Router dos and don’ts
Avoid these five pitfalls for router success
Anything that spins at 25,000 rpm presents both great potential and great pitfalls. That’s certainly the case with routers. They let you create interlocking joints, decorate project edges and even duplicate parts with amazing precision. But to enjoy these benefits, you have to be aware of five hidden challenges and how to deal with them. Once you get over these, it’s easy to make friends with your router.
Don’t rout the wrong way
You’re not likely to make this mistake often, but it bears mentioning for beginners. Wood must always encounter the bit travelling against its direction of rotation. Since all routers spin the same way, success boils down to a simple rule: move all handheld routers from left to right; feed wood across a table-mounted router from right to left. Get this wrong, and the router bit will grab the wood and fling it instead of cutting cleanly. Climb cutting is a specialized operation in which wood is intentionally fed in the same direction as bit rotation. Although this technique has some benefits, it’s tricky and unnecessary. Don’t bother attempting it.
Don’t bite off too much
You can buy a brand new 31/4-hp router for $100, and with this much power in your hands, it’s tempting to rout too deeply in a single pass. But ease up, even if your router has the power. Any cut of 3/8″ or more should be made with multiple passes; take even shallower cuts if the profile is wide or your router is smaller than 21/4 hp. Your router and bit will last longer, and the quality of cut you achieve will be better too.
Don’t rout too slowly
Cutters on a typical router bit hit the surface of routed wood about 800 times each second, and the potential for friction and heat buildup is high. The heat can cause burning on the wood, especially when you’re putting a decorative edge on hardwoods such as oak, maple, ash and beech. The solution is to reduce the number of cutter impacts on a given section of wood by moving your workpiece across the bit more quickly. Tip: rout all the wood off the edge profile except for about 1/32″. Extend the bit enough to take this final, very shallow pass, then complete the cut quickly. The wood won’t even have a chance to get warm, let alone burn.