Building Foam Core Wings planes requires the use of a router table. If you do not have one, you can build one yourself. It can be made of fairly inexpensive materials and some that may be free.
You will need a router with a 1/2″ dia. x 2″ flush trim and plunge bits. You will also need a table saw and a few other small tools to build a router table. But construction is “Super Easy”. The table below is constructed of a router table insert, foot switch, 15″ extension cord, electrical outlet and switch, metal electrical box with cover, plastic 55 gallon barrel, 1/2″ foam pipe insulation, common 3/4″ MDF, Formica laminate (enough to cover top and bottom), oak boards, wood glue, contact cement and a little polyurethane sealer.
First choose a size for your router table. Be sure the size will cover the barrel completely. Cut three pieces of the MDF to that size and glue them together on a flat surface.
Use some heavy objects to weight down the MDF until the glue sets.
Do not use your truck to press down on the MDF. It will deform the surface enough to require sanding to level it back out. (Ask me how I know).
Now cut the hole for the router. Use the router table insert to decide the location to place the router and trace its outline onto the MDF. Keep in mind that you do not want to have to bend too far over the table to use the router so it should probably be offset on the table. However, it must fit into the barrel with the router suspended under the table.
Next glue guide strips of 1/2″ square oak onto the MDF with CA glue for cutting the inlay for the router plate using the router and plunge bit. Remember when gluing these strips that they will be removed after the hole is cut so do not overdo the glue. But do not cut the inlet yet.
Next move in about 1/2″ to 3/4″ and glue some more guide strips to outline the cutting of the router hole. The strips do not have to touch at the inside corners but it is best to get them very close. If not the router bearing drop into the gap and leave a divot in the corner instead of a nice round corner.
Install the 1/2″ plunge bit into the router. Use the 1/2″ x 2″ plunge bit to cut out the router hole. Set the router to allow the bit to extend about 1/4″ deep and make multiple 1/4″ deep passes to get the bit completely through the table. Go slow to produce a nice smooth cut through this thick material. If you are new to routing, the waste piece that will be cut out can become a projectile. Stop routing a little before finish cutting the waste piece free. Break out the waste to remove it and then finish routing.
Now remove the oak guide strips we just used to cut the router hole. Leave the outer strips until after the next step. A wood chisel and a few taps should free the strips with not too much tear out from the MDF. Some tear out is going to occur. That is why it is important to not use too much CA glue to attach the strips.
Set the depth to cut just deeper than the router plate thickness. Masking tape can be used as shims later to adjust the plate to be flush with the table surface. Route out the router plate inlet area.
Once done, check the fit of the router plate. It should be loose enough to allow only very slight movement and easy removal of the plate.
Trim the table edges to be sure they are straight and square on the table saw. Cut the oak to 1-1/2″ and use it to make a surround on the MDF. Glue the oak to the MDF with wood glue and clamp them until the glue sets. Countersink some wood screws to ensure the edges stay in place.
We even plugged the screw holes.
Clean up any squeezed out glue with a wet rag or later by sanding if necessary to make the top and bottom of the table flat.
Next install the Formica laminate. The laminate should large enough to extend beyond all the edges.
Before applying the laminate, make a small mark on the front edge of the table. Measure where the router hole begins so you can find the hole later to make a starter hole in the laminate for trimming the inside of the hole. You do not want to drill the starter hole in the wrong place!
Use a paint brush or roller to apply the contact cement per the instructions on the can to both surfaces to be glued.
Place some strips or dowels on the MDF so the laminate can be adjusted until aligned properly.
Then remove the dowels one at a time.
Use a laminate roller to ensure proper contact.
Laminate both sides of the table.
Use the flush trim bit to trim the edges and trim out the hole for the router.
Sand the sharp edges of the laminate lightly with some 220 grit on a sanding block.
Polyurethane the inside of the router hole and the oak surround. We want to keep moisture out of the MDF so the table will last many years.
Cut the top out of the barrel. Cut a hole for the shop vacuum hose. Measure the hose and make it a press in fit, or add a fitting. Drill a hole for the router electrical cord to exit.
Using the extension cord for wire, wire the outlet to be turned on by the switch. Or as this one is done so the switch turns on the lower plug and the foot switch turns on the upper plug. The foot switch allows you to keep both hands on the workpiece while shutting the router down. This can be important since waste pieces can become projectiles. And if the workpiece slips, it can be damaged by a spinning bit.
Mount the electrical box onto the barrel.
Use the 1/2″ pipe foam to make a gasket for the top of the barrel. Split it lengthwise and tape it together at the end. Press it onto the lip of the barrel. This ensures the table will stay firmly on the barrel and the vacuum will be more efficient.
Most router plates must be drilled to attach to your router. Since that is the case, we used the Kreg Tool Precision Router Table Insert Plate w/Level-Loc Rings (non predrilled) (PRS4038).
Be very careful when drilling the holes to match your router. This material will allow the bit to wander. It will also allow the bit to start off center even though a center punch is used. Clamp the plate securely and be sure of alignment before drilling. Attach your router to the router plate. Keep in mind your router must fit into the hole. Some routers may need to be mounted so the handles fit the hole diagonally. Test all that before drilling holes.
Insert the router mounted to the plate into the table sitting on the barrel. Check and adjust the plate to be flush with the router table using masking tape. When done, BE CAREFUL and have fun routing!