Flexibility. That’s what I wanted to design into this work table. I wanted it to work with just about any table saw, provide storage in its base and have a versatile work surface. I built this one for the new Saw Stop that’s been added to our model shop, but as you’ll see, you can make the table as wide as you want it, as long as you want it, and can make it match the height of any saw made.
The foundation of the table is four cabinets sized to store Systainers. Each cabinet is about 15" deep and about 18" wide (more on the “about” part later). By arranging them with variable spacing back-to-back and side-to-side you create the base for whatever size table you want, from a minimum of 30" x 36" up to several feet wide and deep.
The work surface is a sheet of MDF machined with a gridwork of holes. The grid lets you use all sorts of stops, clamps and hold-downs when you’re working on your project, but to use it, you need to be able to reach under the table, too, so the gridwork top is attached to a plywood base with a series of spacers. The spacers are the variable used to tweak the overall height of the table right where you want it for your specific saw.
Early in the design process I decided to drill 32mm spaced holes in the cabinet bases. This lets you put a drawer slide or shelf anywhere you want it. I planned to build this table using European Baltic Birch plywood, which is exactly 18mm thick. I started doing my initial hand sketching and calculator punching in inches, like I have for the last 40 years. But there was a lot of converting going on. Enough to drive me over the edge. I bought a metric tape measure and grabbed a couple metric rules and built the cabinets using metric measurements. It made the job much simpler. I’m not quite a metric convert…I still can’t “think” in metric, but I didn’t miss the fractional math that always gets involved in building something.
I started by cutting up the parts for the 4 base cabinets. One sheet yields the parts for 2 base cabinets, with the left-over piece just about the right size for a shelf. Even with a huge shop and a big table saw sitting in the middle, I chose to cut up the plywood using a track saw, the Woodpeckers Parallel Guide System and the new Woodpeckers Adjustable Track Square. I personally feel that a track saw is more accurate than a table saw in the early stages of breaking down a full sheet… and it is undeniably safer when working by yourself.
The Parallel Guide System aligns your track saw parallel to an existing edge. It’s perfect for making multiple cuts at the same dimension.
The Adjustable Track Square holds your track perfectly perpendicular to an existing edge. Clean up factory edges and roughing cuts and create perfect square corners.
I first cross-cut the sheet slightly over-sized for the components using the Adjustable Track Square. Then I made a rip cut with the Adjustable Track Square, just taking off the factory edge. I checked the resulting corner for square and used the Parallel Guide System to cut the components down to final width and length. See the Material List for the dimensions of each component.
Cabinets are joined at each corner with three Dominoes…one at each end and one on the middle.
Woodpeckers Offset Base and outriggers keep the spacing perfect.
Woodpeckers Offset Base System for the Festool Domino located mortises perfectly centered in the 18mm plywood. Between the built-in stops on the Domino and stops on the Offset Base outrigger I was able to quickly cut three-tenon joints on all sides and the top and bottom.
I used a plunge router with a 3/8" template guide bushing and a 5mm bit specifically made for drilling shelf pin holes. It’s a router bit that looks like a brad point drill bit. It cut very clean holes very quickly. The Shelf Pin Template made the job quick and accurate. Once you have the first group of holes cut, you simply turn the index pins over and drop them in the finished holes with the template moved down the board. On the second row of holes, I struck a line the length of the board and lined up the holes in the template with the line on the board. After I got the first few holes drilled, I dropped in the index pins to keep things lined up. With the 32mm holes bored and the mortises cut, I glued up all four cabinets.
Cabinets glued up with leveling feet installed.
I installed the same non-skid rubber feet we put on our router tables on each cabinet. I drilled a 1/2" hole 1-3/4" in from both the end and the side in each corner. I put in 3/8" x 16tpi threaded inserts and screwed the inserts down. With a jam nut on the adjustable feet they’re just the right length to not interfere with the bottom drawer.
With the four cabinets assembled, it was time to line them up behind the table saw and decide how wide and long I wanted the top. There are lots of ways to approach this. I decided 5' was about the right length (a full sheet would still be balanced on a finished cut). Width was a little harder. Standing at the saw, I had visions of a vast support area behind it. But when I looked at it as an assembly table, I wanted to be able to reach at least most of the way across it. In the end, I decided on 32".
Rigid foam insulation is sandwiched between the MDF top and the sub-top. The insulation minimizes tear-out. Hole Boring Jig mills perfect 20mm holes on 96mm centers.
I cut a sheet of Baltic Birch plywood and a sheet of MDF to 1580mm x 812mm, sandwiched a piece of 3/4" rigid foam insulation between the two and set up the Woodpeckers Hole Boring Jig.
First corner starts with the edge index pins, then move the template and put field index pins in finished holes.
Each hole should be milled, cleaned out (great time to have an air compressor) and then re-milled. A router with good dust collection makes the project go smoother.
Similar to the Shelf Pin Jig, the Hole Boring Jig uses a router with a template guide bushing to cut the holes. The template is 3/8" thick solid phenolic. It comes with specially sized Porter-Cable style template guide bushings for either 20mm holes or 3/4" holes when used with a 1/2" straight router bit. Also like the Shelf Pin Jig, it has starter pins to locate the template correctly on the starting corner. Then you switch to pins that drop into the finished holes to proceed across the sheet.
I removed the foam from between the two sheets, set them on the cabinet bases and started figuring out where I wanted the top in relation to the table saw. I decided I wanted it a half inch below. This made sure there was no interference with the miter gauge. Should I want it perfectly flush, I just have to throw a sheet of 1/2" material on top.
Use the height of the spacers to match your saw. Domino mortises machined into bottom edge.
Joined with three Dominoes in each joint.
Vertical spacers placed at the corners and middle of the sub-top.
This calculated out to a 5-1/2" spacer. I cut 6 spacers 12" long and 5-1/2" wide and 4 spacers 11-1/4" long and 5-1/2" wide using some of the plywood offcuts (or 140mm x 305mm and 140mm x 287mm if you want to keep it strictly metric). I attached them to the plywood sub-top with Dominoes, placing the 12" pieces equally spaced along the length and the shorter spacers forming corners on the ends. When the glue was dry, I dry-positioned the MDF top in line with the edges, rolled the table saw up and started deciding how to position the top in relation to the bases.
Once your top is made, play with the spacing to get the table top close to the rear edge of the table saw, but position the cabinet bases so they don’t interfere with dust ports or casters.
To accommodate the mobile base and the dust collector port of the table saw, I needed to keep the cabinet a few inches away. I played around with the spacing to accommodate either flexible dust collector hose or rigid duct work we might put in later. I settled on a 5-1/2" overhang on both ends, which, coincidentally, left a space between the cabinets perfectly sized for my shop vacuum. The overhang on the end is just right to sit down and get close to the bench when doing detail work.
With the sub-top upside down on saw horses, I scribed the offset for the cabinet bases and positioned each one to the line.
I drilled two holes through the cabinet top and the sub-top and installed flanged threaded inserts in the cabinet tops.
To make mounting the sub-top to the base cabinets simpler, I put the sub-top upside down on a pair of sawhorses, laid out my offset from the ends, and put each cabinet base upside down on the sub-top. I drilled two 1/2" holes in each cabinet, drilling through both the cabinet tops and the sub-tops at once, with a piece of scrap clamped below to prevent tear-out. I installed threaded inserts inside the cabinets then positioned each cabinet back on the ground in its approximate position. I made male threaded knobs with Woodpeckers Multi-Knobs and 3/8"-16 x 1-1/2" hex head bolts. I nudged each cabinet into position to line the threaded inserts up with the holes in the sub-top and installed the knobs with fender washers.
I wanted to make sure I could change the grid-work top, if (when) it got beat up. I opted for flat-headed cabinet installation screws and put one in each corner of the top.
The Systainer trays start with a 1/2" x 3/4" lip joined to a piece of Baltic Birch plywood.
The last phase of the project was to install drawer slides and trays to hold Systainers. I have a few old Systainers with 4 latches and lots of the newer “T-Loc” style. I also wanted the trays to work well with any other type of fitted tool case. Playing around with prototypes I discovered that a simple piece of 18mm ply with a 3/4" tall front lip captures the front edge of just about any case.
Rather than balance the Domino on a narrow piece, I made 2 at a time and ripped them to 3/4" after.
I bullnosed the edge of the tray lips with a 1/4" roundover bit in the router table.
I prepped a batch of hardwood scrap that was around the shop to 1/2" thick by 2" wide and 396mm long. I cut 4mm Domino mortises in both edges then went to the table saw and ripped them down to 3/4" width. Cutting the mortises on stock 2" wide was much easier than trying to balance the Domino on 3/4". I went from the table saw to the router table where I used a 1/4" round-over bit to bullnose the upper edges of all the front lips. I made about 15 of these.
Plane some stock down to 7mm thick and bevel one edge at 45° This will grab the feet of T-Locs. Hold wedge in place and fasten with finish nails. Tilt Systainer back to lift out easily.
For the T-Loc Systainers, I took a look at how they lock together in a stack and found that the feet are 7mm tall with a 45° wedge cut into the back edge of the rear feet. I machined some hardwood stock down to 7mm and ripped a 45° bevel on one edge. With the front edge of a Systainer against the 3/4" tall stop at the front of the tray and the beveled wedge grabbing the back feet, the Systainers are locked down tight, but if you pick the front edge up first, they come out easily. To position the 7mm wedges, I held a Systainer in place, slipped the wedge under the rear edge, positioned it tight against the Systainer and drove a few finish nails in.
For older Systainers and other style tool cases, use one of the 1/2" x 3/4" front lips at the back, as well.
Mark the outside edge of the lip, then clamp a straight-edge 4mm from the mark. The 10mm offset of the Domino base will put the lip right on the line.
For old 4-latch Systainers and other tool cases, I installed one of the stops I made for the front lips at the rear of the case. I marked the position of the stop, clamped a straight edge 4mm from the marked position, then cut mortises with the Domino. The 4mm offset was needed because 6mm is the best position for placing a mortise in 1/2" thick stock, but when used vertically, the Domino mortise is centered 10mm from the base. By positioning a straight edge 4mm off the back of the stop, the mortises in the trays put the stops right where I marked them off the back of the tool cases.
I installed 14" full extension drawer slides on the trays and inside the cabinets.
With lots of Systainers, both old and new, I played around a lot with which group fit best in the available space. After I had all the trays and drawer glides installed, I carefully positioned the cabinets, leveled each one and installed the top.
It took some time to figure out the ideal arrangement of the various sized Systainers to get the cabinets full...
...but that’s the beauty of the 32mm spaced system holes.
So far, everyone that uses the shop has loved the new table in both its jobs, as an outfeed table and as an assembly workbench. One of my favorite features is that the sub-top catches hardware that falls through the holes, unlike my Festool MFT where it always hits the floor and rolls to the closest pile of sawdust. I hope the versatility of this design makes it a perfect fit for your shop, too.