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Routing Tips

Properly handled a router and the multitude of bits that fit it can make difficult machining easy. Try this proven ideas to improve your routing operations.

Submitted by WOOD community member WOOD Magazine StaffSubmit a Shop Guide
  • At-a-glance profile of router bits

    It often requires a second glance at a router bit to select the correct cutter for the desired shape. For a reference of the bit profile, rout an 8" length of scrap material with each bit. Crosscut the profile to a shorter length. With hook-and-loop material, hang the profile near the respective bit. Then hold the profile to the end of your workpiece before you make any cuts. Always return the profiles and bits to the correct storage spots.


    -- from the WOOD® magazine shop

  • A speedy way to rout multiple mortises

    If you cut a lot of mortises but you don't own a mortising attachment for your drill press, don't spend hours chopping the mortises by hand. Here's a solution: Use a plunge router with these simple jigs, and you can cut mortises as fast as you can rout them. Glue and nail together two jigs as shown in Step 1. Make them about 4'" longer than your router base plus the length of the mortise.

    Turn the jigs so the stops face in opposite directions and loosely position them in a bench vise or Workmate. Slide the board to be mortised between the jigs, with the centerline of the mortise as shown in Step 2. Align the two stops so that the distance from the mortise centerline to each stop measures half the length of the mortise plus half the width of your router base minus half the diameter of your bit.

    Tighten the vise or Workmate, extend the mortise centerline across the supports, and tack each stop to the opposite support. Attach an edge guide to your router, center the bit on the workpiece, then rout the mortise. The centerline markings on the supports enable you to quickly align the next workpiece.


    -- Ronan Cambridge, Ottawa, Ont.

  • Scrapwood shapes give router needed support

    Edge-routing narrow, curved workpieces becomes a challenge without a router table. The router keeps tipping, digging the bit into your work and spoiling it. From scrapwood the same thickness as your workpiece, cut straight or curved supporting pieces about 1" wide. Arrange them around your workpiece as shown, and then rout away. With the router riding on both the workpiece and the supports, you'll avoid nicked edges and chewed-up corners. Be sure to make the supports the same height as the workpiece. If you use double-faced tape to hold the workpiece in position, for instance, use it to hold your supports, too.


    -- Alex Polakowski, Skokie, Ill.

  • One hand works best when tightening collets

    A tight collet prevents your router bit from slipping up or down and ensures safer routing. But those tight collets don't loosen easily. When tightening or loosening router collets, you actually can gain more leverage with one hand than if you used two. Here's how.

    First, position the two wrenches so they fit within your grip. Squeeze the wrench handles together to tighten or loosen the collet. Doing it this way, you won't bang your knuckles together.


    -- from the WOOD® magazine shop

  • Template and router speed up shelf notching

    Notching a shelf to fit tightly into a stopped dado sure takes a lot of time. Isn't there a quicker way?

    You can cut notches quickly and accurately with this simple template and a flush-trim router bit. Cut the template from 1/2" Baltic birch plywood or any other high-quality hardwood plywood without voids. Make it as long as the width of the shelf and wide enough so you can rout the notch without the router baseplate bumping into the clamp (usually about 4"). Next, cut the notch in the template. Size the width of the notch as deep as your stopped dado and size the length to match the dado setback.

    Now, align the side and front edges of the template with the shelf edges and clamp the template where shown bottom right. Chuck a flush- trim bit into your router and rout your notch. Reposition the template on the other end of the shelf and rout again.


    -- Ray Brown Jr., Boulder City, Nev.

  • Bent nail prevents damage to your router's guide bushing

    Template guide bushings for your router can jam tightly after just a little use. If you can't unscrew yours with your fingers and you don't want to rough up the edge of the bushing with a pair of pliers, try this simple technique using a bent nail.

    Drill a 1/8" hole on the edge of the bushing close enough to the center to clear the threads underneath. Then, the next time your bushing sticks, simply insert a bent finishing nail in the 1/8" hole and push the other end of the nail counterclockwise against the center shaft on the bushing. The leverage from the nail will loosen the bushing easily.


    -- Henry Borger, Brooksville, Fla.

  • Table-rout long workpieces "crown down"

    When molding long workpieces on a router table, the workpiece must be held flat against the table and fence in order for the router bit to cut a consistent, smooth profile. Even with the help of feather boards, bowed workpieces used to cause me fits because they wouldn't lie flat. Narrow stock, which nearly always has some bow in it, was always the worst.

    To cut consistent profiles on bowed stock, examine these workpieces and place them with the bow down where shown top right for best results. This takes the spring out of the board that occurs with the crown of the bow up. Use feather boards, but holding the workpiece firmly against the tabletop and fence at the router bit requires much less pressure with the crown facing down.


    -- from the WOOD® magazine shop

  • Extension table pulls extended duty

    To save space, I already have my router mounted in the extension wing of my tablesaw. But when I wanted to build a downdraft sanding table, I figured out a way to get triple duty out of the extension.

    First, I cut a second acrylic insert the exact size of the one for my router. Then, I marked out and drilled a gridwork of 5/16" holes spaced 3/4" apart in the insert. Next, I built a dust box as shown at right. Finally, I glued the box to the bottom of the acrylic insert.

    Now when I need to sand a project, I lift out the router, drop in the sanding insert, connect the dust-collection hose, and sand away. My shop stays cleaner, and I still have room to move around.


    -- Martin Beijer, Castak, Calif.

  • The key to matching keyhole slots

    Aligning two keyhole slots on a mirror frame or shelf used to frustrate me. If the holes weren't the same distance from the top of the frame, I found myself offsetting the wall hangers to compensate for the crooked keyholes.

    To make the cuts consistent, I fashioned the jig shown at right from 3/4" stock. The movable stop allows me to bore slots as far as 8" from the top of the frame. Once the stop is set, I simply center the jig on one of the vertical frame pieces and clamp it in place. With my plunge router (with keyhole bit) in the near end of the jig, I plunge, slide my router along the jig until it contacts the far end, then back out of the cut. I then clamp the jig to the other vertical frame piece without moving the stop and repeat the process.


    -- Don Thomas, Defiance, Ohio

  • Micro-adjust plunge depth without an on-board scale

    For setting precise plunge depth on my router, I often use a gauge of the same thickness as the desired routing depth. You can use almost anything for a gauge: a piece of scrap or a drill bit that's the desired thickness or diameter.

    First, lower the motor and bit until the bit just touches the benchtop. Then lock it in position. Place a gauge on top of the turret stop, lower the plunge router's stop-rod down to the gauge, and lock the rod in place. When I remove the gauge and unlock the plunge mechanism, the router is ready to plunge to the correct depth.

    Need to rout just a smidgen deeper? I reset the stop rod using the same gauge and an automotive feeler gauge to fine-tune the depth.


    -- A. C. Bouchard, Peabody, Mass.

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