Purpose of A Router Insert Plate

Purpose of A Router Insert Plate
Purpose of A Router Insert Plate

The main purpose of a router insert plate is to make it easier to remove the router so that bit changes can be made. In this article you’ll find out how to install them if you’re making a router table yourself. 

You can also find two ways to level it out by following the instructions in the two videos I’ve provided for you. Plus you’ll find the right materials to make your own.

Why use A Router Table Insert Plate?

The router table insert makes it a lot easier to remove the router from underneath the routing table.

You don’t necessarily need the insert plate; it’s more of a convenience so that you can change out router bits faster and easier.

If you have a dedicated router that’s always going to remain in the router table with a router lift then you don’t need the plate. The router lift will raise the router far enough for you to change the bits from the top of the table. 

If you want to learn more about router lifts you can read that here. If you’ve bought the router table instead of building your own, it should already have the router insert plate. 

Router Table With no Insert Plate

If you don’t want a router insert plate, the thing to do is to mount the hand router upside down directly to the router table.

Doing it like this in my opinion is making things more difficult than they have to be. especially if you’re using a router that doesn’t have the plunge functionality.

If you’re going to do it that way I would at least use a plunge router that has an adjustment knob on it. At least this way you can raise the router bit to make changing out bits easier.

Something else to consider is making sure the hole where the router bit is, is large enough to accommodate the larger bits you plan to use. 

What are Router Insert Plates Made of?

If you plan on making your own, there’s several types of materials that a router insert plate can be made from. Some are made from anodized aluminum which is one of the best materials for plates. They’re strong enough to support the weight of the router. 

I would stay away from the run of the mill aluminum plates that aren’t anodized. The reasons are they aren’t as stiff and will sag over time. Plus raw aluminum will oxidize when it comes in contact with moisture, kind of like rust except it’s white in color.

You can coat the surface with wax or a spray on lacquer. This’ll help from oxidizing but only until it wears off. 

Phenolic is another material that others have made router insert plates out of. This material is a good option. The main thing to remember if you decide to make insert plates out of this material make sure that it’s thick enough so that it won’t sag or warp over time. Typically phenolic material should be thicker than the aluminum type of insert plates so they can withstand the weight of heavier routers. 

How Thick are Router Plates?

The aluminum style router insert plates should be ¼” inch thick. This is plenty stiff enough to where it won’t sag or warp and can hold a pretty heavy router.

You’ll find if you do some research that most aluminum plates sold through woodworking supply companies are indeed ¼” thick.

The phenolic router insert plates can be made out of ⅜” thick material. As long as the plate itself isn’t too large, it won’t sag or warp. It has to be at least this thickness or you’ll run into problems with warping or sagging.

What Router Plate do I need?

If you don’t want to take the chance of making your own router insert plate you can purchase them. Figuring out which one to buy can be a little challenging. 

For starters you’ll need to know the make and model of the router you plan to use with the router insert plate. From there what i would do is only buy the insert plate from the place that made the router. 

Sometimes when you take two different brands of products and try to get them to work together you’ll run into problems. So for an example let’s say you have a DeWalt non plunge router. You’ll want to purchase the insert plate from a place that sells DeWalt woodworking tools.

Is it Possible to Make Router Table Plate Inserts?

It’s possible to make your own router plate inserts. You have to make them out of the right material for them to be successful. I would recommend either using anodized aluminum or phenolic resin. They both withstand moisture and sagging.

Does the Router Insert Plate Have to be Level?

If you’ve bought a router table, installing the router plate shouldn’t be too difficult to do. The insert should have a way to get your plate level with the router table. 

On the other hand if you’re building your own router table and making your own router insert plates it might take a little more doing. The good news is the insert doesn’t have to be perfectly flat or level with the router table itself.

It can be slightly raised above the table. Some people like it like this because it prevents the wood from catching the edge of the table. Especially on the outfeed part of the table.

Some like to have the infeed slightly recessed while the outfeed is slightly raised.

If you’re really obsessed with getting the router insert plate level all the way around take a look at the video below. With the help of some rubber o’rings, you can achieve the levelness you’re looking for. 

How to Level A Router Insert Plate.

Are Router Insert Plates Adjustable?

Of course the home made insert plates won’t be adjustable but you can make them that way. Once you have the hole cut out where the insert plate will be, you can drill a hole in each corner of the rabbeted part and install screws from underneath.

Put the insert plate back in and use the screws in each corner to level the whole plate with the router table. To check for level use a steel ruler long enough to reach all the way across the insert plate.

What you’re looking for is daylight between the insert and the ruler. If you see any then you know you have to come up some more.

If you see daylight between the ruler and the router table, then you need to lower the insert from the corner that you see clearance. Check out the video below. He makes it look easy.

You can also level out the insert from above if you don’t want to do it from underneath the table, you can find that video in the previous paragraph.

Install and Level Router A Plate

Are All Router Plates the Same Size?

No, not all router insert plates are the same size unfortunately. Even though they are similar in size they all have differences where measurements are concerned.

When you’re shopping around make sure that you buy one that has the dimensions that are right for your table if you’re building your own.

My two cents here is to wait until you get the insert that you want before you start cutting out the opening for it. Things will go a lot easier this way.  

References:

This guy has an easy way to level an insert plate.

Learn how to install a router plate.