While this is not quite a boat project, it could be thought of as a boat project project. In other words, a project to allow you to do boat projects. I used this station on many of my boat projects, including wood projects, and projects using Corian.
I have had so much positive feedback from others about this station, I decided to come up with a set of plans for those that wish to build one. So on this page, I thought I'd show you what the big deal is all about. I built the station for my Milwaukee 5625 Router, Incra 17in LS Super System, including the LS (Lead Screw) positioner and Wonder Fence (not shown), a Woodpecker Inc 27" x 43" router top, and a Woodpecker Inc router lift. The cabinet is constructed out of oak hardwoods and plywoods. The cabinet stands 38" high, and is the perfect height for a tall 6'2" guy like me, so that I don't have to bend down and strain my back. This is one advantage of building your own cabinet - you can size it for the most relaxing height. That top is so huge that I think you could land an F-14 Tomcat on it.
The rear of the cabinet features a 4in duct connector to connect the cabinet to a shop dust collection system. One of the nice touches of the cabines it a method of retracting the power cord so that it could be stored in the cabinet - not on the floor.
Construction techniques used for the cabinet are very much like you might find in kitchen cabinetry, with face-frame joinery on the front, and tongue and groove corners for the rest of the cabinet. I used a CMT pocket hole jig to construct the face frame, which is not necessary - but it provides a great reason to buy a pocket-hole system; to practice for those kitchen cabinets you were always meaning to build. Other nice features include an industrial quality ON-OFF switch built into the cabinet; like the kind found on many power tools. The large 43" wide table top allows plenty of room for drawers on the side of the cabinet.
The cabinet dimensions allows the use of an off-set Incra LS Positioner; which if you are not familiar with it; is basically a precision fence system. While you do not have to add this component into the cabinet, this was one of the major reasons for the cabinet layout. The positioner also features a right-angle jig so that you can make precision - repetitive cuts for items such as dovetails, box joints, and other nice things. The Incra LS System comes with 50 some templates that allow you to make these cuts. There is a bit of a learning curve when working with the Incra system - and it does take a few steps to setup the system. But once you do, you can make some beautiful joinery.
This is the "Lead Screw" for the Incra system. One revolution here moves the fence 1/32 of an inch, so you can get some pretty precise positioning out of the system. And, the best part, is that it is repeatable, and you can rapidly move the whole system in 1/32" increments. Again, you do not have to buy one of these systems for your cabinet, but afterall, I am calling this a "Super Station".
The router lift I used is a Woodpecker Inc UniLift/32 machined aluminum plate, and is very heavy duty - 3/8" thick. These are among some of the best router lifts I have seen. I think the 4 support posts, along with the two jack-screw lifting mechanisms make for a very heavy duty system. You can order the lift with either a 1/16 or 1/32 travel per revolution. I ordered the 1/32 version, but it seems to take awhile to crank the router up and down. This again is optional to you. You can simply use a table plate, because since you are building the system, you can add any feature you wish.
This Milwaukee 5625 router is one of the most powerful routers you can buy. I think you could start an Indy car with one of these. The router is designed as a production router, like one that you might find in a woodworking factory. It is heavy, and I am not sure how easy it would be to use if it weren't mounted on a router table. The router also comes with both 1/2" and 1/4" collets. I found I had to remove the handles from the router (an easy thing to do), to get it to fit through the lift mechanism hole in the table.
Here you can get an idea of the various inserts that can be added to the Woodpecker's lift system. A 1/4 turn or so with the spanner wrench allows you to install or remove the rings. This is one reason why I prefer this brand of lift.
While the lift mechanism only requires about 3/8 depth, above the table bit changes are easier done by using these "bent wrenches". The plans offer suggestions on the various hardware used throughout the project, and their sources.
The top drawer holds both 1/2" and 1/4" shank router bits. Bits that are not in sets are stored in this drawer. This drawer will hold up to 84 1/2in shank bits and 60 1/4in shank bits.
The second drawer holds all of the items necessary to use the router station, including the various plate rings, collets, wrenches, Incra templates, and other items. The bent wrenches allow above-the-tabletop installation of router bits, which is a very nice feature. I added a storage system for the collets for both the Milwaukee router as well as my portable routers found in the shop. They fit into 1/2 or 1/4 dowel posts in the drawer.
The third drawer holds router bit sets as well as miscellaneous items that can be used with the router station. All drawers but the top drawer have green felt lined bottoms.
The bottom drawer holds Incra accessories, including the Wonder Fence, Shop-Stop, and clamps. The Wonder Fence is a split fence system that allows the router system to work like an edge-planer. But if I am doing joinery operations, like dovetailing, I prefer to unstall the Wonder Fence.
The cabinet door under the router opens to reveal a pull out drawer. You can store my portable routers you have here, but even with all of this storage space in the cabinet, other things do tend to find a home here.
Hidden within the cabinet is the storage location for the Incra High-Rise fence, which is used with the Wonder Fence. In this photo, you can see how the cabinet is contructed.
The last door gives access to the router itself. Generally you will only have to access this compartment to adjust the speed of the router. One of the little details of this cabinet include wrap around posts to secure the router's power cord.
Sometimes its the little details that make all the difference - like this reference showing the direction to adjust the router lift and lead screw on the Incra jig. A little artwork on the computer and a piece of plexiglass is all it took.
How about this nice touch - labels on all the drawers. Again, some fancy font-work on the computer and about 3 dollars worth of brass hardware.
I used euro-style 35mm hinges on both doors. These are vastly superior than the traditional cabinet hinges, and are adjustable in 4 or 6 dimensions. They are a bit more expensive, but I found them for around $4 per pair at the local discount home center.
What good is having a system that can make precision dovetails unless you make some dovetails? I used the Incra system while I finished the cabinet as an opportunity to learn how to use it, and here is the result.
I discovered that with even a 1 1/4in thick top that if not properly attached, it can be warped. Therefore, the tact I used in installing the top is to have it "float" on closed-cell foam strips around the top of the cabinet. I installed screw inserts in the top, and secured the top with machine bolts dipped in thread-lock compound. The bolts are only finger-tight, and simply keep the top from falling off the cabinet.
Wow - isn't that a beautiful drawer? Here you can see the closed cell foam between the cabinet and underside of the top.
To finish the station, how about some nice locking industrial caster wheels? Again - look at how beautifully the drawer fits to the frame. I am convinced now more than ever that there is no substitute for precision tools.
Now for the bad news. I estimate that with the cost of the router, LS Super System, router lift and table top - all of which were purchased for this project, and the cost of materials for building the cabinet, is around $1,400. But the system is sure to be the center-piece of my shop for years to come.