If you are a woodworking enthusiast, you know how important it is to have the right tools in your workshop. One of these tools is a multi-purpose router jig. In this article, I will guide you through the process of making a versatile router jig that can be used for various purposes, from making dados and grooves to cutting mortises and flattening wooden surfaces.
A multi-purpose router jig is a woodworking jig that is used with a trim router. What makes this jig so useful is that it can be used for a wide range of woodworking tasks. For instance, it can be used to easily cut dados, grooves, and rabbets. Moreover, you can use it to cut mortises, flatten wooden surfaces, make homemade T-tracks, and even use it as a router circle cutting jig.
My preferred way of using this multi-purpose router base is to make custom T-tracks or use it as an addon for my router flattening sled. I am really happy to see that there are so many ways to use it, and I know for sure that I haven’t found them all yet!
To make this jig, you will need a few materials that are readily available in any hardware store. Mainly, you will need plywood and an MDF desk, which will serve as the base of the jig. I really like these two materials, they are strong and durable, which makes them a great choice for making woodworking jigs.
This project is ideal for those who have some experience in woodworking, perhaps at an advanced beginner level. It is a great project to challenge yourself and improve your skills.
Keep reading to find out how to build a multi-function router base, and see all the different ways you can use it.
DIY Multi-Purpose Router Jig Video
If you’re interested in learning how to cut specific types of woodwork joints such as dados and mortises, flatten wooden surfaces or create custom T-tracks, you can find guidance in the video below.
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Table of Contents
- The Material you will need
- General Questions
- What are the benefits of making a multi-purpose router jig?
- How to Make a Multi-Purpose Router Jig
- Step 1: Cut the Router Base Pieces
- Step 2: Make the Handles
- Step 3: Cut the MDF Router Base Desk
- Step 4: Assemble the Router Base
- Step 5: Attach the Handles
- Step 6: Attach the Router to the Base
- Step 7: Make Accessories for the Multi-Purpose Router Jig
- What Can you do With a Multi-Purpose Router Jig
- Woodworking jigs used for the project
*Safety is your responsibility. Make sure you know what you’re doing and take all necessary safety precautions while working with power tools. Safety comes first!
Always be cautious and careful when using any power tool.
Material needed to Make a Multi-function Router Base
Plywood 1x – 300mm x 170mm x 6mm
MDF/HDF 1x – 300mm x 170mm x 6mm
Plywood 2x – 100mm x 30mm x 27mm
M6 Bolts – 30mm
Router Base Guides (Base Attachments)
MDF 2x – 230mm x 40mm x 16mm
Drill bit 6mm, Router bit 6mm
Wood Glue, Epoxy, Sandpaper
Forstner bit 10mm, Narex chisels
Wolfcraft Clamps, Spray Laquer
Japanese Ryoba saw
Dewalt Trim Router
Bosch Hand Drill
Makita Circular Saw
Makita Angle Grinder
What are the benefits of making a multi-purpose router jig?
- Versatility: A multi-purpose router base offers the flexibility to perform a wide range of woodworking tasks. Whether you need to cut slots, mortises, flatten surfaces, create custom t-tracks, or cut circles, this jig can handle it all.
- Router Compatibility: This router base is designed to work with most hand routers. The base can be drilled with multiple holes to ensure it fits perfectly with your router.
- Embedded T-Slots: The router base comes with t-slots that allow you to attach additional accessories and add-ons. This feature enhances the versatility of the router base and expands its functionality.
- Add-ons and Accessories: A variety of attachments and accessories can be connected to the router base, such as a router fence, guide rails, stop blocks, or a pivoting pin for cutting circles. These add-ons help to streamline the woodworking process and ensure precision and accuracy.
Let's start building!
Making a multi-purpose router jig involves making the router base, the handles, and the guiding rails.
The router base is made of Baltic birch plywood and MDF. The handles are made of Birch plywood and the guiding rails (other attachments) are from MDF.
The handles are designed to fit comfortably in the hand. However, they need to be placed apart from each other to create sufficient space for both the router and the hands. Given that a considerable amount of pressure is exerted on the handles during routing, they are firmly attached to the base using a combination of epoxy and screws. This ensures a tight and secure fit.
