What to Use a Router for Woodworking

Woodworking is a craft that requires skill, precision, and the right tools. One tool that stands out as a must-have for any woodworker is a router. This versatile power tool can be used for a wide range of woodworking tasks, making it an essential addition to any workshop. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced woodworker, understanding the versatility of a router is key to unlocking its full potential.

A router allows you to shape and mold your wood projects with incredible detail and precision. From creating decorative edges to joining pieces of wood with strength and accuracy, the possibilities are endless. With the right router and techniques, you can take your woodworking skills to new heights.

In this article, we will explore the many ways in which you can use a router in your woodworking projects. We will delve into the different types and features of routers available, providing guidance on how to choose the right one for your needs. We will also cover routing basics for beginners, as well as advanced techniques for those looking to expand their woodworking repertoire.

Whether you are looking to enhance your woodwork projects with decorative edges, create custom mortises and tenons for durable joints, or achieve smooth curves and profiles on wood surfaces, a router is the tool for the job. Join us as we unlock the full potential of a router in woodworking and discover how it can elevate your craftsmanship to new levels.

Choosing the Right Router

When looking to invest in a router for woodworking, it is essential to understand the different types available and their various features. Each type of router offers unique advantages and is designed for specific woodworking tasks. By choosing the right router, you can ensure that you have the tool best suited for your projects and achieve high-quality results. Here, we will explore the different types of routers and their key features.

Fixed Base Routers

Fixed base routers are one of the most common types used in woodworking. As the name suggests, the base remains fixed while the bit protrudes from it. These routers are typically lightweight and compact, making them easy to handle and maneuver.

They are well-suited for tasks such as edge profiling, dadoing, and slotting. With their simplicity and ease of use, fixed base routers are an excellent option for beginners or those who need a router primarily for basic woodworking tasks.

Plunge Routers

Plunge routers, on the other hand, offer more versatility than fixed base routers. They feature a spring-loaded base that allows you to plunge the bit into your workpiece at any point. This makes plunge routers ideal for tasks such as making grooves, mortises, or intricate designs with varying depths. The ability to make precise depth adjustments during operation sets plunge routers apart from other types.

Combination Routers

For woodworkers who require both a plunge router and a fixed base router but do not want to invest in two separate tools, combination routers offer a convenient solution. These routers come with interchangeable bases that can be easily switched between fixed and plunge functions without needing additional tools or equipment.

Aside from considering the type of router, there are also important features to consider when selecting one for your woodworking needs:

  • Power: Ensure that the router has enough power to handle your projects. Higher horsepower routers are typically more versatile and can handle larger bits and tougher materials.
  • Variable Speed: Having the option to adjust the speed of the router allows for better control, especially when working with different types of wood or different bit sizes. Look for routers with variable speed settings for added flexibility.
  • Ergonomics: Consider the comfort and ease of use when handling the router. Look for features such as comfortable grips and efficient dust collection systems to enhance your overall woodworking experience.

By understanding the different types of routers available and considering their features, you can make an informed decision when choosing a router for your woodworking projects. Selecting the right router will not only enhance your woodworking efficiency but also ensure that you achieve precise and professional results every time.

Routing Basics 101

Understanding the Router: An Overview of its Functionality and Components

Before delving into the step-by-step guide for woodworking beginners, it is essential to have a clear understanding of what a router is and how it functions. A router is a versatile woodworking tool that rotates a cutting bit at high speeds, allowing woodworkers to shape and hollow out wood with precision and accuracy. It consists of several key components, including the base, motor, collet, and cutting bits.

The base of the router serves as a stable platform that rests on the surface of the workpiece. It can be adjusted in height to control the depth of cut. The motor powers the rotating motion of the router bit, generating the force needed to remove wood material. The collet is a small sleeve that holds the cutting bit securely in place within the motor shaft.

