A Router may be one of the most versatile tools in a woodworking shop. If you go around your house and feel the edges of tables, shelves or even cabinets you will feel some decorative edges or maybe grooves cut into the wood. These are all made with some type of router. Of course, cutting edge profiles are only one of a multitude of things a router can do.
But a router alone is only part of the picture. Like needing drill bits for a drill, router bits are needed for a router. See the section on Router Bits later in the article.
The router will have a handle on each side. The handles are what you hold on to control the router. When we use a router we hold it with the top of the motor facing up and the base plate down. The base plate will lay flat on our piece of wood. If we are cutting a profile on the edge of a piece of wood for example, only half of the base will be on the wood. This is why a wide base plate and comfortable handles are important.
All routers will have some type of knob to raise and lower the motor and thus the router bit, for adjusting the bit's depth of cut.
On the end of the motor shaft will be the collets. This collets is what holds the router bit . We slide the shaft of the bit into the collets and tighten it with a wrench. It is important that the bit be tight because a typical router motor rotates around twenty five thousand RPM. Some routers use two wrenches to loosen and tighten the collets nut. One wrench holds the motor shaft from turning while the other wrench loosens the collets nut. Others will have a lever that when depressed will lock the motor shaft and a single wrench is used to loosen the collets.
1. The fixed base router.
With this type of router you must turn on the router with the bit protruding below the base plate. This is no problem if the cut can start away from the stock. For example, letís say we want to put a decorative edge along the edge of a piece of wood. (Note: One of the most popular uses for a router). We hold the router down and flat on our piece of wood with the bit far enough away from the wood that it does not touch until we turn on the router and it reaches full speed. Then we slowly move the bit into the wood and follow along the board until the cut is done. But what if we wanted to start a cut on the face of a board. We would have to lower the high speed bit into the wood. This can be done by holding the router at an angle with the edge of the base on the wood and slowly lowering the router until the base is flat on the wood and then continuing the cut. But a better and safer way is the plunge router.
2. The Plunge base Router
This type of router has all the same features of the fixed base router. The difference is how the bit is lowered and raised. This is because of the type of housing used. Any plunge base router has two handles one on each side. The housing has rods and springs on each side by the handles. When you push a lever with your thumb you can push down on the handles and plunge the bit straight into the board. Push the lever again and the springs will raise the motor and bit back up. This is much safer than the fixed base method and much more precise.
Setting the depth of cut with a plunge router.
Each manufacture may have their own way to control depth. I will describe my Bosch 1617 because it is what I use and what I know, but I am sure they are all similar.
On the front of the base, (the side that faces me) there is a turret. This turret is about an inch in diameter and looks like a circle stair case. Each step is about an eighth of an inch. When you push a lever with your thumb you can then push down on the handles. this lowers the motor. I lower the bit to the final depth I want and release the lever. There is a depth adjustment rod you loosen. I lower the rod until it hits the bottom step and then lock it with a thumb screw. Then I push the lever again and raise the motor back up. Then I turn the turret until I find out what step I want to start on. The total of all the steps is three quarters of an inch. So if I want a one half inch final dept of cut I will line up the rod with the third step from the bottom. This will give me an eighth inch cut on my first pass. After each pass I raise the motor and turn the turret one step until I reach the last step and my final depth.
The Trim Router A trim router is a small version of a normal router. They are small and light. They were originally known as a laminate trimmer. Cabinet makers would use them for trimming laminate for counter tops. Well give woodworkers time and we can invent many uses for something.
Trim routers, although considered light duty they can do a lot more than just trim laminate. They are nice for following patterns, doing inlay work and a host of other things. Most of these routers are light enough to be controlled with one hand.
There are as many styles of routers as engineers can invent. If you ask ten different woodworkers what router you should buy. You will most likely get ten different answers. But they all do the same thing. It just comes down to what features you want and personal preference and of course price. Router Bits The router bit is what does the actual cutting and determines the shape of the edge or groove. This shape is known as the bit profile. Here is an article by Chris Baylor at about.com. He does a nice job of describing the ten basic router bit profiles. (c) 2007 Chris Baylor licensed to About.com, Inc.
A router table can add a lot more versatility to your router. In fact, there are some cuts you can only make with a table mounted router. Using raised panel bits for example, can only be used safely with a table.
Like routers, tables come in a wide variety of styles. The three most common are;
Bench top table.
This type is smaller, usually less than 24 inches by 24inchs. They have short legs and are designed to set up on something like a work bench when being used.
The full sized table.
This type of table is larger. A common size for this table is 32inchs long by 24 inches wide. They can have legs that raise them off the floor or they can have a cabinet under them.
Table saw extension wing.
Some companies make a wing you can add to the side of a table saw. They are normally made of cast iron or a composite material. The best thing about this arrangement is itís a nice space saver. While the wing is not vary wide by itís self. You can use your whole table saw top as the rest of the table.
When using a router in a table the router is mounted underneath and the bit protrudes up through the table top.
A typical table will have a miter slot and a fence. Unlike a fence on a table saw for example, the fence on a router table does not always have to be perfectly square with the bit. This is because the bit is spinning parallel to the top of the table. Also the face fence is split into two parts. This allows the two faces to be spread a part. This is because sometimes we only want part of the bit to protrude past the face of the fence. Most fences also have a place to hook up a shopVac or dust collector And a bit guard. It is important for safety to use the bit guard whenever possible.
A router will throw a lot of chips and can be vary noisy. You should always use eye and hearing protection as well as a dust mask when using a router.
We always want to move the router during a cut so the leading edge of the blade contacts the wood first. When holding a router with the bit facing down the bit will be spinning clockwise so the leading edge of the bit is on the right side.
Lets say we made a picture frame and we want a profile around the out side and inside. We always move the router counter clockwise around the out side of the frame. This will insure the leading edge of the bit will contact the wood first.
Nowfs let's say we want to do another profile on the inside. We will move the router in a clockwise direction around the inside of the frame. Again this will insure the leading edge of the bit contacts the wood first.
So remember when doing free hand routing. Counter clockwise around the outside of a board and clockwise around the inside.
Now we will use a router table for the same picture frame. When a router is mounted in a table, the bit will be facing up. So the bit will be spinning counter clockwise in relation to our frame. So we must do the opposite. Clockwise around the out side and counter clockwise around the inside.
If we do not follow these rules we will be doing what is known as a climb cut. There are times we will need to make this kind of cut, but we won't discuss it here. Just remember if you do this kind of cut the router will have a tendency to pull it's self through the stock and possibly out of your hands.
A couple of notes:
Plunge routers are not for router tables. Only use fixed base routers in a router table.
You can buy fixed base and plunge base router combo kits. The only advantage is they are cheaper because you are only buying one motor with two bases. You can take the motor out of one base and put it in the other usually in less than a minute.
A router is not a hard tool to learn to use. Routers can add style and bring your projects to life. It just takes a little practice.
So, go to a hardware store, lumber yard or big box store and check them out. They will almost always have all three types. Only the brands may be different. PS. Don't let sales people intimidate you. Probably more often than not they don't use the tools they sell.
Here is more information from Wikipedia
> Use your browsers back button to return to the previous page. (Internet explorer press alt right arrow).