How to Use Router Bits

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A router is a handy little tool that is used to modify and shape the edge of lumber stock. The varieties of tips are many and their tasks can vary greatly from cutting a large circle in a sheet of plywood to shaping your own molding. Following is a brief survey of what can be done with a router and a small selection of tips.

Things You'll Need

  • Router
  • Router bits
  • Safety glasses
  • Workbench or sawhorses
  • Insert a straight- cutting bit into your router. There is a lot that can be done with this simple tip, so this is a good place to begin. Be aware that this type of tip, although round in appearance, will cut a straight line when using a guide. Most routers come with a ready-made guide or you can put together on your own.

  • Make a dado cut right down the middle of your board. It is important to set the tip of the bit exactly to the right depth. Choose a router tip that it is the same width of the groove you wish to make. If the groove is wider than your widest tip, then you will have to make more than one pass. With careful manipulation of the guide, this should not be very difficult. Most routers will come with a ready-made guide that makes this a simple task. Make a test run on a spare scrap of wood to make sure the depth and the placement of the cut is correct.

  • Secure your board to a workbench or sawhorse and then run the router from one end of the board to the other. If you don’t have a guide, you can nail a strip of square molding to the board that you are cutting and use this for a guide. When placing a homemade guide remember that the distance from the bottom edge of the router to the outside edge of the tip should be the same as the distance from the wooden guide to the edge of the groove. Once this guide is set up you can gently pull the router through the wood. Start the tip spinning before you begin the cut and pull the router through the length of the board in a gentle steady speed and your cut should turn out fine.

  • Cut a dado type groove at the edge of the board. This is actually referred to as rabbet joint, but the process is almost identical. You will be cutting the edge of the board with the same tip as you used in step 2. First, set the depth in the same way as you did in step 2. In a rabbet joint the depth and width are often equal so pick a bit with the correct width if you have one. If you don’t you can use a larger bit and compensate for the difference when you attach your wooden guide. Typically, if the board you are cutting is ¾ of an inch thick, the rabbet groove will be 3/8 of an inch deep and 3/8 of an inch wide.

  • Give the edge of a board a rounded edge. This requires a different tip, one that you would use in making cove molding. These tips, when run along the outside edge, will leave a convex curve to the wood. You can make a partial or a complete cut with the curved tip. With a complete cut, your tip will have to be at least ¾ of an inch deep, so that it can pass completely through the board. You can also use a wooden guide as explained or step two or use the guide that comes with your router. It is also possible to just round off one corner of the board. This is similar to planing the corner of a board with a block plane, but a router cut will definitely look better.

Tips & Warnings

  • Making your own guide is often a good way to go even if you have your own guide that came with the router. The chance of slippage is reduced when you make a guide that is the length of the board.
  • Keep your bits sharp and in good shape.
  • Wear safety glasses at all times. The router tip spins at a very high rate of speed, so caution is needed.
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