Sometimes I need to make a tool to do something. The router sled was a case in point. I have a couple of slabs that I would like to use as table tops. One is a Western Red Cedar burl, the other is Pacific Yew I think. I knew I needed to flatten the future tops as they had been rough cut with a chainsaw but I wasn’t about to try it with my little orbital sander or hand plane.
So I did a little bit of searching on the web and quickly found all kinds of router sled ideas. These allow you to mount a router with a flattening bit in a set of rails that are levelled over the top of the slab. You run the router across the top until it’s flat and level, flip it over and do the base, then it’s ready to finish and use for whatever nefarious purposes you choose. My friend Gord lent me his router so I thought I’d give it a go.
Whenever I make a tool or a jig or something, I always have to ask myself if I’m looking for a finely built device that will last for years and provide thousands of uses or is it just a one trick pony to get the job done and will be “good enough”.
This was definitely a “good enough” situation. The tops really just needed to be flat-ish and level to mount legs on so I started to see if I could make something with only the bits and pieces I had on hand. I started by scrounging in my scrap metal pile. I was pretty sure I had some 2 inch angle iron. It turns out that the 2 pieces I had were pretty much the right size so I used them as is for the router rails. I grabbed some scrap pieces of 1 inch angle as well and cut them to size to use as the braces for the rails and then just welded them together. Job 1 completed.
For the sled base I used a big piece of 3/4 MDF I had and cut some 3 inch wide strips from it to build the side rails and clamped them to the base piece which I had slapped on to my workmate out in the driveway. I used some non-slip rug underlay to keep the slab from moving around and was ready to fire up the sled and take it for a test drive.
Everything seemed to work okay so I stuck my earplugs in a little deeper, cleaned off my face shield and went crazy! I will admit to an enjoyment of all things that make a lot of noise and a lot of wood chips and the router is one of the best at both!! Everything was going well on my bright sunny day until I realized that the forecast rainshowers had decided to make an appearance a little early. So I tarped off the sled, stopped for lunch and waited for the showers to pass.
Fast forward 2 hours….. Still raining….. I decided that I better get Matt to give me a hand and move everything undercover to the front of the garage. This was not the kind of device that was assembled for long term use so I wanted to get the slabs done and over with. With the sled now moved to the relative dryness of the front of the garage I got to work again. I finished off the Yew slab and started in on the Cedar.
Work on the Cedar slab went a lot faster. I had figured out the quirks and so was done both sides in about an hour and a half. By which time of course the rain had stopped.
They turned out really nice. Just need to be finish sanded and oiled and then I have to figure out what I’m going to do for table bases on both pieces. And I’ll be spending the next few days getting the garage cleaned up from all the sawdust and wood chips. It was a fun little project and if (when) I need to do it again I’m good to go. Gord thinks he might want to give the rails a go on some slabs he has so they might get some more use soon.
What’s coming up next you ask? I have no idea but I’ll think of something and you’ll see it here.