We just finished our biggest project yet--a floating computer desk (see project here). We made our own build plans which included sliding wood doors. To accomplish this we needed to rout two grooves which means we needed to use a router!
We have not had the opportunity to use a router yet so this was a big learning experience for us.
When using any new piece of equipment from the simplest to the most complex, we always read the instructions. If we need additional clarification, we head to the internet for tutorials and videos. Knowledge is the best defense against injury!
We were using a Dewalt router borrowed from a friend. Steph did all the research needed to learn how to use the tool safely.
After learning about the tool, we had to devise a way to rout straight lines without investing in a routing table and specialized equipment needed to do this.
Step 1: Make Straight Lines
The parallel lines we needed had to be perfectly straight. If we tried to move the router by hand in a line, it didn't work...
Step 2: Find the Right Router Bit
We actually won a set of router bits in an instructables' contest.
The most common router bit shank (bottom) sizes are 1/4” and 1/2” shank. Most routers have interchangeable collets (which holds the bit in place on the router). We know this because the bits we own are 1/2” shank bits and had to change the 1/4” collet out for the 1/2” which was also included.
Step 3: Use Scrap Wood As a Guide (fence)
We came up with a fence/guide solution using an old wood bed frame piece that we laid on the workbench to act as a fence. The frame had a raised edge on which the router could rest. The entire piece from raised edge to side was about 3” wide -- just right for our purpose. When we had to rout the second line, we used a piece of wood about 1/2” wide to put between our makeshift fence and board to be routed. It worked like a charm.
Step 4: Using the Router
We found that once the router was in place next to the fence, Vicki could simply and slowly push the wood to be routed into the spinning router bit.
Before we attempted to turn on the machine we practiced who was going to do what and what visual and auditory cues we were going to use. For example: Steph would say “are you ready?” and once she had control of the machine and was ready for the wood to be pushed through, she gave a simple nod of head.
Hands were kept out of the way using pushing tools (scrap wood) to direct the wood when we were getting close to the end. A verbal cue from Vicki told Steph to stop the machine as she could not see the ending line.
Wear the proper safety equipment. We both wore gloves, ear and eye protection and wore our steel toed boots. Steph found that she really needed a wraparound type of eye protection as the sawdust from the router is thick and flies far.
Step 5: Wood Grain Is a Big Deal
Let’s talk about wood grain. To novice like us, we didn’t think much about it, but there is a definite direction to wood and if you go against the grain, you’ll have nothing but trouble. We went through a couple of pieces of lumber before we realized we were cutting against the grain. Back to the internet we went to learn more about wood grain. Unfortunately, there is not one good way to identify grain. Again, educate yourself by reading tutorials, looking at pictures, and videos.
We found the grain on our particular wood, which was 'select pine' from Home Depot, by rubbing our finger tips up and down the piece. We found there was a definite bristle-ness to one side which was the "against the grain" side and a slightly more smoothness going with the grain. On the doors to our project, the grain was found by applying stain. Going with the grain the application was decidedly easier than against the grain.
Step 6: Make Sure You Have Straight Wood When You Buy It
We also learned quickly that most wood you buy is not straight. Wood with curves makes it really hard to rout straight lines. We learned to check each piece of lumber at the store and to keep looking until we found the straightest possible. Now we know why planers and joiners are very popular woodworking tools (might need to add this to our dream tool list)!
Step 7: Closing Thoughts
The router is the most intimidating tool we have used to date which made mastering the tool even more sweet! Was it easy? No. We were ready to give up after a couple of chewed up boards, creating curvy lines instead of straight ones, and the added stress of the router bit slipping out of place for no apparent reason. Would we use it again? Absolutely! It’s a great tool and when used with care, caution, and skill, produces amazing results!
Please share your experience with a router so we can learn more about using this tool!
Check out more projects at MotherDaughterProjects.com!