If you’re looking for an all-purpose tool that can perform a variety of tasks in your workshop, a router will fit the bill. Basically, a router is nothing more than an electric drill. But one difference between a router and a drill is that the latter uses a bit to bore into materials. A router, on the other hand, uses a sharp cutting bit to do its job. The cutting bit is located on the bottom of the machine. Knowing which bit to use for each application is just part of knowing how to properly use a router.
Before you use a router for the first time, you should read the owner’s manual from cover to cover to acquaint yourself with this type of electric tool. Pay special attention to the “Safety Precautions” section of the manual so you’ll know how to properly use the router without risking injury. Better yet, ask a family member, friend, neighbor or co-worker who has experience using a router for advice.
To start with, you’ll need to choose the bit that’s right for the job. They are either “edge” or “non-edge” bits. Edge bits have small wheels attached to their bottoms. The wheels roll along the edge of the wood, hence their name. Non-edge router bits are used for cutting, drilling and carving anywhere inside the perimeter of the wood.
Once you have chosen and installed the bit you want to use, you’ll need to securely clamp down the piece of wood you’re working on. (Make sure the wood is dry and free from knots.) Then, put on a pair of safety glasses or goggles and a dust mask for protection. Place your feet in a comfortable stance. Then, plug the router in and flip the power switch. Grab the machine by its handles with both hands. A router runs at a high rate of speed, so you’ll need to hold it steady while you work. (You can always use an edge guide to help control the router so your work doesn’t get ruined.)
To properly use a router, begin at the left side of the wood and work your way towards the right since the cutting bit of this tool usually rotates clockwise. This will help prevent the wood from splintering. You’ll need to control the back-and-forth movement, but don’t press down on the router. Let the sharp bit do its job. Even if the cuttings or grooves are shallow on the first pass, don’t push down in an effort to make them deeper. It’s better to cut away a little at a time with a router.
Make sure that you move the router in a smooth, flowing manner. Avoid quick, jerky movements. Not only can these ruin your work, but they can also cause injury too.
As with everything, “practice makes perfect.” The more you use a router, the better you’ll become at handling it. Just remember to wear eye, nose and mouth protection and heed the rules, and you’ll properly use a router safely.