What is the Purpose of the Router Base Plate?

What is the Purpose of the Router B...
What is the Purpose of the Router Base Plate?

The purpose of a router base plate is to make routing projects easier to do. They give you better control and stability. Without one you wouldn’t be able to do most wood projects. In this article you’ll learn what they do. Included is a list of materials to use if you’re making your own and a step by step process on how to make them. To gain a better understanding on the process of creating your own, check out the video at the bottom.

Do I Need A Router Base Plate?

The quick answer is yes especially if you want to take your routing to the next level. Basically what they do is add stability and levelness to keep the router from tipping to one side or the other.

Without a base plate, you run the risk of messing up a project. 

What’s nice about router base plates is that they can be changed out for different types of projects. One example is you can attach an index base plate. This is used for cutting out circles.

Another type of base plate is one that’s offset to add greater stability when routing down an edge.

Typically most routers come with a round base plate. However just because routers come with round ones doesn’t mean that they have to always be round.

You can attach a square base plate and with the help of a fence you put the flat surface of the plate up against the fence and cut straight dados with it.

Can You Use A Router Without A Base Plate?

In some instances it’s possible to use a router without its baseplate. Besides stability, the base plate makes it easier to move the router across the edge or face of a board because the surface of the base plate is smooth.

If you remove it and try using the router without the base, you might have to put a little more effort into moving the router over the wood. Without the base plate you run the risk of leaving unwanted scratches on the wood because the surface of the router base is rougher.

Some of the base plates that you buy can only handle small to medium sized router bits. When you get to the one inch or above you can’t get the bit to fit through the center hole of the plate which tempts people to just remove it.

If you’re using bits this large it’s recommended to use those bits in a router table. The other thing that you can do is make your own base plates to accommodate the larger ones and that will be talked about below.

The base plate also adds a layer of safety. If you use the router without it you run the risk of the router bit getting jammed in the wood. This could cause the router to be ripped out of your hands which in turn you could get hurt.

Can A Router Base Plate be any Size?

The base can be pretty much any size you need it to be. You can tailor it to do what you want. That’s a big advantage of making your own. There’s a bunch of woodworkers that have multiple base plates that they’ve made for certain jobs that they use all the time. 

What Material are Router Base Plates Made of?

The main materials that you can make base plates out of are MDF, plywood, hardboard and acrylic. Hardboard and MDF are good options if you’ve never made base plates before. They’re cheap so if you mess one up it’s not a big deal. They’re nice and flat materials which is very important where base plates are concerned.

One benefit of these two types of materials is that they resist cupping especially with larger base plates. A few things about plywood to keep in mind is always buy a quality type of plywood such as the baltic birch.

They’re better than the thinner construction plywood types. If you don’t want to buy the whole sheet, there is another option to consider. You can buy scroll saw packs.

This is a great option for small to medium size bases and they come in a variety of different thicknesses. The squares measure in either 10”x10” or 12” x12”. 

If you want to step it up even further you can make the bases out of acrylic. Some of the advantages to this material is its see through which improves visibility when routing. For something as thin as acrylics, they’re very strong and will support the weight of the router. These too can be purchased in packs.

How Thick Should A Router Base Plate be?

The thickness of base plates should be as thin as possible. The reason for this is the router bit has to clear the base so that the whole cutting edge of the bit will be used. 

The ideal thickness is one quarter of an inch. This will definitely give the router bit plenty of clearance. I wouldn’t go any thicker than three eighths of an inch. Anything thicker than that you’ll probably run into clearance problems. 

Making Your Own Base Plate

Making your own square base plates isn’t hard to do at all. You just need a few tools and some double sided tape.

  1. Remove the factory base plate from the router.
  1. Put a few pieces of the double sided tape on the factory base plate and center it as best you can on the material of the new base plate. 
  1. Insert a self centering punch into the holes of the factory base plate and lightly hit it with a hammer. The self centering punch ensures that the hole that will be drilled is dead center so that it lines up with the holes on the router.
  1. Next step: chuck up a drill bit the size of the screws that you took out of the factory base plate. If you have a drill press it’s best you use that. You can control the speed easier than a handheld drill. When drilling it’s important that you don’t go too slow because you could melt the material if you’re using acrylic. Don’t go too fast though, because you could crack the acrylic.
  1. After the holes have been drilled you need to countersink the holes so that the head of the screws will sit just below the surface of the base plate. The best tool to use is a countersink drill bit if you’re using flat head screws. 
  1. Once all the holes are done, you need to put a pointed bit in a plunge router. From there mount the new base plate on the router. Once that’s done turn the router on and slowly bring the moving bit to the base plate until you make a slight mark. 
  1. Remove the base plate and take it back over to the drill press. Use a forstner bit the size of the factory base plate center hole and gently drill through the new base plate. You’re done now all that’s left is mounting the base onto the router.
How to Make Router Base Plates With Materials

References:

Learn how to make base plates and what materials to use.