For people getting into woodworking, the router tends to be a tool that is either disregarded due to an (incorrect) expectation that it has fairly limited use, or one that is treated with a degree of mistrust. After all, holding a tool that is primarily a motor spinning at up to 20000RPM hardly fills the new woodworker with much confidence.
However, those fortunate to discover the sheer brilliance of inverting the router and mounting it under a table find a whole world of possibilities opens up, and the need to handhold a screaming banshee is something that doesn’t have to be the norm of router operations.
It has always been a source of bemusement to me that of all the machines in the woodworking workshop, the router table is both one of the most useful and yet is typically made rather than purchased, or is an afterthought tacked on the side of another machine. If you surveyed 100 workshops that used a router table, 99%* of them would be home made to one degree or another.
The requirement for components for router tables is being recognised by a few companies, and if you bought the various components together, the resulting router table becomes an impressive machine. Long time readers of this site will be aware of the attempts I have made thus far to create the ultimate router table. At one stage I did look at a spindle moulder, and that may one day become part of my workshop setup, but although they can have an adapter to fit router bits, they do not have the speed range needed to drive them properly. If you are intent on using router bits (which have an incredible range of functions and profiles), then there is still a place for router tables. Spindle moulders get up to around 8000-9000 RPM. A router can achieve 21000-22000 RPM.
There are already fences, featherboards, switches, stands, tops, and through fence, or above-table dust collection has been built in, there hasn’t been a commercial solution for below-table collection until now. Some routers dealt with this onboard, which allows the finer dust collection, but clogs with the heavier production.
The router table would be about the second largest waster of wood (and I say that with love – using the term to mean turning the timber machined into shavings, rather than offcuts), following only the thicknesser. The jointer generates a lot of shavings, but as it only typically takes a few light passes to achieve the job of flattening a side, it doesn’t make as much overall sawdust as the router, especially when used for edging, shaping, template copying and joinery (and often all in the same project). Of course, if you have a lathe, then this jumps right into first place!
So dust collection. To really handle dust production, both fine and coarse, light and heavy, you want to be using a 4″ collection system (at least!). But how do you plug a 4″ hose into a router?
Simple – you don’t! Instead, you can box the entire router in, and collect not only everything that falls under the table, but also draw air and dust from above the table as well.
Given so many of the improvements and refinements for the router table are Incra, it would come as no surprise that the latest improvement comes from that stable as well.
This is the CleanSweep. It attaches to the underside of a router table, and surrounds the router completely. At the base is a blast gate leading to the 4″ connection. The rear door has a clip to secure the power cable, minimising dust leakage. The front door is also steel, and is on a very simple, foolproof (and fault-proof) mechanism – dropping down to allow access.
I know what the CleanSweep looks like in the photos – a bit of a box. However, what you get in practice is significantly more spacious than what appears in the photos. It is designed with a specific purpose in mind, and is well constructed. You get to appreciate that during assembly.
My current router table (not pictured!) has the Incra frame, the LS Positioner fence system and the cast iron top, and although now very functional still feels unfinished.
My next mod will now be to remove the current surrounds, fit the CleanSweep, and create new sides, shelves and drawers. I can already testify to the benefits of 4″ dust collection from under the router- the amount of dust drawn from above the table is impressive, let alone keeping dust from building up under the router (and in the air- fine dust has no chance!)
You may be concerned about dust being drawn down, past the router, but let me reassure you on a couple of points. Firstly, and speaking from experience, the only time I have had dust issues with an inverted router is when I wasn’t actively collecting dust, and the MDF (particularly) got into the switch and the plunge shafts (and bearings & gears of the height winding mechanism). When collecting, especially with 4″, I have had no reoccurences.
Secondly, the cooling for the motor is often on top (and therefore underneath when the router is inverted), and will get very little dust in (if not sucked immediately away).
Thirdly, although the air can get a lot of dust entrained into it, overall the amount of relatively clean air that the router is exposed to is significantly higher than times it has to deal with dusty air.
If the router table is flat, it is very easy to attach the CleanSweep directly to the bottom of the table.
If not, then some infill can be made with MDF. It doesn’t have to be a 100% tight seal- the 4″ system will still create a decent degree of negative pressure irrespective of a few gaps.
I haven’t any pictures (yet), but I have checked the CleanSweep on the bottom of the Triton Router Table, and I am very confident it can fit with some infills. For any infills, you can add space filler, but it really is messy stuff. On the Triton table, the CleanSweep will block the sliding table, but I never used it in that fashion anyway. It was always a much better option to use the sliding extension table if you want that function.
So if you have an existing router table (Trition, homemade, or even just a wing on a tablesaw), the CleanSweep is a stylish and functional upgrade that will significantly decrease the amount of uncontrolled dust that your router table will produce.
Available (as with all the other best router table upgrades!) from Professional Woodworkers Supplies.
*This statistic is not based on any real-world survey