How to Use a Router

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How to Use a Router

A router is a power tool, meaning that it runs on electricity. It comes equipped with a shaped cutter, which is used in order to make decorative mouldings and grooves for joints, among other tasks. A router is a necessary tool for carpenters. Routers are versatile tools that can be used for many purposes, so most carpenters have at least one router. As with most power tools, a router may become dangerous if handled in the wrong way, and therefore it is important to follow the instructions in the router manual. Safety is the first and foremost factor to bear in mind when using a router, but it is also important to know the main features of routers and the operations they can perform. Only if one is familiar with the router can one get the best out of it without doing any harm. Routers can be bought from some high street craft shops, but it may be easier to find them on online auction sites, such as eBay.

Router Safety Tips

A router has a very sharp blade that spins at high speed. Therefore, the fingers should be kept at a safe distance from the blade at all times when working with the router. The cutter should never be pulled from the router by the cutting edges if the hands are unprotected, because these edges are extremely sharp. Users should never undertake an operation with a router if there is any doubt about exactly how to proceed, because it is better to be careful than to put oneself in danger. The more complex operations can be attempted with the machine once more experience has been gained.

Preparing a Brand New Router

If the router is brand new, the protective wax should be removed from the cutter with care. Pulling it off may cause an injury because of the sharp edges. It is better to carefully cut the wax with a sharp knife and then prise the coating away. Before using the new cutter, the user should wipe off the protective oil, in order to prevent it from transferring to the work surface.

Ear and Eye Protection

Even for short periods of time, ear protection always should be worn when routing. The router generates a high-pitched resonance that can leave the ears ringing for hours afterwards if no protection is worn. Moreover, safety goggles should be used as well, in order to prevent sawdust from getting in the eyes. Additionally, a face mask may be worn in order to avoid inhaling the dust.

Feeding the Router

The feed direction refers to the direction in which the material is fed to the cutter or the cutter into the material. The material is fed to the cutter if the router is mounted on a table, while hand-held cutters are fed into the material. Choosing the right feed direction ensures safe and efficient operation. The direction is usually marked on the router. As a general rule, the feed direction is against the rotation of the cutter. Routers tend to rotate in a clockwise direction, and this also influences the direction of the cutter. Following the wrong feed direction may cause the router to drag along the material that is being worked on, because of the strong forces that are involved in the cutting.

Climb Cutting

Climb cutting is an operation that should only be performed if the router operator is confident and has had enough practice with the router. It involves moving the router slightly in the wrong direction and then moving it back again, and is used for cleaning the cut edge. This should be done with extreme care, because routing in the wrong direction may cause the cutter to rip the material away from the worker, causing the operator's hand to get caught in the cutter.

Varying the Router Speed

Some routers, especially the modern models, have variable speed settings. The speed can be adjusted with a slider or a thumbwheel. A recommended speed chart can also be attached to the router. A speed chart lists the recommended speeds for different types of wood, in revolutions per minute (rpm), also indicating which marking on the slider or the thumbwheel should be chosen.

The Importance of Constant Feed Speed

Maintaining a constant feed speed is beneficial in many ways. It helps to improve the finish of the cut face, prevents cutter damage, and minimises the wear on the router motor bearings, thus prolonging the life of the tool.

Choosing the Feed Speed

The feed speed is greatly influenced by the material, as well as by the available router power and the cutter's condition and type. The wood's density, type, variations in texture, and grain direction all have an effect on the feed speed. In time, any woodworker should acquire the ability to judge if the router speed is proper and that the motor is not labouring too hard. A wider cutter is generally slower than a narrow cutter, although extremely narrow cutters require a relatively slow feed speed in order to prevent breakage.

Cutter Diameter (mm)

Maximum Recommended Speed (rpm)

Up to 25

22,000-24,000

25 to 50

18,000-22,000

50-64

12,000-16,000

64-89

8,000-12,000

The chart above lists the recommended speeds for different cutter sizes. The larger the cutter, the lower the recommended speed. However, the speed should always be checked with  reference to the router's instruction manual.

Working With Templates

Templates are patterns that can be used when many identical parts are required. If a template is used, one can produce an exact replica of a part later as well, and this can prove to be very useful. Templates can be used in two ways: with a guide bush in the router base, or with a bit that is equipped with a guide bearing.

Using Templates With a Guide Bush

For using a guide bush, a straight cutter is the best tool. With a guide bush, the finished parts differ from the template in size. If the guide bush follows the internal edge of the template, the created parts are smaller. If the guide bush follows the external edge of the template, the finished pieces are larger than the template. This should be taken into account when choosing the template size.

Using Templates With a Guide Bearing

If the cutter is guided by a bearing, the finished parts have the same size as the template. The bearing can be located at the top or at the bottom of the cutter, and this location determines how the template should be used with stock material. If the bearing bit is mounted at the top of the cutter, the template should be located above the stock material that is to be routed. If the bearing is mounted at the bottom of the cutter, the template is placed under the stock material. In both cases, the bit depth is then adjusted, so that the stock material and the template are in contact. The bearing follows the template shape and removes excess stock material.

Buying a Router on eBay

You can start looking for routers on eBay by typing "woodworking router" into the search box found at the top of any eBay page. Including the term "woodworking" is recommended, because "router" is also used to refer to a type of computer networking device. Once you receive the initial search results, you can further narrow them down by choosing the item's condition and specifying its location. The closer the seller is to your location, the more quickly you can receive the router, and you can also arrange a local pick-up if both parties agree. As routers are quite large and heavy machines, you can save money if you buy from a local seller, because delivery does not have to be arranged.

When looking for a suitable router, check the detailed item listing in order to find out if it cuts the type of wood or other materials that you intend to work with. Should you have any doubts, feel free to contact the seller and ask. Be sure to enquire about the router's safety as well, especially if the router has already been used. If the seller has previously used the router, he or she may be able to give you some useful tips on its operation.

Conclusion

A router is a power tool that is used in woodworking. It comes equipped with a shaped cutter, which is used to make grooves for joints as well as decorative mouldings. A router is a versatile tool preferred by many carpenters. Being a power tool, it can be dangerous if mishandled. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the necessary safety measures to take when using a router.

The cutter blades are very sharp, so it is important to stay clear of the cutter. While preparing a new router, the protective coatings should be removed carefully in order to avoid injuries. During operation, both the ears and eyes should also be protected because of the dust and noise.

A router should always be fed according to the manufacturer's instructions. The feed direction is against the rotation of the cutter, and most routers tend to rotate in a clockwise direction. If the router is fed in the wrong direction, it may result in injury to the operator.

The speed of the cutter should be chosen according to the wood type, density, grain, and texture. A speed chart is usually included in the router's manual.

Templates, or models for different shapes, are commonly used in order to create many exact replicas at once. They can be used in two ways: with a guide bearing or with a guide bush. The size of the replica relative to the size of the template depends on which of these two ways is used.

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