How to Use a Router – Easy 5-minute Starter Guide

A wood router can be quite complicated at first glance, but if you take the time to learn how to use a router, you will quickly see that a woodworking router is an indispensable tool in the workshop.

To use a woodworking router properly, you will need to take a few consecutive steps:

  • Determine what type of wood router you need for the project you’re working on.
  • Choose the correct router bit.
  • Wear personal protective equipment to prevent accidents.
  • Secure your work.
  • Install the router bit and set the correct depth.
  • Control the speed of the router.
  • Rout wood in the right direction, going from left to right.

Here is a simple guide that will go into more detail on all these points and will help you get to know the wood router better to get the most out of this tool.

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What Is a Wood Router?

A woodworking router is a power tool that creates ornamental edges or grooves in wood using a shaped router bit. Routers are available in a variety of forms and sizes.

Routers are a tool that may be used in a variety of ways. They may be used to round over wood, produce dados, and cut wood. You can even use them to cut plexiglass; read my post “how to cut plexiglass” for more information.

They will be really useful in your workshop, but they do have a disadvantage. They can be dangerous, particularly if you don’t know how to use a router. This post will give you the greatest tips and techniques, in addition to reading the manufacturer’s instructions, so you will know exactly how to use a router.

Do I need a wood router?

In one word, yeah! Investing in a woodwork router is a wise decision since they are really useful. Even before I had a table saw, I purchased a palm router as one of my first power tools.

Whether if you want to router wood, cut slots, or shape edges, I utilize the wood router on almost every project. Rounding wood edges by hand is doable, but will take a lot of time.

They are, however, capable of much more. A wood router can add ornamental touches to your products, flatten table surfaces, cut them, and so much more using a custom router bit.

What kind of wood routers are there?

Like I have said before, there are several types of routers, from hobby routers to professional routers. You need to understand that there are three basic types of routers: trim routers, fixed-base routers, and plunge routers. They may come in different sizes.

One of the big differences between these types is the collet and shank. I will tell you more about it later in this article.

Trim Routers

DeWalt DWP611 trim router

Check out more details and prices of this product by clicking the link below.

Trim routers are tiny routers that can usually be operated with one hand. They’re also known as palm routers or hand routers. They are available in both a power corded and a battery-powered version.

Because of their smaller motor, they don’t do well removing a significant quantity of stuff at once, in my experience. I’ve used mine to make little grooves and trim edges.

Trim routers come with ¼ inches (6 mm) shanks.

If you are looking to buy a trim router, my article, “Compare & Find The Perfect Palm Router | Top 5 Best Buy Guide”, can be a great guide to help you find the trim router you need.

Fixed Base Router

Bosch MRF23EVS Fixed base router

Check out more details and prices of this product by clicking the link below.

Trim routers and plunge routers are combined into fixed-base routers. Once set, they cut at the same depth every time. You can’t raise and plunge when routing wood, unlike a plunge router. They normally have two handles on each side, allowing two hands to hold and control them. They’re normally bigger and stronger than trim routers, but smaller than plunge routers.

Fixed base routers come with ¼ inches (6 mm) or ½ inches (12 mm) shanks.

Plunge Router

Makita RP2301FC Plunge router

Check out more details and prices of this product by clicking the link below.

A plunge router is just a router with a spring that allows you to plunge the bit into the wood and then raise it out again. This comes in handy when routing wood and needing to elevate the bit in between carvings.

Plunge routers come with ½ inches (12 mm) shanks.

Ebook part 1 woodworking basics

Router Basics and Safety

When working with a router for woodworking for the first time, it’s critical to understand certain router basics.

Protect yourself

The first and most critical consideration is your safety. As a result, it is always advisable to carefully study the manufacturer’s instructions in order to have a better understanding of the equipment.

Because your safety is key, I’ll provide some guidelines for using a woodworking router safely.

Wear safety goggles and earplugs at all times. Routers are noisy, and splinters and sawdust can fly and injure people.
Make careful you’re not caught in the spinning blades. As a result, take off your jewelry and avoid loose clothes. Wearing long hair in a ponytail is another excellent suggestion.

You can use the woodworking router if you’ve taken these measures. For this reason, I’ll provide you with some pointers to ensure your safety when using this tool:

  • When using the woodwork router, keep both handles in your hands. This allows you to keep command of the tool.
  • When the router leaves the wood or starts milling, avoid getting too near to it.
  • Instead of one deep pass, do multiple shallow passes. Cutting too deeply might cause the router to fly away, resulting in a loss of control. It safeguards you, your work, and your router.
Tip: Keep a first aid kit in your workshop

When you work with power tools, you better be prepared for any accidents. Make sure you have a first aid kit in your workshop. Discover how to put together a first aid kit in this article.

secure your work

When routing your material, the last thing you want is for it to shoot off at a rapid rate and with a lot of force. Make sure it’s secure on your workbench before you begin.