There are various types of cutting bits available for different applications – from straight bits for shaping edges to spiral bits for creating decorative patterns. It is important to select an appropriate cutting bit based on your desired woodworking project. Additionally, routers often come with additional features such as variable speed control and depth adjustment mechanisms that provide greater flexibility and precision when working with different materials.

Step-by-Step Guide: Using a Router for Basic Woodworking Tasks

Now that you have an understanding of what a router is and its key components, let’s dive into a step-by-step guide on how to use a router for basic woodworking tasks. Here are some fundamental steps to get you started:

  1. Prepare your workspace: Clear your workbench or table and ensure there is ample space around you to move freely while operating the router.
  2. Secure your workpiece: Use clamps or vises to secure your workpiece firmly onto your workbench or table. This will prevent movement during routing.
  3. Choose an appropriate cutting bit: Select a suitable cutting bit for your desired woodworking task. Ensure that the shank diameter matches the collet size of your router.
  4. Adjust the depth of cut: Set the desired depth of cut by adjusting the height of the router’s base. Start with a shallow depth and gradually increase it until you achieve your desired result.
  5. Test the routing path: Before routing on your workpiece, it is always recommended to test the routing path on a scrap piece of wood. This will help you ensure that you are comfortable with the motion and direction of the router.
  6. Begin routing: Hold the router securely with both hands and align the cutting bit at the starting point on your workpiece. Slowly turn on the router’s motor and allow it to reach full speed before moving along your predetermined routing path.
  7. Practice steady movement: Maintain a consistent and steady movement speed while guiding the router along your desired route. Avoid stopping or hesitating during this process, as it may result in uneven cuts or burn marks on your workpiece.
  8. Finish and clean up: Once you have completed your routing task, turn off the router and wait for it to come to a complete stop before setting it down. Use sandpaper or a file to smooth out any rough edges or imperfections left from routing.

By following these steps, beginners can gain confidence in using a router for basic woodworking tasks. As you become more comfortable with these fundamental techniques, you can experiment with advanced features and explore various applications of routers in woodworking projects.

Creating Decorative Edges

One of the most popular uses for a router in woodworking is creating decorative edges on woodwork projects. Adding a decorative edge to a piece of furniture or other wooden object can instantly enhance its aesthetic appeal and give it a unique and personalized touch. With a wide range of router bits available, woodworkers have endless possibilities for creating beautiful and intricate edge designs.

To create decorative edges, you will need to select the appropriate router bit based on the desired design. There are many different types of router bits specifically designed for creating various edge profiles, such as roundover, chamfer, cove, ogee, and many more. Each type of bit will produce a different style of edge, allowing you to customize your woodworking projects to your liking.

Once you have selected the right router bit, it’s important to properly set up your router for the task. Make sure the depth of the bit is set correctly so that it cuts through the wood at the desired depth. It’s also important to secure your workpiece firmly in place before routing to ensure clean and precise cuts.

Router BitDescription
Roundover BitCreates a rounded edge profile.
Chamfer BitProduces a beveled edge at an angle.
Cove BitMakes concave-shaped edges.
Ogee BitCreates an S-shaped profile.
Beading BitAdds small decorative beads to the edge.

By using a router to create decorative edges, you can transform ordinary woodworking projects into stunning masterpieces. Whether you want a classic, clean look or a more intricate and unique design, the versatility of a router allows you to achieve your desired results. With practice and creativity, you can take your woodworking skills to the next level and create beautiful pieces that showcase your craftsmanship.

Joinery Techniques

Joinery techniques are an essential aspect of woodworking, allowing craftsmen to join pieces of wood together with precision and strength. A router is a versatile tool that can greatly assist in achieving high-quality joinery. Whether you’re building furniture, cabinets, or other wooden projects, understanding the various joinery techniques that can be accomplished with a router will greatly enhance your woodworking skills.

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One popular joinery technique that can be achieved with a router is the dado joint. This joint involves cutting a groove or channel into one piece of wood, which then receives the end of another piece of wood.

Dado joints are commonly used in bookcases and shelving units to create strong and secure connections between shelves and sides. To create a dado joint with a router, use a straight bit and guide bushing to accurately cut the groove into the wood.

Another common joinery technique is the dovetail joint, known for its strength and aesthetic appeal. The interlocking shape of dovetail joints provides exceptional holding power, making it ideal for drawer construction, box making, and cabinet doors. Using a router with a dovetail jig allows for precise and consistent cuts when creating these joints. By adjusting the depth and cutting angle of the router bit, craftsmen can tailor the dovetail joint to their desired strength and style.

Lastly, butt joints are frequently used in woodworking projects to connect two pieces of wood at right angles. While butt joints may not have the inherent strength of other joinery techniques such as dovetails or mortise-and-tenon joints, they can still be strengthened by using additional support from screws or dowels. A router can help achieve clean and square cuts when preparing the ends of boards for butt joints.

Routing for Inlays and Dovetails

Introduction to Inlays

Inlays can add a touch of elegance and artistic flair to any woodworking project. Whether you want to create intricate designs or simply enhance the beauty of your woodwork, incorporating inlays can take your craftsmanship to the next level. And with a router, it becomes even easier to achieve professional-looking inlays.

Creating Inlays with a Router

To begin, you will need a pattern or template for your inlay design. This can be as simple as a hand-drawn sketch or a pre-made template. Once you have your design ready, secure it onto the surface of your workpiece using double-sided tape.

Next, select an appropriate router bit for the inlay design. A straight bit or a spiral up-cut bit is commonly used for cutting grooves for inlays. Make sure that the diameter of the bit matches the size of the groove you want to create. Adjust the depth of cut on your router based on the thickness of your inlay material.

Carefully align the router bit with your template and begin routing out the groove for the inlay. Start with shallow passes and gradually increase the depth until you reach the desired depth for your inlay material. Take your time and work slowly to ensure clean and precise cuts.

Once you have routed out the groove, remove any excess material and clean up any rough edges using a chisel or sandpaper. Test fit your inlay piece into the groove and make any adjustments if needed. Once everything fits perfectly, glue the inlay into place using wood glue and clamp it until it dries.

Creating Dovetail Joints

Dovetail joints are not only functional but also beautiful joints that add both strength and visual appeal to woodwork projects such as drawers, boxes, and cabinets. With a router, creating dovetail joints becomes much more efficient and accurate.

To begin, select a dovetail router bit that matches or complements the size of the dovetails you want to create. These bits are usually categorized by the angle and width of their cutting edges. It is important to choose the right bit to ensure snug-fitting and strong joints.

Before routing, mark out the location of your dovetails on both pieces of wood. Use a dovetail jig or template to guide your router and maintain accuracy throughout the process. Secure your workpiece onto a stable surface such as a workbench or router table.

Using the dovetail bit, carefully cut out the tails on one piece and the pins on the other piece. Make sure to keep your router steady and follow the lines accurately for clean-cut dovetails. Take multiple passes if necessary, progressively increasing the depth until you achieve the desired dovetail shape.

Once all the tails and pins are cut, test fit them together to ensure proper alignment and fit. Make any adjustments as needed by gently trimming away excess material with a chisel or sandpaper. Finally, apply wood glue to join the pieces together securely before clamping them until dry.

By incorporating inlays and dovetails into your woodworking projects using a router, you can truly elevate your craftsmanship and add unique artistic elements that will impress others. With practice and patience, you will be able to master these techniques and unlock new possibilities in your woodworking journey.

Designing Custom Mortises and Tenons

Custom mortises and tenons are woodworking techniques that are widely used to create strong and durable wood joints. By carefully designing and implementing these joints, woodworkers can ensure that their projects have the necessary strength and structural integrity. In this section, we will explore the process of designing custom mortises and tenons, as well as provide tips for achieving optimal results.

