A router table is a stationary woodworking machine in which a vertically oriented spindle of woodworking router protrudes from the machine table and can be spun at speeds typically between 3000 and 24,000 rpm. Cutter heads (router bits) may be mounted in the spindle chuck. As the workpiece is fed into the machine, the cutters mold a profile in to it.
The machine normally features a vertical fence, against which the workpiece guided to control the horizontal depth of cut. Router tables are used to increase the versatility of a hand-held router, as each method of use is particularly suited to specific application, e.g. very large workpieces would be too large to support on a router table and must be routed with a hand-held machine, very small workpieces would not support a hand-held router and must be routed on a router table with the aid of pushtool accessories etc.
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Router Tables evolved as shop improvised tools. Individual woodworkers began taking routers, mounting them in an inverted position beneath a table, and using the routers’ depth adjustment to rise the bit through a hole in the table surface.
Over time manufacturers began selling accessories (pre- made table tops, table legs, table inserts, fences, old downs, vertical adjustment tools (“lifts”), etc.
Finally, manufacturers began selling complete packages, such as the Inverted Pin router, which put them in the business of effectively selling wood shapers, the very tool that shop improvised router tables were created as in expensive substitutes for.
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There are a variety of router styles, some are plunge, some are D handled, some are double knob handled. Different manufacturers produce the routers for different wood works, as plunge routers, fixed-base wood routers, combo routers, variable –shaped routers, laminate trimmers, CNC wood routers.
Nowadays, most better quality routers have variable speed controls and will have plunge bases that can also be locked in place so the router can be used as a fixed-base router. Some have a soft-start feature, meaning they build up speed gradually. This feature is particularly desirable for routers with a large cutter.
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Holding a 3-horsepower router and turning it on without a soft-start is potentially dangerous, due to the torque of the motor. Holding it with two hands is a must. For routers with a toggle type on/off switch it is important to check to verify the switch is in the off position, prior to plugging it in.
For safety, larger router cutters can usually only be used in a router that is mounted in a router table. This makes the tool even more versatile and stable.
The purpose of multiple handle arrangements depends on the bit. Control is easier with different configurations. For example, when shaping the edge of a fine table top, many users prefer a D handle , with variable speed, as it seems to permit better control and burning the wood can be minimized.
Router table exist in three varieties:
Floor standing machines
Accessories bolted into table saws
Small bench-top machines.
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How to Use a Router Table
With a router table, the user will guide the material against the router , as opposed to using the router on the material. Guiding the material gives much more control compared to bringing the router directly to the material.
The use of a router lift can also make essential height adjustments for the perfect cut; since the height of the bit is fixed relative to the surface of the table, the router will create grooves of uniform depth.
Though a router table may seem complex when first using it, particularly if you’re used to the hand-held version, it’s an essential piece of equipment for serious woodworkers.
Some desirable features to look for in a router table include the size of the router table (large equals easier cutting), detachable baseplates, an easily-adjustable bit guard, and slots for mounting accessories.
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How To Use A Router Table Fence
Router table are used in one of the three ways. In all cases, an accessory is used to direct the workpiece.
1. A fence is used, with the router bit partially emerging from the fence. The workpiece is the moved against the fence, and the exposed portion of the router bit removes material from the workpiece.
2. No fence is used, A template is affixed to the workpiece , and a router bit with a ball bearing guide is used. The ball bearing guide bears against the template, and the router bit removes material from the workpiece so as to make the workpiece the same shape as the template.
3. A “pin router” accessory is used. A pin router originally had a pin in the table that would trace the part and hung the router motor on an “over arm” that rose from one edge or corner of the router table, arced over the table, and descends directly (coaxially) towards the pin.
This was a big safety concern as people’s hand were very accessible to the cutter. In 1976 C.R. Onsurd patented the inverted Pin router that reversed the two and mounted the motor under the table and the guide pin on the “over arm”.
A template (with an interior recess on the top face removed) is affixed to the workpiece, and the guide pin is lowered into this recess. The template is then moved against the pin, carrying the workpiece against the spinning router bit and creating a duplicate of the patterned part.
Common Uses For A Router Table
A router table is an effective tool for any situations in woodworking. Including but not limited to:
- Trimming and template woodwork.
- High quality and accurate stop cuts.
- Joining two pieces of material with grooves and slots.
- Dovetail and box joinery.
- Cutting and shaping mouldings.
- Edge trimming and pattern work.
Router tables are commonly used to work on thin, small, or sometimes long materials that might be tricky to work with when using a hand-held router not attached to a router table.
One common use is creating raised panel doors. Because of the unique design and specific needs of raised panel doors, a router table helps the woodworker carve grooves of consistent width and depth so the pieces of the door will fit together seamlessly.
Router table are also very effective at producing the same cut consistently, which can be very important when creating commercial furniture where quality control is important.
Cutting Tenons with a Router Table
Most woodworkers know that the router is an excellent tool for cutting mortises, but how many realize it is great for cutting tenons as well.
A good Tenon has straight, square shoulders and smooth cheeks. Smooth surfaces glue best , so you want smooth cheeks on your tenons. Gaps and misalignments at the shoulder not only degrade the joint’s appearance, they weaken it.
You want a clean and square intersection of the shoulder and the cheek- no ridges of waste, which could prevent the joint from closing completely. Also, the shoulders must be in the same plane all the way around the workpiece, so they seat tight against the mortise’s shoulders.
Router-cut tenons match the criteria. And they are easy to make. I have got two approaches to routing tenons.One for hand held work, one for the router table. ( I might add , parenthetically, that these are great approaches for cutting half-laps too). For either, a simple to make jig, a sharp bit, and a good router are all you need.
The tenoning platform is very simple to make and use. Lay it on the top of the workpiece; clamp it and the work to the benchtop, and rout.
Use a bit that has a bearing mounted on the shank. For several reasons, I use a type of bit called a dado and planer, mortising, or bottom cleaning bit.
- It is designed to cut on the horizontal surface as the vertical. The tenon’s shoulders thus are square to the cheeks, and both surfaces are smooth, perfect for a good glue bond.
- It is short, typically with ½ in long cutting edges, so it is easy to make a 1/8-in. Deep cut and still have the shank mounted bearing riding on the platform edge.
- It is available in large diameters (up to 1 ½ in), so you can cut a typical tenon’s cheek in a single pass.
- The bit can be run safely at the router’s full speed.
The jig itself in simple : two square flat platforms screwed to two straight fences. Because the bit’s bearing rides along its edge during the cut, the larger platform must be dead square and must be square to the fences.
The smaller platform is simple a secondary support for the router and an attachment point for the stop. The parts are small, so you can use scraps of hardwood for the fences and either plywood or MDF for the platforms.
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