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Building a Router Table Fence
for my Table Saw Router Table

My original idea was to build a router table fence that would attach to the table saw's rip fence. But I also wanted to have the option of bolting it directly to the router table when I had a setup on the table saw I didn't want to disturb.

However, after careful thought and consideration, I couldn't find any advantage to having the router fence on the rip fence at all. In fact, most of the time it would just be in the way and would have to be removed when attaching other jigs to the rip fence.

Router table fence.

The more I thought about it, the better a stand alone router table fence looked. This doesn't mean that I can't use the saw's fence for routing, it will still come in handy for cutting dados and grooves in large panels and longer boards, but I don't need to attach a separate router fence to it to do that.

That said, I set about designing a shop made router fence that would do everything I need it to do. The most important of these were...

  • It has to accommodate my largest router bit, a 3 1/2" panel raising monster.
  • It needs to have a split fence. Since a lot of my bits cut a full profile, the outfeed part of the fence will need to be offset.
  • It has to have a dust collection system that works efficiently. Large bits make a lot of chips and dust.

Most quality store bought router table fences that meet these criteria are quite expensive. The one I'm building here will amount to a small fraction of the cost of those fences.

Construction of the router table fence

The overall length of the router table fence will be 27" long, the same length as the router table which fits between my table saw's fence rails. It's a pretty simple affair with a 6 3/4" wide base and a 5" high fence. Four gussets will reinforce the fence and also provide an area for dust collection .

Two 7" high split fence pieces will be attached to the main router fence and will be made adjustable via slots and screws. The inside vertical edges of these pieces are beveled at 45 degrees, which will allow me to use replaceable inserts that can be sized to individual router bits.

Cutting the parts

The sub fence and the base are made of of 3/4" mdf and the gussets are made from some old pine shelving I had laying around. I used solid wood for the gussets because screws have very little holding power in mdf, especially in the edge.

Router table fence - cutting a rabbet in the upright fence face. Cutting a .5" x .775" rabbet in the bottom edge of the vertical fence piece.

I cut the base to 6 1/2" x 27" and the sub fence at 5" x 27". Four 4" squares were cut to make the reinforcing gussets. One corner of each gusset will be trimmed at 45 degrees.

The vertical sub fence has a 1/2" deep by .775" wide (the thickness of the mdf) rabbet cut in the bottom edge where it will mate to the fence base. I cut the rabbet with my Freud sd208 dado saw blade using a sacrificial fence to adjust the width.

The squareness of this fence will depend on how square the gussets are cut, so take your time here to make sure they are absolutely square. I use a machinists square to check all my 90 degree angles, including my blade to table adjustments.

Router table fence - cutting a 45 degree miter on a gusset. I mitered the gussets at 45 degrees leaving one inch at the ends with my crosscut sled.

My dedicated crosscut sled produces consistently perfect right angles every time, so I prefer to use it rather than fiddling with the miter gauge. If you haven't built one yet, now might be a good time.

A 45 degree miter was cut one inch down from the corner on each gusset. I used the 45 degree angle part of a combination square against my adjustable stop block on the crosscut sled to position the gussets for cutting.

If you're looking at the photo and thinking "that looks dangerous", you're probably right. Although the crosscut sled provides a great deal of control, I really should have clamped the gusset to the sled to be safe.

Cutting the router bit opening

Because I'll be using inserts to control the amount of open area around my router bits, the router bit opening in the sub fence assembly can be made big enough to accept my largest bit of 3 1/2".

Marking off the cut-out for the router bit hole. The areas with the x's will be cut out to provide a hole for the router bits.

I drew a line to mark the center of the sub fence at 13 1/2" (with the rabbet cut facing the table) and then measured over 1 7/8" on each side of this line to mark the width of my router bit opening of 3 3/4". The height of the opening was marked off at 2".

These same measurements were then transfered to the base and an x was drawn on the areas that would be cut out.

