Probably the most versatile power tool in the wood shop, the router must be understood and used properly to give you good results. These 10 tips, coupled with the 10 from our last issue, will give you some serious leg up when learning about router usage.
Edge guides, template guides, unique base plates and other accessories expand what you can do with your router. Do some research to better understand what’s out there, and how each accessory should be used.
The area you’re working in should be clean. The last thing you want when using a router (any tool, for that matter) is to trip and either ruin your workpiece or injure yourself.
Generally speaking, rout the end grain of a panel first, as chipping will be reduced near the corner where the bit exits the wood.
If you’re using a router bit with a bearing make sure the bearing rotates freely and smoothly. If not, it may leave a mark on the edge of your workpiece.
If the cutting edges on your bits are getting dull either take a diamond stone to them or use a sharpening service to give you a brand new edge to cut with.
Routers are always noisy, but you should still listen very closely to the sounds they’re making. An even tone is best. Screeching and reduced RPM are two signs that you may be trying to take too much material off at once, or you’re moving too quickly.
Moving your router too quickly will produce a poor cut, and could be dangerous. Moving it too slowly can cause burning, especially with some woods. The middle ground is what you should aim for, and experience will help teach you.
A fixed-base router is great, but buying a router set that includes a plunge base really ups your routing game. All sorts of mortises, grooves and other operations can be taken care of with a plunge router base.
Routers truly come to life when coupled with (often very simple) jigs and fixtures. Cutting circles, routing mortises, cutting grooves are 90 degrees to an edge and many other operations can be performed with easily-made shop jigs or fixtures.
Hogging off a lot of material with one pass will leave you with a poor surface and can be dangerous. Take multiple passes for quality and safety reasons.
Rob is a studio furniture maker and the editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement.