Anyone who has ever cut a fancy edge profile using a router knows the frustration of a burned or chippy cut. A poorly routed profile can ruin a valuable workpiece in just a few seconds. While most woodworkers often attribute a poor cut to a dull bit, more often than not, the culprit is built up wood pitch along the bit’s cutting edge. Scrub that away and you’ll be surprised at how much better a bit can cut.
Routers—mounted in a table or handheld—are incredibly versatile tools for woodworkers. But changing router bits is widely considered an annoying task. On older routers, two wrenches are required to change a bit, and on newer models with collet locks, you will still require a single wrench. Access to the collet nut becomes particularly frustrating when the tool is mounted in a router table.
Pattern routing is the perfect technique for cutting multiple, identical workpieces quickly and accurately. With this method, a workpiece is rough cut to its shape at the bandsaw, and attached to a pattern which rides along the bearing of a router bit mounted to a router table. Perhaps one of the most common methods for attaching the pattern to the workpiece is double-stick carpet tape, and while this works, it can be a bit dangerous.
Here’s another video on how to cut a perfect mortise using a plunge router – this one’s from Fine Woodworking. The video shows you how to make a mortising jig that guarantees perfect mortises and can be used over and over. The jig is easy to build and works beautifully. To define the mortise’s start and stop points, a length of T-track has been set into the long beam that serves as the bearing surface for the router.
In recent years router bit technology has come a long way and even the humble straight bit has progressed. In everyday use most woodworkers are likely to benefit from the advantages of an up-cut spiral bit – they’re ideal for efficient chip ejection when cutting mortises, dado cuts and deep blind holes – compared to the more specialist applications that require a down-cut spiral bit.
Router Combination Kits are the most popular type of router on the market. You get a single 2-1/4 HP motor with both 1/4-inch and 1/2-inch collets plus a fixed base and a plunge router base, which gives you maximum versatility and incredible value for money. For most woodworkers they give you all the routing capabilities that you are likely to need on a regular basis including the ability to use them in a router table.
If you’ve ever had tearout while running your pieces through your router table, adding a zero-clearance fence to your table is the answer. You probably can’t believe something as simple as this zero clearance fence can have such a dramatic effect on the quality of the cut. Sometimes it’s the smallest things that make the biggest difference.
Plunge and fixed base routers both have a place in the workshop, and each one is best suited to specific routing tasks. Basically, use a plunge router when you want to rout in the middle of the workpiece or when making a stopped cut that doesn’t go all the way to the edge of the workpiece e.g. a mortise; use a fixed base router when you are not making a stopped cut and routing the edge of the workpiece.
You don’t need to be doing woodworking very long before you decide that you want a router, but the question is how to choose the best one out of the enormous choice. As a beginner there are a couple of major considerations that will influence your choice – first, you probably don’t want a high end router with a bunch of features that you don’t yet have the skill to use, and second, you do want a router that has sufficient features and capabilities that will last you for some time – you don’t want to be looking to replace it as soon as you progress a little bit.
A lot of experienced woodworkers would agree that mounting your router in a router table is the single biggest thing that you can do to increase your routing capabilities. A router table increases the range of jobs you can perform with your router and allows you to easily take on advanced projects such as raised panels, use larger cutters that are too big to control freehand as well as making it easier and safer to do things like putting edge moldings on narrow workpieces. But which is the best one?