Choosing the right router for woodworking is not enough for you to get the job done efficiently. You also need to look up some essential features while deciding on the best-suited router for your work. We will take some expert opinions published in Wood Magazine about the elements of a router. They have emphasized some of the points described below as the must-have considerations for any woodworking job.
Routers are supposed to do some problematic jobs like cutting the specific shapes, making persistent contact between the bit and the material you want to shape. It means the routers need to have some excellent muscle power to do the job. If you have come this far into the woodworking profession that you are spending in a router, it means you are planning to build more than softwoods.
Routers usually come in some power levels, which is also related to their size. Trim or palm kind of routers will come in with a power level like 1-1/2 hp or below. The mid-sized routers hover around 1-3/4 to 2-1/2 hp. It is about 3-1/2 hp that are generally left mounted on the CNC machine or the router table for full-size production routers.
While choosing a router, horsepower is not only an accurate indicator of how powerful the motor is, as these numbers may be inaccurate. To get a better bet, you may look at the amperage the router needs.
LED work light
Having a LED work light in the router is a great feature that you can get behind. An LED work light is the small flashlight that comes with the router that is turned on while the switch is engaged. This LED makes it a lot easier to follow your mark if you’re somewhere other than being outside on a sunny day. Even in the well-lit workshop, you can have a shadow thrown on the workpiece if you stand in the wrong place, making the line difficult to see for you. It might seem to be gimmicky, but the LED work lights deserve to be praised for those situations when you need one.
Soft Starting is another feature you would love to have in your tool. If you fire up a woodworking router without the soft-start function, you’ll see that the kick from the router is spinning up to the full RPM instantly. It may feel as if you are trying to hang onto one angry Tasmanian Devil. If you are someone new to routers or have a difficult job to do, then this might seem to be a bit scary for you.
Soft-start is a great feature that eases the router up to speed over one or two seconds, making it easier to control by keeping it less intimidating to fire up. This one makes it smoother and softer on both; you and also the equipment.
Electronic Motor Feedback
This feature is meant to increase or decrease the router’s torque depending upon the load put on the router motor. If you have to difficult cut to make, it will increase the torque, and for smoother cuts, it will just back off.
This feature makes the router feel and behave evenly from one cut to the next and allows for smoother and cleaner cuts in all types of wood. Since the router is responsible for exerting the maximum torque when needed, it will also add to the router’s lifespan. This feature adds excellent value to the overall price of the router.
Fine Depth Adjustment
The more sophisticated the task you have upfront, the more critical the feature you need in the best router for a woodworking job. One such feature is the subtle depth adjustment you need while doing any complicated job like wood joinery or producing some consistent cuts to line up later.
If you want to use the router for trim or cut out dadoes and rabbets, this feature will probably give you the maximum mileage in the woodworking job.
Variable speed means the ability to adjust the router’s rate can spin the bit is one of the essential features. All the bits cannot perform well at the highest speed. It is counter-intuitive, where the more significant bits perform better at lower rates.
This speed is also an essential feature since all the woods do not have the same hardness, nor do they require a similar effort to move through them. In this case, you can get it run at full tilt without being bothered about the type of wood and still be okay. However, doing so will reduce the lifespan of the router. So the best practice is to run the tool at a precise speed for the bit and lumber to ensure the machine has a longer life.
Mainly, there are two available sizes of the collet for woodworking routers – 1/4-inch and 1/2-inch. The volume also makes a bit of a difference. But to get the most efficiency out of your router, you need to get a router with a 1/2-inch collet. Because the 1/2-inch collets provide a better grip for its larger surface area on the shank and include an adapter that allows the 1/4-inch colleagues, this particular size of collet will give you more options and better control. It’s like a win/win for you anyway.
This spindle lock is a simple feature that can come in very handy but not something that allows you to break or make a router. To change a router bit, you can use two ways; firstly, you can use two impact wrenches to use on the motor shaft and another on the collet to loosen it this way. Else you can depress a button that locks the pole while using the wrench to loosen the router collet.