A mortise is a rectangular hole or cavity that is created in one piece of wood to receive another piece called the tenon. The tenon is a projecting tongue or tab that fits snugly into the mortise, creating a secure joint. This type of joint is commonly used in furniture making, cabinetry, and other woodworking projects where strength is crucial.

To design custom mortises and tenons, it is important to consider several factors:

  1. Size: The size of the mortise and tenon should be proportional to the overall dimensions of the project. Smaller projects may require smaller joints, while larger projects may need larger ones for added stability.
  2. Proportions: The proportions of the mortise and tenon should be carefully considered to ensure optimal strength. The width of the tenon should generally be one-third of the thickness of the stock being joined.
  3. Placement: The placement of the mortise and tenon should be strategic to maximize strength and stability. They should not be too close to edges or ends where they could weaken the wood or cause splitting.

When creating custom mortises and tenons, there are several tools that can be used. A router with an appropriate straight bit can make quick work of both tasks when fitted with an edge guide or jig for consistent results. Chisels can also be used for more precise cuts if desired.

Overall, designing custom mortises and tenons allows woodworkers to create strong, durable wood joints that can withstand the test of time. With proper sizing, proportions, and placement, these joints can greatly enhance the strength and stability of woodworking projects. Whether you are building furniture, cabinetry, or other wooden structures, mastering this technique is essential for achieving professional results.

Factors to Consider when Designing Custom Mortises and Tenons

Hollowing Out Projects

Hollowing out projects is a versatile and valuable technique in woodworking that can be achieved with the use of a router. This section will delve into the process of hollowing out wood forms and creating templates using a router.

Hollow forms are three-dimensional objects that have an interior space carved out, leaving only a thin shell of wood. This technique is commonly used in creating bowls, vases, and other decorative items. A router can efficiently remove material from the interior of these projects, allowing for precise shaping and hollowing.

To hollow out a project using a router, there are several steps to follow:

  1. Planning and Layout: Begin by visualizing the desired shape and dimensions of your hollow form. Mark out the areas that need to be removed on both the exterior and interior surfaces.
  2. Router Bit Selection: Choose an appropriate router bit for your project based on the size and depth of the hollow area you want to create. Straight bits or spiral bits are commonly used for this purpose, depending on the complexity of the design.
  3. Securing the Workpiece: Properly secure your workpiece before starting to route. It is crucial to ensure that it remains stable throughout the process to maintain accuracy and prevent accidents.
  4. Initial Passes: Start by making shallow cuts along the marked lines on your workpiece, gradually increasing the depth with each pass until you reach your desired depth or thickness.
  5. Finishing Passes: After reaching the desired depth, make final passes using light pressure to achieve smooth surfaces inside the hollow form.

Creating templates with a router is another valuable skill in woodworking, especially when working on multiple identical pieces or complex designs. Templates act as guides for accurately reproducing shapes or patterns repeatedly.

Here is a step-by-step guide to creating templates with a router:

  1. Designing Your Template: Begin by drawing or printing out your design onto durable material such as plywood or acrylic sheet.
  2. Preparing the Material: Using a bandsaw or jigsaw, cut the template material to the rough shape of your design.
  3. Rough Trimming with Router: Attach the template material to a workbench or secure it to your workpiece. Use a flush trim bit in your router to make rough cuts along the edge of the template.
  4. Fine Trimming: Replace the flush trim bit with a pattern cutting bit and make final passes to achieve precise edges and smooth curves on your template.

By mastering hollowing out projects and creating templates with a router, woodworkers can greatly expand their repertoire of woodworking techniques and enhance their creative possibilities. These skills open up avenues for creating unique and intricate designs that add depth and complexity to their woodwork projects.

Shaping Wood Surfaces

When it comes to woodworking, achieving smooth curves and profiles is essential for creating visually appealing and professional-looking projects. A router is a versatile tool that can help you achieve this with ease. With the right techniques and a bit of practice, you can use a router to shape wood surfaces to your desired curves and profiles.

To begin shaping wood surfaces with a router, there are a few key steps to follow:

  1. Choose the appropriate router bit: Different types of router bits are designed for specific shaping tasks. For curved edges, use a round-over or cove bit. If you want to create decorative profiles, consider using an edge forming or pattern bit. It’s important to select the right bit for your desired shape.
  2. Set up your router: Before you start shaping the wood surface, make sure your router is securely mounted on a stable work surface. Adjust the depth of the router bit according to the thickness of your wood material.
  3. Practice on scrap wood: It’s always a good idea to practice on scrap pieces of wood before working on your actual project. This will allow you to get comfortable with the technique and make any necessary adjustments.
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Once you’ve followed these initial steps, you can begin shaping your wood surface using the following techniques:

  1. Cut along the grain: When shaping wood surfaces, it’s best to cut along the grain for smoother results. This will prevent tear-out and minimize any roughness in the final shape.
  2. Take multiple passes: Instead of trying to cut everything in one pass, take multiple shallow passes with the router bit. This will ensure more control over the cutting process and result in cleaner curves or profiles.
  3. Use templates or guides: To achieve consistent shapes, consider using templates or guides that can be attached to your workpiece. These will help guide your router along predetermined paths and produce accurate results.

In addition to shaping wood surfaces for curves and profiles, a router can also be used for creating grooves or channels, chamfering edges, and many other decorative woodworking techniques. With practice and experimentation, you’ll be able to unlock the full potential of your router in shaping wood surfaces to bring your woodworking projects to life.

Advanced Techniques

One of the advanced techniques that woodworkers can utilize to achieve enhanced precision in their projects is using a router table and jigs. A router table is a stationary woodworking tool that holds the router upside down, allowing the woodworker to guide the material across the router bit. This setup offers greater stability and control, making it ideal for intricate cuts, shaping edges, and creating precise joinery.

Using a router table provides several advantages over handheld routing. Firstly, it allows for consistent and repeatable cuts, as the woodworker has both hands free to maneuver the material. The table acts as a stable platform, reducing the risk of accidents or mistakes due to shaky hands. Additionally, it enables woodworkers to safely work with small or irregularly shaped pieces that may be challenging to handle with just their hands.

To further enhance precision when using a router table, jigs are often employed. Jigs are specially designed fixtures or templates that hold the workpiece in place and guide it along specific paths or angles. They can be used in conjunction with the router table to create accurate and uniform cuts repeatedly.

Some commonly used jigs for routers include featherboards, coping sleds, miter gauges, and box joint jigs. Featherboards are used to apply pressure against the workpiece to keep it securely against the fence or table surface during routing. Coping sleds are useful for safely cutting profiles on narrow or delicate materials such as moldings or picture frames.

Miter gauges aid in achieving precise angled cuts by providing a reference point or guide for the workpiece. Box joint jigs help create strong and visually appealing joints by guiding the router during box joint or finger joint cutting operations.

By utilizing a router table and various jigs, woodworkers can take their projects to new levels of precision and craftsmanship. These advanced techniques provide greater control over cuts, improve accuracy in joinery work, and allow for intricate designs and patterns. Mastering the use of a router table and jigs opens up a world of possibilities for woodworkers to create stunning and professional-looking pieces.

Router Table ToolsDescription
FeatherboardsUsed to apply pressure against the workpiece to keep it securely against the fence or table surface during routing.
Coping SledsUseful for safely cutting profiles on narrow or delicate materials such as moldings or picture frames.
Miter GaugesAid in achieving precise angled cuts by providing a reference point or guide for the workpiece.
Box Joint JigsHelp create strong and visually appealing joints by guiding the router during box joint or finger joint cutting operations.

Router Safety Tips

Using a router can greatly enhance your woodworking projects, but it’s important to prioritize safety when operating this powerful tool. In this section, we will discuss some essential router safety tips to help you prevent accidents and ensure a safe working environment.

First and foremost, always wear appropriate safety gear when using a router. This includes safety glasses or goggles to protect your eyes from flying debris, as well as ear protection to guard against the loud noise generated by the tool. Additionally, consider wearing a dust mask or respirator to prevent inhaling fine particles of wood dust.

Before turning on the router, double-check that the workspace is clear of any obstructions. Make sure there are no loose objects or materials that could interfere with the operation of the tool. Keep your work area neat and organized to minimize the risk of tripping or knocking over tools.

When handling the router, make sure to have a firm grip on it at all times. Avoid reaching over moving bits or rotating parts and keep fingers and hands well away from the cutting area. If possible, use push sticks or featherboards to guide your workpiece instead of relying solely on your hands.

Another important aspect of router safety is properly securing your workpiece. Use clamps or other methods to firmly hold down your material so that it does not shift during routing. This will ensure better control over the tool and reduce the chances of accidents occurring.

Lastly, be mindful of your surroundings while operating a router. Keep children and pets away from the work area to prevent any unintentional contact with the tool. Additionally, avoid distractions and focus solely on your woodworking task to maintain maximum concentration.

By following these router safety tips, you can enjoy peace of mind knowing that you are taking every precaution necessary for safe woodworking. Remember, prioritizing safety should always be the first step before starting any project with a router.


In conclusion, a router is an incredibly versatile and valuable tool for woodworking. Throughout this article, we have explored the various ways in which a router can be used to enhance woodworking projects. From creating decorative edges to joining pieces of wood with precision and strength, a router can truly take your woodworking skills to the next level.

One of the key benefits of using a router is its ability to add artistic flair to woodwork through inlays and dovetails. These techniques allow you to create intricate designs and patterns that will make your projects stand out. Additionally, custom mortises and tenons can be easily created with a router, providing durability and strength to wood joints.

Furthermore, a router can be used for hollowing out projects, shaping wood surfaces, and achieving smooth curves and profiles. With the right attachments and techniques, you can achieve professional-quality results.

For those looking to take their woodworking skills even further, advanced techniques such as using a router table and jigs offer enhanced precision. These tools allow for greater control over your workpiece, resulting in more accurate cuts and finishes.

However, it is important to always prioritize safety when using a router or any other power tool. Following the proper safety guidelines outlined in this article will help prevent accidents and ensure that you can enjoy your woodworking hobby without harm.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I really need a router for woodworking?

Having a router can greatly benefit those involved in woodworking, but whether you really need one or not depends on the specific projects you plan to undertake. A router is a versatile power tool that allows for various operations such as shaping, joinery, edge profiling, and more. If your woodworking projects involve tasks like creating decorative edges, dado cuts, or intricate designs, a router becomes invaluable.

However, if your woodworking endeavors mainly focus on basic joinery or using pre-cut materials, then a router might not be an essential tool in your arsenal. Evaluating the scope and complexity of your woodworking projects will help you determine if investing in a router is necessary.

What materials can a router be used for?

A router can be used with a wide range of materials across different industries beyond woodworking. While it is popularly associated with woodwork, routers can also handle plastic, acrylics, composites, and even some soft metals like aluminum or brass.

With the appropriate bit and settings adjustments to match the material properties and requirements, routers are capable of cutting through these materials efficiently. This versatility makes routers indispensable not only to woodworkers but also to professionals and hobbyists working with other mediums.

What is a router used for?

A router is primarily used for shaping and finishing operations in woodworking. It excels at cutting decorative edges or profiles along the edges of boards or panels using specialized bits such as round-overs, chamfers, ogees, or coves. Additionally, a router can perform joinery tasks like creating dovetail joints or mortise-and-tenon joints through the use of appropriate jigs and templates.

Routers also aid in hollowing out recesses or grooves called dados to accommodate shelves or other components within furniture pieces. Furthermore, they enable precise trimming of excess material from laminates or veneers for seamless edge banding applications. Overall, routers enhance precision and versatility in woodworking by allowing craftsmen to achieve intricate details and professional finishes that would be challenging with traditional tools alone.

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