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A true jack-of-all-trades tool, the router is an indispensible part of any shop.

The router is known best for its versatility: It can do many of the jobs that planers, shapers, and even tablesaws and sabersaws do. If you don't happen to have a shop full of equipment, the router is an especially economical tool to own. The modern routers does more than just cut grooves, rabbets, and dadoes. It may be used for shaping, joinery, mortising, and following templates. With the proper jigs, routers can be put to more advanced uses, such as carving, lathe work, and following stencils and freehand drawings.

Choosing a router
Choosing the right router for your shop can be a surprisingly pleasant experience, mostly because there are so many well equipped tools to fit just about anyone's budget.
The first (and most important) feature to consider is power. Routers vary in size and power, ranging from flashlight-sized 3/4 hp models used for trimming and delicate work, to heavy-duty, 3 hp models for cabinetmaking or shaping work. Middle-range routers with 1 to 2 hp motors are good for general use.
As with any tool, bottom-of-the line quality is not the best investment, and won't provide satisfactory results. A router that's underpowered for the job will bog down, chatter through cuts, and burn up bits. If you can, test a friend's router to get a feel for specific power and performance.
The collet size of your router is another consideration. Pick a model with interchangeable collets or adaptors that accept 14" and 1/2" bits. Bits for 1/2" collets have thicker shanks and are less likely to break. They also cut more steadily than the thinner bits, which is especially important for heavy work.
Power: For general use, pick a router with at least 1 1/2 hp and between 6.5 to 9 amps.
Speed: A fixed speed of 25,000 rpms will meet the needs of most woodworkers. Also, look for rninimal torque start-up (the motor builds speed slowly, instead of jerking to a start).
Depth control: Should be accurate and easy to read and adjust.
Controls: Look for an on/oiff switch that's accessible without removing your hands, from the handle.

If you like to use mortises and stopped rabbets and dadoes in your wood joinery, consider a plunge router. These models are also good for template routing and cutouts. A plunge router has a motor housing that slides up and down along two posts. Spring tension keeps the motor and bit raised off the work. To use, align the router over the work, release the locking mechanism, and push the housing straight down with the handles. The spinning bit lowers directly into the work to begin the cut, rather than being tilted into the cut like a fixed-base router. The housing can be locked into the lowered position. Plunge routers cost a little more than fixed-base routers, but offer precise stopped cuts and blind starts.
Some top-of-the-line routers are equipped with electronic variable speed (EVS). Electronic circuitry governs the motor and maintains a constant cutting speed when the motor is under a heavy load, like when you cut hard materials. This helps prevent the router from bogging down or burning the wood. If you use bits of 1 1/2" diameter or larger for shaping, operating the router at lower speeds is especially important to avoid burning the wood and bits.
Owning several routers is ideal. Aim for getting a small laminate trimmer, a medium-sized router with 1/2 to 2 hp, and a fixed-base router you can leave mounted in a router table.

Router bits
Most router bits are made from high-speed steel (HSS) or HSS with carbide tips. HSS bits are more common and cost less than carbide-tipped bits, but don't stay
sharp as long. Tipped bits also make smoother cuts than the HSS bits. If you need a specific bit for a one-time job, consider the HSS bit, but the carbide-tipped bits are a better long-term investment.
Router bits have single, double, or multiple cutting edges (flutes). Double-fluted or multifluted bits cut more smoothly because they have more blade surfaces and make more cuts per revolution. Most edging bits have a guide, called a pilot, which can be a solid extension of the bit or a guide bushing with ball bearings. Bits with ball-bearing pilots cost more than those with fixed pilots, but are useful because they smoothly follow the contours of your stock and don't burn or gouge the wood like a fixed-pilot bit can. However, fixed-pilot bits will sometimes follow contours better than the wider guide on ball-bearing pilots.

Tool tips
When installing a bit, place it in the collet so it touches bottom, then retract it about 1/16" to avoid tightening the collet around the curved end (fillet) of the bit. A poorly seated bit can wobble as it cuts or may vibrate loose.
If your bit jams in the collet as you change bits, remove the collet assembly and insert a nail set through the back end of the collet. Tap the nail set on a workbench. Also, clear any sawdust or accumulated grit from the collet fitting.
TIP A good router should have a removable base and casing, making it easily accessible, for servicing and regular maintenance. Familiarize yourself with all of its parts, including how to open the casing to replace the motor brushes.

TIP Good care of your bits can extend their use. Clean your bits occasionally with lacquer thinner, then add a light coat of oil to prevent rusting orpitting. Store bits by standing them up in holes drilled in a block of wood. This makes them easy to identify and prevents nicking and dulling from contact.

TIP Simplify your edge-routing by attaching a smallpiece of scrap the same thickness as the workpiece to the bottom of the router base. Screw the strip to the outside edge of the base, so the router is equally supported by the workpiece and the strip. Instead of having to balance the router by hand while making cuts, you can slide it easily along the workbench surface.

TIP For edge-cutting a narrow workpiece, like a strip of quarter-round, start with material that is several inches wider than the desired finished piece. A wide workpiece can be clamped to a workbench without interfering with the routing path, and is less likely to break. After you rout the edge, resaw the piece to the desired width.

