Woodworking With Power Tools: Routers

Electric routers are among the most versatile tools in the woodworker’s arsenal. They are also one of the oldest power tools first appearing in the years after WWI. They’ve come a long way in the intervening decades.

Modern routers can handle almost any woodworking chore. Fitted with the right bit they can make rabbits and dados, cut mortises and tenons, form both sides of the dovetail, chamfer, roundover, flute etc, etc.

There are two basic types of routers: fixed base and plunge. The fixed base router is perfect for the use in a router table while the plunge base is ideal for a variety of free hand work. In addition to these two types, woodworking routers come in a variety of HP sizes and handle configurations. The router you need is determined by the kind of work you use it with most frequently. Many woodworkers, including myself, have more than one router. I actually have four, five if you count my Dremel. Why so many?

To answer that question let’s take a look at the kinds of work a router does in my shop:

oWhile I often use my table saw for large or deep dados, I prefer the router set up in the stationary router table for narrower slots such as those in a drawer side. I am more comfortable handling the thinner wood and shorter lengths on the router table.

oI also find it easier to round over or chamfer edges, or to form beads on the router table.

oWith the proper jig I can easily cut fingers for a box joint at the router table.
For these and other router table tasks I have a dedicated fixed base router than I can leave in the table ready for my next project. What about my plunge router? Well, actually I have two of these. One is 3.5 HP and the other is 2HP. One is kinda heavy and the other, not so much. How do I use them?

oFor serious stock removal i.e. cutting a door arch in 1 3/4″ wood calls for a big router with a big bit. I call on my 3.5 HP horse and equip with a long, thick cutter.

oEdge forming on a table top can be easily done with a lighter router and an edge forming bit.
Finally, I have a dedicated router for my dovetail jig. It’s true that any fixed base or plunge router can work with this jig but I appreciate the convenience of not having to swap out bits for each different step in the overall woodworking plan.

I didn’t buy all of these routers at once. Rather, I’ve collected them over the years. Some were bought new, some refurbished. If you give them proper care they will serve you for many years. {pixabay|100|campaign}