Aluminum Router Fence Build

By | June 22, 2018

In this article I will show you how I built my own aluminum router fence. Yes, this is related to woodworking and not at all related to software engineering, which is what I usually write about.
Though I am new to woodworking I am quite happy with this router fence this far. True to my software-developer spirit, it is built in a way that will allow me to refactor it if needed.

Final Result

As a preview of the final result, here is a picture of the finished router fence:

Completed router fence with the Kreg micro-adjusters attached.

Completed router fence with the Kreg micro-adjusters attached.

Background

Prior to building the router fence, I looked at many different router fences, both DIY and ready-made. I found a fence that looked very nice, but at around 300 euro I thought it was too expensive. In addition, one of the things that I do enjoy very much with woodworking is creating items that makes it easier and more enjoyable to work – perhaps this is some kind of occupational disease that I have acquired during my years as a software developer, writing tools and libraries.

Parts

When I began my research I suspected that there had to be some type of ready-made profiles that could be used for the bottom plate and sub-fences. After some searching and attempts at mailing a few companies in Germany, I found http://www.easy-systemprofile.de. Not only are their prices reasonable but cutting is included in the price. Having received the items I also found that the cuts were also very well-made so I could use the parts right away, without any further adjustments.
For the router fence parts, I ordered pieces of anodized strut profile, 15×120, slot 8 in the following dimensions:

  • 1 piece 880 mm long.
  • 2 pieces 440 mm long.

Note that you have to adjust the dimensions to suit your router-table.

The fact that the aluminum has been anodized prevents it from leaving black marks on wood.

I also ordered 30×30 strut profile, also slot 8, and four cubic connectors, also 30×30, to mount around my router table in order to have something to fasten the router fence in.

If you want a router fence with a square profile backing the sub-fences, I can recommend the square strut profiles from Easy-Systemprofile, available in different dimensions.

Material for the aluminum router fence and some additional items arrived.

Material for the aluminum router fence and some additional items arrived.

If you order strut profiles remember to order some screws and nuts that fit in the slots, if you don’t already have those.

At this early stage of the project I could already get a hint of the result by placing the router fence profiles on the router table.

Placing the router fence parts on the router table for a first look.

Placing the router fence parts on the router table for a first look.

Note that in the picture above I have placed the sub-fences on the bottom plate. While the final construction does allows for this, I mostly use the fence with the sub-fences in front of the bottom plate, as will be visible in later pictures.

Router Bit Cut-Out in the Bottom Plate

As far as metalworking was concerned, there wasn’t much I had to do but to cut a hole in the bottom plate of the router fence for the router bit. The size of the cut-out was determined by the size of the largest router bit that I want to accommodate with the fence in place and adding 5 mm on each side. The depth of the cut-out is about half the width of the strut profile, that is about 60 mm.

The finished cut-out in router fence bottom plate for router bits.

The finished cut-out in router fence bottom plate for router bits.

Offset Modules

The parts that required the most work was the offset modules. These are the modules that connect the bottom plate and the sub-fences, allow for individual adjustment and fixating of the sub-fences.

First I contemplated making these out of metal, but since I do not possess the appropriate tools I abandoned this idea. I wanted a strong material but still a material which I could work with. Searching through my scrap wood, I found pieces of oak floor planks that I decided on using.

Offset Module Prototype

My stock of oak was limited, so I decided to make a prototype first using another type of wood that was easier to work with and that were available in larger quantities. To join the vertical and horizontal parts of an offset module, I used a box joint.

Box joint joining the horizontal and vertical parts of the offset module prototype.

Box joint joining the horizontal and vertical parts of the offset module prototype.

The box joint turned out well, but the prototype offset module became too thick for the fastener screws that I had planned to use so I tried to route tracks for the knobs.

Finished offset module prototype mounted on small pieces of strut profile.

Finished offset module prototype mounted on small pieces of strut profile.

The result was not quite what I wanted. From this I learned that the thickness of the offset profile parts would have to be thinner – lesson learned from prototyping!

Oak Offset Module

Having made the prototype I now had the procedure for fabricating the parts for the two offset modules quite clear to myself. The following steps are for one offset module.

  • Cut the horizontal offset module part to the right size.
  • Cut the vertical offset module part to the right size.
  • Cut the box joint joining the horizontal and vertical parts of the offset module.
  • Cut the horizontal offset module part to the desired thickness.
    Do not cut the part with the box joint.
  • Cut the vertical offset module part to the desired thickness.
    Do not cut the part with the box joint.
Parts for two offset boards after having cut the box joints and achieved the desired thickness.

Parts for two offset boards after having cut the box joints and achieved the desired thickness.

  • Route the slots for the adjustment screws in the horizontal offset module part.
  • Route the slots for the adjustment screws in the vertical offset module part.
The two parts for one offset module. Note how the horizontal part is longer than the vertical part. The two tracks in each part are due to my wood originally being floor planks. I later glued small strips of wood into these tracks.

The two parts for one offset module. Note how the horizontal part is longer than the vertical part.
The two tracks in each part are due to my wood originally being floor planks. I later glued small strips of wood into these tracks.

