9 Router Tricks You Won’t Want To Forget
By: Chelsea Rodgers
You’ve heard us say it many times before, the router is one of the most versatile tools a woodworker can own. There are certain things about the router that you (should) learn when you make your first Router purchase, like, the key to routing clean edges are using a sharp bit and running the router clockwise. (If you didn’t know that, you’re future in woodworking is not doomed, just read our very first blog post – “How To Use a Router”.) Then there are those tricks you can do with the Router that no one tells you, until now. We’re going to fill you in on 9 tricks that will make your router REALLY TRULY the most versatile tool you own.
1. Flattening Wide Board
A huge, wide board makes a stunning tabletop. If it won‘t fit through your planer, flattening that board can be a lot of hard work. You could use a belt sander, but it’s much easier to use your router. Our Slab Flattening Kit (MLCS item # 8442) includes the router extensions that you can use for slabs and boards that are too wide for your planer. With this kit, nothing is too wide for you’re router!
2. Two Featherboards Ensure Accuracy
It’s best to use two featherboards, like the Dual Slide Motion Featherboards, (Eagle America item #415-7043) when cutting narrow moldings in order to get a straight, smooth cut. However, it’s almost impossible to safely feed the stock all the way through. The solution: make the molding extra-long and leave some uncut wood on the end, to serve as a handle. When you’ve routed as far as possible, tun off the router, remove the piece and cut off the handle.
3. A Better Way to Cut Small Moldings
It’s hard to keep thin or narrow stock from chattering while its being cut on the router table. For narrow strips such as this bead molding, it’s safer and easier to rout the profile with a safety tool like the Safety Small Parts Holder (MLCS Woodworking item #9542) or route the profile on a wide board then cut the edge off with a table saw.
4. Shape Thick Parts in Two Steps
The best way to make identical parts is to use a template and a top-bearing pattern bit. Most pattern bits aren’t very long, however, so you might think that you can’t use one for thick parts. You can, and here’s how: First, rout the bottom half of the part. Second, remove the part from the template and install a bottombearing flush-trim (MLCS item # 6513, #8813, #8814) bit in your router Adjust the bit’s height so its bearing rides on the surface created by the pattern bit, and you’re all set.
5. Rigid Routing Sled
You can’t beat a sled and a toggle clamp for coping the ends of rails and stiles, but many sleds have a subtle problem that produces a misaligned joint. The problem is with the base, which is typically 1/4-in. thick. Pressure from the toggle clamp causes the base to bend, resulting in a rail that’s not evenly aligned with its mating stile. The Professsional “deluxe” Coping Safety Sled(MLCS item # 9548, #8546) will eliminate the need to make the router table fence and miter slot parallel, no matter how small the cut.
6. Ramp-up for Easier Starts
Next time you make a template for pattern routing, be sure to include a starting ramp. This provides a safe place for the router bit to contact the template before it starts cutting. Add an exit ramp on the far end of the template, too.
7. Plug-Trimming Router Base
We learned this one from Popular Woodworking. A fast way to level screw-hole plugs. Make a new baseplate for your router using two pieces of 1/2-in. plywood or fiberboard. Adjust your router bit so it cuts a paper-thickness above the bottom of the baseplate, then rout the plugs. To make the plugs absolutely flush, sand them with a small piece of sandpaper wrapped around a hard block.
8. Chip-Free Bits
Spiral bits often make a smoother, more accurate cut than straight bits. An up-cut spiral bit (MLCS item #5099, #1731) pulls chips up and out, making it perfect for cutting mortises in solid wood. A down-cut bit (MLCS item #5089, #7389) pushes chips downward, ideal for making chip-free dados in plywood and melamine. (Down-cut bits are not recommended for use in a router table, however, because they can push the workpiece up off the table.)
A compression bit (MLCS item #5120, #7425) has spirals running both ways, up and down, pulling chips toward the middle of the bit. It’s the best bit for routing the edges of plywood or melamine–you’ll get a chip-free surface on both sides.
9. Perfect Miter Joints
Some contractor-style table saws don’t do a very good job cutting miters when the blade is tipped over to 45 degrees. The blade shifts out of alignment just enough to produce a burnt or out-of-square edge. If you’ve experienced those problems, try using a chamfer bit, like the ones in our Chamfer Router Bit Sets (MLCS item# 7685) which always cuts a precise 45-degree angle. The set gives you 4 different sizes so you’ll always have what you need.