Router tables tend to rank among the simplest of woodworking tables available in the market, and this leads many to believe that one of the key features of the best router table should be zero maintenance. While it is true that the router table does not need a ton of maintenance procedures, the fact that pieces of wood are constantly being run over its surface means maintenance would be required sooner or later. Experts suggest that one should learn how to maintain a router table within 3-4 months of buying one and then proceed with the procedure every 6 months thereafter. To make your woodcutting work easier, we’ve compiled below a short maintenance guide outlining the most basic of procedures:
Router Bit and Base Plate
Since the router bit is the most used part of the machine, it is natural that this unit would wear out and/or become clogged with sawdust before other parts. Clogging can lead to poor cuts, while wear and tear can lead to weakening of the shank-bit connection, leading to loosening of the bit. Base plate wear and tear, on the other hand, can lead to poor cuts and even worse wood movement. To avoid such situations, you should:
- Remove the fence and any pieces of wood that may be present on the router table.
- Remove the base plate and disconnect the power cable.
- Take out the cutting bit assembly.
- Using a vacuum cleaner or leaf vacuum, gently draw out any sawdust that may be present in the mouth of the router. Use canned air to blow away sawdust present on the outer surfaces.
- Wipe away the sawdust and grime from the bit assembly and remove the collet.
- One of the most important steps in learning how to maintain a router table is to check the bit for signs of wear and tear. Signs of such damage could be in the form of chipped ends and a flaked, pitted cutting surface. If you find extensive damage, it is time to change the bit.
- Take some industrial lubricating oil and gently apply a thin layer over the entire surface of the bit. Wipe away all excess oil and leave the bit undisturbed for some time.
- Replace the bit and collet in the router. If you’ve followed our tips for choosing the best router table, you would have a mechanism that allows the bit to be lowered to the right position without having to access the underside of the table.
- Now take the base plate and place in the groove. Push it a little to see if it moves in any direction.
- Use a levelling tool to find out if the plate and the table are in one plane. If not, use an allen wrench to level out the base plate.
- Raise the base plate again and clean out any sawdust that may be present below it using the vacuum or canned air.
- Replace the base plate.
Fences can be solid or split ie the pieces of the fence may run on a roller and hence be able to part enough to circle the bit without obscuring it. When learning how to use a router table , we’d focused on using a split fence because split fences are the most common types of fences in use today. Similarly, here we shall focus on split fence maintenance.
To carry out fence maintenance:
- Wipe away all sawdust from the side of the fence that faces the cutting bit.
- Push the two pieces of the split fence till they meet at the centre. Note whether any space is left between the two fence pieces – any such space may mean that the pieces need to be changed.
- Now pull them out to their farthest position, taking note of any wobbling or unsteadiness. Also see if any resistance arises.
- If any of these conditions arise, unscrew the pieces using the fasteners. Typically, each piece is held in place by two fasteners that move on a rail cut into the fence’s metal cover/section.
- Take out the fasteners from the wood and lubricate them using standard grease or oil.
- Place the fasteners in the rail groove and run them across the rail to see if movements are smooth. If movement is still wobbly and unsteady, the fasteners may need to be replaced.
- Pick up the pieces of fence and observe the edges for signs of wear and tear. These pieces are similar to the featherboard used when learning how to build a router table and are easily replaceable.
- If wear and tear is extensive, you may need to use a saw (or router) to smoothen out the edges of the wood. Note that doing this is only possible once or twice as beyond this, the height of the wood piece would be changed and this would make operation of the fasteners difficult. In such situations, replacement of the wood pieces is the only viable option.
- Place the fasteners back in the wood and replace the wood pieces back onto the rail.
- Return the pieces back to their ideal position on either side of the cutting bit.
- Remove the fence and all other pieces of wood from the router table.
- Use a vacuum cleaner in blower mode or a leaf blower to remove sawdust from the surface.
- As a last step in learning how to maintain a router table, use a slightly damp cloth to wipe the table surface in an outwards motion such that water does not go towards the cutting bit.
- Use a dry cloth to clean out the upper surface of the base plate.
- Replace the fence.
As our router table reviews will show, each table has a somewhat different layout, different holes and of course, different fence configurations. However, the basics of the table, including in most cases, the material with which the table and the fence have been constructed, remain the same. This allows us to provide a generalized maintenance procedure that can be applied to even the most specialized of router tables without fear of malfunctioning of any components. Carried out at regular intervals and with sufficient patience, the above guide for learning how to maintain a router table can save the user many unnecessary trips to the service centres.