To the amateur woodworker, therere a plethora of tools that are available and it can all be a bit confusing. One of the most important of these is a wood router, adding one of these to your workshop is absolutely essential for being able to bring the creations in your head to life.
Who Needs a Wood Router?
Every woodworker will benefit greatly from one of these versatile tools being added to their shop. If you’re considering getting started in woodworking, it’s time to take a serious look at purchasing one if you want to do anything other than just framing.
Without a wood router, you’ll have to resort to primitive methods in order to attain some of the most vital cuts that can take your project from sloppy to fantastic. We’re talking methods like using a mallet and chisel, which are not only imprecise but will also take hundreds or thousands of times longer than using a router.
Why Buy A Wood Router?
If you intend to do anything more advanced than just nailing together frames, you want to purchase a wood router.
Let’s go through a quick scenario. You want to build a set of cabinets, and after cutting the wood for the framing you’ll need to do the following: cutting paneling to match, stylizing the front of the cabinet doors, and cutting a step into the back in order to ensure a perfect fit.
A router will easily take care of all of those tasks with minimal difficulty. You can cut your paneling a bit larger than necessary and make it fit perfectly with a single pass around each edge. Then you’ll be able to step the backs of the cabinets, to your exact specification, precisely the way you desire in minutes instead of hours.
Afterward, you can easily round the edges of the front of the doors, and stylize the front of the cabinets in any way you desire with virtually zero difficulty.
If you’re interested in joinery, even antique styles like dovetails, a router can make an involved task that will often waste materials a snap. You simply aren’t able to achieve the level of precision, and speed, that a wood router can give you with any other kind of tool.
Whether the work is precise like guitar making, or heavier like stylized door panels, a wood router is an absolutely essential piece of your workshop. If you haven’t used one before and have been disappointed with using hand tools, the difference in time and precision is absolutely astounding.
Really, in this day and age, if you’re engaging in carpentry without a router, you’re almost deliberately handicapping yourself. There’s a number of different routers out there to suit almost any budget or need, and the decision to make the leap is the one thing standing between you and making the projects you long to do a reality.
The Importance of Selecting the Right Router
Once you’ve decided to make the leap into buying a router, it might seem like there’s a bewildering number of options available. Don’t let yourself get confused and get caught up in the details, therere only a couple of key factors you need to keep in mind here.
The first of these is the size of the router. Wood routers can be separated into three sizes pretty much:
Trim routers are the smallest routers, and definitely the easiest to work by hand. They’re sufficient for a lot more work than the small size of the tool would make you think, but definitely not suited for truly heavy work. If you’re trimming paneling to size, or working with precise detail work take a look at one of these.
These tools are much larger than the smaller trim routers, and while they can be worked freehand it’s not something to be taken lightly due to the increased weight of the router. If you’re not sure if you want to invest in a router table yet, but need to handle some heavier work this is what you’re looking for.
Full Sized Routers
These tend to be extremely large, and it’s pretty rare that you’ll want to be using them free-hand. They tend to be extremely powerful and have collets that are at least ½” making them perfect for heavy duty projects. You’ll definitely want to be looking at a router table if you choose to use one of these amazing tools.
The size is really the most important consideration to take into account. While all of these tools are technically wood routers, their potential uses vary quite a bit. Trim routers are generally the most beginner friendly, they’re easy to use by hand.
One thing to keep in mind, though, is that there are two essential features for any router used by a beginner. The first of these is a soft-start, which means the motor spools up over a couple of seconds rather than immediately reaching top speed. Router motors tend to have some serious horsepower, and without this feature, you risk injury or ruining your project immediately.
The second is a variable speed. Routers are powerful and one that runs at a single speed will be suitable for only a small sampling of the different wood types available. If the RPMs are too high for the wood you’re using, you’ll actually end up burning the wood, which is unsightly and hurts the structural integrity of your project.
On the other hand, if the RPMs are too low, you’ll receive a lot of resistance which can make things frustrating and unsafe. The perfect RPM will cut with virtually no resistance and leave the wood only slightly warm to the touch after you make a pass with the tool.
Select the right router for you, and the amount of time and materials you save will leave your wallet thicker and with more free time. The benefits are astounding.
A Couple of Trusted Brands
The brand of power tools you decide on can help you to determine a lot about the quality. When it comes to a router, this is essential as generic tools are pretty much never the best option for such a vital tool in your workshop.
Two of the most trusted brands in the wood router game are Bosch and DeWalt. While they’re pretty similar in quality at the same price-point, therere a couple of distinguishing features to keep in mind.
DeWalt routers tend to be better for handheld use, and a bit cheaper. They generally don’t have quite as much power as a similarly sized Bosch, but they’re more likely to have additional features like LED lighting and a clear base which makes them easier to use without a table. If you’re intent on not using a router table, they’re the clear winner.
Bosch routers tend to be a bit more powerful than any other brand in a similar size. They also tend to feature wooden grips, which look nice but can be kind of a pain when you’re actually using them. If you’re going to be using a table, though, they come out as the clear winner.
Most woodworkers will find themselves handicapped with only a single router, we’d recommend some sort of DeWalt compact router for usage by hand, and a full or mid sized Bosch router to place in your table in order to get the most out of your tools.
Why Buy a Router Table?
The decision to buy a router table is definitely a personal one, and it truly depends on what type of work you’re intent on doing. If you plan on doing heavy work, or extremely precise joinery you’ll want to make the investment.
By using a router table, you’ll be able to make incredibly precise cuts while utilizing the fence properly. Simply adjust the fence to where you need it, turn on your router, and make the pass. Routers are already precision tools, and once you have one in a fixed position you’re definitely going to be impressed with the results.
You might be tempted to build one yourself, and that’s certainly an option. It’s generally better to buy a pre-made one, though, they’ll be more precise and safer than almost any homemade table. Remember that routers, especially larger ones, are extremely powerful tools and even momentary contact with a bit in motion can result in serious injury.
The advantages to using a table over just holding your router are enormous. Cutting into thick wood can be a bear of a task if you’re trying to do things without one, and you simply can’t be quite as precise if you’re doing things in this manner.
While trimming paneling is quite easy working freehand, as is any “cut-to-fit” type of work, you definitely want the added precision on larger pieces. Joinery, especially, will benefit from moving the wood over a bit in a fixed place, you can set your depth and make clean, reliable cuts every time.
Take a bookshelf, for instance, a deviation of only a couple of degrees in where the shelving is going to fit can result in a useless piece since things will slide off the shelves. Using a router table and a fence you can make the straight cuts you need reliably in a single pass, without the risk of user error.
They’re not essential for all tasks, but if you’re serious about your woodworking they can be almost as essential as the wood router itself. There’s even a couple of them that can fit onto an existing table saw, which can save space in your workshop and allow you to keep these essential tools in the same place.
A router table is an investment that you certainly won’t regret, and they’re generally not that expensive. If your workshop is cramped for space, definitely consider one that can attach to a table saw, but a dedicated router table is the best option for most of us.
As you can see, every workshop that likes to work with wood pretty much needs a wood router, and possibly a router table depending on what kind of work you prefer. If you’re new to the carpentry hobby, there’s no reason to hesitate, add one or two of these essential tools to your workspace and enjoy a whole new level of making your woodworking dreams come true.