• MLCS Woodworking

How To Use A Router

Updated: Jul 16, 2020

written by Chelsea Rodgers

The router is an incredibly versatile machine, that gives endless possibilities when it comes to edge cutting and joinery. With a tool this powerful, if you’ve never used one before it can be a little intimidating. So, we put together some tips to help you get started and route with confidence!

Introducing the Router

Routers have two categories: fixed base and plunge base. When you have a router with a fixed base, once the bit is locked in place, it stays at a “fixed” position. This means that the depth is set and is not adjustable when in use. Typically, the fixed base on the router can be removed, making bit changing easier, deeming the fixed base router most preferred by woodworkers.

On the plunge base router, once the bit is locked into place, it can then plunge in and out of the material. With the plunge base router, you have the advantage of making different cuts that have distinctive starting and stopping points. The plunge router is useful when making mortises, dadoes, or even adjustable shelf holes in cabinets.

If your still stumped on which router is for you, don’t worry you can get them both! The Rocky 30 Trim Router is available in a kit including both the fixed and plunge base. Giving you the best of both routing worlds.

The Need For Speed, Variable Speed

The more you use your router you will quickly come to find that variable speed is crucial when it comes to safely routing. When working with large diameter bits, the rpm (revolutions per minute) needs to be lowered. For safety measures, you cannot use large diameter bits and full rpm. Look at this speed chart for your reference (and remember this is not exact speed can change with feed rate and material hardness):

Quarter or Half Inch?

The shank is the solid part of the bit that goes into the collet of the router and is secured with the collet nut. Router bits come in 2 different shank sizes, ¼” and ½”. The larger shank sizes can have its advantages. It can help stabilize the bit under cutting pressure, resulting in less chatter and a nicer cut. The larger shank size also give the collet more surface to grab on to, giving a less chance that the bit may come loose.

Installing Bits

The first step in changing router bits Is most important and sometimes overlooked. Make sure the router is unplugged. It will save you from busted knuckles if you remove the router base first when installing and removing bits. When putting a bit in the router you want to make sure you place it so that 2/3 of the shank is inside the collet, then tighten collet. Another way to determine proper installation of the bit is to insert the shank into the collet until it hits the bottom, then raise the bit off the bottom bit (1/16” to 1/8”) and then lock it in position.

Ready To Route

When it comes to routing, remember S.P.D.S. Secure, protect, direction, and spot. When routing, the first thing you always want to do is make sure your work is secure in place. The last thing you want is to have your work go flying across the shop. Use the Merle Band Clamp (#9013) and the PowerGrip Routing Mat (#9902) to hold your work securely in place.

Once you have everything in place, grab your Protection. Get your eyes and ear protection on and then you are ready to plug your router in. Which now brings us to Direction. Before you start routing, remember to always go in the CORRECT DIRECTION. To use your router safely, you need be aware of what direction you need to follow. If you need to route the outside edge,, you want to go counterclockwise. If you need to route the inside edge, you want to move clockwise. Remember the direction changes when table mounting the router VS hand holding the router. When table routing and putting cutting the outside edge of a work piece you will be feeding the work clockwise

Here’s where Spot comes into play. When routing, you always want to make sure to START IN THE RIGHT SPOT. When you are cutting a piece with multiple edges, it’s important to make the cuts in the right sequence. Start at the end grain so that you automatically clean up any chipping along the way.

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