Extension Table, Part II

March 3, 2013 — 6 Comments

In the last episode, I had just opened a cavity in the bottom of the extension table to make room for a dangling router (no, not a medical condition). On to the laminate!

I decided to put the sides on first, trim them, apply the top, then trim the top flush with the sides. I know others do the top first, but that is only because they are complete idiots and they deserve pity. (Actually I have no preference; if the laminate is applied and trimmed well, there really should be only a nominal difference between techniques).

Contact Cement

So out came the contact cement and, during what I assume was a hallucination due to the contact cement fumes (though you never truly know when you’ll find a head of broccoli trying to turn a vase on your lathe), the sides were applied with the help of a J-roller.

Laminate Edge

That bit of blue in the photo above is blue tape. I forgot to mention in the previous post that when you cut laminate, unless you have a scoring blade on your saw, it helps to lay down masking tape over the cut to prevent chip-out.

Again with the router and a flush trim bit to clean up.

Trim Edge

Once the sides were on and trimmed, it was time for the top. More contact cement (a lot of it, actually–MDF benefits from more than one coat) and a few more hallucinations later, the top was placed on top of some spacers.

Apply Top

One by one, and working from the center, the spacers came out and the top was pressed into place. A radius bit in the trim router finished up the edges nicely.

Radiused Edge

With the laminate work now done, I then used a saddle square to follow the lines I drew on the (unlaminated) bottom to indicate rib position onto the sides and again onto the top. You may remember that I wanted the lift to sit on top of some ribs to prevent sagging–these lines would allow me to place the router template precisely over the ribs in the center of the table.

Transfer Lines

I’ll confess–I bought a pre-cut router lift template from Woodcraft a few days prior. $12 saved me the hassle of making my own. The cutout in which the router sits is absolutely critical–you want as tight a fit as possible so that boards don’t get caught on the lip of the table as they pass over the lift. You also want the floor of this cut to be as flat as possible to avoid leveling issues with the router lift. So the template was a no-brainer purchase.

I placed the template on the top, centering it by eye on the lines I had drawn earlier. Some cauls and clamps secured the template.

Cavity Start

Using a plunge router at a depth just over 1/2" and a template router bit, I ran the router around the interior of the template. Then, as I did with the bottom of the exension table, I used the router and plunged deeper to create 4 holes at the inner corners of the “lip” I had just created

Hole for Cutaway

then used a jigsaw to cut out the router lift opening.

Top Hole

This photo would suggest that the operation was a complete success and that the router fit like a glove inside the resulting opening:


You poor, gullible sod. Of course it didn’t work. The template was about 1/8" too short on the long side of the opening! Easy enough fix–scoot the template over that distance and recut the lip. Then take the photo.

Well, the rest was pretty simple. Move the cabinet roughly into place and drop the extension table into the Pit of Sarlacc void. It fit perfectly (really this time)–spreading the rails with finger pressure and thwump, the table dropped right in.


Align the cabinet underneath with the router opening, secure the top to the cabinet, level the extension table with the tablesaw table, secure the extension table to the fence rails, and voila.

My router-equipped tablesaw extension table allows me to do several operations using the same floorspace

There was only one significant blemish on an otherwise well-executed project: see this spot?


This is what happens to laminate if you drop it before trimming it. Dropping it is what happens when your bad back and your injured shoulder decide mid-move that no, they aren’t going to let you flip a heavy, unwieldy object over by yourself. In any case, the MDF didn’t bend and after trimming the laminate, there’s only a very slight bit of the outer plastic layer is missing. It’s a good reminder to me, though, to know the limits of what I should attempt by myself (or how to attempt it) in the shop. I even colored the ding with a silver paint marker to make it stand out like my platinum-capped incisor (which I needed after a tussle with Evander Holyfield over the last copy of Soap Opera Digest in a Vegas convenient store checkout line).

Note to self: I need some pulleys. And a shop droid. Anyone know if Roomba makes an engine hoist?

Still some work to do, obviously. On the table itself, I need to route a dado into the table for some T-track and a miter gauge. And the cabinet has needed all sorts of finishing work for a long time. Into that tall opening on the left will go one or two contraption for tablesaw blade and insert storage. I need to make a door for the router portion of the cabinet to help keep noise down and the suction for dust collection up. And the drawers need fronts and pulls. But frankly, the cabinet hasn’t had any of these things since I made it six years ago. So I don’t know when I’ll get around to it.

Total shop time for this project: just a tad over five hours (the bulk of which took place on my birthday). A smidge above two years and five hours if you count the “analysis” phase, in which I contemplated the Void Between Rails. It amazed me how quickly stuff comes together in a well-organized shop–not having to move piles of stuff around while working, knowing where your tools are, having the tools you use most often ready-to-hand (props to Marty), and setting aside just a few minutes to clean up after shop sessions. Common knowledge to most people, I’m sure, but I’ve never really experienced the joy of a well-organized shop. All these things make a huge difference when shoptime can only come in small increments and the goal is to get in and take one or two more steps toward completing something. Even better—having a fully functional tablesaw and router table in place will make future projects even more efficient.

The next shop project post: finishing the Roubo. Then, with any luck, onto some furniture.

6 responses to Extension Table, Part II

  1. Donald Woolley March 5, 2013 at 9:35 am

    I have looked at this page with three different browsers, and the text is miniscule on all of them. Can it be enlarged?

  2. Yeah definitely something wonky happened there–font size was set to 1px. Should be fixed now.

    This might be a handy tip–in most browsers you can hit cmd (ctrl on PC) + or – and fonts should scale. But the problem you saw was definitely on my side. Thanks for the heads up.

    • Donald Woolley March 5, 2013 at 12:43 pm

      Unfortunately that also scaled the pictures up when I tried it, so I figured that I should go to the source.

  3. Hi Narayan,

    I really enjoy your blog. My kids are a bit older than yours but I really enjoy reading about your joint woodworking adventures.

    Thanks for taking the time to document things like this. I am getting ready for a similar addition to my table saw and I have a couple questions about your design.

    1) Why did you decide to make the router lift parallel to the sides vs. the more common cross way orientation?

    2) What were you planning for the router table fence? Use the table saw fence or install tracks to allow the fence to also be parallel to the rails?

    Thanks again for the time you put into the blog.

    Take care,

  4. One last question…..

    What was your source for the micro dot laminate?



  5. Hey Toby.

    1) this decision was largely aesthetic–it should make no functional difference whatsoever (a spinning bit will have the same point of contact regardless of orientation). I suppose I could try to justify it by saying that it makes more sense that the controls for raising and locking the lift are closer to operator with this orientation, but that’d be a stretch.

    2) I’ll use the tablesaw fence (and have done so several times already). Someday I’ll get around to modifying the tablesaw fence and the table with some t-track, but that has to date been unnecessary.

    3) I ordered the laminate through a Formica dealer nearby. Arrived with a day or two I think. If you’re near Chicago, I could dig up the name (I just used the dealer locator on the Formica site).

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