A Clean Sweep

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.

Incra CleanSweep

Incra CleanSweep

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.

Mounted under Table

Mounted under Table

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!)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Capstan (or Kaleidoscopic) Tables

In some ways the manual version of the table is the more interesting, but who wouldn’t like the powered version!

 

The typical change in size is 30% in diameter, 70% in area, going from a 6 seater to a 12 seater table.  If you want to buy one, expect to pay a good $50k for one.

Of course, you don’t have to go the whole mechanism – the original (from 1835)  manually installed the expansion leaves.  Like a SawStop, very cool to own, but who can afford it?!

Downdraft Table

Ever increasing the overall versatility of the Torque Workcentre, I’ve been working on the idea of having a sanding section (still with the fundamental requirement that any addition is not to have any adverse impact on the performance of the Torque Workcentre itself.)

Creating a downdraft section was surprisingly easy, with a matrix of small holes around the primary (Walko Clamp) holes.  It isn’t the largest sanding / downdraft area, and is based around the duct collector underneath.

Downdraft Top

Even during the drilling of holes, the dust collection was already being used, and proving that it does work.  The area looks a bit cleaner because the final step was a quick sand to ensure the surface was flat again, taking off the slight raised area around each hole.  There is also a couple of lines of oil splatter, from using the new PS Tools lathe on the bench- the oil used in packing the chuck found its way out, but hey, that’s what working surfaces are for.

Sanding was done with the Festool ETS 150/5, and whew’eh – giving those a good workout is going to be a fascinating session – a beautiful sander to use – smooth operation, responsive, powerful.

Dust Collection

Underneath it is very simple to produce the downdraft.  A machine dust collector plate (available wherever dust collection gear is sold) screwed to the underside of the table.  There is plenty of clearance between the collector plate and the support arm of the Torque, so the requirement not to impact on the Torque’s primary function is achieved. In addition, by protecting the integrity of the primary holes, the Walko clamps can still be used to hold down the workpiece about to be sanded.

So this makes a basic, functional upgrade that required a few holes (almost 200, 20mm apart) drilled (made very easy using the Torque as a drill press) and a plate screwed on.

The Ultimate Router Table?

I’m having increasing doubts about “The Ultimate Router Table”.  Not that I don’t think I was on the right track, but I just can’t get it to the level of quality I want for the price.   So the promise of what the table could be is still seemingly just out of reach – I can’t seem to get the quality I demand without constantly having to compromise in other areas.  Some standards in the industry would not go astray.  And some QA on what is being made would be really beneficial as well.

So I’m now re-considering my options, and just how to get the quality and functionality I want.

I’m still sold on the concept of a cast iron top, with MagSwitch featherboards.  And the incorporation of the Incra LS17″ for its incredible fence positioning.  All other aspects are up for negotiation.

This may even result in one, or even two Triton routers becoming available for sale (and my routers have the significantly superior US Triton collet system).

Wonder what is behind this door?

Is that the light at the end of the tunnel, or just another train?

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