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Choosing the right router for woodworking is not enough for you to get the job done efficiently. You also need to look up to some important features while deciding on the best-suited router for your job. We will take some expert opinions that were published in Wood Magazine about the features of a router. They have emphasized on some of the points described below as the must-have considerations for any woodworking job.
Routers are supposed to do some difficult jobs like cutting the specific shapes which makes a very frequent contact between the bit and the material you want to shape. It means the routers need to have some very good muscle power to do the job. If you have come this far into 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 the power level like 1-1/2 hp or below. The mid-sized routers hover around 1-3/4 to 2-1/2 hp. For full-size production routers, it is about 3-1/2 hp that are generally left mounted on the CNC machine or the router table.
While choosing a router, horsepower is not only the 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 really get behind. An LED work light is the small flashlight comes with the router that is turned on while the switch is engaged. This 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 work-piece if you stand in a wrong place which makes 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.
This is another feature you would love to have in your tool. If you fire up a woodworking router without the soft-start feature, you’ll see that the kick from the router spinning up to the full RPM instantly. It may feel like 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 make then this might seem to be bit unnerving for you.
soft-start is a great feature that eases the router up to speed over one or two seconds that makes it easier to control by keeping it less intimidating to fire up. This one makes it easier 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 which is being put on the router motor. If you have to difficult cut to make then it will increase the torque and for easier cuts, it will just back off.
This feature makes the router to feel and behave evenly from one cut to the next one and will also allow for smoother and cleaner cuts in all type of wood. Since the router is responsible for exerting the maximum torque when needed, it will also add to the lifespan of the router. This feature adds great value to the overall price of the router.
Fine Depth Adjustment
The more sophisticated task you have up front, the more critical feature you need in the best router for woodworking job. One such feature is the fine depth adjustment that you need while doing any complex job like wood joinery or produce some consistent cuts to be lined up later.
If you want to use the router for trim or cut out dadoes and rabbets, then this feature will probably give you the maximum mileage in the woodworking job.
Variable speed meaning the ability for adjusting the speed at which the router can spin the bit is one of the most important features. All the bits cannot perform well at the highest speed. It is like counter-intuitive where the larger bits perform better at lower speeds.
This is also an important 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 fine. 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 tool has a longer life.
Mainly, there are two available sizes of the collet for woodworking routers – 1/4-inch and 1/2-inch. The size 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 also includes an adapter that allows the 1/4-inch collets as well. So, this particular size of collet will give you more options and better control. It’s like a win/win for you anyway.
This is a simple feature that can come very handy but not something that you can allow you to break or make a router for. To change a router bit you can use two ways, firstly, you can use two impact wrenches where one to be used on the motor shaft and another one on the collet to loosen it this way. Else you can depress a button that locks the shaft in the place while using the wrench to loosen the router collet.
Both of the ways are better in their own way and capable of getting your job done. Having the spindle lock eases the process and saves you from putting efforts for the second wrench that walked off someway.
Above Table Adjustments
You may have your router living in a router table for most of your woodworking job. In this case, it becomes really helpful for making the above table adjustments for any height easily with a handle or a knob.
Another feature closely related to this is how capable it is to change the bits without any need to pull the router out of that router table. This 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 or bit change.
Many routers come with different dust collection solutions. There are routers designed to virtually eliminate dust and flying chips for some common operations like grooving or dado cuts and also the 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 afterword.
It is important 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 important to always keep the safety factor in mind.
For the basic safety measures go through the owner’s manual and always take the eye and ear protection. One bad 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 it is possible because smaller passes are easier and safer that can avoid the router to kick back at you.
- Make sure you are always operating the router or feeding your material in the opposing direction to the bit rotation. If you run the stock in the same direction of the bit rotation, the router can run back on you and you may lose the 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 piece of smaller stock to run through it is safe to use a block or push stick to ensure your hands are far enough.
- In case 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 adjustment to the router or swap out a bit, make sure you have the router unplugged. The switches can be flipped accidentally in this situation which can bring bad consequences for you.
About that Extension Cord
The extension cords can vary based on the amperage they are rated for. Depending upon the router you want to choose for your job, it needs to be ensured that you should have the extension cord which can meet the power requirements of your router.
If the router does not get enough power it will not only underperform but also become overheat which will shorten the lifespan of the router. However, there is the room to go bigger on the extension cord since the router can only draw the maximum amps it’s designed for. No way you want the router to be power starved.
A Little Bit On Bits
As we mentioned earlier that the most versatile tools out there are the routers for woodworking job and the reason for such versatility is the vast assortment of multifunctional bits you can have for your router. We think it is our duty to 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 which are intended for decorative purposes.
- Flush-trim Bits – Good for trimming the edge of any material flush with another one’s edge like trimming 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 at the tip of the bit.
- Edge Bits – Ogee and cove belong to this category are used to cut different kinds of edges for multiple decorative uses.
- Rabbeting Bits – Used when you need to cut a shoulder to make a joinery of two pieces of wood together. Like straight bits that are 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 what is the specific size 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.