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Making An MFT Top - No CNC, No Guide Jigs

In this video I make a MFT top for my new workbench / assembly table for use with bench dogs, fences and accessories without the use of a CNC or any expensive guide jig systems.  Instead, I just use my usual workshop tools and a hand made jig to layout and drill the holes accurately.   Consider it a poor man's MFT table for those who don't have the money for a Festool table or one of the fancy guide jig systems like the UJK Teechnology Parf Guide System.
 
Plans for this build are available at Etsy bit.ly/EtsyKB or Patreon http://bit.ly/KBpatreon
 
Video about making the table base: https://youtu.be/uR3jjy5KYv8
 
The bench dogs and accessories are courtesy of Bench Dogs : their website is https://benchdogs.co.uk/
 
10 Minute Workshop videos:
Dog collars & Dominos : https://youtu.be/34xLbnTHv_Y
 
Bisch Basch Bosch videos: 
Guide Rail Dogs As A Square : https://youtu.be/yWSaXvrU26M
Guide Rail Dogs Review ; https://youtu.be/XJ_1fLYJCCY
 
In this video I'll be making an MFT style top without using a CNC or any expensive specialist jigs or guide systems - just using some basic tools that you probably already have, and a home made jig.  I have full plans and cut lists for this table to compliment this video and they are available free to those supporting the channel on Patreon, or at a small fee via my Etsy store.
So in my last video I made a table base using some reclaimed pine and now it's time to make a top for it.
I'm going to be using some 18mm moisture resistant MDF to make the top.  I chose moisture resistant just in case I ever spill any liquids on the table top, as I wouldn't want the wood to swell if it gets wet.  I chose MDF rather than plywood mainly because it was less expensive - good quality plywood is very expensive - this sheet of MDF was about a third of the price.
I started by checking the corners for square using my framing square which I know is accurate.  Sometimes factory cut edges are not as square as they should be so it's always worth checking for projects when accuracy is important.
I checked all four corners and I marked up the corner that I liked the most - it looked perfectly square so I'll work from that corner as my reference corner when I start to mark up the hole positions.
I want my table top to be 1800mm long by 800mm wide, and here I'm measuring and marking up so that I can cut it to size - obviously I'm making sure to work from my square reference corner of the sheet.
I used my tracksaw to cut away the waste, and did a lot of measuring up before making the cuts because accuracy is important on this build.
With the top cut to size, I brushed away any dust and then started to apply some finish, it seemed like a good idea to get it on before drilling the holes.  I'm using some water based varnish which is pretty much my go to finish when I want something hardwearing, it's great stuff.  There are some links to my favourite finishes in the My Tools section of the descripition box below if you're interested in seeing what I use.
 While waiting for the finish to dry I started making a simple drilling jig that's going to help me to drill the holes accurately.  My jig is going to be made from an offcut of 18mm MDF, the stuff I'm using is veneered, but I'm just using that because it's what I had to hand.  I started by ripping it to exactly 200mm in width at the table saw.  And before I made this cut I made a test cut on another piece just to verify that my tablesaw was cutting accurately because it was really important that it measured exactly 200mm after making the cut, I verify it with a tape measure that I trust for accuracy.
Then I could cut it to length and I made my jig 800mm in length which is the same measurement as the width of my table top, and that's important.  I made that cut using my tracksaw with my speed square guiding the cut, and again, this is a speed square that I know is accurate and reliably square.  Once the cut was made I just verified that it was square using the speed square once again.
At this point you might be wondering how I know that my squares are accurate.  There's a really easy way to check this, all you need is a scrap piece of wood with a perfectly straight edge on it.  Hold the square up to the edge, scribe a line, and then flip the square over, scribe another line, and if your square is square, those lines should be exactly the same distance away from one another.  As you can see, this one is spot on.  This combination square however is not accurate, it used to be but now it's out of square, and I can demonstrate that by doing the same test - here you can see the lines are not an equal distance apart.  I don't really use this as a square anymore for that reason.
Next I took my combination square and set the fence at 100mm, and then locked it down nice and tight, and I'm going to use it to find the centre point of my jig by making a cut mark with my marking knife, then flipping the square.  If the blade fits right in to the same cut mark like it does here, that verifies that it's the true centre point. If it doesn't you can adjust the combination square until it does, and then you know you're ready.  The knife mark is difficult to see in this footage, so I used my pencil just to highlight it for the camera.
Now I know I have the combination square set to the centre of my drilling jig, I scribe a cut line with my knife down the length of the jig.
Next I offered up my steel ruler flush with the end of the jig, and I made knife marks on that centre line every 100mm, again making sure to get it as accurate as possible. It's a good idea to clamp the ruler down so that it doesn't move but I didn't bother I was just extra careful.