  • Drill two holes in the vertical offset module part for the nut inserts in which the vertical adjustment screws are to be located.
  • Screw in the nut inserts in holes just drilled in the vertical part of the offset module.
  • Round the left, right and top inner sides of the vertical part of the offset module.
    I used a bearing-guided router bit and stopped a short distance from the side with the box joint (see picture).
  • In a similar manner, round the sides of the horizontal part of the offset module.

After having completed the above, the vertical part of the offset board looks like this:

One finished vertical part of an offset module made out of oak.

One finished vertical part of an offset module made out of oak.

  • Assemble the two parts of one offset module together, without using glue, and make sure that you are able to adjust them so that there is a 90 degree angle measured on the backside of the offset module.
    If necessary, adjust with a file and/or some sandpaper.
  • Glue the two parts of one offset module together in a 90 degree angle.
    Fix the parts at the correct angle with the means you have available.
One finished offset module having been glued together.

One finished offset module having been glued together.

  • Finish the offset module with hardwood oil or whatever you desire/have at hand.
    One of my finished offset modules looks like this:
Offset module treated with hardwood oil.

Offset module treated with hardwood oil.

Assemble the Router Fence Parts

The bottom plate and the two sub-fences of the router fence can now be assembled using the two offset modules.

  • Screw the two offset modules to the bottom plate of the fence using t-bolts and knobs.
  • Insert two t-bolts into one of the sub-fences.
    I decided to have the two t-bolts at different levels, as to be able to tighten and loosen the upper and lower parts of the vertical offset module part as needed.
  • Put the sub-fence in front of one of the offset module with the two t-bolts in the slots of the offset module.
  • Fasten the sub-fence using two knobs.
  • Repeat the procedure for the other sub-fence.

My router fence looked like this after this stage:

Bottom plate and sub-fences assembled with the two offset modules.

Bottom plate and sub-fences assembled with the two offset modules.

The astute reader notice that the screws in the nut inserts are different on some pictures. In the end I decided on using regular screws and use a screwdriver when adjusting, since the winged nuts I first used was too large and made it inconvenient to loosen an fastening the sub-fence.

Dust Extractor

I made a dust extractor out of acrylic glass and a plastic drain-pipe adapter I found in a hardware store.

Dust extractor of the aluminum router fence.

Dust extractor of the aluminum router fence.

The dust extractor is the part of the router fence I am least satisfied with. This since in order to adjust the position of a sub-fence, I need to loosen not only the knobs on the appropriate offset module but also a screw on the dust extractor before I can move the sub-fence.
So far, it has not been a major nuisance, so I have no definitive plans for how an improvement would look like.

Router Fence Fasteners

As can be seen in the first picture, the one of the finished router fence, I fasten the fence in my router table using a t-bolt and a larger knob. To be able to do that, I drilled two holes in the bottom plate of the fence, one at each side.
When I want to use the fence on the table, I slide the t-bolts into the square strut profile that frames my router table, move it in position and tighten the knobs. Please see next section for a picture of the fasteners.

Micro Adjusters

I had the luck to obtain a pair of Kreg micro adjusters for a decent price, which I have mounted on the router fence.

Micro adjuster and fastener knob with fence mounted on router table.

Micro adjuster and fastener knob with fence mounted on router table.

Regretfully, there are a few problems with the Kreg micro adjusters as far as I am concerned:

  • If fastened directly on the strut profile that frame my router table and tightened, I can no longer turn the micro adjuster.
    The solution can be seen in the picture – I placed a small piece of wood under the micro adjuster and a scrap piece of strut profile on the bottom plate of the router fence.
  • The threads of the screw on the micro adjuster are UNC.
    This was a problem to me since I needed to drill and thread a hole in the scrap piece of strut profile to attach the micro adjuster to the fence. I had to buy a UNC tap only for this purpose, since all my other taps are metric.
  • There are another pair of t-bolt heads to insert into the frame of the router table when getting the router fence ready for use.

If I had knew this before I bought the micro adjusters, I would have contemplated another solution.
With the micro adjusters in place, they do work fairly well and do what they are intended to.

Final Words

To conclude this article I will repeat what I said in the beginning; I am quite happy with the router fence. Considering that it is the second router fence that I ever have built, I am very happy with the result.

Some suggestions for improvements are:

  • Screws that fasten the dust extraction to the router fence should be moved to attach to the bottom plate of the fence rather than the sub-fence.
  • At times I have wished for a fine-adjustment mechanism that allow me to move the entire fence back or forward while remaining parallel with the original location.
    With the micro adjusters I have to adjust one side of the router fence at a time.
  • Sacrificial sub-fences that can be attached to the sub-fences.
    I really do not want to cut into the aluminum fence…
  • Improved micro adjusters.
    If I cannot come up with a good fine-adjustment mechanism, described above, I would at least like to improve the current solution to be better-looking.

This concludes this article. I suspect that it also concludes my writings about woodworking on this blog, but only time will tell!

Happy woodworking!

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