Convertible top work table

Festool MFT - Covered
(My work table, ready for model-building)

The heart of my new workshop is a Festool Multi-Function Table. This is a terrific tool for woodworking or other “full-size” modelling, but it does have a big shortcoming when it comes to the smaller stuff with flanged wheels.

The Festool MFT is an extremely flexible work surface in part because it is positively peppered with 3/4″ holes for bench dogs, clamps and other devices. That’s great – until you’re trying to use the table to apply grab irons to a model. Then, the holes become gateways to alternate universes, ready to suck in small detail parts.

Festool MFT
(The Festool MFT in “woodworking mode”)

Since I want to be able to use the MFT for as many projects as possible – big and small – I had to do something about covering up those holes. I also wanted to protect the router table extension when not using it.

This called for a cover. I had several criteria for this:

1 – It must be quick to convert from one use to the other.
2 – The cover must be lightweight and easy to remove and store when not in use.
3 – The cover must be secure when it is in use, and not slide around.
4 – The cover must be easy to replace if (no: when) it’s worn out.

My solution is shown in the lead photo. It consists of two parts: A piece of 1/4″ Masonite and a keeper bar made from a length of 1×3 maple.

The key is that the Masonite is drilled with two 3/4″ holes that line up with the dog holes in the corners of the Festool MFT. And the keeper bar is fitted with lengths of 3/4″ dowel to pass through the Masonite into the MFT, keeping the Masonite securely in place.

Festool MFT - convertable top

Festool MFT - convertable top

To make this cover, I cut a piece of Masonite to the dimensions of the MFT top, including the router extension. I then lined up the Masonite on the MFT top and used a 3/4″ Forstner drill bit – passed up through the MFT from the underside – to mark the Masonite. I drilled the Masonite with the 3/4″ bit.

I then lined up a piece of 1/3 maple over the holes, and again used the Forstner bit, from underneath, to mark the centres of the holes in the maple. I used my drill press and the Forstner bit to drill perpendicular holes about halfway through the maple.

I then cut two short lengths of 3/4″ dowel, rounded one end of each dowel with my bench-top sanding station, then glued and screwed these into place in the maple. I installed the keeper bar through the Masonite and into the Festool MFT while while the glue dried, to make sure the dowels were properly aligned with the dog holes. Finally, I softened the edges on the maple with a block plane and sanding block to make the keeper bar to remove the sharp corners. This is what a friend calls making the wood “finger friendly”. It makes a big difference. At some point, I’ll stain it with a clear finish.

The keeper bar is quick and easy to install and remove, and prevents the Masonite from sliding on the Festool MFT. It also acts as a backstop, so tools and materials won’t inadvertently get shoved over the far edge when I’m working. And the two pieces – the Masonite and keeper bar – store easily when not in use. Also, when I have to replace the work surface, it’s a simple matter of cutting a new piece of Masonite and drilling two holes: I should be able to re-use the keeper bar for many years to come.

As a bonus, I realized that by leaving the sides of the Festool MFT fully exposed, I’ll be able to use fixtures that link into the table’s T-Slot tracks. This would, for example, be an elegant way to mount a task lamp that could be positioned anywhere around the table…

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