One of the most versatile and heavily used power tools in the home wood shop, would have to be the router. These tools are capable of so many things, you could spend an enormous amount of time learning their full potential. From cutting dado’s, to making moldings, to making raised panel doors, these tools, equipped with the proper bit, can accomplish a whole host of wood working tasks.
There are a number of things to consider when buying a router. The first thing to consider would be deciding if you plan on owning more than one of these modern marvels. In most professional wood shops, dedicated routers are common. This simply means cutters, or bits, as they’re commonly called are left in the router, and set to perform a certain function. These routers are not used for anything else, as once they are adjusted for a specific task, they are used only for that. It might be to rabbit the back edge of cabinets, to allow the back panel to sit in this recess, or one set up with a commonly used edging bit. The advantage of this is the time saved in changing bits and adjusting it.
Obviously, a home wood shop isn’t as likely to own ten or more routers, but having more than one is a very good idea. If you want to have one installed into a router table, it is very convenient to have a dedicated one. Typically, you would want a plunge router for this, and one with sufficient power to handle larger cutter sets, such as raised panel cutters, for making cabinet doors. Trying to use one of these large bits in a hand held router would be quite dangerous.
Knowing router safety is imperative, as these tools, while considered relatively safe, can do a lot of damage. Using the proper feed direction, whether using a hand held router, or a router table, is important. This isn’t a big of a safety factor in a hand held router, as it is with a router table, but it is still quite important.
With a router table, feeding a board into a spinning router bit, in the same direction that the bit is turning, is likely to end up with the board being pulled out of your hands, and shot like a missile across your shop. If it were to hit someone, there is a very strong chance it would be fatal.
The feed direction in a hand held router is left to right, and in a router table, is right to left. The feed direction is opposite, since the router is held in the opposite position.
Eye protection is a must, and a mask for the dust is highly recommended. If your router has a vacuum port, it helps considerably to use it. One tool that will fill the air with dust very quickly is the router.
Some routers have a toggle type switch, so it is important to verify it is in the off position, before plugging it in. It is also important to hold a router with both hands when turning it on, as the torque in these tools can cause you to lose control of it, or have it come into contact with your body. Therefore it is best to have the router held flat onto the work surface, with the bit not coming into contact with the board, and then turning it on. Then gently bring it into contact with the work piece.
Getting the best results with a router is dependent upon a few things. First is the sharpness of the bit. Next would be the feed rate. Moving the router too slow will result in burn marks on the board. Moving the router too fast, will not only put unnecessary strain on the motor, bit it will result in a poor cut. It will either be wavy, or will have tear out. The best feed rate will take some experimenting, and it will be different for various woods, and also for different router bits.
The learning curve for using a router is relatively small for the basics uses, but with all the possibilities these tools provide, you can spend a considerable amount of time mastering them.
Written by: Lee A Jesberger
Jesberger has owned of a high end General Contracting business for thirty years. He also owns and operates a custom Cabinet and Furniture business. He has written many woodworking articles, in addition to being the inventor of the Ezee-Feed, infeed/outfeed systems for woodworking machines, which is patent pending.