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Woodworking routers are a commonly found tool used to make cuts, create edging, joinery and hollow out wood. They can also be used to execute flawless pattern work or joining work like dadoes and rabbets. With the ability to achieve these finishes, and more, it’s no surprise these tools are a household name for woodworkers. 

Whether you’re a newbie or a pro, you’ll find these machines are worth the investment. So, which router fits the bill for your project? Here’s a brief history of the machine, different types of woodworking routers, common uses and how to use them.

Brief History of Woodworking Routers

Woodworking routers

Pictured: CNC Woodworking Routers

The woodworking router was originally introduced in 1884 by American pattern maker, Henry Cope. It was a manual tool that consisted of a narrow blade projecting past a wide open base. This design was perfect for manually cutting V-shaped, flat-bottomed and rounded grooves, but it was limited to these uses.

The next development came in 1905 when the Kelley Electric Machine company produced the first electric hand-held power router, which was a whopping 27kg! Although, some say the first woodworking router was actually invented in 1915 by Jet Motor Hand Routers. Either way, the invention of the first hand-held power router was a huge step for the industry.

Another significant invention was the introduction of the plunge router. This machine was similar to the hand-held versions but incorporated the overhead cutting ability of a drill press. This design allowed users to lower the spinning cutter onto the material from above to create a more accurate finish.

The modern woodworking router has a more refined design and incorporates more technology than previous models. There are also a lot more tooling attachments available which allow users to create different cuts with one machine.

Uses for Woodworking Routers

In 1989 Jeremy Broun wrote a book titled “The Incredible Router” where he stated the woodworking router is the most versatile tool in the world, and for good reason. This tool can be used for:

  • Shaping decorative edges
  • Forming raised panels
  • Cutting grooves & slots
  • Carving signs
  • Making moldings & beading
  • Routing intricate rabbets, dadoes, dovetails & mortises
  • Creating holes
  • Custom cabinetry
  • DIY projects

Different Types of Woodworking Routers

CNC Woodworking Router

Pictured: CNC Woodworking Router. Source: Machines4U.

Traditionally, a woodworking router is a powered hand-tool that consists of a motor and spindle which rotates at high speeds. The router works by attaching a router bit to the spindle to remove the wood quickly. These small hand-held routers are simple to use and available at most hardware stores.

Larger routers are available such as:

These machines are often used in commercial workshops where fabricating is done on a larger scale. Router tables are stationary machines best used for cutting grooves, joinery or working with narrow stock. While overhead routers tend to have older technology than the newer CNC router machines, they are still a great option for precise cutting and mass-producing identical parts. The new technology associated with CNC routers, means they work to improve machining accuracy, increase safety during operation and reduce set up time when compared to older models.

With each of the different types of woodworking routers, you will also find a range of attachments available, called router bits, which will give you different functionality. These attachments allow users to achieve different cutting techniques efficiently.

How to Use a Woodworking Router

When using a woodworking router, you should always operate with safety equipment such as: eye protection, dust masks and hearing protection. This is to protect against any pieces of wood being discarded during operation.

To actually operate the machine, first you’ll want to attach your router bit. To do this, loosen the part which secures the router bit to the spindle called the router collet. Once loosened, you should be able to attach the router bit into it.

Once your router bit is attached, it’s important to remember which way the rotation of the bit is moving. This is because you will want to make sure the router is always moving opposite to the rotation of the bit. By doing this you are keeping the pressure against the wood and ensuring wood chips don’t fly back towards you during operation. 

Benefits of Woodworking Routers

Overhead woodworking router

Pictured: Overhead Woodworking Router. Source: Machines4U.

There are a host of benefits for using woodworking routers for your next project, these include:

  • Perfect edges—Wood routers are designed to ensure the perfect finish to your materials edge. These machines make light work of a usually tricky process.
  • Stylish moldings—You can create moldings for doors, baseboards, windows and cornices of just about any shape with the range of attachments available.
  • Easily cut dadoes—Dadoes are a slot or trench cut into a material. Typically this type of cut has 3 sides and is tricky to execute. Woodworking routers make this simple.
  • Carve wood—Routers can be used to carve wood to form a strong link when manufacturing doors, windows or cabinets.
  • Re-create patterns—With a woodworking router you can easily cut patterns, add grooves and make designs to match existing work. This allows you to repair damaged pieces of furniture with ease. 

 

  • Accurate repetition—Large overhead routers or CNC routers, are particularly good for repeating a pattern or cut multiple times on one piece of wood. This ensures wood isn’t wasted during production.

Things to Consider When Buying

Every router you encounter will come with different bells and whistles, and the right feature will help you get the value out of the machine. When buying consider features such as:

  • Variable speed—most routers are available with variable speed control. This feature allows the user to make the most from all router bits as some will operate better at higher speeds and some require lower speeds.
  • Electronic feedback circuitry—this feature allows the router circuitry to monitor the load on the motor so that the torque can be adjusted to match the required output from the machine.
  • Spindle lock—A spindle lock makes changing the bit on the machine really easy. This feature is particularly useful on plunge routers.
  • Above table adjustment—if you’re looking for a router table, it’s important to look for a machine that allows you to adjust the cutting height from above the table with a handle or knob. This will save you looking underneath and blindly trying to adjust cutting heights.

All in all, the type of woodworking router you choose will always depend on the type of work you’re looking to complete. Which woodworking router do you use? Let us know below.

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