The Fullest Wood Router User Guide

A wood router is a magical wand in the world of woodworking. It lets you make all sorts of grooves, shaped decorative holes, and even pictures on the surface of wood! But are you sure you know all the tips and tricks required to achieve decent results? Below are some of the most important and frequently neglected wood router operating rules that will help you master the tool. 

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1. Learn the Bits & Their Speeds

Modern routers are compatible with hundreds of bit types with different shanks, bearing tips, and various extras. It’s recommended not to splurge on your first router and get a decent wood router under 100, but to take the full router set. 

There are 10 most basic router bit types that can tackle the vast majority of tasks. Here’s your shopping list:

  1. 1
    Straight-cutting bit – this bit makes straight grooves with square bottoms, including such popular cuts as dadoes and rabbets. Start with ¼”, ½”, and ¾” diameters. Use this bit with a straightedge as it doesn’t have a pilot.
  2. 2
    Rounding-over bit – this standard bit is used for shaping edges. There are numerous sizes, but the most common are ¼” and ⅜”.
  3. 3
    Roman ogee bit – one of the most popular bits that lets you achieve classic edge shape for picture frames and tabletops. It’s a piloted type with the most popular radiuses of 5/32”, ¼”, and ⅜”.
  4. 4
    Cove bit – this one is used for cutting concave radiuses in edges for decorative purposes. The sizes range from 1/16” to 1”.
  5. 5
    Rabbeting bit – use this bit for creating standard rabbet joints. The universal size is ⅜” wide and ½” deep, and it must come with a pilot.
  6. 6
    Flush trim bit – this one’s a must-have if you work with laminates and veneers as it lets you perform perfect flush trimming for various plastic laminate furniture projects and more. The universal size is ½” in diameter and 1” in length.
  7. 7
    45° chamfer bit – a common edge-shaping bit that makes 45° angle in the board edges.
  8. 8
    Core box bit – a standard non piloted bit for making round-bottomed decorative grooves. You should get both ¼” or ⅜” variants.
  9. 9
    V-groove bit – another non-piloted bit for cutting decorative grooves but with V-shaped bottoms. A ½” variant with a 90° angle is an optimal solution.
  10. 10
    Slot-cutting bit – it’s the one and the only bit for quick and precise cutting of narrow slots and grooves. Look for piloted models with carbide-tipped teeth of 1/16” to ¼” in cutting thickness. The optimal width is ¼”, while the best depth is ½”.

To properly install router bits, make sure to choose the right edge profile and install the bit properly into the collet. The bit must turn smoothly. Before making the clear cut, test the bit at different speeds on a scrap piece of the same material. 

2. Move in the Right Direction

If you’re new to this tool, you may want to move it from right to left in some situations, but the only right direction is actually from left to right. That’s because you always have to move the tool against the rotation of the bit to gain enough control and make it cut into the material. 

3. Use Ball-Bearing Pilots

A bit with a ball-bearing pilot is always better than a bit without it. This addition lets you work without edge guides and straightedges. That saves a lot of time! 

4. Use Guide Bushing 

If you need to make an irregular-shaped cut with a straight-cutting bit and want to use a template, a guide bushing is a necessary accessory. A set of bushings will let you keep the bit at the right distance from the template and move the tool smoothly along the lines. 

5. Make a Router Table

Although mounting a router into a router table makes it less mobile, it also provides you with much more control. It sets you free from holding the tool and lets you hold the workpiece with both hands for higher stability. There are even several bit types, such as raised-panel bits, that are used only with a router table. 

6. Master The Main Cuts

Although a router offers virtually unlimited cutting capabilities, you need to start from mastering these cuts:

  1. 1
    Straight groove – grooves are everywhere, so learn them first!
  2. 2
    Dovetail joint – it’s the most common, universal, and beautiful carpentry joint.
  3. 3
    Routered edge – learn to hold the tool stably to make perfectly shaped edges.
  4. 4
    Template cut – templates let you batch similar parts in no time, so it’s important to learn how to use them.

7. Safety First!

Here are the main safety rules for using a router:

  • Wear safety goggles, hearing protection, and a respirator.
  • Don’t force the tool.
  • Secure the workpiece.
  • Unplug the tool before replacing the bit.

The Way It’s Meant to Be Used

You will be surprised by the difference in your workflow after adding these techniques and tricks to your wood routing workflow. Take a while to master your skill and enjoy super-smooth results in all kinds of projects.

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