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I am slowly putting together an absolute beginner workshop (too much to call it so) without trying to invest too much money since I am doing woodworking for fun and some practical needs around the house. The scope of my work will be some floor to ceiling custom shelves, picture frames, small boxes, smaller shelves, a shoe box and some other things that will not be big in size. Probably the shelves will be the only big thing that I will ever build. I am also planning to build a deck and a pergola but these are not really woodworking.

Having the above said I am considering building a router table and I have questions around choosing the right material for the table top. My question is this: would a router table top sag if the router will not be permanently attached to it ? I am considering using high density MDF for the top.

I have seen builds where MDF was used and then laminate applied to it. While I might consider this I have doubts regarding my ability to obtain an absolutely plane surface after applying the laminate.

I would be OK to have to build another table top every two or three years (I do not expect my projects to take me longer than that)

One more question: if I go the laminate way, do I apply the laminate before or after I cut my slots for my t-tracks, the router insert opening and the miter slot ?

  • I've seen a lot of guys building the top from 3/4" (18mm) MDF and none seem to complain about sagging. For example, my favorite: youtube.com/watch?v=OGTDKzoq9eU – Andrei Rînea Apr 4 '18 at 11:59
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    I am going to build this ridgidforum.com/filedata/fetch?id=614395 after I align the blade and the fence....difficult task with crappy tools. Good tools would cost more than the saw.... – MiniMe Apr 5 '18 at 2:32
  • Wouldn't high density MDF just be HDF? Not being facetious, I genuinely want to know. – Derek Stucki Apr 6 '18 at 16:51
  • don't know what HDF means sorry – MiniMe Apr 6 '18 at 17:18
  • MDF is medium density fiberboard. HDF is high density fiberboard, more commonly called hardboard. "High density MDF" would be high density medium density fiberboard. So, do you mean hardboard, or is there something in between MDF and hardboard that I don't know about? – Derek Stucki Apr 7 '18 at 6:09
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My question is this: would a router table top sag if the router will not be permanently attached to it ?

The typical router that you'll mount to the underside of a router table is a fairly significant weight, so if you think about it there's less tendency for the surface to sag with the router not in place than with.

Sagging is a function of the stiffness of a material/assembly and the weight applied to it, with the router not installed it would only be the top's own weight that would be pulling downwards. And this would only be with the table in its horizontal position. There is zero tendency for it to sag if the table is stored with the surface vertical or nearly so.

One more question: if I go the laminate way, do I apply the laminate before or after I cut my slots for my t-tracs, the router insert opening and the miter slot ?

Before.

One thing that may not have been clear from your reading, laminates applied to router tables are largely to provide a hard-wearing, low-friction surface but otherwise may not add anything of note so you shouldn't feel at all bad about just leaving this out of a design. Particularly if using one of the stronger MDFs as the substrate.

Just wipe on a few coats of varnish, maybe give the top a waxing once a year with paste wax and the surface will be more than tough enough for use, and plenty slippery enough.

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    Thanks, that is what I decided, I will not add the laminate – MiniMe Dec 27 '16 at 5:32
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Depends on the construction of the table and over what timeframe you look. Everything saga eventually... If the tabletop is supported accross its width and or length to help stiffen it, sagging will be much slower than if it is supported only by its four corners. A thicker table will sag less than a thin one for similar reasons.

But there are lots of folks who have used simple/disposable router tables that aren't much more than a sheet of plywood with a simple fence. If you don't need much precision, that's fine too.

  • That is well understood. My question is specifically about the situation when you do not leave the router attached to the top permanently – MiniMe Dec 26 '16 at 15:23
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    That certainly affects how quickly a sag might become significant. But that's when, not if. – keshlam Dec 26 '16 at 15:30
  • I am probably going to have the router attached to the table for around 3-4 weeks over one year. The table is foldable and stored without the router attached to it, the table top in vertical position. Can I still expect sagging under these circumstances ? – MiniMe Dec 26 '16 at 16:03

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