Clamping your material in place is one option. However, the clamp can get in the way, which is a disadvantage. A milling mat with a non-slip surface can be used to overcome this problem. You may work along all four borders of this mat without hindrance.

However, I like to operate in a manner that makes me feel the most secure, which for me means clamping the workpiece. For me, the feeling of safety takes priority over efficiency, which is why I occasionally have to reposition a clamp.

If you have no idea which clamps to use, check out my article, “What Woodworking Clamps Do I Need? 3 Essential Clamps + Helpful Tips.” for inspiration.

An alternative, that I sometimes use, is to place the workpiece on a sheet of plywood and surround it all around with pieces of residual wood and screw them to the plywood. This way, the workpiece can be fixed without the need of using clamps.
The disadvantage is that this method does require some preparation and time.

start at the right place

The place where you start will affect the end result. It is therefore recommended to always process the edges with the cross-grain first.
As the bit leaves the end grain, it may chip the adjacent edge slightly. If this happens to your workpiece, you will be able to get rid of the damage or chipping when you mill that edge.

Routing Direction – Do you push or pull a router?

When milling an edge, the milling direction is very important. Only if you move the wood router in the right direction can you work safely and achieve the best results. To see the complete explanation on what router direction you should use, check out this article.

While it may seem complicated, and many people using a wood router for the first time may be confused by this, it is actually simple.
To get started, turn on the router momentarily and see which direction the bit is spinning.

From this moment on, the direction is easy to determine.
You have to walk in the opposite direction of the direction the bit is turning.
So if you’re running the router along the outside edge of a board, you’ll need to cut counterclockwise.

If you move in the right direction, the router will not climb while cutting.

However, there is an exception to this rule.
Suppose you had to work the edges on the inside of a picture frame, then you would have to reverse the direction and rotate it clockwise.

Router bit shanks

Before continuing, it’s vital to go over the words “collet” and “shank” for a moment. The metal sleeve of a router into which you put a router is known as a collet. The shank of a router bit is the component that goes into the router. These parts are normally available in diameters of ¼ inches (6 mm) and ½ inches (12 mm) depending on the type of woodwork router you choose.

How To Use A Router – Easy 5-Minute Starter Guide - Difference between shank and collet
How To Use A Router – Easy 5-Minute Starter GuideDifference between shank and collet

Trim routers, for example, will always have a ¼ inch (6 mm) shank, whereas plunge routers will have a ½ inch (12 mm) shank.
You get two benefits from the wider shaft. It aids in the stabilization of the bit undercutting pressure, resulting in a cleaner cut. It also provides a greater surface area for the collet to grasp, reducing the possibility of the bit falling free.

Basic Router Bits to Know

For the edge finish you desire, there are more router bits than you can think of. Anything is conceivable, whether it’s a simple finish or a complicated, exquisite edge. But do you really need all of these router pieces, though?

The answer is “No!” You’d spend a lot of money on it just to use a couple of router pieces.
It’s best to spend your money on a few router bits that you’ll use frequently, and you can create unique edge finishes by combining them.

I published a separate essay about the 5 most critical router pieces, which you can find here: “5 Most Important Must-Have Router Bits For DIYers”.

How to use a router step by step

If you are new to a power tool, such as a wood router, in this case, it is always a matter of looking for how to use a router correctly.

That’s why in this section I’ll walk you through the different steps you need to take to properly use the router and get you up and running safely in minutes.

Keep in mind that, when preparing the router, you be sure it is unplugged from the wall, or in case you have a cordless router, you remove the battery.

Install Router Bits Properly

When the bit is applied to the edge of the material, it must rotate smoothly to provide a precise edge profile. Therefore,  The bit must be installed appropriately in the router.

Always check the router’s and router bit’s manuals to determine how deep the router bit should be put in the shaft.

The second step is to ensure that the router bit is properly secured once it has been placed. Otherwise, the router bit may get loose, break, harm the workpiece, and injure someone.

