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Best Wood Routers

Updated on April 7, 2011

If you plan to do anything other than the most basic woodwork, the need to shape wood in some way is bound to arise. Although this can be done by hand, a far simpler and quicker method is to use a router - a power tool that is one of the most versatile additions that you can make to your tool kit.

The router is essentially a very simple tool, in which an electric motor drives a revolving shaft-much like an electric drill, but with the shaft rotating at a higher speed (up to 30,000rpm). A simplified chuck on the end of the shaft - called a collet-accepts the shaft of a cutter which does the actual shaping work; a wide range of cutters is available for cutting different shapes.

The cutter protrudes through a hole in the baseplate which is attached to the body of the router. In use, the baseplate (or part of it) rests on the workpiece and the cutter removes material to a pre-set depth. This depth is governed by how far the cutter is set proud of the baseplate.

Choosing a router

There are two main types of router and before going out and buying one (like all power tools they are not cheap) you should carefully consider both types, then decide whether it is worth it. If you do not feel that you will use either type on a regular basis, it may be better to hire one as and when the need arises.

The simpler type of router has the baseplate fixed to the body by means of a screw thread or rack and pinion adjust­ment mechanism. To obtain a greater depth of cut, the adjuster is used to move the baseplate up towards the router body: to reduce the cutting depth, the baseplate is lowered away from the body. Once set for a particular cut, the cutter-or bit-protrudes permanently from the bottom of the baseplate.

The other type of machine is called a plunging router. Here, the baseplate is attached to the body by a spring-loaded mechanism so that as the operator applies pressure to the body the router becomes nearer the baseplate and the depth of cut is increased.

One advantage of the plunging router is that it makes it easier to form pocket or plunge cuts-shapes in the middle of a piece of material. It is also easier to use than the simpler type when cutting a deep groove that requires several 'bites' at the material. And a further point in favor of the plunging router is that it is rather safer to handle: when not in use, the cutter is retracted safely above the level of the baseplate.

All routers have fences and guides that enable you to work parallel to the edge of a piece of timber (or indeed along the edge of the timber). In general, you are unlikely to want to work far from the edge, so the amount of adjustment available on a fence is not of very great importance. When you do need to work away from the edge, there are other methods available for guiding the router.

One useful feature that you may like to look for however is a guide that allows you to rout circles .

Other types of router

Although the vertical hand-held plunging or non-plunging routers are the most popular types, there are other versions that may be useful for certain applications. Some routers can be fixed, upside down, underneath a bench, turning them into bench routers or spindle moulders. This does not affect the general operation but as with all bench-mounted power tools, it makes control much easier and therefore safer.

For some routers, a variety of different guides and attachments is available; examples are templates for making dovetail joints, or lathe-type attachments to enable you to make decoratively-turned table legs.


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