Marking waste areas with an x helps avoid stupid mistakes by giving you a visual reference to go by.

Note that in the above photo, the rabbet cut is facing down under the x in the top edge of the sub fence.

Router table fence - cutting out the router bit opening with a dado blade. Removing the waste material to form an opening for the router bits.

Not one for letting a good set-up go to waste, I cleaned out the material for the router bit cut-out using the table saw since I still had the dado blade on the arbor. I used my crosscut sled to direct the workpiece into the fully raised blade.

Removing the material this way will leave an undercut in the workpiece, so make sure the rabbet cut on the sub fence is facing down when cutting that piece.

You can also remove the material with a band saw or by drilling a hole in each corner and use a jig saw to cut around the pencil lines. Or use your router table with a straight bit mounted in the router.

Drilling holes and cutting slots

There are two sets of slots that need to be cut -- two slots in the base to mount the router table fence to the router table and four slots to mount the split fences to the sub fence. All the slots are 1/4" wide to keep things simple. Holes for the reinforcing gussets are drilled and countersunk on the bottom of the base and the fence face at this point also.

Everything shown here comes with the kreg pocket hole jig model K4. Gusset and slot hole location diagram.
Click image for larger view.

The slots for the split fences were located half way up the sub fence at 2 1/2". The base mounting slots are 3" in from the ends, far enough in to clear the inner frame of the router table. I'll drill a couple of holes in the table to mount the base after the main fence frame is assembled.

The diagram on the left shows the location of the slots on one side of the fence pieces. The other side is a mirror image, so mark it the same.

To make cutting the slots easier, I drilled 5/16" holes at the start and end points of the slots. Using the router table with the table saw's fence, I can center a hole over the 1/4" router bit, start the router, push the workpiece through to the end hole and then shut down the router.

Router table fence - cutting the slots in the sub fence. Cutting the slots in the sub fence using the table saw's fence to guide the workpiece.

To keep all my holes in a straight line parallel with the edges of the workpieces, I set up a simple straight edge board with a couple of c-clamps on my drill press to use as a fence.

Moving the edge of the workpiece along the edge of the makeshift fence as I drill the holes ensures they'll all be in line with each other. This is especially important for the split fence slots.

After all the holes were drilled, I slipped a 1/4" straight bit in the router collet and set the cutting height at about 3/8" for the first pass on the sub fence. I set my first hole over the bit and moved the table saw's fence to a position where the bit was centered in the hole. Once all four slots were done, I set the bit height to clear the workpiece and made the second pass to complete the slots.

The area to the right of the rip fence is suitable for a table saw router table. Using a wide plywood guide with a handle keeps the workpiece square to the fence when working on the narrow end.

Cutting slots or rabbets near the end of a long board like the fence base usually requires the use of a miter gauge to control the workpiece and keep it from cocking to one side.

I prefer to use a wide plywood push panel with an old push pad handle screwed to the top. I find this gives me more control over the workpiece than a sloppy fitting miter gauge.

It does require that the panel have a perfect 90 degree corner between the fence and workpiece, but that's not hard to do.

When cutting dado and rabbets it helps prevent chip out by providing a solid backing as the bit is pushed through into the panel. After each job the end can be trimmed off exposing a fresh surface for the next job. When it gets too short to be effective, I just make a new one.

Assembling the router table fence pieces

I assembled the router table fence using the flat area on the left wing of my table saw to keep everything straight. I clamped the base near the edge of the wing with c-clamps and after adding a small bit of wood glue to the rabbet every inch or so, I used a couple of bar clamps to hold the fence to the base.

Router table fence - drilling pilot hole for the gussets. Pilot holes are drilled in the gussets to prevent them from splitting.

Starting on one end, I held a gusset flush with the end of the fence while applying a bit of downward pressure and drilled a 5/32" pilot hole in the top fence hole. A screw was driven in by hand and then another pilot hole was drilled in the bottom hole and screw driven in.

The other end was done next and then the two center gussets. The center gussets are set flush with the edges of the router bit opening. I didn't use any glue on the gussets.

I loosened the two c-clamps holding the base and moved the router fence over to expose the two holes for the end gusset in the bottom of the base and reclamped the base. Holding the gusset flush with the end, I drilled pilot holes and screwed the base to the gusset. The other end was done in the same manner.

With the two ends done, I removed all the clamps and flipped the assembly on the router table fence face to access the holes in the base for the two center gussets. Applying a bit of downward pressure on the base with my hand, I drilled the four pilot holes and finished screwing the base to the gussets.

Adding a split fence

The two pieces of mdf that make up the split fence were cut to 7" high by 13 1/2" long. One end on each piece was beveled 45 degrees using the table saw. When assembled to the sub fence, the bevels will be facing the center cut-out.

Router table fence - the two split fence pieces. The split fence halves are beveled at 45 degrees on the ends toward the cut-out.

The bevel should not extend all the way to the face of the split fence piece, producing a sharp edge. Instead, an 1/8" shoulder should be left untouched by the blade to give it some strength.

To find out where to drill the mounting holes, I measured from the edge of the cut-out to the centers of the slots in the back sub fence. This worked out to 3 3/8" and 8 3/8" respectively.

I transfered these measurements to the split fence pieces (starting from the beveled end) and drew lines top to bottom using a square. I next measured 2 1/2" up from the bottom and made a mark across each of these lines to indicate the hole centers.

The holes were drilled to 1/4" and countersunk on the outside face of each split fence piece so that the head of the 1/4" x 2" long taper head machine screws would sit well below the face of the fence.

1/4" fender washers and wing nuts are used to secure the split fences to the router table fence assembly. The slots allow the split fences to be moved in or out in relation to the size of the router bit. This works well with the smaller bits, but for the larger bits, I'll use inserts.

Dust collection port

One of my criteria for this router table fence was that it should have an efficient dust collection system. An airtight box with a vacuum port at the rear of the fence, plus being able to control the amount of open area at the front where the router bit does it's work, should help me achieve this goal.

Router table fence - dust collection port. The dust port area is closed in with 1/4" birch plywood and screws.

I closed off the back with 1/4" birch plywood and a bit of clear silicon sealant. The edges of the plywood are mitered at 22 1/2 degrees where they meet each other.

A 2" opening was cut out of the center with a hole saw and an old multi-size hose adapter I had was modified for the vacuum port. The port will accept a 1 1/4" ID hose, which matches my old shop vac that doesn't see much use anymore.

This vacuum is actually quite powerful, but small enough to sit under the router table out of the way. My table saw, planer and jointer all share my larger shop vac and I have to move it from machine to machine. I'm considering buying a central dust collection system which I can hook all the machines up to, but it might be some time yet before that happens.

Finishing up

To mount the router table fence to the router table, I placed it on the table with a router bit centered between the split fence, moved the table saw's fence in to align it front to back, and then drilled a 1/4" hole in the router table in the middle of each base slot. I used 3" long by 1/4" stove bolts, fender washers and plastic knobs to secure the assembly to the router table.

Router table fence - rear view of fence. The back of the router table fence.

I made a few inserts for router bits that fit between the split fence halves. They are 5" x 5" with the side edges beveled like the split fence pieces.

The idea is to use them with larger bits that make a lot of dust, as they limit the amount of open space around the router bit and cut down on suction loss with the shop vac. The split fences can be closed up for the smaller router bits, without the need for an insert.

Router table fence - insert molded to shape of bit. Insert shaped to bit.

Router table fence - insert molded to shape of bit. Insert with square cut-out.

I'm pretty happy with the way this router table fence has performed so far. The shop vac seems to keep up with the dust pretty well too. Good all round. I'll probably mount some t track to the split fences somewhere down the road when I need to mount a featherboard.

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