I recently purchased a PantoRouter, which is a router-based machine (or jig) that creates both sides of a host of joints, including (but not limited to) mortise and tenon, angled mortise and tenon, double and triple mortise and tenon, twin mortise and tenon, dovetails, box joints, bridle joints, half laps, mitered variations, castle joints, slot mortises, bowties, diamonds and dowels. It uses a pantograph mechanism with a bearing stylus that registers on a robust and affordable template platform to cut the joints. It is a very high quality machine with excellent fit and finish that is easily calibrated and set up for cutting joints. It is also very refined at this point (mine is a V5 and they seem to have thought of everything). The machine was originally conceived by Matthias Wandel and commercialized by Kuldeep Singh. It is now distributed by Woodcraft Solutions LLC run by Mac Sheldon. It is a small company in Oregon and I recommend them highly. They provide excellent customer service and have refined a great idea to the point that it is nearly perfect.
Machine joinery was a missing capability from my shop. I considered a hollow chisel mortiser, as well as the router-based solutions on the market: Multi-Router; Router Boss; Leigh M&T, and Domino. I went with the PantoRouter because of its versatility, ease of setup, and precision. In my opinion, it is the best small shop machine joinery solution because it makes both the mortises and integrated matching tenons–at any angle–with a single setup. The table-based system makes it easier to achieve a high level of precision than a handheld unit like the Domino. The table and clamping system also provides a stable and precise method of angling mortises and tenons, which is very handy when making furniture like chairs, that have rake, splay and sightline angles rather than square joints. You can also make Domino-style loose tenon joinery on the PantoRouter (including the loose tenons), but the integrated tenons the PantoRouter also makes are better (stronger) in most applications, especially chairs. It’s a great joinery machine; a pleasure to use and a welcome addition to my shop.
I knew I would want to build a workstation for it, and I really liked John Henry’s design for a cart with an auxiliary work table and Mac Sheldon’s work support. So I bought the plans for the cart along with the PantoRouter all-in package. The cart was my first project built with the PantoRouter.
I made some tweaks to the cart and work support design to make it my own and match it to my other face frame shop furniture.
The changes to the cart included adding a center stile to the sides and using walnut for the frames with contrasting Baltic birch ply for the panels and drawer faces. I didn’t wedge the through tenons because it just seemed over the top for a shop cart. I also made the table top a bit bigger so that there is ample room to turn the machine 90 degrees and still use the auxiliary table with the work support. The increased size of the top also creates a nice reveal all the way around the cart. Finally, the cart is 1″ taller and the drawer openings were adjusted accordingly.
Making the joinery with the PantoRouter really put a grin on my face. It’s CRAZY accurate and easy to set up. Every joint came out perfectly and the frame snapped together nice and square. I was blown away.
I also built the drawer boxes using the quarter-quarter-quarter method, which is my go-to for shop drawers because it’s a single setup on the table saw and glue up is a breeze with those locking rabbets.
I mounted the inset drawer faces flush with the frame and used stainless steel drawer pulls from Home Depot that match the hardware on my other shop furniture.
In addition, I used doubled up 3/4″ ply (glued and screwed) for both the top and the auxiliary table. I used Baltic Birch for the top layer, and cheaper stuff for the bottom layer. The top was then edge banded with 3/8″ walnut that I resawed from some left over scrap.
Speaking of drawer faces, the face for the auxiliary table was a bit tricky. Usually I shim the drawer faces in place and temporarily attach them to the drawer boxes through the hardware holes, then pull the drawer out and screw the faces on from the inside. However, the face for the auxiliary table has to be attached with the hardware already installed and the drawer out of the cabinet. Furthermore, I didn’t want to make adjustments to the drawer slides to center the face because I had already gone to great pains getting them co-planer with the table top. Here was my solution:
I drilled small pilot holes in the drawer face for the drawer pull hardware. Then I shimmed the drawer front in place and drilled pilot holes in the auxiliary table, using the pilot holes I had pre-drilled in the drawer face as drill guides. I then removed the face and used a forstner bit of the same diameter as my drawer pull screw heads to drill clearance holes for the screw heads into the auxiliary table, using the pilot holes as a guide for placement. The screw heads for the drawer pulls acted as indexing pins for the drawer face when I went to glue it up. I added red locktite to the hardware screws before gluing on the drawer face because they are permanently entombed at this point.
I added a section of T-track in the auxiliary table, which allows me to secure the work support base in any position on the auxiliary table front-to-back. The groove in the work support base also allows left-to-right adjustment on the table, which is handy if you need to rotate the PantoRouter 90 degrees on the table to support a long workpiece in the other direction. Of course, I made the box joints for the work support on the PantoRouter, which was so easy and came out perfect after a single test cut to dial in the fit. I’ve done lots of box joints on the table saw with my shop-made jig, and it works really well. But I don’t think I’ll be using it again soon. The PantoRouter is really really good at this.
The table can be locked fully open with a T-track stop block.
The work support fits nicely in the drawer.
Bit and bearing guide tray for the top left drawer.
I plan to make custom trays for all the templates, but I haven’t gotten to that yet, so for now they are just sitting in the drawers.
Despite having everything comfortably stowed in the drawers (inefficiently due to the lack of custom template trays), The biggest drawer is still completely empty! This cart has storage galore.
I’m very happy with how this turned out. I love the design of the cart.