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How to use a Router

Skill Level: Beginner

Introduction

The router may be thought of as the ultimate portable power tool. Without this amazing tool many tasks and jobs would be extremely difficult for the non-professional.

 
The power router is both beautifully simple and outstandingly versatile. As on all power tools, it heart is an electric motor which turns a spindle. It’s most important feature, however, is the motor’s very high speed – between 18,000 and 27,000 rpm, compared with the maximum of 4000 rpm given by power drills. This is what allows it to handle such an enormous variety of grooving, rebating, shaping and other cutting jobs in wood, plastic and even soft metals.

 

Power Details and Specification

A router’s power is from 300 to 2000W. Naturally, the more powerful models are meant for professionals and are more expensive. The power sets strict limits on the amount of material you can cut away without overloading the motor. A 300W model will make a groove 6mm square in one go, whereas a 600W motor allows a 10x6mm groove.

 
This means that some jobs take a bit longer with a low powered machine, because you need to make two or three passes instead of just one.

 

Collet Chuck

At the end of the spindle is a “collet chuck” into which you fit the bit (also called a cutter), very much as you fit a drill bit into into a drill chuck. A collet chuck, however, is tightened with a spanner, or a locking switch. Collets are made in three main sizes, to accept bits whose shank diameter is 1/4, 3/8, or 1/2in. 


Overhead Routers

The “overhead router” used in industry is a fixed machine, suspended in a large stand – like an enormous drill stand, but fastened to the floor – and lowered onto the work piece with a lever. On the portable router, however, the motor is mounted in a frame or “carriage” with handles, in which it moves up and down as you adjust it. This frame has a flat base, through which the bit projects to make the cut. In operation you generally rest the base on the work piece, and move the machine along bodily – though you can fix the machine and move the work piece instead.

Portable Routers

Portable routers are either fixed base or plunging models. A fixed base router is lowered into the material with the bit already protruding from the base, after you’ve got it to protect the required amount by adjusting the height of the motor in the carriage.

Plunging Router

With a plunging router the motor is on sprung mountings, and this means you set the projection (ie the depth of the cut) in two stages. First you lower the motor until the bit just touches the work piece, and you rotate one of the handles to lock it in position. Then, on most models, you simply adjust the height of the depth bar – a sliding or threaded vertical rod fixed to the side of the motor – so that, when you “plunge” the motor right down to cut, the lower end of the rod will meet the base of the carriage and prevent you going any deeper than you want. Lastly, you turn the handle the other way to release the motor so that it springs right up, back to its original position.

Switching on

That done, you’re ready to start cutting. This is a straight forward matter of positioning the router where you want it, switching on, and pressing down fully on the handles to plunge the rotating bit into the work piece. Then you turn the handle again to lock it there, before running the tool along to do the actual job. When you’ve finished, you just use the handle to unlock it, allow it to spring back up, and switch off.

Using the Router Correctly

If the sound of the router motor drops from a high pitched whine during a cut, you’re probably trying to work too fast – or cut too deeply. The harder the material and the wider the bit, the slower and shallower each cut will have to be to avoid straining the motor. The general rule is to cut no deeper than the diameter of the bit.
 
A smell of burning may mean that you are cutting too slowly. The important thing is to acquire a feeling for the tool’s natural cutting rate.
 
But either of these symptoms may denote a blunt bit instead. So may a “furry” finish, or difficulty in pushing the router along. And remember that, as with any other tool, the texture of your material matters. In solid timber, the grain may dictate the direction in which you have to move the machine for a clean cut.

Safety First!

As for safety, remember that a power router runs at a tremendous speed. Treat it with respect. Wear goggles to protect you eyes from whirling dust. On a plunging router, always release the lock after a cut to let the bit spring up out of the way. Unplug the machine whenever you are not using it – and keep it in a cupboard.

Tools you will need:
15 Piece Router Bit Set 12mm Dia Shank Tungsten Carbide
15 Piece Router Bit Set 12mm Dia Shank Tungsten Carbide
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