Freud Ultimate Portable Router Table System

A solid mounting plate, an efficient fence, and a durable, built-to-last design

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Freud Ultimate Portable Router Table System



A router table of one kind or another is just about as indispensible as a table saw or planer. A portable router table makes sense if you work in a small shop, do a lot of on-site work, or if you are a hobbyist woodworker or DIYer who uses a router on an intermittent basis. And, of course, you have the option of building or buying one. There are quite a few commercially made router tables on the market, offering a range of features at various price points.
 
The contractor grade Freud Ultimate Portable Router Table System (the PKG0021) comes unassembled, which is just as good. Putting it together takes the better part of half an hour, and in doing so you get a real sense of the product quality.
 
You won't see any plastic bits here - everything is powder coated sheet metal. Contoured handles cut into the sides make it easy and comfortable to carry the table, and rubber feet stabilize it in use. Under load the table stays where it's put; there is no need to secure the table to a work bench.


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Assembly takes all of 30 minutes
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Contoured, easy grip handles
The table top is made from 1" thick MDF with a stainless plastic laminate on the top. The edges of the top are covered with a rubberized coating, which should help decrease moisture infiltration in damp work environments and protect the top from errant bumps (especially when loading and unloading it into the truck). It also gives the table a nice finished look.

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Rubber feet stabilize the table
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Plastic laminate top with rubber edging
When assembled the PKG0021 measures 16" high, with a work surface just under 19" deep by 24" wide. I found the depth adequate for just about all the routing I do, but I occasionally bemoan the 24" width. However, having the top much wider would make the table more awkward to move about. And, a narrower top is much less likely to flex.
 
Just like a work bench, you want a router table top at a height where you can stand comfortably over it while the work is being performed. I use the PKG0021 on my shop assembly table, which is 22" high. This gives me a 36" work height, only a couple of inches higher than I would like (I'm 6' tall). Where the PKG0021 really proves its keep is on the job site, and for that I use my 20" high sawbench (which, incidentally also serves as a step stool, mini assembly table, and a place to park my butt on coffee break).
 
The paddle style on/off switch could be located just about anywhere on the router table. As I am right handed I placed the switch on the front, left side (which is the location recommended by Freud). This makes the switch easily accessible with my left hand if I need to quickly cut the power (as my right hand would typically be occupied holding the work piece). A quick tap turns the juice off.
 
There is a standard 3/4" aluminum T-track installed on the table top, with a 9" x 12" cut-out for the acrylic mounting plate. You place four hard plastic white adhesive levelling taps on the recessed rabbet of the cut-out so that they line up with the four levelling screws on the mounting plate. Using an Allen key you can then precisely level the mounting plate with the table top.


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Paddle style on/off switch
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Aluminum track and white levelling tab
The 4-1/6" diameter opening in the mounting plate accepts a red high impact plastic collar. A 2-7/8" diameter insert ring then snaps into the collar. I don't particularly like snap-in rings, as I find them awkward to separate from the collar. I would have preferred a tab-lock design. Freud only provides one insert ring with a 1-3/8" diameter hole for use with standard template guide bushings.
 
If you don't have a set of bushings it's a good idea to buy them at the same time you purchase your router table - Freud has a reasonably priced 9-piece set, item FT2020. By removing the insert ring you can use large router bits up to 2-3/4" diameter, which I find more than adequate for 90% of my routing needs. You can also remove the collar to get access to the full 4-1/6" opening, in which case you can install one of those sweet Freud panel raising bits. While it isn't a critical issue, I would have liked the option of purchasing additional sized or un-holed insert rings.


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Collar (L) and insert ring (R)
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The insert ring snaps into the collar
The mounting plate comes pre-drilled for either the Freud FT2200 or FT3000 routers. Either of these 3-1/4 HP variable speed routers are good choices to use with the PKG0021, particularly if you will be using large panel raising bits. My preference would be the FT3000, as it features above-the-table micro-adjustability up to 1/128" (.0078").
 
If you use primarily smaller bit, then a mid-sized router, like the 2-1/4 HP Freud FT1700, will be a better choice (it also offers above table micro-adjustability. Of course you can use any other router. However you will need to drill mounting holes in the plate (and a hole for the above-the-table adjustor if your router offers that feature.) This is relatively easy to do if you follow the instructions provided by Freud.
 