Routing Depth

Setting the depth is another important point.
Before you start working for real, it is always important to make a test cut. After that, you can still adjust the depth.
It is also recommended to reach the correct depth in 2 or more steps. By making the first cut(s) shallower, you will avoid overloading the router or router bit and avoid burn marks.
With a final pass, you can set the correct depth so that you have a clean finish where any burn marks can be removed.

variable speed

The motor in a router can spin at up to 25,000 revolutions per minute (rpm). The speed of the motor on most routers can be adjusted based on the type of router bit you’re using. As a result, double-check the suggested speed for the router bit you’re using.

how to prevent tear-out while routing

When routing a board, it’s common for the end of the board to split. This is because you’re switching from end grain to side grain. You may avoid this by following a few simple guidelines.

Try one of these strategies to reduce splinters while cutting:

Begin cutting on the end grain of the board with light passes.
In the second phase, route the board’s side.
When you rout the side grain, you’ll be removing damage from the end grain.

Another way to prevent tear-out is to attach a scrap piece of wood along the edge of the stock you’re routing.
The scrap wood protects the side grain on your woodworking item in this way.
It prevents the item from splintering in many circumstances.

It’s crucial to go gently while you’re doing additional finishing work and know how to use a trim router.

What can I do with a wood router?

You’re ready to use a wood router, now that you’ve obtained all of this information.
I’ve compiled a list of the most critical techniques you can perform with your woodwork router because I want you to get the most out of it.

Wood Router Technique 1: Edge-routing

Cutting a nice edge on your workpiece can be a time-consuming job if you want to do everything by hand. With a router, you can produce an even, beautifully finished edge every time in a very short time. Both straight and curved edges can be provided with the edge finish you want without any problems. Can’t find the right bit for the finish you have in mind? Then try if you cannot obtain the desired result by using several router bits one after the other.

Wood Router Technique 2: cut dadoes

A dado is a slot or trench used to support shelves in a bookshelf or cabinet without being seen. A dado is the most durable way to attach shelves, and it’s cut with a straight bit on a router.
You may easily cut dados by sliding the wood router along a straight fence or a piece of timber glued to your workpiece.

I developed a router jig a while back that makes making dados with a router a breeze. My YouTube video here shows the end outcome.

The tool makes it simple to cut the two most frequent types of dadoes. First, a dado passes through both sides of a surface while leaving the ends open, and second, a stopped, or blind, dado, which finishes before one or both cuts hit the surface’s edge.

Wood Router Technique 3: Cut perfect patterns

Routers are ideal tools for carving patterns, lettering, and making grooves in the wood.
Because they are manually operated, you can easily change the cutting direction at any point.

With a custom router bit and a little practice on freehand routing, you can turn a dull wooden sign into a true work of art.

Can a router cut through wood?

Yes, a router with a straight router bit installed can be used to cut wood. A big advantage is that you can make sharp turns, and it leaves nicer, cleaner edges than when you cut with a jigsaw.

A router is used to cut wood more often than you think. In fact, a CNC is an automated machine that uses a router to cut the object to some desired shape.

So if you want to cut wood with organic shapes, you can use a wood router for sure. Just keep in mind that the process of cutting wood will take some time. The fastest way to cut wood is still the table saw or plunge saw.

Tips on how to use a router

  • I know I mentioned it earlier in this article, but it bears repeating because it is crucial: When using your router, always feed it from left to right to ensure that the cutter blade makes adequate contact with the wood being machined. Keep an eye on the blade as it rotates clockwise.
  • Keep your hands out of the way of the router. Clamp components to your workbench to keep your hands out of the way during routing. If you’re using a router with two handles, use both hands. The only router you should use with one hand is a trim router.
  • Never run the router into the wood unless it is set to the correct depth. The wood will be burned as a result of the quick turning blade.
  • Make use of sharp bits. Use sharp, high-quality router bits. Chips, burns, bogging down, and backlash can all be caused by crappy components. For cleaner and safer cuts, use sharp router bits.
  • Dust extraction hoods are now standard on most contemporary routers. To eliminate dust and debris, these are placed around the cutter blade. Use these as often as possible. It will keep the dust out of your lungs and will make your tool last longer.
  • Before you start routing, take a look at your board. Examine the area in which you intend to route. If you find cracks, nails, or loose parts, don’t route. This can harm your project or, in the worst-case scenario, cause it to fly away and put you in danger.

Router Jigs

To get the most out of your wood router, you can utilize router templates or jigs. These jigs might let you make more precise edits or use a wood router in ways you wouldn’t imagine.

I hope you have found all the information you need in this article on how to use a router. Thank you for reading this post, and be sure to come back regularly to check out my new published articles.

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