|Last Updated: 10/21/2006|
There's not a lot of machinery in my shop, just enough to get by. Given the size of the things I make, there's really not much call for power. As for precision, I never expect to show edges straight from the saw. And planer blades don't give me the surface that can be reached with any good smoother, with a hell of a lot less maintenance. So all these machines have to do is cut pretty accurately, a good gross cut, and they do that.
The only thing of any interest at all is the table saw. It's about 20 years old, a Rockwell contractor's saw, and it still goes. It has one of those after market fences (one industry that's developed over the last 30 years) which is easier to set than the original. And there's a router table.
Router tables. Another industry that's developed in the last 30 years. They used to be just shop built jigs made from whatever, put wherever. I worked in one shop where a router table was used every day to cut the males on french (sliding) dovetails. That's about all it was every used for, but for that particular job it was unbeatable. That's how router tables were utilized, then. To do very specific jobs that would have been awkward or dangerous to do on another machine.
So, I have one, which is just a replacement for the table on the left side of the saw. It has a holes in it, etc., where you need them. And I've got this tall fence, which fits on the table saw fence, clamps, featherboards, what you'd expect. And its got a router jack. Which makes all the difference.
Those little cross-grain stopped grooves, or housings, in the boxes, that accept the partitions, they're a pain in the neck to do accurately, consistently. You could do it by hand, of course, but when you're doing a lot of boxes that'd get old fast. You could do it with a plunge router, working from the top, but, given the size of the pieces, the router guides (or edge guides) and clamps are always going to be in the way. Maybe someone's fashioned a jig, but I'm not aware of it.
No. The way to go is face down, have the bit come up into the wood, make the cut, and drop the bit out. Perfect for a router table. But with most router tables you'd need three hands. Two to hold the piece at the start, another to raise the bit into the wood –while still holding the piece with two hands. Two to move the piece, another to hit the cutoff switch, (or drop the running bit) – while still holding the piece with two hands.
Which is why this router jack thing from Lee Valley is so great. It's meant to fit their router table but you can use it with yours. And blade height is foot operated. So you can do the cut. Two hands to hold the piece. A foot to raise and drop the bit. Easy.
Anyone who's ever used a pin router knows how convenient this is. With all the different height adjustment mechanisms for router tables on the market, you'd think there'd be more than one that's foot operated. But this is the only one I could find.