Like them or loathe them (and there are some that do, mainly because of the noise generated) the router is the most adaptable and versatile machine in the woodworker’s arsenal. There’s no other power tool capable of machining repeated, highly accurate profiles which is the reason why they are so popular.
Common Features of all Routers
All routers work in a very similar manner, that is a cutter is gripped in a collet which is in turn attached to the spindle of an electric motor. A pair of parallel steel shafts enable the motor housing to slide vertically up and down with the result that the the cutter can be plunged into the timber. All routers are supplied with a fence which means that the machine can be registered against the workpiece, ensuring a straight cut.
The constant removal of a large, powerful router from the underside of a table is an unenviable task. It’s best left permanently installed so that it’s ready for instant use when the need arises.
That said, these very large, heavy machines are unwieldy beasts which become awkward and somewhat dangerous for hand-held use, so it’s very desirable to have an additional smaller, or mid sized machine to use at the workbench.
There is a vast range of router cutters available to suit all applications from machining a simple rebate to the most complex joint profile. Smaller sizes usually have a shank diameter of ¼“ with larger cutters having a diameter of ½”. When using a small cutter the speed of rotation should be high with the very largest diameter bits running at a maximum speed of 12000 rpm. This ensures that the peripheral speed of the cutting edge remains approximately the same, regardless of whether a large or small cutter is used.
The capabilities of the router are immense and are further increased by the use of jigs, for example to cut hinges, staircase treads and slots or mortises as well as a whole host of other applications. Use a router in a dovetail jig and almost instantly the user will be able to make a wide variety of different corner joints. Perhaps the most useful application is when a router is inverted and used in a table. Using a large, dedicated machine in a router table enables different sorts of machining tasks to be done which might be difficult or dangerous to do with a hand held machine.
With the caveat of proper use and adherence to correct H&S procedures (which applies to all machinery) the modern router, together with its accessories, is unrivalled in it’s versatility and is the most indispensable power tool of any sort tool available to the woodworker.