Group

What you should look for in a wood working Router

 1. THE INTRODUCTION TO ROUTING  

 The router holds a special place in power tools as it’s a machine that grows with you to become a tool that has a multitude of uses across a range of tasks and platforms.

At its most basic it’s a simple tool for applying edge moulds or to make rebates, slots and grooves but as you delve deeper into the capabilities of the router, its adaptability and uses bring new strengths, uses and endless possibilities in both hand held and router table operations.

By introducing jigs, templates and guides, the router becomes a tool that can replicate shaped and profiles, inlay decorative veneers, make complex joints, aid the fitting of trade orientated tasks such as kitchen worktops, doors and locks and assist in bigger joinery projects such as stair building. 

Specialised cutters allow more complex work to be achieved with ease, speeding up processes that would need complex marking out and additional tools and hand skills.

Additional cutter designs also cover the precision installation of ironmongery fitments when building furniture and specialised work such as weather seals in window and door frame construction.

THE BRAND-NEW T7 1/2-INCH ROUTER

THE T4 1/4-INCH ROUTER

THE T5 1/4-INCH ROUTER

THE T10 1/2-INCH ROUTER

THE T11 1/2-INCH ROUTER

2. WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF ROUTERS?

Routers fall into two main categories, plunge and fixed base, with plunge bases the most popular type in Europe.

They allow faster adjustments and safer operation as well as being more useful in general routing applications.

The fixed base models are favoured in North America for both hand held and inverted within a table, often set up with a set position for moulding cutters.

Within the table, setting the cutter height is where a fixed base model does have an advantage as the adjustment is made by fixing the fixed base to the underside of the router table and winding the router body through the base which offers very easy control.

A plunge router has to be adjusted by pushing against the plunge springs which from the underside of the router table with restricted space can be difficult to control.

Adjustment from above the table is always an advantage and the Trend T11 router is designed to make any adjustments easy to achieve from above, allowing fine, controllable adjustments for precision set ups.

Dual base routers are an alternative to dedicated fixed or plunge models and can give the best of both worlds by having a fixed and plunge base using an interchangeable motor that fits both bases.

There can be limitations on the plunge depth with the dual base types, but the fixed base option is a popular choice as they can have smaller base footprints and can be used as a palm router for easy one handed control, especially on edge moulds.

3. ROUTER ATTRIBUTES

With plunge routers the most popular design on the market, they all have similar attributes that follow a common style or design, but while the basics can be similar, the layout and operation of the controls and other adjustments play an important part in using any router safely and easily.

 

4. ROUTER SIZES

While the control and adjustment attributes are important, for hand held work, the smaller 1/4in collet router is the most popular and offers easier control for most basic moulding and other work where the router is used for finer detail.

Although limited to smaller cutter diameters, some of the smaller routers are capable of using an 8mm dimeter collet to allow some bigger bits to be used or to minimise cutter shank strain on bigger profiles by using 8mm shanked bits.

Although capable of doing the finer work of the 1/4in models, and capable of taking ¼, 8mm and 1/2in shanked cutters, the 1/2in collet routers tend to be workhorse models first and foremost, designed for heavier trade work such as commercial jig use; kitchen fitting, stair building and the like.

They should still have the same adjustments where possible but depending on the model, could be very basic in some of the fine adjustments or speed control options.

Plunge depth can also vary dramatically so attention should be paid to what your intended use will be as some jigs need a router with deep plunge capacity to be able to use them safely.

Some 1/2in collet routers also have smaller motors which make themlighter to use so more controllable on intricate work but could struggle on some of the bigger applications if worked too hard; essentially, the bigger the motor the more you can work the machine.

5. ROUTER PLUNGE CONTROL

Apart from switching the router on and off, the plunge is the most used part in normal everyday operations so it needs to be both well positioned and easy to engage and disengage.

Levers are normally positioned behind the left handle or grip and should be both in easy reach and also easily operable with the index and middle fingers to allow the thumb and remaining fingers to stay in control on the grip.

The levers are usually spring loaded with two types used, either pushing against the spring to lock the lever, or with the spring moving the lever automatically towards the lock, pushing against it to release.

Both work well, but both still need to be tightened up correctly to ensure they don’t release under load.

If the lever is well positioned, once it has been set using the fingers, the thumb can then be used to nip the setting further without disengaging the grip.