I tested the PKG0021 with Freud's 1/4" thick aluminum alloy mounting plate (item ALP912U for an undrilled plate and ALP912F for a plate pre-drilled to accept Freud routers). The plate fit precisely in the cut-out without any slop. In the four months that I have been using this plate it hasn't moved a millimeter. I've come to really like the aluminum plate; it seems to be appreciably stronger, stiffer and somewhat less prone to warping or flexing than acrylic or phenolic plates. As well, it has a low friction, anodized coating that enables stock to slide smoothly across its surface.


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Loosen locking handles to manually adjust fence
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Chip guars is simple yet effective
The PKG0021 comes with Freud's FSH-5 router fence system, which includes a 2-1/4" dust port, chip guard, an MDF split fence and aluminum shim. Each fence wing can be quickly adjusted to accommodate the width of the bit you are using. Adjusting the opening just slightly wider than the bit width is a good idea as it increases accuracy, reduces the chance of chip-out, and increases user safety.
 
You can mount the fence on two different sets of holes on the router table. When mounted on the furthest set of holes the maximum distance from the front of the fence to the center of the router bit is 3". Mounted on the front set of holes the distance from fence to bit center is 1". I use the furthest set of holes, and for most of my routing this works fine. Occasionally I need to rout more than 3" in from the edge of a board, such as when dadoing in the middle of an 8" panel. I just remove the FSH-5 fence and clamp a makeshift fence (a square piece of 2" by 3" lumber) to the table top. One of the first things I did was make up a couple of extra sets of sacrificial fences out of MDF; you'll find them indispensible when milling raised panels and the like, as they make clean work of wide profile zero clearance routing.


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Fences are easily adjusted
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Locking knob needs longer bolt
The FSH-5 fence doesn't have micro-adjust capability - you loosen the fence locking handles and manually set the fence. With a bit of experience you can do this fairly quickly. If using the PKG0021 on a work site for trim carpentry or custom cabinet installation, the absence of micro-adjustability isn't overly critical. However, when used primarily in the workshop, it's more of an issue. Freud does offer a micro-adjustable fence, the SH-5, and I wonder why it isn't offered an an optional accessory.
 
While it's not a feature I ever use, you can easily joint narrow stock on the PKG0021. By inserting the aluminum shim behind the left hand fence you offset the fence forward, enabling you to joint stock using a straight bit. The procedure is fairly simple, and clearly outlined in the instruction guide. The plastic and metal chip guard looks to be a bit flimsy, but it does what it was designed to do, and provides an additional measure of user safety. On most of the router tables I've seen over the years the chip guard has been permanently discarded, likely because it can be inconvenient to adjust and sometimes gets in the way of stock.
 
The only real nuisance feature I experienced in using the PKG0021 was the height of the locking handles in relation to the height of the fence. If the bolt on the handle was just 3/4" longer I wouldn't be constantly banging my fingers against the top of the fence.
 

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An excellent bench top router table
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Easily portable
It's important to me that any shop tool does the job that it was designed to do (and does it well), that it lasts a long time (requiring minimal maintenance), and that it earns its keep (by increasing shop productivity). Based on my experience with the Freud PKG0021, I'd have to say that it's easily made the grade. The PKG0021 provides most of the features I want in a good router table - it's ruggedly constructed for every day use, light for easy portability to and from the job site, has a solid mounting plate and efficient fence, and it's durable built-to-last design means a good return on my investment.

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KEY FEATURES:

  • 16" H x 18-3/" W x 23-3/4" D table top with rubberized edging
  • 3/4" standard T-track
  • Acrylic mounting plate
  • FSH-5 adjustable fixed fence
  • Front mounted paddle style power switch
  • Contoured lift handles
  • Rubber anti-slip feet
  • Includes: Table top, leg assembly, FSH-5 fence, mounting plate, collar and insert ring, levelling tabs & screws, power switch, aluminum shim

MANUFACTURER:Freud
AVAILABLE FROM:Tool and equipment suppliers nationwide
RETAIL PRICE:$299.95
MODEL #:PKG0021
Also available as PKG0028, which includes the Freud FT1700VCE 2-1/4 HP fixed base router
MADE IN:Canada

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