As a carpenter, you love our tools!
As someone whose craft involves a lot of woodwork, you should be familiar with a wood router. This is an indispensable tool in your toolkit that has multiple applications and uses.
However, this tool is a little intimidating if you are not used to it. This post will make you familiar with most of its different aspects to begin with. You get to know about different routers, bits, setting it up, jigs and various other things.
So relax and let’s dive in!
Learn How to use a Woodrouter from this YouTube Video
Table of Contents
1.What Is a wood router and What Are its uses?
2. What Are the Different Parts of a Wood Router?
3. What Are the Different Types of Wood Router?
4. What Are Bits?
5. What Are the Different Types of Bits?
6. How to Install Router Bits properly?
7. What Is the Difference Between ½ and ¼ Inch Bits, and Which Is Better?
8. How to Maintain the Bits?
9. What Are Jigs & fixtures?
10. How to Setup a Wood Router?
11. What Is Router Feed Direction?
12. How to Set Proper Router Speed?
13. What Are the Important Accessories of a Wood Router?
14. What Are the Precautions to Keep in Mind While Using a Wood Router?
Woodrouter is a very versatile tool in a carpenter’s or woodworkers kit. It is basically a motor with a cutting bit attached at the tip of its rotor or armature which is used to cut and carve or hollow out a piece of wood to give it a desired shape and structure.
That said, it is used in almost every woodwork you encounter on a daily basis. It is used to make grooves, rebbates, add profiles to edges, cut inlays, trimming the wood flat, drill clean holes, recess hinges, cut screw threads, cut traditional joints, make jointed boxes and even carving.
Well, to give you a decent picture, he also makes guitars with the help of a wood router! I think it is very clear how useful and indispensable is a wood router for a woodworker.
Now, let’s look at various parts of a router.
Unlike other simple structured tools of a wood craftsman, a wood router is a bit more complex in structure. However, this is a simple tool to use, and to use it you must be familiar with its parts.
This is the most important part of a wood router, and it is essentially a motor tuned to work with wood. A router’s motor has 1-3 horsepower maximum, and its speed may be fixed or variable.
This is the part which allows you to hold and control the movements of a router. Handle may vary from router to router. The handle should be ergonomic to control the movements of the router comfortably and safely.
This is the actual part that does the job. From simple tasks like cutting, flattening, and making clean holes to complex tasks like delicate profiling and carving statues. They come in various shapes and sizes for different purposes and designs.
This is the fixture where a bit is installed and tightened and it holds it in place.
This is the part which keeps the router upright and stable. The bit or cutter protrudes from the center of the baseplate.
There are 3 different types of wood router fixed, plunge and interchangeable. Let’s talk about them in detail:
1. Fixed Router
This type of router is fixed or installed in router bench or table upside down. It is very suitable for projects demanding high accuracy like edge cutting and molding and for repeated projects. They are lighter than plunge routers, hence they are easier to handle and use.
However, fixed routers are not as versatile as plunge or interchangeable routers. Also, you cannot adjust the blade dept while using the fixed router. You’ll have to do so before using the router and the dept will remain the same throughout the use. Due to the fixed base you cannot do overcutting as well.
It is a good option for beginners and home as it is very easy to use and affordable. Once you have learned the essential things and mastered them, you can pick a plunge or interchangeable router.
2. Plunge Router
This type of router is used freehand and unlike fixed routers, you can adjust the blade dept precisely with its dept stop while using it. This feature makes it comparatively more versatile than its fixed counter parts. However, the plunge mechanism adds significant weight to the machine which makes it a little harder to use.
It is more costly as compared to a fixed router, and it cannot be installed in router bench. So it may not be as suitable as a fixed router for repeated projects.
Now considering all the factors I have mentioned earlier, this tool is meant for professionals. Those who are used to working with a fixed router will take some time adapting to it. It is ideal for deep cutting, adding grooves and working with templates.
3. Interchangeable Router
If you are looking for the features of a fixed router and plunge router in one, then an interchangeable router should be your choice. It will have the combined versatility of a fixed and plunge router negating their drawbacks, which is great in my opinion.
Of course, this cost more than a plunge or fixed router but if you wish to buy them both, then purchasing an interchangeable router will be cheaper. This router comes with a fixed base and a plunge base which is its biggest advantage.
In essence, if you are a professional woodworker whose work requires more versatility that can’t be met with a fixed or plunge router, then you should opt for an interchangeable router.
4. Compact or Trim Router
This is a smaller version of a fixed router with smaller motor of 1 horsepower in which ¼ inch bits are used. They mainly used for cutting decorative edges like roundovers and coves. They are also employed to cut recesses for hinges, grooves and flush trimming.
If your work does not require a bigger router, then working with this one is a lot easier. You should consider purchasing one if you can, it will definitely come in handy!
5. CNC (Computer Numerical Controlled) Router
These are automated routers controlled by a computer. The user has to enter command in a prompt and the automated router does the job! Since a machine is doing a job the margin of error is negligible and efficiency is consistent and high.
This type of routers are usually very expensive, big, and require training labor which doesn’t make it feasible for small scale projects. It is a good machine to do repeated projects though.
Recently, manufacturers have managed to shrink the size of this device and make it available for general populace. However, the quality of its parts is still in question.
Bits otherwise known as cutters, which does the actual job. It is placed in a collet and tightened with a wrench. The collet in turn is attached to rotor which spins around 1 to 3 horsepower when turned on. They come in various shapes to accomplish a particular type of task. There is a different bit for profiling edges and another for grooving. Depending on the tasks there are a variety of bits available in the market.
As I mentioned before, there are different types of wood available for different routing applications. I cannot cover every bit available in the market, but I would like to cover some common ones here. Let us know in the comments below if we are missing out on some important ones.
1. Straight Router Bits
These are the most common ones used to make, as the name suggests, straight cuts in the wood to hollow out some space for inlays or mortises. They come in variable diameters for different width of cuts, but the most common ones range from 3/16 inches to 1½” inches.
2. Joinery Bits
These types of bits are used to make specialized precision joints. Again for different type of joints there are different types of bits: dovetail router bits, drawer router bits, finger router bits, and locker router bits.
3. Raised Panel Bits
Raised panel bits are mainly used to profile edges simultaneously with stile and rail bits. They come in two types: horizontal and vertical. Horizontal panel bits are used to cut wood panels laying flat and vertical frame and panel bits is used to cut a wood panel positioned upright.
4. Stile and Rail Bits
If you want to combine the horizontal layer with vertical layer, then you would need stile and rail bits, the first one cuts the stiles vertically, and the second one cuts the rails horizontally. They come together in a package, so that you may work without any hassles.
5. Molding Router Bits
This one is mainly used for decorative profiling, that is architectural molding profiles. These bits are larger than usual profiling router bits. They are designed in a way that they include multiple basic edge forming profiles in one bit.
5. Edge Forming Router Bits
They are, again, used to cut decorative edges. They came in various designs for various types of profiles. There are some common ones though: round over bits, ogee bits, edge beading bits, and cove router bits.
6. Chamfer Bits
They are used to give a bevel cut at an angle. They are also used to decorate, and creating beveled for multi-sided construction. They come in a variety of different sizes and angles, and for most for most beginners a 45 degree router bit is ideal.
7. Rabbeting Router Bits
They are used to create vertical and horizontal rabbet cuts. What are rabbet cuts? They are used to create joints for centuries in furniture. Of course, carpentering involves a lot of furniture making, so it is better that you learn it first hand.
These types of bits are basic ones that you should have in your router bit cabinet or kit.
Installing a router bit into the collet can look like a simple task. However, if not done correctly it may fall out during use, and that is harmful, let alone bad!
The problem arrives when you place a bit into a collet and the bit’s bottom end protrudes out of the collet’s back end, and the bit will not tighten properly. Otherwise, the collet grabs the top end of the bit and it won’t hold properly while it is rotating at high RPM.
You can follow these steps to tighten the router bits properly avoiding the two problems mentioned above:
- Place your router upside down.
- Place the the bit in the collet.