Both ways are better in their approach and capable of getting your job done. Having the spindle lock eases the process and saves you from putting effort into the second wrench that walked off some way.
Above Table Adjustments
You may have your router living in a router table for most of your woodworking job. In this case, it becomes beneficial for making the above table adjustments for any height quickly with a handle or a knob.
Another feature closely related to this is how capable it is to change the bits without pulling the router out of that router table. This feature may seem like a small benefit, but while you’re working in full swing, it may feel very annoying when you need to pull the router out for any adjustment orbit change.
Many routers come with different dust collection solutions. Routers are designed to virtually eliminate dust and flying chips for some everyday operations like grooving or dado cuts and edge-forming applications. However, this is not a high-priority feature as you are supposed to end up with a notable quantity of dust around you afterward.
It is essential to have a sense of safety while using this kind of power tool that contains sharp metal pieces running around at thousands of RPMs. Although routers are safe compared to other power tools, accidents can still happen. So, it’s essential to always keep the safety factor in mind.
For the necessary safety measures, go through the owner’s manual and always take the eye and ear protection. One lousy instance is enough for you to appreciate the importance of eye protection. Some of the other safety measures you should take are:
- Do not start a router while the bit and the material are in contact. Since these are powerful tools and the consequences can be unexpected.
- Remove a large amount of stock in multiple passes if possible because more minor keys are more comfortable and safer to avoid the router kicking back at you.
- Ensure you are continually operating the router or feeding your material in the opposing direction to the bit rotation. If you run the stock in the same direction as the bit rotation, the router can run back on you, and you may lose control over the tool quickly.
- While running a piece of stock using a router mounted on the routing table, always keep your hands far from the spinning bit. If you have a part of a smaller share to run through, it is safe to use a block or push stick to ensure your hands are far enough.
- If the router is not mounted onto the routing table, make sure it is securely clamped and do not use the hands to hold it in place of a clamp.
- If you need to make any adjustments to the router or swap out a bit, make sure you have the router unplugged. In this situation, the switches can be flipped accidentally, which can bring adverse consequences for you.
About that Extension Cord
The extension cords can vary based on the amperage they rated for work. Depending upon the router you want to choose for your job, it needs to ensure that you should have an extension cord, which can meet the power requirements of your router.
If the router does not get enough power, it will underperform and become overheat, which will shorten the lifespan of the router. However, there is room to go bigger on the extension cord since the router can only draw the maximum amps. No way you want the router to be power-starved.
A Little Bit On Bits
As we mentioned earlier, the most versatile tools out there are routers for woodworking jobs. The reason for such versatility is the vast assortment of multifunctional bits you can have for your router. We think we must inform you about the kinds of bits you can buy and the benefits they can carry for you.
- Straight Bit – Mostly used to cut out a groove in a workpiece with a varied diameter.
- Chamfer Bit – Used to make any beveled edge on things like the table corner, intended for decorative purposes.
- Flush-trim Bits – Good for trimming the edge of any material flush. One side is cutting a veneered surface flush using a pattern or substrate to create various identical pieces. They usually have one pilot bearing that has the same diameter as the cutter. The bearing can be at the base or the tip of the bit.
- Edge Bits – Ogee and cove belong to this category to cut different kinds of edges for multiple decorative uses.
- Rabbeting Bits – Used when you need to cut a shoulder to make joinery of two pieces of wood together like straight bets available in a variety of sizes.
Something else you need to know about bits is the shank size. Each router can handle specific shank sizes. Few of the expensive routers can include up to four distinct shank diameters.
Before purchasing bits, make sure you are aware of the collet size of your router (Check the owner’s manual) to know the specific length of the shank required to find in the bits. The commonly used sizes are 1/2-inch and 1/4-inch.
While checking it in the owner’s manual, you should also find out the maximum diameter of the bit cutting edge of your router.
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