Router Table Fence – Buy or Build?

Most router table plans will likely include plans for building your own fence. Whether you’re ready to take on this kind of a project will depend on the kind of woodworking skills you can bring to the table. If you’re up for the task, there’s nothing to say you can’t build a router table fence that rivals the quality of anything in the commercial market. On the other hand, keep in mind that tool makers have certainly made things easier for woodworkers by offering a wide assortment router table fences and accessories that you can buy and start using the same day you bring them home. Let’s take a closer look at both options.

Buying a Router Table Fence

The best thing going for a manufactured router table fence is that it’s usually made with aluminum – if not entirely, then in some combination of wood or MDF. This helps tremendously to avoid the warping issues you might run into when building a fence from a solid piece of wood. Prices for a stand-alone router table fence start somewhere around $75 – and then on up to the $200 range for a more precision instrument . One thing that makes buying a manufactured router table fence so economical is that the product usually comes with few extra features – like a T-track already installed, a bit guard, and all the related hardware – like T-bolts, washers, star knobs, etc. Start pricing all these individual pieces and you might be surprised how quickly the list reaches $100 – just for the hardware itself.

Building a Router Table Fence

I’m not surprised that some woodworkers would prefer to build their own router table fence. It’s all about the satisfaction of making something from nothing – and that means a lot to many of us. However, it’s important to understand that a router table fence is a fairly high-precision tool, and must adhere to some pretty demanding specifications. Above all, a router table fence must be perfectly straight and square from end to end. Anything less and the cut you make in your project workpiece will reveal the defect. Tool makers can avoid most of these problems by simply using aluminum in the fence. But since most router table plans call for solid wood construction, you’ll need to employ a few tricks to avoid the warping and twisting that plague most woodworking projects. The best way to make something in wood more stable is to create multiple layers. In fact, many router table plans will have you start with a dense plywood to begin with – something like Baltic birch. The most recent set of plans I looked at called for six layers of wood sandwiched together to form the basic structure of the fence. With that much reinforcement, there’s little need to worry about warp or twist in the wood. Add an aluminum angle to the front or back side and you’ll have a nearly indestructible piece of machinery. Building your own router table fence means you’re also responsible for installing a T-track, which is important for being able to add router table accessories like a featherboard and a safety bit guard. The T-track sits in a recessed groove that you’ll need to cut on the fence. You can cut the groove using a hand-held router and a router guide, or on the table saw using dado blade.

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