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Phenolic Insert

Router Table Plan - Page Meter

Phenolic Insert

Phenolic material is a dark plastic-like resin. Its resembles a cross between Plexiglas and Formica Laminate. The material is very hard and strong. With exception to the foul smelling fumes emitted when cutting, Phenolic material machines exceptionally well. The insert we chose is ½" thick. We chose a color that contrasted the color of our tabletop. There is a practical reason for this. The contrasting color provides a visual reference to the "Danger Zone" of your router table.

We chose this material purely for safety reasons. In our opinion, many of the router plans currently available call for inserts made of dangerously thin material such as plastic or wood. If the router should kick or bite into the workpiece, its torque will be transferred to the insert. If the insert is made from a fragile or weak material it could shatter or split and drop the spinning router. The Phenolic insert is not cheap though. The insert we purchased cost $25 and measured 11 ¼" x 15". This was enough material to make two 7 ½" x 11 ¼" pieces. We used one piece to make an insert for small router bits and the other for larger diameter router bits.

Safety Note

When you are machining Phenolic inserts they will tend to spill out clouds of noxious dark smoke and fumes. (It smells like burning plastic). For safety you should wear eye, ear, and lung protection. The dust a fumes are considered by OSHA to be a health risk. The best protection comes from a carbon-filtered pesticide type gas mask. A regular cotton dusk mask will do little to protect you. Make sure the area you are working in is well ventilated. If you work in your garage, open the doors. If you work in your basement, consider doing as much of the machining as possible outside.

Side view of phenolic base
Edge View of Insert



Click on images
to enlarge

Step 1 - Cut the Insert

The first step in machining the insert is to cut it to size. Using your table saw, split the insert in half. It is extremely important that they be EXACTLY the same size. It can be difficult, if not impossible, to rip the piece exactly in half. The easiest way to fix this is to rip the insert and then set the table saw to trim the edge on each on. This way you can be sure that they are exactly the same size. Use a file or sheet of sandpaper to smooth the edges of the newly cut surface.


Note: Blade guard removed for picture - Use yours!

Cutting the base
Splitting the Insert

Trimming the base
Trimming the Inserts

Step 2 - Layout the Insert

Draw two diagonal lines from opposite corners to find the center.

Finding the center
Diagonal Lines

Place a bit in your router and lower it down so that it touches the point where the two lines cross. You router should now be centered on the insert.

Finding the center
Bit Touching Center

Draw an outline around your router’s base.

Router base on Pholenic base
Router Base on Insert

Remove your router’s plastic base-plate, place it on the insert, and mark the position of the screw holes.

Lines on Pholenic Base
Layout Complete
Step 3 - Drill out the center.

Use a hole saw to drill out the center of the insert. The hole should be slightly larger than the largest bit you think you will eventually use. Since we had enough material to make two inserts, we drilled a 1 ½" hole in one for small to medium sized bits and a 3 ½" hole in the other for large panel raising bits. Use a file or sandpaper to round off the edges around the hole you just drilled.

Drill out the center
Hole Saw Drilling

Click on images
to enlarge

Step 4 - Drill out the screw holes

Drill the screw holes you marked in step two. The holes should be slightly larger than the diameter of the screws you plan to use with your router. (You might need to buy longer screws to fit through the thicker material.) After you drill the holes; use a countersink bit to drill a recess for the screw heads.

Drill and Countersink Holes
Screw Hole Drilled

Click on images
to enlarge

Step 5 - Round the Corners

We will save the final step of machining the insert, rounding the corners,   until after we cut the insert hole in the router table top.

Insert to be Rounded
Table of Contents


Table Base

Table Top

Phenolic Insert <---- (You are Here!)

Finishing Touches

Table Fence






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WoodZone Woodworking Retail Store
2263 Sunset Blvd. West Columbia, SC 29169.
Contact us: 1-803-791-3823 - 
Offering in stock supplies for furniture making, finishing, carving, turning, and other forms of woodcraft.
Everything you need for woodworking.