Routers can do so much in a small shop setting. Learn how to use them to their fullest potential so you can harness their efficiency, accuracy and flexibility. Here are 10 things to consider before you even turn your router on.
Read the manual, purchase a dedicated book, watch a few videos from a respected woodworking teacher or take a course from an experienced maker to learn the basics.
Chucking a bit in your router is taken for granted, but the last thing you want to have happen while routing is for your bit to start bouncing around your work surface while rotating at 20,000 RPM.
Routers are loud and constantly shoot wood chips. Eye protection is obvious, but hearing protection will allow you to not only protect your hearing, but also direct more concentration at the operation. Dust protection is also important.
When routing most workpieces it’s important to keep them from moving. Secure them to a work surface so bad things don’t happen.
As a general rule, climb cutting should be avoided, at least until you’re very knowledgeable about how a router works. Climb cutting can cause kickback, damage to the workpiece and damage to the user.
Although not for beginners, climb cutting can help reduce tear-out and produce less heat.
Use a larger, more powerful router when working with larger bits. It won’t bog down during a cut, it won’t tax the router and the resulting cut will be smoother.
A small trim router is very easy to manipulate, can get into tighter areas and is very cost effective.
There are times when the only thing better than a router is a router in a properly designed table. You can do additional operations that are virtually impossible with a freehand router, and it can be much safer in many instances.
I have two large sets of bits. The majority of my routing needs are filled with bits from these sets, and when I need something unique I purchase a single bit. This may not improve my routing skills, but it will help make good use of my shop time, as I rarely have to go out to purchase a bit during my shop time.
Rob is a studio furniture maker and the editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement.