A Safer Way to Rout Small Pieces
Issue: Issue 101
Posted Date: 6/15/2004
His pieces were 4-3/4" square by 1/2" thick cherry. He wanted to put a 45-degree bevel on all four sides of the squares to create a dozen end caps. After using a push stick to accomplish this task on a router table, he thought there must be a better way. He didn't use a fence because the router bit had a guide bearing.
The first response suggested using a sacrificial fence of pine or MDF to guide the piece (precutting the opening in the fence or letting the router bit do it.) This would also reduce tearout. Deciding the most important issue was safety, another poster also strongly advocated using a fence. A fence's main virtue, to him, was allowing the woodworker to "sneak up" on the final dimension/profile without having to hog off the whole mass in one shot. And if a fence just wasn't available, a woodworker recommended clamping a good straight board or piece of MDF to serve as a fence.
A post suggested building a simple sled with a hold-down clamp & like the one used on the ends of rails and stiles. For really small stuff, another woodworker described how he made a sled to ride in the router table track and run along the fence. He described the sled as a simple 1/4" hardboard base with a backer glued/screwed to it perpendicular to the fence. A toggle clamp on the backer board held the workpiece which could then be safely run along the fence & without risking it getting jammed in the bit opening. For extra safety, he counseled sneaking up on the final depth of cut.
Taking a third approach, a forum member thought a starter/safety pin stuck into the table would make it easy to pivot each side onto the router bit and prevent the piece from being ripped from the push stick. Another poster, however, thought that larger curved pieces were better served with starter pins and believed the push blocks from a jointer were best suited to controlling the piece.
Other suggestions included:
- Use a "sacrificial" hold-down with the fence for really small pieces.
- Rather than cut the squares first, route the 45s on the edges of a long 4-3/4" x 1/2" piece, and then cut the squares & cutting the number of riskier router cuts in half.
- Get the GRR-Ripper® & a pusher system ideal for small stock. Another poster combined the GRR-Ripper with a miter gauge track.
- Check out an article on Routing Small Pieces.