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This is my first attempt at a template for a router. I have a lot of 1/2 mdf on hand as long as they are kept in a dry place is this ok for patterns?

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Hi Gary, MDF is a good material for making a pattern for making duplicated parts using a router and a pattern bit .  Like you stated it must be kept dry from moisture but also should be kept flat to avoid any warping.  The pattern must lie flat on the surface to be accurate and MDF is a stable material providing you protect them.  I assume that you intend on using a hand held router with an upper mounted bearing but you can also use a router table.

I make some temporary templates from 3/16 to 1/4" hardboard tempered panel material.

One has to be carefull with handling this material, as the edges get deformed, and can render the template useless.

Exposure is to moisture or getting them wet, will also render it useless.

Flooring tiles, can also be used to make templates.

They're easy to cut and the edges can be easily sanded or filed smooth.

I use plexiglass to make permanent templates---for those objects that get lots of use---

1/8" to 1/4" thick.

A thicker template for larger objects, is more desireable. 

Plexiglass is transparent---machines easily---can be cut with a jig saw, sanded and filed to get smooth and sharp crisp lines.

Center-lines, reference lines and markings can be easily applied, using permanent marker.

(Make a sharp crisp reference line with a scribing knife or awl, and fill-in the scribed line an xfine black maker).

I've used laminate flooring for templates also. It is easy to get nice crisp edges and is harder and more durable than hardboard. If you don't have it on hand, watch for garage sales.


Depending on how often you use the template determines the material, a  temporary or  "One Off" type jobs MDF is OK.

A more permanant solution would be HDF, but it is also hydroscopic or as the other guys mentioned the plexiglass or even the floor laminate.

Here is a 2 part template I made to build a telephone box

Be aware it  takes some thought to develop the template/s then produce the result you want.

In this activity I used MDF, A hand held router with a bush and a frame from my 3D carver to hold the templates. They are fitted up routed then flipped over and the process repeated, thatway everythingis equally spaced and balanced, the timber is then trimmed to size and assembled

Its not a entry level skill but there is no reason why you could not produce something similar or even more complex if you think about what you want to achieve.

As others have mentioned, plexi and laminate flooring work well.  Plexi does have one drawback.  If a bearing seizes during use, the heat will melt the template.  Not an issue when using bushings on the router base, but if using a bit with bearing on the table.

I've been using 5mm plywood picked up at the blue home improvement center for about $14 for a 4x8 foot sheet.  It seems to work ok for me, but my template use so far has been one-offs - though I will keep them for any future use.

Here is a video at Fine Woodworking that may help, too.

Thanks for all the advice.  I used the mdf because I had a lot of mdf on hand. Probably will cut it out 

tomorrow. My neighbor built the rolltop desk from the woodsmith program. I helped him assemble his and from how nice it turned out. I got hooked on building my own.

Gary everyone has their own ideas and the ones I have read all work but like I stated, mdf works with its limitations and there is nothing wrong with making duplicates in mdf of any template you wish to use frequently.  I make alot of templates for cutting arched doors of odd ball sizes and use mdf frequently as why go spend money on something that is more expensive than mdf unless you plan on using it on a frequent basis. 


Your new project of a roll top sounds very exciting and I would love to see the building of it in photos in stages of the build.   It would make an interesting project to see.    Take care and enjoy your work.


Gary roofner said:

Thanks for all the advice.  I used the mdf because I had a lot of mdf on hand. Probably will cut it out 

tomorrow. My neighbor built the rolltop desk from the woodsmith program. I helped him assemble his and from how nice it turned out. I got hooked on building my own.

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