* you lookin a bit furry in your picture *
Yea... well, I just woke up briefly from hibernation and hadn't had a chance to shave. All that hair was making me itch.
As for what to use for table material, this is another Ford vs. Chevy kind of thing, as people here have used particle board, MDF, plywood, cast iron, cutting board material, sheet steel and marble (and probably some I've missed).
When I was starting out here, I asked the same question and "two layers of 3/4" MDF with Formica on both sides" seemed to get more recommendations that day than anything else, so I decided to go with it. When I actually went to my supplier, they made me a super-deal on a damaged piece of 1", with a 1/2" for the second piece, saving me some $$$. I didn't care for the laminates I found at HomeDepot, so found a place to buy Formica. Others may have exactly the opposite preference.
For the edges, again some use laminate, some hardwood and some apply a vapor-resistant finish such as polyurethane or wax. I chose hardwood, simply because I preferred the appearance and mitering the hardwood for the corners would be a new experience for me.
I built mine last summer and it's been suspended between 2 sawhorses since then, with my 3hp router installed in a cantelevered end the whole time, with no sagging. About Thanksgiving I added a second 3hp router to the table, still supported with 2 sawhorses and its still flat. I do however have a router cabinet that is <very slowly> under construction.
As for the best site to find material recommendations, I'd have to say that the cumulative knowledge of the gurus here (and I"m not one of them) greatly exceeds any book or online source I've seen. You won't always get a consensus here, but you'll hear different people describe what they like and why... and can come to your own conclusion.
You're starting to realize just how versatile the router is but I"d have to say that I often find new uses for it here that I didn't know existed. Members here come from incredibly diverse backgrounds including machinists, millwrights, pattern makers, carpenters, cabinetmakers, and many, many more. Heck, they even let a few *engineers* (like me) in here! <g>
In my opinion you are thinking completely clearly on those applications. I too started out with a 3hp plunge... then got a 3hp fixed base for my lift.. then a laminate trimmer (Bosch Colt), and then a couple of dual-base units in the 2+hp range.
I came here with the Tim Allen mentality but have come to learn that routers are like Crescent wrenches. Sometimes you need a 15-incher, usually a 6-10" wrench is fine and occasionally you need a 3-incher.
As for bits, I recommend ignoring HSS bits, only going for carbide tipped or solid carbide as the HSS bits will burn too easily. As for bit quality, the top tier includes Whiteside, Freud and CMT, mid-range includes the Bosch's, Lee Valley, MLCS and others, and the third tier are the HSS and <generally imported> bit with poor quality control, where one bit can be A_OK and the next iffy.
As for me, I have some of most of those and a few others and I think they each have a place. My personal favorite is Whiteside, though they're also one of the most expensive. I've had the worst luck with Porter Cable but it may just be me... and they're often in sale.
Although I've never bought anything on ebay, many here do and have good results, especially from companies that others here have had good results with. One ebay company people here seem to like (correct me if I miss-type this folks!) is "Super Carbide".
I haven't made any raised panel doors yet, but will be making some by the time I finish my RT. I've had others strongly recommend the video tapes from Marc Sommerfeld's New Expanded DVD Collection
for learning the process. They also brag about their match rail and stile bit sets but I haven't thought that through yet. I'll start with the videos myself!
Hey BJ, Harry, Mike, Curious and others who have extensive experience here.. please fill in any holes I've left and correct any mistakes I've made!