The other day I was routing a little nameplate plaque for my daughter’s bedroom. It’s fussy and slow-paced work. I first cut the letters following a paper template, then pull the template off and rout them even deeper. Not a job you can rush, and it’s one that definitely takes a sharp eye.
I was using a RIDGID R2401 trim router for the job. Aside from its compact size, which I really like, it’s got an LED light underneath to brighten up the area you’re routing. In this particular project, that feature was flat-out indispensable.
Maybe it’s my mid-40s vision starting to go … I’m resisting that sinking feeling that bifocals are finally unavoidable. Or maybe my shop just plain doesn’t have enough light these days. Whatever the reason is, I’m appreciating tools with built-in worklights now more than ever.
Woodworking is anything but a simple craft. Every technique, finish option, tool choice or species of wood has innumerable issues related to it. “Can I cut a rabbet with a spiral bit?” “Should I try waterbased poly over rosewood?” “What’s the best size of air compressor for both fastening and spraying finish? “How do I keep end grain on a walnut blank from tearing out when I turn it?
You get the picture. Start a project or try something new and the questions surface, no matter what.
Traditional inlaying is a fine skill to learn, but sometimes there’s more than one way to skin the same cat.
Here’s a little technique to try if you’d like to embellish a project with a narrow band of solid-colored inlay. Could be a neat way to add a “racing stripe” or a little border detail to a project that befits it. All you need is some aniline dye powder and ordinary five minute, two-part epoxy. I’ve used several different brands of epoxy with equally good results. Any dye color you like will work fine. Heck, you can mix and match different dry colors if you like to get just the shade you want.
Time and chance happen to all woodworkers — sometimes to tragic ends, sometimes to the good, and, sometimes, just to the bizarre.
One such bizarre event happened to me many years ago when I was working in my father and uncle’s woodworking shop. In addition to custom cabinetry, we did a fair amount of production woodworking — pattern-routed items like round picture frames, fish filleting boards and other items that would now be cut on a CNC router. Not so then. Instead, we had a huge (six feet tall, eight feet front to back, and easily five feet across) 20hp over-head automated router that had a pneumatic infeed table and a couple of hard rubber drive rollers that propelled awkward-looking patterns. This setup was state-of-the-art at the time, but if you were to look at it now and compared it to today’s CNC systems, it would be evocative of the steam era of auto transportation, compared to today’s Lamborghinis.
One afternoon, I was working my way through an interminable stack of red oak blanks, routing a full 1-1/2″ roundover on a circular plate holder. That is a mighty big router bit and a monstrous cut — but this machine could handle both with ease. Or, at least, that is what I thought.
A few weekends ago, I ended up proving a point to myself without really setting out to do it. I needed to make a couple of boxes, and I wanted a quick but elegant solution for joining the corners together.
As it turns out, I’ve been a little delinquent lately in getting my tool test tools returned to their proper owners. It’s been pretty busy here in the shop since Christmas, and those shipping tasks keep getting pushed further down my to-do list. So, I still have the Keller 1601 Pro Series Dovetail Jigs here from our December ’09 dovetail jig review. My bad, but actually, a good coincidence.
Remember those old Wisk detergent commercials where the announcer would disdainfully point out “those dirty rings!” Here’s the woodworking equivalent: those dirty plys.
With the exception of Baltic birch and its various likenesses, where the plys are generally uniform and pretty enough to show off, we don’t want to see those “bad” plys on most projects. Particleboard edges are just as much a faux pas to leave bare. You can get away with it on a shop project, but not on a finished cabinet. At least MDF edges, which are generally left au naturel, kind of blend into their surroundings unnoticed.
Do you ever run across one of those super-simple woodworking products that makes you wonder why you didn’t think of it yourself? A lot of folks are feeling that way about Rockler’s new Bench Cookies. Here’s a link if you haven’t seen them already:
But, I ran across another smart idea the other day while testing a bunch of cool dovetail jigs. (You’ll read more about that in our December print issue, so stay tuned!) One of these jigs requires several guide bushings, and they came with a little gift from router heaven: a spring-steel washer.
Bill Hylton surveys two full-featured router tables in Today's Shop.
There’s a December issue of Woodworker’s Journal headed to your mailbox soon, and this issue is dedicated to one of our all-time favorite tools: the router. Here’s the inside scoop on what you’ll find.
Whiz-bang Router Tables: Bill Hylton takes a close look at two of the industry’s “top-shelf” router tables in “Today’s Shop,” and he discusses how installing a router in a table can help you take new “routes” in your woodworking projects. If you’d rather build your own router table, Sandor Nagyszalanczy has designed a versatile horizontal router table, and we’ll provide the measured drawings and step-by-steps so you can build one for your shop.
Sutherland Tools Bevel Boss takes all the guesswork out of setting accurate cutting angles.
About six years ago, I was building some outdoor furniture with lots of angles to them, and the closest thing I had to an angle-setting device was my speed square. No offense to you hard-core carpenters out there, but frankly, a speed square seems better suited to rafter tails than woodworking.
I always felt like I was plus or minus a few degrees on my cuts, which just wasn’t cutting it, so to speak. I needed something more accurate that I could really trust.