Router jig properties:
- Material: Baltic birch plywood, MDF, screws, t-nuts
- Total dimensions: 140mm x 230mm x 140mm (5.51 inches x 9.06 inches x 5.51 inches)
- Router base thickness: 6mm (0.24 inches)
- Adjustable guides: attached to the t-slots, providing flexibility in the distance between them. The guides can be adjusted to leave a space ranging from 25mm to 200mm
This woodworking project is intended for woodworkers with some experience. You can complete the router jig in a weekend.
NOTE: The most important part of the build is the creation of the t-tracks in the router base and the installation of the handles.
How to Make a Multi-Purpose Router Jig
Step 1: Cut the Router Base Pieces
To build the router base, you will need to cut two rectangles: one from plywood and the other from MDF. The dimensions of each rectangle are 170 x 300mm. To ensure precise cuts, I used a circular saw straight edge guide. (If you have, use a table saw)
TIP: Temporarily attach the plywood board to the MDF board using double-sided tape before making the cuts. Once the cuts are complete, keep the boards taped together, as this will come in handy when you move on to cutting the slots.
1. Cut T-slots in the Base
Cut the corners of the router base and draw the t-slots on the base. Then, cut them out using a router. I used a router dado jig, which provides precise and accurate cuts. If you don’t have a router dado jig, you can use a jigsaw instead.
Once the t-slots are cut, you can separate the boards again.
2. Cut a Hole in the Center of the Plywood Desk
Cut a central hole in the plywood desk with a diameter of 100mm. You can use a circle cutting jig as I did. If you don’t have one, use a jigsaw instead.
Step 2: Make the Handles
Whether you want a basic or more decorative handle, it will still serve its purpose as it is essentially just a handle. In my case, I chose to make a plywood handle that had a personal touch. 😉
1. Shape the Handle
Begin by gluing three strips of plywood together, each measuring 200mm x 30mm x 27mm. Secure the strips in a wooden vise and shape them to your desired handle shape. Once complete, cut the strips in half to create two handles.
Next, drill a 6mm hole in the bottom of each handle and apply a layer of lacquer to protect and strengthen the handles while also bringing out the beauty of the plywood grain.
RELATED: How to make a herringbone pattern on a plywood handle
2. Prepare to Attach the Handle
Drill two 6mm holes in the plywood desk. Cut a hexagon shape around each hole to fit the bolt heads.
NOTE: Ensure that the bolt heads are flush with the surface of the base. Depending on the depth of the chiseled hole, you may need to sand the bolt heads to achieve a flush fit.
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Step 3: Cut the MDF Router Base Desk
Before finishing the router base you need to make a few additional cuts to the MDF router base desk.
1. Make T-Slots
To create T-slots in the router base, enlarge the existing slots to fit a T-track bolt. This can be done using either a router or a jigsaw. Once the MDF and plywood desks are glued together, the router base with T-slots is formed.
NOTE: Typically, the t-tracks and T-slots in all of my projects are made to a standard pattern. This custom t-tack system allows me to reuse add-ons and accessories, including hold-down clamps, t-track bolts, and others.
RELATED: How to make a custom T-track system
2. Cut Holes in the MDF Desk
First, cut a square hole in the center of the MDF Desk. Then, using a 5mm drill bit and a 10mm Forstner bit, create four holes for attaching the router to the base.
NOTE: A larger square hole will provide better visibility during cutting compared to a smaller circle hole. Additionally, ensure that the router attachment holes are deep enough so that the bolts sit flush with the surface.
Step 4: Assemble the Router Base
To assemble the router base, you should start by applying epoxy to the hexagon-shaped holes on the plywood desk, and then insert bolts into the holes. Once the bolts are in place, you can move on to the next step. Apply wood glue to the MDF router base desk and attach it to the plywood router base.
Make sure the pieces are securely glued together before continuing with any further assembly.
Step 5: Attach the Handles
To attach the handles to the router base, you’ll want to apply epoxy onto the screws first. Then, insert the handles onto the screws and adjust them as needed.
Step 6: Attach the Router to the Base
To attach the router base to the router itself, begin by turning the base upside down. Then, carefully insert the base onto the router and secure it in place with screws.
