Ready for a Router

I’m a beginner of 1-1/2 years. I think I’ve made everything that can be made without a router. I have no idea how to start learning about this. I own a router and a table, but I’m really flying blind. (I should also mention that I have a learning disability that makes it difficult at times for me to think in 3-D.) Any help would be deeply appreciated!

Michael Dresdner: If you have made everything that can be made without a router in under two years, you deserve to be in the Guinness book of world records. There are a heck of a lot of things you can make without a router, especially when you consider that tool is less than 100 years old, and we’ve been doing woodworking for thousands of years, some of it quite spectacular.

I think the larger question here, since you already own a router, is “what is the best way for each individual to learn,” and that varies greatly with the individual. For instance, some folks learn best from books, some from videos, some from personal contact teaching, and still others by trial and error. I think you need to discover which method works best for you, and pursue it.

There are several good books and videos on using and setting up routers, and there are some excellent courses and seminars on the subject as well. Folks like Bill Hylton, Carol Reed, and John Swanson have devoted big chunks of their lives teaching these things in books, video, on television, and in person. In addition, I would strongly suggest you join your local woodworking guild. If it is anything like mine, one of the primary tenets is that we use our skills to teach one another. Find a woodworking buddy who is adept at working with routers, but needs to know some of those many non-router skills you have perfected, and trade wisdom.

Ellis Walentine: The router is probably the most precise machine you own, but it can’t do anything precise unless either the machine itself or the bit or the work piece is controlled. Examples of bit control would be bearing-piloted bits, where the depth of cut is controlled by a precision ball bearing on the shank of the bit and the height is controlled by the height of the router base. This setup makes it possible to rout edges and rabbets with great precision and to trim pieces to templates. For most other operations, you need either a template and template bushing to guide the router, or a router table, which puts the bit in a controlled relationship to a fence and table top, or any of a zillion specialized jigs, crosscut devices and other contraptions that control the movement of the router or the work piece.

It is a huge topic, and many books have been written on the subject. I’d grab one of Bill Hylton’s books and work through it. You will be amazed at the level of precision and quality that you can obtain with a router. A whole world awaits you.

Posted in: