Trim or Laminate Routers have been around for many, many years but there are very few manufacturers because they just aren't as popular as they could be, simply because they are small, low powered and limited to 1/4 inch bits only. But Trim Routers or Portable Routers can be a nice alternative in a woodworking shop for people who don't have full size routers. True, they are limited in their abilities, but with some add-on jigs and accessories, Trim Routers can be a useful item.
The main purpose of the "Trim Router" was back in the day when cabinet makers were building kitchen cabinets, a newly invented material was being used for counter tops and it was called Laminate. After the cabinets were made and installed, the counter tops and the back of the sheet laminate material were coated with contact cement and bonded together. The sheep material always stuck out over the edge so that it could be trimmed off even with the edge of the counter, and this was the original purpose of the Laminate or Trim Router. Since those days, counter top manufacturing has evolved and laminate trimmers are seldom used for the purpose they were designed, but there are still good uses for these smaller router versions.
Any router, full size or hand router, can do much more when it has the benefit of a router table. I would estimate that with my parter router and router table, at least 80 to 90 percent of what I do with that router involves using it on a router table, whether it's building doors, trimming wood of cutting rabbets or dados, so I expect the same would be for the trim router, which is why I decided to build this portable table for it ...
Some time ago I made a series of videos on how to make a standing router table and top. That top had laminate glued to id because I expected to be using bigger wood and it would also get more use. For this smaller version, I am expecting more limited use and so I am still using MDF for the top, but in this case I did not laminate the top. If you expect to get lots of use out of the table, making a laminate top would make the table top last longer that an un-laminated top.
For size, you can pick what ever works for you, and you can pick what ever material works for you too, but bear in mind that you will need to have leveling screws for the router base so you will want something that will hold those screws without them stripping in a thinner stock (but laminating a strip of plywood underneath would be a good alternative). For my top, I selected 17 x 12 inches, and as for the height, all that really matters is that your trim router fits underneath with a bit of room, and if you have a battery operated unit, you may need a bit more height.
Because my trim router only came with a round, flush base that of course would not sit in a router table, I needed to make myself a square base out of plastic. I find it is easier to make the hole for the base first, then make the base to fit the hole, which is why I did the cutting in that order. The first thing you need though is the plastic base material if you trim router does not come with a square base ... and even it it does, it may not work, you will need to decide that yourself.
The first thing I did was measure the thickness of the plastic material I was going to use for the base and make sure that the depth of cut was slightly deeper that the plastic because the leveling screws would be needed to make sure the base was set properly.
The hole I chose to cut was 5 inches square so I had to make a cutting jig of suitable size to make that hole for the new plastic base to be fitted into.
After cutting the insert hole and cutting a new plastic base to fit it, I moved on to putting legs on the mini router table. I wanted them folding so that I could easily store it when not in use and quickly set it up where needed. For that reason folding legs were perfect. I set the angle of the legs at 12.5 degrees and made one side slightly higher so that the folding legs would sit neatly when folded. Before installing the legs, I cut 2 holes in the lower part of each leg so that the table when set up could be easily clamped to the work bench.
The final step was making the new plastic base for the trim router and aligning the tiny bolts that hold it to the router. I needed to ensure that the bolts were flush to the base which means their needed to be some countersink holes bored. I use a sharp awl to mark where the bolts need to be, using the round base as a guideline. I then drilled tiny pilot holes through each of the marks using a 1/16th drill bit. The pilot hole was then used to as a guide to ensure my forstner bit would ease into the hole so I could countersink for each of the bolts. When the countersink was done, that same pilot hole was used to drill out the final area for the threaded part or the bold. I drilled all the holes and countersink area just slightly larger to ensure the bolts would all fit and aling into the router, which they did with no further filing or enlarging.
After drilling let another pilot hole and countersinking for the leveling screws, the final project is to make the fence. The truth is, a fence for a router can be as simple as a flat, straight piece of board with a hole cut into it to accommodate a bit when needed. You don't need a fancy split fence and for a small router like this, dust control would be nice but not crucial because you will never be hogging out large volumes of wood .. the router simply will not do that kind of work.
And finally ... the test of use. The mini table clamped to the work bench quickly and easily and was surprisingly strong and secure. I turned on the router with a roundover bit in the chuck and fed some wood through. It did a perfect job ... quickly, easily and with a minimum of dust. What a great addition to my workshop, I was very pleased with this unit, it worked better than I expected and what's more, I don't even have to take the new square base off the trim router, I can stay on and the router will work fine with it on. The only time I might even need to take it off, is if I eve do another inset cut again ... what a great new addition to the workshop.
Copyright Colin Knecht