In order to continue assembly on my Track & Field cabinet, I needed to route out some speaker/vent slots before attaching any more pieces. Unfortunately, I wasn’t sure how to do it.
First, I bought a “panel pilot” router bit for my plunge router and then spent the next half-hour trying to understand how the router motor and bit attach to the plunging stand which all came in the kit. Once again, I did not find the instructions that came with this tool to be particularly helpful.
I wasn’t expecting this to work, but I thought I’d try a shot at just doing a freehanded speaker vent slot on a scrap piece of MDF. As you can see, it did not go well.
My plunge router base has a flat, guide edge, so for attempt two, I realized I could just clamp down a straight edge and use it as a guide. The results were better, but I still needed more practice.
You can see that my third attempt was much better. The difference between the second and third attempts was that I used lots of shallow passes instead of fewer deep cuts. Routing out a little at a time made it easier to keep control of the router.
I was ready to move on and start creating some finished slots, but I knew that my best shot at getting reproducible results was to make a jig. I wasn’t at all sure how I was going to accomplish this, but a plan formed after some careful thinking.
I took another scrap piece of MDF and put my plunging base onto 3/4 of the wood. I think traced around the back of the base and the flat side. This would allow me to make a backstop and also establish a starting line for my straight edge. Using my square, I lengthened the line and by placing the plunge base on top I could mark close to where the bit would eventually be positioned. I marked this as zero — the starting point for my routing. I was able to quickly mark off four more inches. Not having any measurements of the slots, and using my 4” speakers, I took a guess that the slots should be about 3 3/4” long. I marked this off on my jig and then drew a straight line out across the board.
By placing the plunge base on my 3 3/4” pencil marks, I was able to then trace around the top of the base eventually becoming my front stop.
Using my jigsaw, I was able to cut away the extra and voila, a jig to help me make repeatable cuts. By sliding down the jig carefully and lining up with the last slots I am able to make fairly reproducible cuts.
You can see that my second “production” slot is a smidge off from the first, but I think I’ll be able to even those out later.
Many cuts later, this is what I ended up with. Unfortunately, I was so worried about making sure everything was lining up right and spaced out correctly that I wasn’t paying enough attention to the big picture and I made this mistake. Luckily for me, I have to finish the routing with a single pass from the opposite side of the MDF. Instead of starting over with a new sheet of MDF, I’m just going to fill in the hole before I prime and paint. Given its position under the cabinet and the black paint that will eventually cover, I don’t think it will be noticeable.
I have to make the same cuts on the other side of the cabinet on a much smaller piece of MDF that will be the bit above the access door. I am not going to do another post about cutting that piece, but it should be visible in future images.