So I'm going to be use a 100mm spacing from centre to centre between the holes on my MFT style top.  That is slightly different to the spacing used in the official Festool MFT tables, I understand that they are at 96mm spacing from centre to centre but I did a bit of research on that and I can't find that there's any compelling reason to use 96mm spacings - all of the MFT accessories that I'm aware of will work on a 100mm spacing so that's what I decided to use just to keep things nice and simple.  It's a lot easier to use 100mm because a) less maths involved and b) it's easier to read the 100mm incremental markings on most tape measures and rulers.  So that's what I went for.
Next I used an awl to punch a hole right where each of the 100mm knife marks met the centre line.  These holes are going to make it much easier to locate the drill bit accurately at each of the increments.
To drill the guide holes I'm going to be using a 4mm brad point drill bit.  I chose 4mm because that's what the shaft of my awl measures, and that's important for reasons that will become apparent a little bit later on in the video.
I chucked it up in my pillar drill and this is the first time I've used the pillar drill since I moved workshop recently, so I wanted to make sure that the table was square to the bit in case it got knocked when it was moved around.  And sure enough it was out of square, as you might just about be able to see from this footage.  So I loosened the bolt, squared up the table, and tightened it again, and then it looked much better.
So then I drilled out all the holes, making sure to locate the brad point in the holes made my the awl to get them accurate.
The drilling jig was now ready to use but before drilling the holes, I denibbed the first coat of varnish on the top using some 400 grit abrasive paper, brushed away the dust and applied a second coat of varnish to really seal things off nicely.
Once that coat of varnish was dry I could start marking up for drilling the holes.  My combination square was still locked to 100mm having used it to scribe the centre line on my jig, and I could use that to mark up 100mm in from my reference corner of the table top along both the long and short edges.
Those lines are pretty difficult to see again so here they are.  
So those lines should be at a perfect 90 degree angle because they are both 100mm in from my reference corner which I know is square, but there is was one more check that I could do to ensure accuracy and that's using the 3, 4, 5 rule.  If you don't know what that means, don't worry, it's not complicated, it's just a way of checking that an angle is at 90 degrees.  if you take a point and draw a vertical straight line that measures 3 of whatever unit of measurement you prefer to use, and then you draw a horizontal line from that same point that measures 4, the distance between those two points to make a true right angle triangle must be equal to 5. If it measures 5.1, your right angle is obtuse.  If it measures 4.9 your angle is acute.  But I wanted to scale up those numbers for greater acuuracy...  So if I double those numbers, and then put two zeros on the end - that gives me some dimensions in mm that I can use to check for square.  But, because my start corner is set in by 100mm from each edge, I'm also going to add another 100mm to each of those figures giving me 700, 900 and 1100.  I can then measure 700mm from the long edge. Then 900mm from the short edge.  And to check my corner was square I wanted the distance between those two marks to be 1100mm, and for me it was spot on, so no further adjustments were needed.
Next I can simply line up my jig flush with the short edge at my reference corner and clamp it in place, and then using the 4mm drill bit in my drill, I drill the holes.  Not only is this drilling jig giving me accurate placement for the holes, but because it was drilled at the pillar drill it's also ensuring that my drill bit is drilling the hole nice and plum because the holes in the jig were drilled at the drill press.
With all 7 drills holed in the first row, I can then put my awl in the first hole, and this is why it was important to match the drill bit size to the thickness of my awl, and I can pivot the jig around until the edges are again flush with the edges of the table.  
I clamped it in position again, and drilled the holes.
Then I could work my way down the top, row by row, using my awl to locate the jig in the first hole.  In this footage I'm moving the jig from the second row to the third row, locating the jig with the awl in the first hole of the third row, I can then measure the distance between the short edge of the top and the jig on both sides to get it positioned accurately, so because here I am on the third row of holes,  the measurements from the short edge to the jig needed to be 200mm.  I could then clamp in position, and drill the holes again. 
And then on to the fourth row where the jig needed to be positioned 300mm from the short edge, and you can actually line up the jig pretty effectively just by eye, because the edge of the jig should cover exactly half of the holes that were drilled in the previous row, if that makes sense, but it's definitely best to confirm with a tape measure anyway just for the sake of accuracy.  
And so on and so on until all the holes were drilled.
Originally I was just going to have 7 rows b 7 columns and I was going to have the rest of the table top as just a regular surface, but I ended up changing my mind and adding more holes because I figured it'd give me more options in future.
Next I could drill the holes to their full size and I'm going to be using 20mm auger bit to drill the holes, because that's the size of the dogs and accessories I'm going to be using which I'll talk about later in the video.
I'm going to use a 20mm auger bit, this set is by Irwin and you'll find links to this set in the description box below if you're interested.  This isn't an ad or anything, I bought them with my own money, but I've just been impressed with them so thought it worth mentioning.
