The Router – The Most Versatile Tool In Your Woodworking Shop
A router is a woodworking tool used to rout out (hollow out) an area in the face of a piece of wood. Today, traditional hand-powered routers are often called router planes. Many woodworkers consider it to be the single most versatile woodworking power tool in their shops. Quite simply, a router is a handheld tool that is used to cut grooves or edges in pieces of wood. Coupled with it’s portability, the router’s usefuleness comes from the wide variety of bits that can be inserted into the tool. These bits allow the router to cut various shapes into wood. These shapes can be decorative (rounding over an edge) or they can be functional (dovetail joint used to hold two pieces of wood together).
The uses of a router are virtually endless. Coupled with a router table and a variety of bits, there are literally hundreds of projects that can be completed with just a router. Searching the internet for “router plans” yields almost 5 million results. The router is so popular because of it’s versatility and it’s low cost. Entry-level routers can be purchased for less than $50 while professional quality routers cost less than $200.
Routers come in two basic styles… the stationary router and the plunge router. With a stationary router, you manually set the depth of the cut and that depth stays fixed as you cut your wood visit our website piece. With a plunge router, you have the ability to place the router over the piece of wood you want to cut, then lower it into the piece to make your cut. Neither type is necessarily better, they just have different applications. Typically a stationary router is the right type to purchase when you are getting started.
Other router features to be aware of when choosing a router are:
– Horsepower of Motor – The more horsepower a router has, the easier it can cut through wood. Choose a router with too little horsepower and the motor will burn up after a short time. Also, when cutting hard wood (birch, cherry, etc…) a router with too little horsepower can burn the wood instead of cutting it. Routers today range from 1 horsepower to over 3 horsepower. To get started, consider a 2HP or larger motor
– Collet diameter – The collet is the part of the router that bits are inserted into. Once a bit is inserted into the collet, it is tightened in order to grasp the bit firmly. Collets come in 1/4 inch and 1/2 inch sizes. The 1/2 bits are larger and can cut wood more easily and are easier to use. For the most flexibility, purchase a router with a 1/2 inch collet. 1/4 inch bits can still fit into it, so you’ll have the most flexibility, and can use the more expensive, but easier to use, 1/2 inch bits later.
– Style of Handle(s) – Because the router spins at high speed and is used to cut wood, a firm grasp is required in order to keep the router from flying around when cutting. The handles are used for this purpose. There are several types of handles, and no specific one is best, just choose the one that feels most comfortable in your hands. This is where it’s useful to visit your local home center or woodworking supply shop so you can hold several router types to see what handle feels best to you.
While a router is very useful in and of itself, there are some additional accessories that you’ll want to consider as your skills improve.
– Router Bits – Bits are the core of what makes a router useful. There are hundreds of different bits available, each with it’s own purpose. Some bits cut thin lines, some bits cut large ones. There are bits to round over edges, to create decorations (molding), and to create cuts that allow wood to fit together without fasteners (dovetail). The more you use your router, the more you’ll see how helpful bits can be. Invest in good quality bits and you will be rewarded with clean cuts for a long time to come.
– Router Table – Moving a router around a piece of wood is extremely useful, however it requires that you clamp your wood piece to your workbench so that it doesn’t move during cutting. Because the router often moves around the entire piece of wood, you have to stop and move clamps frequently. This can be a nuisance if your piece is small as you’ll have to stop several times to move your clamps. For this reason, routers are often mounted upside down in a router table. With this configuration, the router stays in one place and you move the wood piece around the router. When using a router table, very few (or often none) clamps are required when you are routing your wood. As an added bonus, there are thousands of free plans on the internet to enable you to build your own router table. They are simple to build and infinitely useful.
– Router Jigs – When cutting complex shapes, it’s often helpful to have a pattern, or jig, available. A jig allows you to cut the exact same shape and size every single time. When cutting dovetail joints for example, your cuts must be exact or the two pieces of wood won’t fit together correctly. A jig solves this problem. Jigs clamp onto the wood piece, then the router only cuts the open spaces in the jig. When the jig is removed, the piece is cut precisely. There are hundreds of jigs available for routers when cutting standard shapes, or you can design your own jig when making a custom piece. Popular jigs allow circular cuts, special joints, and specific shapes for popular project requirements.
Purchasing a Router
With the popularity of woodworking and the immense usefulness of the router, you can purchase a good quality router just about anywhere. If you have a local home center or woodworking store, that’s a great place to start. You can compare options, hold the various routers to see which ones feel best, and you can ask an associate for assistance if you need it. For the ultimate selection, online retailers such as Amazon, Sears, Lowes, Home Depot and Northern all offer many styles and options.
If you don’t yet own a router, you should budget for one as soon as possible. This flexible tool will soon be a favorite in your workshop!