Router Tricks for Trim
Armed with two routers and three bits, an experienced carpenter shares five problem-solving tips for trim, cabinets, doors, and stairs.
Synopsis: Veteran builder Gary Striegler is fond of his assortment of tools, including his collection of routers. For Striegler, a router is a key way to expedite tasks that would take much more time and effort when done with other tools. In this article, Striegler offers advice on using a router to patch a blowout on trim after it has been installed; making dentil molding on site; trimming a cabinet face frame in place; mortising door hardware with simple jigs; and housing treads in skirtboards for tight joints. Striegler also includes information on the three router bits that he uses the most: pattern, flush trim, and dado.
Magazine extra: Read Job-Site Router Techniques to get additional tricks, and to learn which routers and bits Gary Striegler uses to make site-built cabinetry, casing, brackets, and tongue-and-groove flooring.
My editor recently called me a tool junkie. My wife has called me the same thing, but with a few expletives. In my defense, when you’ve been building as long as I have, you can appreciate how important it is to have a good collection of tools close at hand wherever you are.
I won’t tell you how many routers I actually own, partly because I stopped counting 10 years ago. But despite the grief routers might cause me on occasion, they have gotten me out of a lot of jams on the job. Of the many I own, the trim and midsize D-handle models are the two I reach for most.
Different routers for different jobs
The first trim routers were called laminate trimmers because they made quick, clean work of flush-cutting laminate for countertops. Today, more powerful motors and a variety of accessories make trim routers a staple for most finish carpenters. One of my favorite features is that I can safely use my trim router with one hand, leaving the other hand free to hold the workpiece.
I use a trim router when I need to make short, shallow cuts in doors, cabinets, and trim. Because most have only 1-hp motors and 1 ⁄ 4-in. collets, they shouldn’t be commissioned for heavy work like cutting detailed profiles into a piece of hardwood. I don’t use anything larger than a 1-in.-long by 1 ⁄ 2-in.-dia. straight bit in my trim routers. Larger-diameter bits put too much strain on the motor.
For bigger tasks that require more power, such as cutting deep mortises or plowing wide dadoes, I use a 1 1 ⁄ 2-hp D-handle router. The D-handle allows me to use one hand or two, and it is easy to control.
If you don’t own either of these tools or the bits I mention here, show this article to whoever is likely to give you a hard time about a tool purchase. Together, they’ll save you an incredible amount of time, which will let you find reasons to buy more tools…
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From Fine Homebuilding #198