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Hi,
I am extremely new to wood working and I was just wondering, I am planning to build my first router table. I was wondering if Alder is to soft for the top? It will be about 1 1/2 inch thick. It will not be used as a work bench as I already have one. Thanks in advance!
 

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Welcome Tim to the forums..

Alder is a relatively soft hardwood of medium density that has low bending strength, shock resistance, and stiffness....
so I would lean towards saying no to using it for a top unless you top coat w/ HP laminate... (Formica)...
A link to Alder...

and while we have your attention and you being new to woodworking 'n all..........
Here is a link w/ a bit of information that you may find useful...
 

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Thank you for the reply, I will look into finding some HP laminate for it. Also thank you for the helpful links!
Baltic Birch would be far more stable and if you get a piece that's Phenolic Faced you would be leagues ahead and really have something...
Use Baltic Birch because it has excellent glue- and screw-holding... Amazing strength & stability and stability matters a lot and then some...

if you opt for BB, don't confuse it w/ Birch Plywood...
I wouldn't use use MDF because:
see the PDF...
 

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Great advice from Stick. I had to search out a lumber supply to find baltic birch. It comes in 5 ft square sheets. I generally pull a piece from below the top piece that hasn't had a chance to warp, even though it is very resistant to warping, it can. Also, if exposed to the sun on the ride home, it will turn yellow, so I keep it covered, and store it out of the sun and keep a drop cloth over it in the garage where I store it. Real Baltic Birch is often shortened to BB.

I have no local source of phenolic coated BB, and have to drive a long way to get it. First piece I bought had been stored badly and wasn't dead flat, so I had to go get another piece. So bring a straight edge of some sort to check for flat. Hopefully you'll find a nearby source. I found the coated stuff at a Rockler store, which is the only woodworker supply place for 70 miles.

Since it sounds like you're fairly new to woodworking, I've attached a pdf of the 18-plus things that helped me accelerate my learning curve. It's long and covers nearly a decade of hard and sometimes expensive lessons. It's long, but has pictures. Hope it saves you some time and money.
 

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not flat PCBB will flatten very nicelt if installed on a torsion box frame...
 
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not flat PCBB will flatten very nicelt if installed on a torsion box frame...
Yup. I did that on my table saw's outfeed table, but refer to it as trusses. Using screws to attach it, you want to make sure on coated 3/4 BB that the screw only goes in only about half an inch, othwise you could get a dimple on top.

Stick, I know you know this, but for others, I used planed flat 1x3 for the trusses, and drilled holes through the narrow dimension, just deep enough so that only half an inch of each screw went into the the BB. Used apiece of tape on the 3/8ths bit to mark the depth. Hand drilled back then but a drill press would be better. Then used a tiny bit to drill all the way through so the screw wouldn't split the truss. On a router table build, keep the trusses away from the router mounting plate opening.

This sounds like too much detail, but if you haven't done it before, it could seem confusing. This project also provides an opportunity to practice some useful woodworking basics.
 

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Years ago, I made a router table using two pieces of mdf glued together. Then I bought a sheet of Formica and laminated the pieces to it. The bad part is the cost. The Formica was about $45. The good part is I had plenty left over for other projects. I think I still have a piece in the storage shed waiting for the next project! :)

Now if you want to get serious, build a router table that has room for two routers. This makes routing fun, and time saving. My table also has adjustable height so it can also be used as an extension of my work bench, or lowered for assembly work. A RV scissor jack from Harbor Freight takes all the work out of raising/lowering the top. I love it. Note the Formica! :grin:

Here is a link to the dual router table project. https://www.routerforums.com/show-n-tell/46562-adjustable-height-workstation-router-table-more.html
 

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Up here we can find HPL cuttings, probably from damaged or discontinued sheets, that are 2' by 4' for $10 or less. They make great router table tops when glued to some type of panel board. My preference is mdf for the panel as it is dead flat and very uniform in thickness. Once it is stuck down to a frame it will stay dead flat as long as it is well supported from underneath. No panel material, even baltic birch, will stay flat over any distance unsupported.

I've also made router table tops from 5/8" melamine coated particle board and they work well but eventually the melamine starts wearing out. That's not a big deal if you are new to routing because the first table you build is unlikely to be the last table you build so I don't recommend putting a lot of money or effort into it. It takes time to review all the different possibilities that a router table can be and decide on which features you like best. I'm at version 6 or 7 and I think I finally have what I want. The first few were very utilitarian just to get jobs done but others got more sophisticated over time.

One thing I don't recommend is putting the router dead center in the table. That leaves a lot of wasted space behind the fence. Put it as close as you can to the back of the table and some like to offset theirs left to right as well. I personally like to work from both sides of my table, close if the pieces are small and farther away if the pieces are large and that saves wear and tear on my back.
 

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Alder wouldn't be my first choice but it you have fairly thick (at least 1") and straight grain, it would be ok. Melamine top and painted/sealed bottom will minimize movement. I built my top from 2 laminations of 1/2" MDF with a melamine top. It's going on 7 years and it's still pretty much the same as the day I finished it.

For DC, I am still in love with the Incra system. I have an Incra Mast-R II lift which is a slightly modified JessEm Mast-R II lift. The mod is support for the Incra clean sweep DC system. This makes for excellent dust collection. You don't need the clean sweep shroud (easy enough to make something similar for about 1/10th the cost) but you do need the lift and the clean sweep magnalock inserts. It pulls the dust through holes in the inserts right next to the to router bit. Truly amazing how well it works.
 
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