Smooth and Flat
A router table top must be smooth and absolutely flat. Any type of warp or inconsistency will change how deep the router bit goes into your workpiece – and that means an inconsistent depth of cut. This can be disasterous for certain types of joinery work, leaving gaps or leaving project parts that won’t go together.
Using Recycled Materials for a Router Table Top
I’ve seen some router table tops made from used kitchen counter tops – taking advantage of the laminate to create a super-smooth surface. At first, this looks like a perfect solution. However, laminated ktichen counter tops are notorious for becoming slightly warped over time (the laminate creates an unbalanced flow of moisture in the wood) – this usually makes them a poor choice for router tables. A quick check with a straight edge will often reveal the warpage – something you might miss just by running your hand over the surface. Nothing wrong with using recycled materials – just make sure they are straight, flat, and square before trusting them to be such an important part of your router table.
Buying a Manufactured Router Table Top
Even with the best set of router table plans, sometimes it makes sense to leave the more critical components of a router table – like the top – to the tool manufacturers. It’s hard to beat the level of accuracy that comes out of a controlled factory – where parts are machined down to micro tolerances. For example, you can buy a very decent router table top from Rockler.com for $200 or less – that includes enough extra components and accessories to make the cost fairly close to what you would spend to build it yourself. There are even the possibility of a vacuum hold down table top type, which uses an inexpensive vacuum ejectors, but about that some other time.