May 7, 2021
With almost everything in life, mastery comes with learning. Not surprisingly, the same logic applies to woodwork. Therefore, as a new, or maybe longtime wood and craft enthusiast, acquiring further knowledge in the field is crucial. Thankfully you’ve taken the first step towards learning more. This article will give you insight into how to cut a straight line with a router.
Undoubtedly, the wood router is one of the most versatile tools in the woodworker’s workshop. The device not only offers you power but also gives you a range of artsy applications. However, controlling the power of the wood router takes some technical know-how. Otherwise, you may not achieve the results you need and may even result in bodily injuries.
Cutting a straight line is an activity that most beginners struggle with until they gain the required confidence and skill. While a router offers a faster, more efficient, and indeed more accurate way of cutting straight lines, it does require a set of capable hands. Not to worry, after reading our tips on how to cut a straight line with a router, you’ll soon be cutting like a pro.
In this article, we will introduce you to the wood router as a tool and help you understand how it works. Furthermore, we will give you a step-by-step guide on how to cut a straight line with a router. Finally, you will also find some pro tips and tricks that will help you master the wood router and avoid some learning pitfalls.
Let’s start from the basics and examine what the wood router is.
How Wood Router Works?
A router in woodwork is a powerful tool that essentially hollows out an area on your workpiece. Typically, a router comprises an electric motor which drives a spindle at high speeds. With the power router, you have to install it into a hole in a router table with its cutting side up. However, there are some forms of the route that you can hold in your hand while in operation.
The table-mounted router (which we will discuss in this blog post) typically makes some woodwork operations safer and more straightforward. By mounting the router to the underside of the table, its cutting bit protrudes through the tabletop. This way, you can pass your work over the router instead of passing the router over your workpiece.
This unique characteristic of the router gives you more control over your workflow. However, you may need to install some other accessories to make your work more accurate and even safer. Such accessories include a fence, fingerboards, and more, depending on your needs. We’ll examine the impact of such guiders later on in this article.
The wood router has several applications in the workshop. Here are some of the most common:
- Making simple or complex profiles on the edge of a wooden board, e.g., a bevel.
- Shaping decorative or stylish molding.
- Cutting quick and convenient dadoes.
- Cutting out grooves and rabbets.
- Recessing the hinges on doors.
- And, finally cutting straight lines in workpieces.
Now that you know what a router is let us see how you can use it to cut straight lines in your workshop. Before that, let us examine what you need for a successful router operation.
Guides & Techniques on Straight-line Cut with a Router
Assuming you’re trying to cut a straight line with a router for the first time, there are a couple of things you must keep in mind. These guidelines may also be helpful if you’ve already used a router, but you’re not quite getting the results you want. Here are some points you need to mark off your checklist.
1) Setting Your Router Table
Router tables enable you to carry out precision router cuts, which may otherwise be too tasking to achieve with freehand. So, by setting up your router into your table, you’ve taken the first step towards making straight cuts with a router. Now, setting up your router table is relatively straightforward. Often, they are simple regular tables with a hole on top. But that is not all.
Router tables have a built-in clamp mechanism with which you can clamp your router. However, you must take care to ensure you fix the router the right way. The route goes vertically in the hole, but upside down such that its cutting bit extends above the table. Once you’ve done this, you can raise or lower the assembly to the required working height.
Note, some tables require you to install the router before putting the bit in, while some allow you to mount both the bit and router at once. Whichever the case may be, the core principle is to get your router in place and ready to work.
2) Choosing the Right Bit
There are hundreds of route bits available in various shapes, sizes, types, and designs. You may not choose and install the bit you need, depending on the nature of the work you have at hand. In terms of the types of bits that exist, these are the most common:
Carbide-tipped steel bits
You can recognize these by their very dark edges. Furthermore, they are the sharpest of bits and will make precision cuts on hardwood better than any other bit.
High-speed steel bits
These are very shiny and chrome-like. More often than not, woodworkers use this type of bits for only softwoods. However, if they are new or very sharp, they may work for hardwood too.
Cutting a straight line with a route qualifies as high-precision work, so you want to rely on a sharp carbide-tipped steel bit for such a task.
