Routers: The Best Tool You’re Not Using
A well-equipped router is an indispensable tool for trim work, but which type and which accessories are right for you?
Synopsis: An introduction to routers, this article explains the basic sizes, types (fixed vs. plunge), and uses for routers. There are tips here for safe routing, as well as a guide to the most useful accessories.
It may not have the sex appeal of an oversize sliding compound-miter saw, but in my opinion, the router is the power tool that separates the craftsman from the wood butcher. Outfitted with the right collection of bits and accessories, a router is like a woodworking shop in a box. If you ever have to replicate an odd profile, plow a dado, or simply round over a square edge, your router might become the best friend you’ve ever had.
The problem with routers is that they’re complicated. Choosing the right model from among a dizzying array of sizes and styles is tough enough; deciding which bits and accessories you need (rather than covet) is even harder. And if you’ve never used a router before, you’ll find the learning curve is a bit steeper than it is for most other power tools. But once you’re set up and running, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without one — or more.
Although individual models vary greatly, today’s routers are generally available in three sizes: compact laminate trimmers, medium-duty all-purpose units, and heavy-duty production models. If you favor either of the two larger sizes, you’ve also got to choose between the traditional fixed-base routers and the relatively new plunge routers.
Over the years, I’ve accumulated an arsenal of routers of various types and sizes; but if I had to get by with just one, I’d pick a medium-duty (1 1⁄2 hp to 2 hp), fixed-base model.
Fixed-base routers are less complicated than the plunge variety, and they’re generally…