Options for Breaking Edges?

How do you guys break edges? I understand that this may be personal preference, but do you take the time to rout or shape, say, a 3/16″ or 1/8″ edge, or do you use a hand style edger, or a sander, or hand sand? Question really centers around what looks the best (in general) and consistency on different parts of the project. – Keith Deck

Tim Inman: How do I break the edges? Appropriately. It really depends upon the design of the piece you’re working with. Some furniture may need a quarter-inch rounding over on the edges. I have a friend who just can’t get enough Mission style furniture. Although not my personal favorite, Mission/Stickley/Roycrofters furniture would indicate a larger radius over the edges. Other styles have higher and sharper “arises” on the corners and edges. To severely round them over would be wrong. A swipe of sandpaper would do. Long story shorter — I think the radius has much more to do with style and design than functionality. I’d say break the edges appropriately to the style of the piece.

Chris Marshall: I break or “ease” almost every edge or corner on my projects that someone will be able to feel after final assembly. For me, adding a roundover or chamfer does a couple of important things. First, it makes a corner or edge more pleasant to touch — and that’s what people like to do with attractive woodworking projects … touch them. Breaking edges often imparts shadow lines that make a project look like you attended to even the smallest detail and gives your eye something more to study and admire. An eased edge will resist chipping or splintering better than a sharp intersection, and it won’t hurt as much if you bump it with a shin, hip or elbow. I tend not to exaggerate broken edges by making them too big. Mine are often 1/8-in. or less in profile. The bigger they are, the more amateurish I think they look — like someone went “hog-wild” with a router. I use a small roundover or chamfering bit in a trim router or grab my low-angle block plane for this task.

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