How to Use a Wood Router? (Beginners Guide )

Before you can learn how to use a wood router, some safety info is necessary; always wear protective glasses, and make sure you’ve got dust and ear protection as well.

Also, make certain all the workpieces are clamped on and there’s sufficient space for you to work in. Also, read your owner’s manual.

Now that you’re ready, let’s get started.

Table Of Contents

Steps For Operating A Wood Router:

Step-1: Loosen the collet by turning the collet nut anti-clockwise and insert the router bit you want to use.

Step-2: Install the bit by tightening the collet nut clockwise. But remember don’t over tighten the collet.

Step-3: Turn the router switch on. It’s best practice to route on test wood before going for an actual workpiece.

Step-4: Make any adjustment if needed.

Step-5: Start routing the wood moving the router from right to left.

Operating a router handheld is great. However you can have more control and be able to use more powerful motor, if you mount it on a table. Moreover some of the cuts that aren't possible with handheld routing can be easily done with table mounted router. Check out our guide on finding the best routers for table mounting

Router Bits Basics: 

There are two types of router bits you’re going to use: high-speed steel and carbide tipped.

Forget about high-speed steel bits: most are cheaply made and without ball bearing pilots will just cause the wood tear. Carbide tipped are the best router bits for both beginners and preofessional.

Router bit shanks are available in two diameters, ½ in and ¼ inch. Lock up the collet on your router to find out which bit shank size it can work with.

Some routers can handle only one type while others allow you to switch back and forth. As a general rule, ½ inch shanks are better because the deflection is reduced, leading to cleaner cuts.

Whenever you need to change the bit you will have to go under the table if you are table mounting. And it can be really frustrating. A good router lift or a router with above the table height adjustment such as: Triton TRA001 makes changing router bits easy and accurate by providing above table height adjustment.

Cutting Geometry:

Routers are pulled on a wood board and cut the wood cleanly, but for the best results, you’ve got to get familiar with cutting geometry.

If you make top side cuts, the bit will spin clockwise, and if you use a bearing guided bit or router table fence, the rotation’s direction is going to pull the bit in tighter as your router is moved left to right on the wood.

But all of this gets reversed at the router table because you mount your router upside down, so when you spin the bit moves counterclockwise and you move right to left in the rotation.

Cutting Mortises With A Router:

There are many ways to do this, and what you can do here is nibble small parts, around 1/8 inches deep, in the wood (maple or oak preferable).

A potential problem is you could end up with a step on one of the cuts because of a slope between the base and motor. This is something that could happen if you make adjustments to the cut’s depth.

One trick to mortise smoothly is to use a spiral flute bit. Just set the bit on its depth cut, and put as many 1⁄8″-hardboard shims along the bit until only 1/8” shows.

After making a pass, remove a shim and keep repeating. Work between stops on the fence, and don’t move left to right as the bit could catch the piece and pull it.

Make A Door Hinge Notch Using Router:

This is easier to do with a router than a chisel as the following steps will show.

1. Support the wood door piece with a couple of sawhorses, the hinge side up.

2. Measure from the top of the wood to the top of the hinge, and do the same for the bottom. The measurements need to be the same.

3. Make similar measurements for the jamb and provide a ½ inch allowance between the jamb and the top of the door. Set a 1 inch gap between the floor and the bottom of the door.

4. Place a mortising template on the door’s edge near the hinges. Make the proper adjustments to the hinge size and use screws or nails to tack it on.

5. Set a bearing guided router bit on your router and set the cutting depth to the hinges’ thickness. Route the mortise along the template clockwise.

6. When you’re done, remove the template and the hinge should be okay. If you like, you can square the corners off with a chisel and hammer.

Bookcase Dadoes With A Router:

Dadoes (grooves) provide the strongest and cleanest support for bookcase shelves and cabinet sides.

There are many ways to do this but the simplest is to use a router and a straight bit, and also a jig. The jig doesn’t have to be fancy: a T square constructed from a 1 x 2 (2 ft.) that has been screwed on a 1 x 6 like Kreg KMA 2600 suare-cut will do.

The 1 x 6 needs to be a few inches lengthier than the wood you will router, and there needs to be an additional 1 ½ inches to fuse the 1 x 2.

Get some 1-1/2 in. wood screws to screw the jig and use a carpenter’s square to keep things even.

Grab your router and install a bit that corresponds to the dado width you want, as this will let you make the cut in a single pass.

After clamping the jig on a test piece, position the straight bit at ¼ deep and perform a pass on the right side of the jig’s T and in the wood.

If the measurements are correct, remove the wood test piece and put in the real thing.

Don’t forget to mark the locations of the dado and line the groove with the marks. Now you just need to clamp the jig and proceed.

You should only cut on the jig’s right side, pushing the router off you. When using a wood router, remember that the router bit’s turning direction should pull the base against your jig.

Notes On Cutting Patterns:

Patterns are handy and can be used to make several copies of virtually any shape using your wood router and a bottom-bearing flush trim router bit.

For the best results, go with a 1/2- or 3/4-in. fiberboard, particle board or plywood.

Avoid thinner materials because they won’t provide enough depth the pilot bearing can use.

Once you’re done cutting the pattern, smooth the edges and trace the shape on the piece you want to cut.

Now you can just cut the shape with your band saw outside the line (1/8 to ¼ in). Even if the cut isn’t that smooth, a flush trim will take care of that. Finally, use drywall screws to attach the pattern.

When it’s ready, flip it over, clamp and use the flush trim bit on the pattern to produce duplicates.

This is the first part of the how to use a wood router series. Hopefully many more will follow. Don’t forgot to let us know your opinion.