- Tighten it by fingers until it is in grip, but not too tight.
- Then bring the bit up by a few millimeters, or ⅛ of an inch by your hands.
- Then proceed with tightening with a wrench.
There you go, you’ve tightened your bits properly!
The half inch bit are bigger in size than the quarter inch bits, obviously. Now, professionals suggest that you pick half inch router bits because of three major reasons:
- Half inch router bits are are bigger, which means it will be more stable and it won’t flutter while you are routing the wood panel.
- Since half inch router bits are bigger, their shanks are also bigger, wider and have more circumference, which means they allow better grip when tightened in the collet.
- They come in the same price range as the quarter bit or a little more expensive, which makes the quite accessible.
The quarter bits are used for trim routers, that said, you can use half inch router bits in most medium to large sized routers.
I think the difference and choice of bits should be clear now.
A bit is what makes a wood router useful, thus it is extremely important that you maintain your router bits to make the most of out them in terms of effectiveness and efficiency. The following points shed light on how to maintain router bits:
- Now, a router bit is just another type of cutter that means it will get dull with use eventually, and you’ll need to sharpen it. To do that you would need a diamond sharpener to sharpen the faces of the bit. Also, do not apply too much pressure to sharpen the bits, you will damage them. Just keep a light pressure and gently rub it on the sharpener surface.
- Keep in mind that you apply equal pressure and strokes to keep the sharpness balanced.
- For smaller bits, use the sharpener holder which is rubberized to keep it in place while sharpening the smaller bits effortlessly.
- Cleaning the gunk that has built up on your bits is easy. Just use a commercial saw blade cleaner on your bits, as the gunk which accumulates on it is quite similar to the gunk on the saw blade, it will do the job effectively!
- Next up is the rotation of the bits. To check the rotation of the bits, simply pick up the bit from its bearing and rotate it manually. If it doesn’t rotate smoothly you will have to replace the bearing.
- To replace the bearing, take the bit and hold it in a jute or cotton cloth (using a tool to hold it will damage the shaft) and use an allen wrench to unscrew the bearing.
- Replace it with a newer one and tighten it.
- Many pattern type bits have bearings attached to their shafts with an e-clip. In that case, use pliers to remove the e-clip and and replace the bearing.
- The replacement kits are sold by various manufacturers like Rockler, which include various types of bearing, nuts and allen wrenches to do the job.
Many people confuse jigs with fixtures or otherwise or even use them interchangeably. As a woodworker you must know the difference. A jig is a tool that is used to hold and guide other tools (such as a cutting tool) attached to it. It provides repeatability, so if you wish to reproduce a certain type of work, you would use a jig in the process.
Professionals use customized jig to get optimum productivity and accuracy for a project in hand. That said, it is not to mention that different jigs are employed for different project demands.
Fixtures on the other hand, are used to hold the work piece in the desired location with high precision. It decreases the production time by reducing unwanted loading, unloading and fixing time of the workpiece under work.
Jigs and fixtures are used together to achieve maximum production and efficiency, they are not only used in woodworking but other types of building works as well. Of course, in wood routing, jigs and fixtures are indispensable and the best part — you can create your own!
Now all the important aspects covered, let’s look at how to setup a wood router. Follow these steps to setup a wood router:
1. Installing Bit
- First, make sure that the electricity socket is unplugged.
- Then you choose the bit needed for your current project.
- Turn the router upside down.
- There will be a spindle lock, press and hold it while loosening the nut with a wrench.
- Place the bit and tighten the nut while pressing the spindle lock. Make sure you follow the bit installing instructions properly, discussed earlier in the post.
- Keep the wood router back to the normal position.
2. Adjusting the Router Depth
- Firstly, to adjust the router dept you’ll be using depth gauge, there will be a small rod protruding below the gauge dept make sure it is only extended to 3 mm.
- Next, there will be a turret right below the depth gauge, rotate it to bring the highest position right below the extended rod.
- Now, right next to the dept gauge, there will be a knob, loosen it and the depth gauge will fall down unto the depth stop turret.
- Loosen the locking lever.
