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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm sure that anyone who works with routers will consider this one of the most basic questions possible that there is, but....I gotta ask.

I just bought an inexpensive router, and have an idea of a basic table I plan to make. While looking for ideas though, I stumbled on some ads for 'router plates'...buying one, how to install one etc. What I can't seem to find in my searching though is why the heck do I need one (router plate)? What does it do? The only thing I can think of is that it would allow you to lift the plate with the router up and out from the table - beyond that, I can't figure out what they're for...can someone enlighten me - I'm sure it's a pretty short, quick answer. Thanks!

Larry
 

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Welcome to the forum, Larry. I agree with what Dan said. As he indicated there are other reasons that will become more apparent to you as you progress some. If you build a basic table with the router mounted to it you can likely later open it up and install a plate.
 

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I suggest that if you're going to use a plate, for example to install a lift, or a heavier duty router later, a double layer table is a good idea. You could, for example, use some Baltic Birch ply gluded carefully down to a 3/4 layer of MDF. cut the hole in the ply slightly larger than the plate, then cut out the MDF about half an inch smaller. Then you can use some commercial "levelers" to bring the plate exactly level with the top. The double layer adds to rigidity and flatness, which is far more important than whether you elect to use, or not use a plate.

If you elect not to use a plate, you can remove the bottom plate on the router (the base) to mark the location of the holes you will drill to mount your router. If you can't find a pre drilled plate, you can use this method to drill holes in the plywood.

Another reason for the plate, is that many standard-drilled routers have plates pre drilled for the mounting bolt pattern. And, most plates have inserts that allow you to minimize the space between the insert and the bit to minimize tear out, and so sawdust can come out.

I also recommend you get an aluminum plate that has a twist lock or bayonet type insert so you don't have to unscrew (and misplace) three tiny bolts every time you want to adjust the router.

The matter of a lift: Once you have one, you will rapidly tire of fiddling with your router to get the bit to the right height. It is much better when you can adjust height from above the table, without having to remove it every time.

I will also add that the best setup I've had is with the Triton 3.5 hp router in my table. Yes, I also have a plate, in fact, the expensive Woodpecker plate in the pix below, which is 1/8th thicker than most common plates. No sagging. The Triton has a built in lift (you remove a spring) and significant safety interlocks, and the router cost is about $240 or less, which is less than the cost of an typical special purpose router lift. It is heavy, so you'd want to keep you other router for free hand use. See the picture of the Triton in a plate with the top height adjustment crank in place.

All this may be more than you thought you wanted to know, but often, buying cheap backfires. Not always, but often enough to motivate me to give you a heads up. I also added a picture of the levelers as installed in the table. They are Kreg brand, so they're really nice. They will make building your table work better. Don't forget the two layers.
 

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Hi Larry and welcome. You got part of it alright. I like taking my router out of the table to change bits and usually to make major adjustments although I do have adjustment from above the table top. You can use the router free handed with the plate on too. It helps when you are edge routing as there is only about 40% of the routers base sitting on your work when you do that and it can tip easily.

But one of the other reasons is to keep as much routing cutting height as possible. A table top is usually at least 5/8" thick (at least one I've made was) and some like it 1 1/2" thick. Obviously if you mounted your router directly to the bottom of that table the bit would barely make it to the surface in some cases. Plates are at most 3/8" thick so that's all the cutting height you lose when you attach your router to a plate instead.
 

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The only thing I can think of is that it would allow you to lift the plate with the router up and out from the table
That is exactly the way I do it. I prefer that over a lift. Made my own plate, from 1/2" plywood. No problems in the last 10-15 years or so. If I make another table, I will do it again.
 

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Welcome to the forum Larry.
 

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A lot of good answers. Most of us who have been around forever will remember the "early" router tables that did not have removable plates and can tell you that changing a bit with that set up is a real hassle. Most of us probably started with the "twist out" style of the Porter Cable (690). Believe me, at some point, it will end up on the floor if you surface mount it and "unscrew" it to change a bit. The advent of the removable plate allowed us to have everything topside and life became easier. It's worth the extra trouble & cost but you can live without it if need be. Guess it all depends on how much frustration you can tolerate.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I appreciate all of the answers! And Tom, thanks very much for all of the detail! I have a feeling I won't really appreciate some of the advice until I try to do some things and end up with little piles of worthless, ruined scrap. I was mainly interested in doing something simple - making small, wooden rectangles with a routed edge around the outside....I need hundreds. I thought, well, I love wood and the smell of cut wood, and tools, and using my hands...I'd love to have a nice setup - unfortunately I live in a house with no garage, no basement - no shop. And I'm getting close to 60, so I don't see it happening on the horizon. And I don't have a ton of money to spend. So I guess I'm trying to figure out what the best compromise might be. I also live in New England which means although I can work outside for part of the year, there's also a good part where I can't...So....like I said....I need to do some thinking to figure out how to get the biggest bang for the buck, within the (many) limitations I'm going to have....
Thanks again for answering/reading. I'm pretty sure I'll have more questions!

Larry
 

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Man; no place to make a mess...that's pretty challenging! For starters you'll need a ShopVac to handle the dust and chips coming off your router setup.
Do you have a living room?... ;) (just kidding)
 
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