Metal or alloy levers are preferable but some are plastic and if these are too long, while having the advantage of being closer to the fingers to operate, can flex so the lock may not be as good as it should be.

The plunge springs should also be of a light enough tension so that they are easy to control without having too much resistance that can be a struggle to operate.

On the Trend T5 router the plunge lever is dispensed with in favour of a twist locking handle.

This is a very intuitive method of plunge control, allowing both hands to remain fully on the grips with a slight twist of the grip enough to release and control the plunge.

6. ROUTER POWER SWITCH

Controlling the router falls into two broad switch categories; ‘Always On’ or ‘Deadman’s’.

The ‘Always On’ type are normally sliders or rocker switches so that once deployed, the power remains on so that your hands are free to control the router.

This type of switch can be positioned anywhere on the router casing but ideally it should be close to the right hand grip to allow it to be operated without having to release the grip.

For inverted use the ‘Always On’ switch is advantageous especially if the table has an NVR control box as the router can be controlled remotely.

The downside to this type of switch is that they can be engaged accidentally before plugging in or if there’s a power cut they will remain in the power on state and will spring into life as soon as power is restored so it is good practice to check the switch before plugging in or immediately switch it off if the power is interrupted.

Deadman’s switches are designed to protect the user from any break in power, and cannot be left in an ‘On’ state.

Often requiring a secondary safety button to be deployed before the main switch can be engaged, they are spring loaded so have remain pulled in when in use.

While inherently safer, they can be fatiguing on a long run of work and in table use will need a method of tying the switch in the ‘On’ position when needed.

There are also hybrid versions of the ‘Deadman’s’ where the switch is engaged but a secondary button then locks it on if needed, offering easier use for table and extended periods of use, or as a pressure release trigger for safer hand held standard use.

 

7. ROUTER PLUNGING SPRINGS

Plunging should be a very fluid movement to ensure the cutter engages the work smoothly without snatching and grabbing which can be dangerous as well as ruining the workpiece.

A smooth light plunge is essential for any stopped work where the cutter has to engage and disengage accurately.

The columns should be smooth and free of and resin build up or corrosion to ensure a free running movement and also have minimal side play or rocking to ensure the cutter remains accurate and vibration free as it cuts.

The better routers will have high quality sealed phosphor bronze bushings to allow the columns to glide smoothly and accurately throughout their range.

The plunge springs should also have light resistance; enough to bring the router up away from the work quickly, while still allowing the router to plunge freely without pushing hard and losing control of the cut as it engages.

8. ROUTER PLUNGE DEPTH

An essential part of any router is the plunge capacity.

On smaller 1/4in routers this can be as little as 35mm which is fine for smaller routing tasks including edge detailing, stringing, banding and shallow rebating and grooving where the depth of cut required isn’t huge.

Generally, a plunge of around 50mm is where most 1/4in models sit, and this offers good plunge capacities for rebating and deeper moulding work as well as templating and jig work.

On bigger 1/2in models the plunge can vary from 50mm to 80mm and while the 50mm plunge will do a lot of bigger work including worktop joints and stair jig work, it won’t be able to cut a lock casing to the full depth.

The Trend T10 and T11 are 80mm plunge models designed with this capacity and capability to aid the trade user in being able to increase productivity and achieve consistent professional finishes across all work platforms.

9. VARBILABE SPEED CONTROL 

Speed control is essential to help prevent the workpiece from being damaged during any routing procedure.

All Trend individual router cutters come with information on the recommended maximum speed they should be used at which is a great aid and guide to safer operation, but the speed required for specific materials can mean a slower speed is required such as plastics for instance.

Different species of timber will also respond better to different cutter speeds but the maximum safe speed indicated should never be exceeded.

In general practice, especially on natural timbers, it can be a balance of the speed of cut and the speed of the router that determines the finish of the cut.

As with other tasks, a learning curve soon allows the user to judge the best cutter speed and how fast to move it through the cut.

The tendency is to slow the feed speed through the work as you encounter corners, transitions or tight curves and it’s usually here that the cutter speed can then become too quick for the cut speed and start to scorch the work as it idles in one spot too long.

Once you become more confident in moving the router freely around any intersects or corners this problem can be eliminated but the speed control still needs to be set to suit the timber with some harder, tight grained timbers especially prone to burning from idling fast turning cutters.

The better routers should also have Full Wave Electronic motor control that compensates for any strain under load to maintain the same speed and ensure the cutting performance remains constant.

Type over the top of an image