- Push down the router until the bit touches the workpiece.
- Tighten the locking lever.
- Then, raise the depth gauge by loosening the knob and tightening it while at the desired position.
- Loose the locking lever.
- Raise the tool back up.
- Router depth is now set to 0 mm.
- You can raise the router depth by 5mm to 10mm with the help of depth stop turret.
- Always readjust the router depth after changing the bits.
- Check the instruction manual to set the optimum speed.
- Set the speed on the dial.
- Connect your vacuum cleaner to collect wood chaff and dust while routing.
- Make sure that you’ve plugged in the electric socket.
- Before using the router, check if it is working properly as required on a scrap piece of wood.
- Turn the router on by the trigger and slowly push the router down until it reaches the depth stop turret.
- Guide the router on a piece of scrap and see if the results are perfect!
The router feed direction is the direction in which you route the wood, or push or feed the workpiece against the router bit to cut it.
Why is router feed direction important?
Because if you feed the workpiece to the router in the wrong direction will propel the workpiece out of your control, damage your workpiece, and probably hurt someone. This known as a climb cut, it is good sometimes but rarely or when you are in complete control.
To avoid doing so, you can follow the routing thumb rule. Take your right hand and make a thumbs up, your thumb represents the direction of the bit standing up, and your finger curve denotes the direction of rotation. You need to feed the workpiece against the direction of the rotation of the bit.
If the router is upright that is bit rotating in the clockwise direction, now simply feed the workpiece in counter clockwise direction for profiling or edge cutting, and clockwise for frame cutting feed it clockwise.
However, there is a tendency of wood tearing or chipping away with a counter clockwise cut, to avoid it use climb cutting in the ‘northeast’ and ‘southwest’ edge corners of the workpiece and cut counterclockwise anywhere on the workpiece.
Simple rule to remember and lots of time and efforts saved!
A simple thing that you’ve to keep in mind while adjusting speed for different router bits is their diameters. Now, router bits with larger diameter will be faster than a bit with smaller diameter on equal RPM due to its larger circumference, which can be dangerous. It is otherwise known as rim speed.
That said the following chart shows respective speeds for different router bits with larger diameters and higher rim speed.
|Up to 1 inch||24,000 RPM|
|From 1 to 2 inches||18,000 RPM|
|from 2 to 2 ½ inches||16,000 RPM|
|2 ½ to 3 ½ inches||12,000 RPM|
We have already discussed about the bits and its various other types, jigs and fixtures. We will now focus on other accessories that are necessary for wood routing.
You will frequently use a wrench to replace the bits and other stuff, make sure that you have a proper set of wrenches before you start woodworking with a router.
2. Router Table
This is the most important accessory for a craftsman working with a router table. Router tables ensure the maximum control and precision as it allows you to mount the router firmly. Another major advantage of a router table is that your hands are completely free which gives you more freedom to work with. A good router table should have a flat top, base plate, miter slots to fit in miter gauge, and of course, high quality standards.
If you are willing, you can make your own router table, which is quite cost effective!
3. Router Table Fences
They are indispensable for cutting straight. Make sure that you purchase a fence that is easy to install and uninstall. They come in two types: one-piece fence and two-piece or split fence. The former prevents alignment issues and it is particularly easy to use, and the latter can be placed at an offset.
4. Speed Control Device
A speed control device gives you precise control over the router speed which makes your work more efficient. Investing in this simple device will definitely pay off!
Every tool has its own sets of precautions to keep in mind, and obviously a wood router has its own. Please keep in mind these precautions while working with a wood router.
- Always switch off and unplug the router before changing bits and adjusting its depth. This will make sure that the router won’t turn on accidentally and cause injuries.
- Always wear some kind of earmuffs or earplugs while working with a router; this will ensure that the loud noise of the machine won’t damage your hearing.
- Always wear a pair of workboots and gloves to protect your limbs from accidental injuries.
- And finally, wear a pair of protective goggles to protect your eyes from wood splinters and dust.
I hope you liked the post. If you have something to share about wood routing let us know in the comments below.
Have a great day ahead!