Step 7: Make Accessories for the Multi-Purpose Router Jig
The router base can be enhanced with a range of accessories and add-ons, but the most basic ones are two guiding rails.
To create these, you’ll need to cut two identical MDF strips that measure 230mm x 40mm x 16mm and then cut a slot in each strip where a t-track bolt can be inserted. After that, attach the MDF strips to the router base. You can adjust the position of the strips as needed, and then secure them using t-track bolts and wing nuts.
There are numerous ways that the guiding rails can be used depending on the task at hand. You can choose to use one rail or both, depending on your needs. Below, I will showcase some of the ways that you can use these rails and how they can help you with your work.
What Can you do with a Multi-Purpose Router Jig
1. Freehand Routing
You don’t need any extra accessories to use the router jig. It can be used as is for freehand routing. The router base is designed to be large enough to prevent the router from tipping over, giving you more control and stability as you work.
2. Cutting Dados, Grooves, and Rabbets
The router jig is an excellent tool for cutting dados, grooves, and rabbets. It’s actually one of my favorite ways to use it! Depending on the type of cut you need to make, you may require either one or both guiding rails. These rails function as a cutting fence, allowing you to cut rabbets on the edges of the wood or dados and grooves in the middle of the workpiece. Keep in mind that the distance from the edge will be limited by the distance of the guide rail from the router bit, but you can easily make an extension to increase the reach as needed.
This method of cutting works particularly well for long and narrow wooden pieces. By adjusting the depth and width of the cut, you can customize the router base to suit your needs for different woodworking projects.
3. Making Homemade T-tracks and T-slots
The ability to cut dados and grooves is necessary for creating Homemade T-tracks and T-slots.
- To make a T-track, you first draw the outer lines of each of the slots on the workpiece.
- Then, you use guiding rails to cut the deepest part of the track, which is where the T-track bolt will slide in.
- After that, you use the guiding rails again to cut the outer slots. Once you’ve cut the outer slots, you need to glue thin wooden strips on top of them, ensuring that the top is flush with the wooden piece.
The inner slot, combined with the wooden strips, creates the T-track.
RELATED: How to make a custom T-track system
4. Cutting Mortises
The router base jig can also be used to cut mortises in combination with guiding rails. To do this, you have two options: you can either set the guiding rails perpendicular to the router for added stability, or you can set them parallel to the router.
Here are the steps to follow when using the router base for cutting mortises:
- Choose the appropriate router bit and attach it to the router.
- Attach the guiding rails to the router base, ensuring that they are securely fastened around the workpiece.
- Begin cutting the mortise, taking shallow passes until you reach the desired depth.
5. Flattening Wooden Surfaces
The second method that I enjoy using the router base for is to flatten wooden surfaces. It can also be used to flush wooden inlays or proud joinery.
This is a good alternative to using a router sled when flattening wooden surfaces. However, this method only works on wooden pieces that are narrower than the maximum distance between the guiding rails. Typically, it’s useful for flattening handles or longer wooden strips.
Here are the steps to follow when using the router base for flattening:
- Attach the workpiece to a flat surface using double-sided tape.
- Adjust and position the guiding rails in place.
- Set the cutting depth on the router.
- Start flattening the wooden surface.
6. Cutting Circles in Wood
The router base can also be used for cutting circles in wood. There are two methods to do this:
- Cutting a circle without drilling a pivot hole – This method requires two add-ons. The first addon is attached to the surface of the workpiece and contains a pivot hole. The second addon is attached to the router base and contains a pivoting pin. These add-ons allow you to cut a circle in wood without the need to predrill a pivoting hole in the workpiece.
- Cutting a circle using a pivot hole – For this method, you need to make an extension arm that can be attached to the router base. The extension arm is adjustable and contains a scale that lets you easily set the desired diameter of the circle cut. It also has a pivot pin on the bottom of the arm which is used to cut the circle
In conclusion, this multi-purpose router jig is an essential tool for any woodworking enthusiast. With this jig, you can make various cuts and joints that would otherwise be challenging or quite impossible to make.
I have used this jig for a ton of different projects and I am still finding all sorts of new ways to put it to use. I am really surprised by just how versatile it is. If I were to build my workshop again, this would be one of the first router jigs I would make. So, gather your materials, and let’s get started.