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Router Table - How to Use

Jul 18, 2008
Tips, Setup, Bits, Multiple Uses

Would you like to know how to use a Router Table? Here are tips to realize the most from your router table.

You do not need a miter channel. Normally, you slide your work along the fence. If using a miter channel, the fence must be square to the miter channel. Why go to that trouble?

You can build a jig to glide along the Fence. This automatically aligns the wood for a square cut. You can make adjustment in profile and depth of cut. A shop-made Router Lift makes this easy.

A quality Router Table fence eases dust collection. Use your Router Table and Fence for simplicity and ease!

You should never put your work between the fence and the router bit. That is just asking for trouble.

Usually, you slide the wood from right to left (when looking at the fence from the front). That is called an anti-climb cut. You make practically all cuts this way.

If very careful, you can go a short distance in the opposite direction. But you must hold on tight to avoid kickback and/or injury. This climb cut gives cleaner edges, which you should attempt only after a lot of experience.

Just do less than 15% of your cuts this way. You must use shallow or light cuts for the climb-cut. Do NOT take big cuts. Use this method when your hands are protected and away from the router bit.

How to use a Router Table to center edge-to-edge joints:

Have you ever wondered how to center edge-to-edge joints? You use this technique for making solid tabletops, wide panels, or even make edging to go around your router table top.

Let's use an actual example of oak edging on a MDF Router Table Top. The top is 1 1/8" thick. The oak edging is 1 1/8" thick.

How do we guarantee a centered edge? Decide on the tongue dimension. You have a 1/4" slot cutter. You want the tongue thickness less than two times the cut. Hence, the tongue thickness is slightly less than 1/2". We use a 1/4" depth of cut in this example.

We want a tongue that is less than 1/2" in thickness. Therefore, we know that the rabbet on the Table Top is slightly more than 5/16" on both sides of a 1 1/8" thick piece.

Rabbet the top with a rabbet bit with a bearing to produce a 1/4" rabbet. You don't want to take a lot during your first pass. Therefore, the depth of cut is set for 1/8" for your first pass.

Set the fence so it is even with the bearing of the rabbet bit.

Cut both top and bottom of the router top. Take your time and go all the way around. Make sure the workpiece is flat on the Router Table Top. Or use the router on top of the workpiece.

Measure the thickness of the tongue. If it is larger than 1/2", then adjust the depth of cut. A shop-made router lift makes this easy. Note: you rout both sides; therefore use one-half the adjustment for each side.

Make your adjustment, rout the top and bottom again. The tongue's thickness is now slightly less than 1/2".

Replace your rabbeting bit with your 1/4" slot cutter.

I always disconnect the power source to the router before changing bits!

Sit the rabbeted piece on the router tabletop near the slot cutter. Raise the Router so the bottom of the slot cutter aligns with the bottom of the tongue. You may need support if the workpiece is large.

Set the depth of cut for the slot to around 3/16" initially. Now slot your Oak edging. Turn it over and slot again. Test the slot on the tongue. Is it too tight? If so, remember that you make two passes with the slotter. Only lower your slot bit by 1/2 of the dimension needed. By the way, the Porter Cable 7518 Router makes this a snap.

Since the slot cut is 1/4", the second pass is not using the entire cutter. You get an exactly center slot that fits on the tongue.

Once the slot (groove) fits on the tongue, you are ready to set your final depth of the groove. The final depth of cut is slightly more than 1/4" to allow for glue.

Set your fence for this final depth. Remember - make two passes with the slotter. This gives you an exact fit.

You can use this method for any edge-to-edge joinery, such as tabletops, panels, large drawer fronts, and any time you want to join two-pieces. You get perfect alignment and a rock-solid joint.
About the Author
For more information on Using Your Router Table, including pictures and tips, please visit How to Use a Router Table Jim is a woodworker with over 36 years of experience. He helps many woodworkers increase their skills with techniques, tips, plans, and jigs. Helping woodworkers is Jim's expertise. Visit his Specialty Site for loads of Proven Tips.
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