However, there is another vital consideration that goes into choosing your bit – its design. There are essentially two designs for bits:
- The straight design, and
- The profile design
In this guide on how to cut a straight line with a router, we will be using the straight-design.
3) Using Guide Accessories
You may need to use some accessories to get the best results in terms of efficiency and accuracy. One of these instruments is a straightedge. Using a straightedge as a fence is particularly essential in making the straight precision cut with a route. The straightedge reduces the chance of bobbling or even chipping your workpiece while going over the bit.
We probably don’t have to tell you if your workpiece wobbles during the cut; it may waste or even totally ruin the wood. So, by using a straightedge to guide your cut, you have more stability and less room for error. Moreover, since you have to worry less about keeping a straight line, you can focus more on getting your piece over the bit.
- It is not very common knowledge, but using rubber gloves can make your work so much safer and more efficient. You see, using bare hands while working with a router can be quite dangerous. Your hand may slip on the slippery wood and into the bit. With luck, such accidents may only result in extreme pain. However, using rubber gloves quickly solves this problem as they stick to the wood.
- This way, you have a firm grip that will help you achieve a straight cut safely. Also, you should ensure that your table is friction-free. Friction will prevent your wood piece from gliding smoothly over the bit. This may lead to bumpy and rough cutting. An excellent way to solve this problem is to wax your table.
- Also, paying attention to the sound your router makes while cutting can help you keep a better handle on things. If you hear a whistle or chatter or high-frequency sound while you work, there may be a problem. A chatter usually means that the wood is bouncing off the bit while a whistling signal splintering or tearing woods. The goal is to get a steady hum or buzz while you cut.
Steps On Cutting a Straight Line with A Route
With the right tips, cutting a straight line with a router is a relatively straightforward process. More importantly, you’ll get the results you want. Here is a step-by-step on how to cut a straight line using a router.
- The first step is to install an appropriate bit in your router. We already discussed the guidelines for doing this, so choose a bit that works and fix it into your router. Don’t forget to tighten it too!
- Next, you have to set the cutting depth that is suitable for the wood piece you’re working on. Depending on the model of your router you use, the adjusting mechanism may vary. So, we recommend referring to the manufacturer’s manual if you need to.
- Once you’ve done this, the next step is to place and secure your workpiece. To get the best result, make sure to set the workpiece such that the table can support its weight and cutting pressure. Also, make sure that it is firm on the work surface.
- Ensure that you align your work material with your straight-edge such that when you cut, you do so in a straight line.
- The next step is to begin cutting, but there is a point to note. If your route bit is in a clockwise rotation, it is usually best to cut your material from left to right. For anti-clockwise, cut right to left. This is because routers generate significant torque, which tends to throw your workpiece off the intended path.
However, there are ways to reduce this. Equipping your router with a fence works like magic. Furthermore, cutting towards your guide boards and in the same direction helps to counteract this force. You may also need to clamp down your workpiece.
- Finally, it can be rather challenging for a beginner to figure out the right speed for feeding wood to their router on their first try. Routing too fast may cause splinters on your workpiece while overheating the router. On the other hand, going too slowly may burn the wood. Therefore, it is best to carry out some practice runs with scrap pieces before using your actual material.
Helpful Tips for Using the Wood Router
Here are some additional tips that can help you achieve satisfactory straight cuts with a router:
- Always ensure that your router bit is clean and sharp before use.
- Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations in terms of router speed.
- Always route your workpiece in the right direction.
- Equip your router with appropriate guide accessories, including a fence and straightedges.
- Always wear your protective equipment while working in the workshop.
If you reached this point, thank you for sticking through with us. By now, you should now know how to cut a straight line with a router. Remember, all you need to do is follow the outlined guidelines, and before you know it, you’ll be cutting smooth straight lines like a pro. If you don’t get it entirely the first try, don’t beat yourself. It takes time to be able to work a router and get perfect results. So, keep at it!
Do you have further questions about using the wood router? Please let us know, and we’d get back to you with answers.
Jason is a 40-year-old woodworker, carpenter and author who have been involved in the woodworking and woodcraft industry with 17 years of experience. He is expertise in technical aspects, woodcraft and furniture building projects.