Woodworking 101: A Simple Guide to Routing

Woodworking 101: A Simple Guide to Routing

A wood router is one of the most versatile power tools that any woodworker can use for various tasks. However, we understand that it can get confusing especially for beginners. So, here’s a simple guide to routing. Get ready to be a pro when it comes to using routers.

Using a router is all about understanding the primary function of the tool. Moreover, you should know how to hold it properly and go in the right direction over the wood grains. With one wrong move, it could hurt the wood, and you have you restart your project again.

With some practice, any woodworker can use it to perform a variety of woodworking tasks. If you’re just a beginner woodworker starting on your craft and you don’t have a lot of experience using either a stationary or plunge router safely, this is a great place to start.

What Is a Wood Router?

A wood router is a high-speed rotary tool to attach different router bits to the engine with a collet at the end of the shaft of the machine. The woodworker can add an almost infinite number of profiles to the edge of a board by using different bits. Moreover, you can even use a router as a biscuit joiner. Check it out here to know how.

Features to Focus When Buying A Router

When you are looking for the right router, you need to know the features of a router. You have to understand the traits that you pay with your money. So, what should you get for your next router? Take these factors into consideration.


The most significant aspect to look for when looking at routers is the motor’s horsepower rating. Do not buy any router that is less than 2-HP, as you will need that power to push through the stock a few bigger parts.


Next, you’ll want to spend a little more on having one that has the power of variable rpm. Single-speed routers are good as long as you use small bits but remember, the bigger the bit, the slower the cutting speed. Otherwise, the bit is likely to burn. It is one of the essential features that you need to look for as variable speed allows you to change the speed depending on the type of bit you are using a router.

Collet Diameter

Third, glance at the diameter of the collet. Either ¼ inch diameter shaft bits or ½ inch diameter bits will fit routers. Most ½ inch bits are more costly and not almost as readily available, but much more robust and less chatter than ¼ inch. Bear in mind; routers can adapt ¼ inch pieces to fit into a ½ inch array, but not the other way around.


Fourth, the router you buy should have ergonomic handles in your hands that feel comfortable. Some routers have one wide handle in the style of a pistol grip that you carry with your dominant hand, whereas the second-hand wraps around the router’s motor housing to stabilize the device. Other versions offer two handles opposite to the base faces. Choose whichever model you feel at home in your hands.

Not only will the comfort encourage you to use the router for longer, but after long periods of use, it will help relieve any tension or discomfort in your wrists and hands. No matter which type of handle you choose, be sure that when your hands are on the router, the power switch is within easy reach. 

Types Of Routers

You can choose from two types of routers – large and small routers. Large routers have engines of between 1.75 to 3.25 hp, and these devices are amazingly massive. Moreover, these types are useful for extra material removal, and you can use it with a router table.

On the other hand, small routers are popular as routers with trim or laminate. Its job is cutting edge banding flush pieces of plywood in cabinet construction. These routers come with engines in the range from 1 to 1.25 hp, which is suitable for DIY projects. A CNC router is another kind that is suitable for expert woodworkers. Find out how it works here.

Router Table

It allows for more power, comfort, and consistency if you’ve installed your router on a table. You can easily create and easily position router tables.

Cut Depth

This role enables a worker to make a precise cut in-depth for greater accuracy, comfort, and adaptability.

Dirt Collection

If you want to keep your shop safe and clean, a router with dirt collection is ideal. This feature is the best, as it gathers the dust and dirt and keeps the place in order. If you notice that your wood is burning as you use your router, here are some ways to fix it.

Soft Start

Look for a router with a soft start and the electric motor that accelerates delicately to the predetermined velocity. If a router does not have a smooth start, it can snag the router out of your hands with its sudden increase of power, causing a safety and security danger.

Spindle Lock

This function is useful as different routers require two wrenches to make significant changes. You can keep the electric motor shaft in the desired position if you use a spindle lock, and you need only one wrench for that. Routers are astoundingly flexible instruments. Suppose you intend on starting assembling your set of equipment. 

6 Ways to Use a Router For Beginners

Any woodworker gets to know the various uses of the router well. For several projects around the building, both practical and decorative, the instrument comes in handy. Since it is compact, you can use it for a variety of cutting and trimming; it is a perfect power tool to use.

#1 – Make The Perfect Edges

It can be tricky to cut a clean and smooth edge on a small piece of wood, but every time a router can create a beautifully finished edge. On both straight and curved edges, routers are suitable in making even and level cuts. Moreover, it can reproduce such cuts on several pieces of wood.

#2 – Start Shaping Stylish Molding

The fascinating thing a router can make is decorative molding. For doors, windows, baseboards, or chair rails, you can design anything from straight, rounded moldings to more intricate Roman ogee or beaded designs using different parts.

#3 – Cut Easy Dadoes

A provided is a slot or trench used in a bookcase or cabinet to support the shelves invisibly. The instrument makes it easy to cut the two most common types of dice.

#4 – Carve Out Clean Rabbets

A rabbet is a recess or groove cut into the edge of the wood. Rabbets are also useful in making window jambs for doors and casements. Most routers can handle several rabbet bits, which will cut the grooves to the desired width.

#5 – Recreate Patterns

For cutting shapes, grooves, and designs through several pieces of wood, routers are helpful. For example, you can use the router to trace the outline of the original work and reconstruct it as many times as you like if you have a broken table or other pieces of wood. On flat pieces of wood, routers may also be useful in tracing intricate designs or lettering.

#6 – Go On And Start Recessing Door Hinges

For recessed door hinges or lock faceplates, routers are useful with a jig to cut space. Routers can provide complete appearance and smoother operation.

The Importance Of Installing Router Bits Properly

A good edge profile requires a smooth turn of the bit, as it applies to the edge of the stock. The first step in ensuring that the bit turns smoothly is to ensure that you mount it correctly in the array of the router. It’s necessary to properly install router bits, no matter what bit of shank size you’re using.

Selecting Proper Router Bit Speeds

You can rotate the spinning bit by a router’s motor at speeds up to 25,000 rotations per minute (rpm), which is more than 400 rotations per second; Most routers can change the speed of the motor because for every bit and every routing program you would not want to use such high rates.

Many modern woodworking routers let you change the motor’s RPM speed to suit your needs. Choosing a speed depends on the type of wood, type, and size of the bit that you use. A tool that spins at too high an RPM can burn wood while a tool that turns too slowly can leave you with a ragged, rough-cut.

Router Bit Speed 

Although it can take some experimenting to get the speeds precisely right, “the bigger the bit, the slower the speed” is the general rule of thumb. The chart at the bottom of this page offers a guideline on the maximum speed for various diameter bits. This table, however, is only a general guideline. For precise information on setting the required rate for the bit, check your router’s user guide or the documents accompanying your particular bit.

Router Bit SpeedsMaximum Speed
Up to 1 inch24,000 rpm
1 to 2 inches18,000 rpm
2 to 2-½ inches16,000 rpm
2-½ to 3-½ inches12,000 rpm

1/2-Inch Shank VS 1/4-Inch: Which Is Better?

If you take a long hard look at any fine woodworking supplier’s router bit range, you will notice the bits are available in two different shaft sizes, or shanks, that fit into a router’s settings. You may want to know when to buy ¼ inch or ½ inch shank bits when you are starting to equip your store with router bits.

Router Bit Shank

The shank is the reliable, perfectly cylindrical part of a bit of a router. It is the part of the bit that goes into the router’s set sealed with the collet nut. The bit body, the part which contains the cutter or cutters which form the wood, is at the bottom end of the shank.

Large-body bits are mostly only available with ½ inch shanks, whereas very small-body or narrow-body bits can only have ¼ inch shanks. But with both ¼ inch and ½ inch shanks, the majority of bits out there are available.

Greater Mass 

Router bits with ½ inch shanks have about four times the ¼ inch-shank bits mass, which results in more excellent stability. The extra mass helps to minimize what’s known as “chatter,” or vibrations generated by the spinning bit’s high speed. A more secure bit makes for a cleaner break, as you would imagine.

Also, the greater mass of a ½ inch bit helps to dissipate heat produced by bit cutting into the wood and slows heat transfer from the router’s motor to the bit. With routing operations, heat is a common concern, and to avoid burning the wood; it is essential to reduce heat accumulation.

Better Grip

The larger ½ inch shank router bits in diameter means that the router’s collet has more surface area to grip on, making the bit less likely to fall into the collet. Slipping isn’t a common issue if you carefully tighten the collet, but a more substantial grip can be a real benefit with broad bits or rough-duty jobs.

When 1/4-Inch Bits Make Sense

The benefits of ½ inch-shank bits do not always apply, and often there are not even ½ inch shanks. As a result, most woodworkers who use routers end up with a set of ½ inch and ¼ inch shanks containing parts. You always get what you pay for with router bits, but if you need a bit for a particular project and may not use the bit much otherwise, the better alternative might be an inexpensive ¼ inch bit. 

Availability is another possible advantage of ¼ inch bits since certain stores carry a broader range of ¼ inch bits than ½ inch. Finally, the tool can tolerate only ¼ inch bits if you have a small router or a laminate router, in which case the issue of shank size is moot.

But even if both ½ inch and ¼ inch bits are appropriate to your router, and the bit you need is not big or exceptionally long, you will probably get similar output with either shank size.

10 Router Bit Profiles Every Woodworker Should Know

Router bits are suitable for applying edge profiles to wood stock with fixed base routers, plunge routers, and shapers. In several situations, a series of router bits may be ideal for using a complex form. Here are the different router bits that you should have in your woodworking arsenal.

#1 – Beading Router Bit Profile

A beading bit is similar to a round-over bit since it adds a rounded form to the stock edge. The distinction between a beading bit and a round-over bit is that the beading bit often cuts one square shoulder on the round-over’s top and bottom edges. Beading bits also have a bearing tip for riding as it cuts along the edge of the stock.

#2 – Chamfer Router Bit Profile

A chamfer is an angled 45-degree cut on the square edge of a stock piece. Chamfer bits are flexible, in that one bit can generate several chamfer sizes depending on cut depth. Some chamfer bits have a bearing-tip which rides along the edge of the stock, as with the beading bit.

#3 – Cove Router Bit Profile

A cove profile designed for a rounded, and concave profile. The cove bit is also ideal to fit the corresponding piece of stock with beading or round-over type. For example, drop-leaf tables use matching profiles of the coves and beads.

Sometimes, the cove bit has a bearing-tip to travel along the edge of the stock. Tip! A round nose bit that is ideal for making round-bottomed grooves in the center of a piece of stock must not be confused with the cove profile.

#4 – Dado (Straight-Cutting) Bit

This profile, which is a square channel in the middle of a piece of stock, can be cut using several methods. Although specialized saw blades are suitable for cutting dice on a table saw, using any of a variety of straight-cutting parts, a die may also be cut with a router.

Some straight cutting bits have a bearing-tip, designed to trim a piece of laminate added to a board’s face, but these bearing-tip bits are not suitable for cutting a die.

#5 – Dovetail Router Bit Profile

The dovetail bit is most famous for its use in the development of dovetail joinery tails. To make tapered dice and rabbets, however, dovetail bits can also be used. A dovetail profile has a flat base with angled sides that are narrower at the bottom. There is no bearing for most dovetail bits, although a few unique template-style dovetail jigs need bearing on the bit shank.

#6 – Roman Ogee Router Bit Profile

It has an S-shaped profile created by the Ogee bit, also referred to as a Roman Ogee. The Ogee profile has many variants, with shoulders on the sides or dots in the center of the profile. Ogee router bits, as with other edge bits, also come fitted with a bearing tip.

#7 – Rabbet Router Bit Profile

A rabbet is a dice on the edge of a piece of stock. Although rabbets are suitable for using a table saw, or a straight-cut router bit, specially crafted rabbeting bits are also available, prepared to ride along the edge of the stock.

#8 – Round Nose Router Bit Profile

The round nose router bit is similar to that of the cove bit. Except that it is built in the center of a piece of stock for plunge routing grooves and flutes. Round nose bits, also referred to as core-box bits, may be used to cut shallow, rounded-bottom grooves of different depths, but for proper use, you should plunge the bits should until the profile cut forms a complete 180-degree arc into the wood.

#9 – Roundover Router Bit Profile

The round-over bit creates a rounded profile on a piece of stock’s square edge and differs from the beading bit. Just a portion of the round-over bit is often for building a partial edge easing, rather than a complete 90-degree arc. Round-over bits usually have a bearing edge, just as with beading bits.

#10 – V-Groove Router Bit Profile

To build grooves of several different widths, you can use the V-groove at various depths.

Tips For Using A Router

By now, you already know that routers are one of the most versatile tools in woodworking because of the many things that it can do. However, it may look easy to use, one wrong move and your project will get damaged. To utilize this tool better, here are more tips for using a router.

Tip #1 – Turn The Router Upside Down

Mounting the router upside down into a table of routers extends the capabilities of the unit, making routing simpler and safer. With the tool firmly held in place, you can use both hands to feed the stock safely into the bit. Since the bit is evident, you can see what you are doing. Router tables are particularly useful for the milling of smaller pieces, the cutting of stopped grooves, or the use of large sections. Certain bits can only be included in a router table, like some raised-panel bits.

You can make your router table, and many table saws have extension wings that accept a router. Since it comes ready-to-use with all the required equipment, including an adjustable fence, miter gauge, on / off switch, dust collection port, and bit guard, a store-bought router table – is the best choice for beginners. Usually, router tables don’t come with a router, so check the specs before purchasing one to make sure your router suits the table.

Tip #2 – Feed Direction For Freehand Routing 

It will turn in a clockwise direction when you keep the router in your hand with the bit facing downward. To feed against the rotation of the bit then, you can move the router from right to left if your route around a board all the way, feeding right to the left produces a counterclockwise motion — just what you want to be doing. As the router bites into the wood, you’ll feel an even and controllable resistance from the tool.

You’ll need to route around the inside edges of a cutaway region during freehand routing. In these circumstances, the direction of feed can change. To shift the router at an inside edge against the rotation of the bit, you can feed the tool clockwise. It is the mirror opposite of routing outside edges, but the guiding principle remains the same: for optimum control and cutting efficiency, feed against the bit’s rotation.

The proper direction of feed for cutouts within is in a clockwise direction when routing by hand. Feed the router counterclockwise for the outer edges to be routed. The feed direction from handheld routing is changed by reversing a router in a router table. Feed the workpiece counterclockwise for cutouts inside.

Tip #5 – Feed Direction For Router Tables 

Working on a router table involves flipping upside down the router, and this reverses the direction of the spin of the bit. So the direction of feeding also reverses. Bits spin counterclockwise on the router surface. You would then feed the wood from the right side of the table to the left side to route the outer edges of a workpiece. Doing so forces the bit to push back the wood towards you. 

To keep the cut under control, maintain this resistance against the bit. The resistance that you feel from the bit also helps you decide the correct amount of force to be applied and how easily you can move the wood past the bit to make a clean cut. The standard feed way for making outer cuts on a router table is to feed the workpiece from left to right.

Feed the workpiece counterclockwise, against the bit’s rotation, when operating around the inside edges of a cutout on a router table. Again, by pressing the wood against the bit’s cutting edges and direction of spin, you should feel an even amount of resistance from the forces generated.

Frequently Asked Questions

A wood router is a high-speed rotary tool for connecting various router bits to the engine with a collet at the end of the engine shaft. It is one of the most potent power tools that you can use for different tasks by any woodworker. With some practice, this tool is suitable by any woodworker to perform several woodworking duties. So, keep focusing on your routing abilities and improving them. 

Which way should you use a router?

If you keep the router in hand with the bit facing down, it will turn in the direction of the clockwise direction. When feeding the router along the external edges of a workpiece, you can shift the router from right to left to provide against the bit’s rotation.

Is a wood router worth it?

A wood router is a compelling means of enhancing any project’s design. You can use a bamboo, fiberglass, and plastic router. You can also use a router to engrave, form, groove, or make panels for the doors. The cutting operation on a router emanates from its sides rather than from the top.

Can you use a router on plywood?

You can use a plywood router, but it depends entirely on your project. Eventually, the lengths of both the plywood and the banding material could be cut down by a groove. A thin piece of plywood would then make the ideal spline for connecting the two.

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