Basic router use
Before you put the router to the wood on any project, do a little planning and testing. Consider the type of wood you will be cutting. if you have hard wood, you can expect slow going. Also check the sharpness of your bits.
Always make a test cut on scrap material of the same size and hardness as the workpiece. Check the depth of cut and the profile, and adjust the cutting depth (and fence, if applicable) until correct.
Routers can be guided in several ways, the most common being by a fence, the bit, or an edge guide.

Edge-cutting with the router
When you edge-cut, you will cut either with the grain or across it. If you are edge-cutting both the sides and end of a piece of wood, cut the cross-grain edges first. By making the grain cut last, you will smooth out any rough or torn edges on the ends. if you are only cutting the ends of a piece (crossgrain), make it a practice to clamp scrap blocks on the edges of your workpiece, to ensure your finished piece won't suffer tearout.
1 Clamp a workpiece to your workbench, so the working area overhangs the edge of the bench by several inches. Make sure the clamps aren't in the routing path.
2 Insert an edging bit into the router and set the cutting depth to between 1/8" and 1/4".
3 Hold the router with both hands, about I" away from the workpiece, then turn it on. Let it reach full speed before engaging the workpiece. Routing is generally performed left to right on a workpiece, as you face it. The router bit spins clockwise, so you should move the router counterclockwise, against the direction of the bit. This prevents wandering and directs the force of the cut against your workpiece.
4 Begin the cut, holding the router lightly but firmly against the workpiece. Feeding too slowly can cause the bit to burn the wood, but feeding too fast may cause the router to bog down or the bit to ripple. Keep the router perpendicular to maintain a consistent profile on the wood. If you tilt it at all, the angle of the profile you're cutting will change. Listen to the motor and get a sense of the load. You will hear the pitch of the motor deepen if it bogs down. Make a steady through-cut, keeping your attention on your work as you follow through. Be careful not to round off the corner of the workpiece as you finish.
5 Turn the router off and wait for the bit to come to a complete stop before setting the tool down.
6 Inspect the edge you've just cut. Deepen the cutting depth of the bit by 1/8 to 1/4" for your next pass.
With most cuts, you'll need to make several passes to reach your final cutting depth. If You try to make a deep cut in one pass, you'll bog down the motor and possibly burn up the bit tip. Repeated shallow passes create a clean cut.

Freehand routing
In addition to the guided work routers can do, the portable router can also be used in a freehand manner. This requires the patience and technique found in practiced hands, since the router will cut without remorse in any direction unless carefully guided. For those with patience and practice, the router can provide fine decorative carving or lettering.

Router accessories and jigs make using the router simpler and create more accurate, consistent results. Many worthwhile accessories can be purchased ready-made, but as you gain experience with your router, you'll discover the importance and convenience of handmade, specia purpose jigs. Make your own jigs to last so they can be reused, and label them carefully.

Router table
When mounted in a router table, the router becomes a stationary shaper. Also use a table-mounted router for projects with a series of cuts, or when a portable router would be less effective, such as in molding thin workpieces. A router table produces consistently accurate cuts more easily than routing long cuts with a portable router that must be steadied by hand.
Most routers can be mounted in commercial router tables or in a home-built table. Use a fixed-base router in the table, as plunge routers are generally difficult to use when table mounted. Straightedge guide
A long straightedge guide is critical to accurate router work. The straightedge provides a stable, straight cutting guide for both short and long cuts, and it ensures consistency in repetitive cuts. Often, more than one straightedge is ,necessary to accomplish a routing job, such as cutting a wide dado.

Edge guide

An edge guide, often supplied with the router, is a short, adjustable side fence connected to two parallel rods that attach to the router base. The edge guide slides along the rods and can be butted against the workpiece to cut inside grooves or outside edges. With its quick setup time and ease of use, this is an indispensible routing aid.

Circle jig
Some edge guides can be used to cut circles, using a guide nail driven through a centered hole bored in the edge guide. To do this, sink a guide nail into the centerpoint of the planned circle on your workpiece. By adjusting the length of the edge guide, you can control the circle's circumference.

If you don't want to drive a nail into the workpiece, glue a small piece of scrap wood to the circle's centerpoint and drive the guidenail into the scrap. When you are done cutting, remove the block and scrape and sand off the remaining glue.
If you don't have an edge guide that serves as a circle jig, or if you need a larger circle than your edge guide will allow, you can make or buy a circle jig (see photo, above).
Dovetail jigs
Commercial dovetail jigs for halfblind and through dovetails enable you to create perfect dovetail joints. These do require a bit of setup time, but once set, you can quickly and easily make accurate and attractive dovetails.

Following a template
If you need to make repeated similar cuts or you're reproducing a specific shape, routing against a template simplifies your job. Templates should be made of sturdy materials, such as hardboard, plastic, or plywood. Template guides, which are small collars that slide over the bit and seat against the base of the router (see photo), protect the template from the bit and guide the router, much like a ball-bearing pilot bit.
Install a template guide in the router and make sure your template is clamped firmly to the workpiece. Your template must be slightly smaller than the desired finished piece to allow for the width of the guide bushing.

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Updated: 02/2018   copyright 2012 U-Repair.com