It can be a bit tricky to drill large holes in to MDF because as the drill bit bites in to the layers of laminated wood, those layers can kind of tear, and that means the bit gets clogged up and stops biting in to the wood to drill properly.  The best techique that I've found for drilling large holes in to MDF is to switch the drill in to it's low gear so that it drills slower, and then apply plenty of downward pressure to the back of the drill to help the bit really bite in to the MDF, and then drill the holes nice and slow.
I'd also recommend just getting the hole started on the top side without going all the way through, and then flip the top over and drill through from the bottom.  That leaves a nice clean finish on both the top and the bottom.
Next I use a chamfering bit in my router to clean up the freshly drilled edges of each hole.
You can see in this footage there's a bit of tear out and the chamfering bit tidies that up nicely.
The edges of the MDF table top aren't very hardwearing, so to make it more durable, I'm going to be adding a hardwood trim, and I have some pieces of 18mm mahogany beading.  The stuff I have isn't particularly straight though, as you can see.
I decide to mitre the corners, just to make it look nice, and then I glued and clamped the pieces in place to force the wood back to being straight, and I used a few pin nails too, and I made sure to fire the nails in as low as possible because later on I want to add a round over to the top of the trim.
The pieces weren't quite long enough to do the long edges so I mitred some joins too this is a nicer way to join pieces that aren't quite long enough - looks much nicer than a butt joint would.
And I cleaned away any excess glue with a damp cloth.
I was expecting to need to spend some time levelling the top shelf frame before adding the MFT top, but because I assembled it on a flat floor, it actually looked pretty good when sighting down the length.  I did remove a few high spots though using a hand plane just to make sure that the top was sitting flat to the frame.
I also broke any sharp edges on the frame using a block plane to stop the edges from splintering.
To secure the top I'm going to be using pocket holes, but without using a jig - I just get th drill bit started, and then slowly angle it and finish off the hole. I can then secure it in place making sure to use a screw long enough to grab hold of the MDF top but not so long that it would pierce the top surface.
The trim was looking pretty good, but in a few areas it wasn't quite flush with the MDF so I used a block plane to level it.  And then I added a round over to the top edges of the trim, this is going to make the edges more durable.
Now I want to talk about a mistake that I made. When I designed this table in SketchUp, I made sure that timber frame was well clear of the the holes in the MFT top, both at the corners where the legs were, and at the braces.  But when I built the table, I completely forgot to position the bracing pieces as per the dimensions on the drawing, instead spacing them out evenly without thinking properly.  So that was stupid.  This meant that when I fitted the top, some of the holes were sitting right on top of the braces.  So I had two options, I could either try to remove and then move those bracing pieces - taking the screws out and hitting them with a hammer to try to break the glue joints.  Or I could just drill out the holes through the timber instead, and I opted for the latter option.  I'm not entirely sure right now if that's going to be ok with the accessories I use in future so I may end up removing and re-installing the braces based on the dimensions from my drawing but at this stage I've never even used an MFT table so I'll give it some time and see how it goes.
Finally I want to talk briefly about the MFT accessories that I plan to use going forward, and here they are - all of these came from BenchDogs.co.uk, UK based company who design and manufacture these - I found out about them through one of Peter Millard's 10 Minute Workshop videos - I'll link to that video below, and also a video on the Bisch Basch Bosch's channel which I'll link to below too, you should definitely check both of those channels out if you're not already familiar with them, they are both seasoned MFT users, unlike myself as I'm very much a newb.  Anyway these dogs and fence accessories are really nice quality, and very reasonably priced too.  Benchdogs ship internationally so if you're not in the UK you can still get hold of them and they do imperial accessories as well as metric.  I'll link to their website in the description box below.
Here I have a 1m fence, with some flippy flag stops for repeatably accurate cuts, and if my top is truly accurate, which it should be, I should be able to position that anywhere....  Seems to be working.  Some top protectors which will I can install so to create an air gap between the blade of my track saw and the table top so that I don't cut through it.  Dogs of various sizes, and these come with collars too, and those are showcased in the videos mentioned earlier by Peter and Bisch Basch Bosch - they're going to be really handy, and also some guide rail dogs.
I'm mainly going to be using the MFT top for cutting down sheet materials, being able to make square and 45 degree cuts quickly and accurately.  I still need to familiarise myself with everything else that an MFT table can do, because like I say I'm a total newb and there's probably lots of stuff it can do that I don't know about yet.  If you're an MFT user and you want to share any YouTube video links with me that will help educate me, then please do.
In terms of accuracy, this MFT top is going to be more accurate than I could ever need it to be, certainly well within my levels of tolerance any way.  
I hope you enjoyed the video, please subscribe for more weekly woodworking videos.  If you'd like to receive early access to my videos, exclusive content, free plans and cut lists and a name credit at the end of my videos you can help to support the channel on Patreon - there's a link to that in the description box below this video.  Thank you for watching.

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