Router tables are not just all about fences, straight lines, infeed and outfeed areas. They also have significant potential when used with bearinged router bits (where the bearing on the bit effectively becomes the fence, but a fence that doesn’t have the restriction of following straight lines).
To safely use a bearinged router bit without a fence to guide your workpiece into the router bit, it really pays to have a starting pin, something to rest the workpiece against before rotating it into the router bit and against the bearing. This really reduces the possibility of a kickback. It is not critical, but sure makes the process a lot safer.
The other thing that helps safety a lot, is a chip guard (like safety glasses fitted directly to the tool), and dust extraction. Many router tables have dust extraction for the fence, but when that is removed for some freehand routing, so is the dust extraction.
Triton for example really had freehand routing worked out, with the central portion of the fence removable so it could be fitted directly to the table, continuing the dust extraction, chip guard, and providing a pivot point both for starting and finishing.
So what is there for other router tables? The answer is simple, and elegant. (If you can’t guess, I really like this solution). It is the Woodpeckers Freehand Router Guard, available in Australia from Professional Woodworkers Supplies. There are a number of ways of fitting it to your table, depending on your router table. So all this talk, what does it look like?
Now there is one thing about the name that I change. Instead of calling it a guard, I call it a guide. Sure, the dust extraction is important, and the clear plastic guard is nice, the starting and finishing guides are the best features.
Now onto my specific application. As I mentioned there are a number of different ways of fitting the Freehand Guard to the router table. I have added one more to the list. The MagJig.
If MagSwitch only ever produced one version of their product, it would have to be the MagJig – I love em, and I can’t seem to get enough – every time I get another couple, I find even more would be useful. Sure, they can be moved from jig to jig, and I do that too, but I also like the most commonly used jigs to have their own dedicated MagJigs.
So onto adapting the Freehand Router Guard so it can be affixed to ferrous topped router tables (such as cast iron router wings, Triton router tables etc).
The kit looks more complicated than it is – each set of screws is provided in its own bag, (certainly a completely different philosophy to the Ikea solution, where you get a single bag filled with a couple hundred different pieces of hardware you need!)
If you compare this shape to the original (red) one in the previous photo, you can get an idea of where I am heading. I’m not replacing the red component either (although I could) – the full guard is going to be added to the top of this new base.
It is my Mickey Mouse solution, and I’m not sure if that is the look, or the quality of my solution – time will tell I guess. I wanted the MagJigs to be located out quite wide, and also away from the actual contact points of the Guard. As they say – location, location, location.
I have roughly cut out the shape on the bandsaw, and next, will use a template copying bit to duplicate the original component onto the hardwood (with the added mouse-ears of course!)
After assemblying the Freehand Guard, I used one of the mounting solutions provided (2 long bolts), to attach my mouse ears. These are countersunk from underneath. The benefit of this, is the Freehand Guard itself is fully self-contained, and I can easily remove it if I ever decide to. It is held on by the two knobs seen, so removing it is simplicity. One of the benefits of the MagJig solution is I can position the guard exactly where I want, and am not constrained by the location of holes in the router table.
Here you can see the pattern (or template) copying bit about to get the new base to match the base of the Guard. I started with the bit seen here, but as mentioned recently abandoned it because of its scary ability to grab pretty much any bit of timber that comes anywhere near it, rather than cut it. When I changed to my old Triton bearinged straight cutter, I had no problem what-so-ever.
After adding the new base, and using a 40mm forstner bit to cut a couple of holes for the MagJigs, here is the completed solution.
Final shot is the Freehand Router Guard with MagJig upgrade fitted, ready for use. The fact this jig can be added and removed with a quick 1/2 twist of the two MagJigs makes it so easy to fit and use.
The Freehand Router Guard was sourced from Professional Woodworkers Supplies. They are only about $50 too. Cool stuff.