DIY Router Fence




About: We're Mother Daughter Projects, sharing our DIY adventures as we learn to maintain, improve, decorate, and use tech in our homes.

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!

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    15 Discussions


    2 years ago

    don't forget that you should always rout against the turn of the router bit! no climbing.

    3 replies

    Reply 2 years ago

    Yeah, It's safer that way. But sometimes It's better to feed along the
    rotation to reduce chipping, even with good-quality blades. For best
    result, rotation should go same way along the grain direction, which is
    why routing ellipses/circles are mostly routed from bot sides, with hand
    and by table. Also, when using bearing-guided bits, there is difference
    which is better suited by hand-or-table use. Here' couple photos about
    what I'm trying to say :D: (plus jointer-jig picture to give out idea how versatile tool router is)

    Now, If one feels unconfortable of feeding along rotation, don't. Any tool or method if being scary, shouldn't be done at all! :).


    Reply 2 years ago

    Well, that ellipse picture is routed only on table, not with both....oh well!


    2 years ago

    I notice you guys are wearing gloves. I am not sure what the "official" recommendation is but from my experience that might not be the best idea. I know it keeps your hands from getting pelted by all those little chips but at the same time it can be a hazard. You see the glove, any part of it, can be caught by the moving blade and instead of just taking a little bit of you it can pull your hand into the blade as the glove gets wrapped up by the bit. I used to often wear thin leather gloves while working with my table saw. Those wood chips and splinters can hurt. But a friend of mine who is a carpenter said I should not use them if I don't really need them. Sure enough one day I did have a close call. I was making some very precise cuts, working close to the blade. My hand was clear of the blade but the finger of the glove had come off a little and was sticking beyond my finger. The blade caught it and yanked my hand. Fortunately I moved fast enough to keep my hand out of the blade but it ripped the finger off the glove. I learned my lesson fortunately with out drawing blood. Be extra careful with a saw and a router if you wear gloves.

    2 replies

    Reply 2 years ago

    And using gloves reduces feel when pushing object to blade :)


    2 years ago

    Very few people clearly explained why their entry was Beyond the Comfort Zone. However, yours did and I voted for it.

    1 reply

    2 years ago

    Here are some of my tips:

    - When using pilot bearing bits, make sure the bearing is pushing against a smooth edge. Any bumps, glue specks, saw marks, etc, are going to telegraph onto your routed edge. A jointer, hand plane, or a long sanding block can used to clean up the edge.

    - When using pilot bearing bits, don't push too hard on really soft woods like white pine, aspen, or anything you can mark with your fingernail. The bearing can push into the wood and make a wave in your routed edge, and leave an ugly mark on the work.

    - Don't try to take all the material off on one pass. Take multiple light passes, or increase the bit depth a little bit at a time.

    - When using an edge guide, watch for sawdust to build up on the edge between the router base and the straight edge. It can throw off your line. Metal edge guides work best, aluminum works really well.

    - Not all router bases are perfectly round, or centered over the bit. Try not to rotate the router as it slides along a straight edge guide.

    - End grain can be routed, but it makes a difference which end you start on. You want the router bit pushing the grain into the board, not pulling it away. Clamp a piece of scrap against your workpiece to keep the grain from splitting away on the other end.

    - Don't plug in a router without holding it in one hand. They have so much torque, if plugged in with the switch turned on, they will jump off the workbench and dance around on the floor.

    - Don't push the bit all the way to the bottom of the chuck, and make sure the chuck and bit are clean and free of sawdust. This will help keep your router bit from starting to work loose.

    - Wear shoes, and a face shield. Routers can kick big chunks of wood under safety glasses. Plus it keeps sawdust out of your mouth.

    1 reply

    2 years ago

    I love routers, they are incredibly versatile tools that can open up a lot of possibilities!

    1 reply