but doable. Also, much depends on the router you have. A router like the Bosch 1617 that is easily removable from its base can be used very conveniently in a minimalist MDF router table.

Cheers! MM
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