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Routing - what is it?

Routing - what is it?
  The electric router is now accepted, by both amateur and professional woodworkers, as an essential tool for the workshop.

Routing encompasses a wide range of skills, not just in handling the router itself, but in using it to its best advantage in conjunction with various, guides, jigs and other ‘routing devices’, as well as the extensive range of router cutters now available. Routing is also about innovation in both the methods and applications to which the router is applied and in the aesthetic and technical design that it is used to create.

Routing - what is it?
  The Router
Most woodworkers turning to routing have some idea and experience of working with power tools.

Most householders will have occasionally used a jigsaw or electric drill and will know that power tools come in a range of power ratings and capacities - the more power you have, the faster and harder you can go about the job - well that’s the theory anyway!
However, as if you are buying a new car, computer or washing machine, you will still want to know just what to buy to suit you and your pocket. Accordingly, the questions facing the newcomer to routing are most likely to be: How much power do I need?, What collet size do I need?, Do I need variable speed?, Do I need to buy lots of accessories?, Do I need to buy lots of cutters?

Self Assessment!
How much power? - This depends on the type of work that you intend to
use the router for. If you are cutting dolls house mouldings or trimming veneers or laminates, there is little point in buying a heavy duty router. It will be too heavy and clumsy for the purpose. Conversely, if you are making doors and window frames, you would not be able to remove enough material efficiently without overloading the motor. This would cause the cutting speed to drop, resulting in a poor finish and possible premature burn-out of the motor and bearings.

Routing - what is it?
  Collet Capacity
The shank of the cutter fits into a collet which is tapered on the outside. This is secured into the armature with a collet nut.

Most small routers sold in the UK accept a 6.35mm (1/4¨) collet and sometimes an 8mm collet too.

Larger routers normally accept a 12.7mm (1/2¨) collet and additional collets are sometimes provided for smaller shank tooling, such as 12mm, 8mm, 6.35mm.

If smaller collets are not available, reducing sleeves can normally be fitted inside a larger collett to allow smaller shanked tooling to be used.
Routing - what is it?
  Speed & Variable Speed
Router spindle speeds are generally given as no-load speeds, that is the speed that the motor spindle is rotating at before the cutter enters the wood. This is generally between 18,000 and 30,000 RPM depending on the power of the router. Light duty routers will have a higher no-load speed to help compensate for their lower power. Most routing operations using cutters up to 25mm diameter, should be carried out at the maximum router speed to achieve optimum cutting efficiency.

Operations involving the use of cutters over 50mm diameter should be carried out at speeds of between 12,000 and 16,000 rpm.

Variable speed routers with full wave, load compensated electronics, tend to run smoother and possibly quieter than single speed machines, resulting in reduced bearing wear and eliminating the initial jolt on start-up. They also accommodate the use of large diameter cutters at their recommended safe speed.

Aluminium and plastics require routing at lower speeds to reduce overheating or melting, preventing problems such as weld-back, whereby molten waste material re-forms within the cut, or the fusion of waste particles to the cutter.

Routing - what is it?
  Which Cutters?
For the beginner, it is certainly not worth buying a large selection of cutters until you know exactly which types you will use most frequently or until you are faced with a specific task. Various size straight cutters are always worth having as they serve many more applications than just cutting grooves and rebates. Used with angle guides and stepped fences, they can be used for cutting mitres, edge planing and trimming.

An economic solution for the beginner is buy a basic set of cutters such as the Trend starter set. Although not all the cutters will be used as frequently as others, this will provide valuable experience of the basic range, and in selecting the most suitable cutters for specific applications in the future.

     
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