How To Use A Handheld Router

April 23, 2022

Woodworker cutting inlay groove on wood board with hand router.

A creative woodworker—equipped with all the necessary power tools like a handheld router—is almost unstoppable in transforming a dull-looking wood piece into a fantastic work of art. A router, for example, can speed up your jobs, especially when cutting recesses and grooves. Besides, using the router, you can create excellent effects, which you will find hard to achieve using other tools. So, you need to get yourself power tools like the router to actualize all your creative woodworking ideas. 

The handheld router, however, is a power tool. As such, you need to handle it correctly and with care. If it is your first time using a router, it will be best to get oriented into the proper way of handling and using this powerful tool. As you read through this post, you will learn more about the straightforward steps of using a handheld router.

Steps on Using a Handheld Router

If you’re a beginner in using the router, you might advance it in the wrong direction. You might also have a hard time keeping the router in the right direction. Thus, as a beginner, it will be best to learn the following succinct steps for using a router:

Step 1: Set Up Your Router

Before turning on your router, you need to set it up properly. Of course, the preparation and the setting up constitute half the battle. When setting up your router, you need to select the best bit for the project. If you would make grooves, you need to choose groove cutting bits that have a plain profile. Besides, if you engage in edging, you need to use edging bits that usually come with a metal guide wheel. 

Once you’ve selected the right bit, you can set your router to one side. Then, using the spanner, you can lock and loosen the chuck. Once you’ve loosened the chuck, you can slide the router bit onto the chuck. Tighten afterward. Then, take the locking pin and safely store it away. 

Step 2: Set the Cutting Depth

Once you’ve set up the bit, you can position your router upright on your workbench. Afterward, you can loosen the securing nut for the depth rod. Then, let loose the side handle. After that, press on the router until you see the bit touch the bench surface. 

Afterward, you can secure the handle back and check the depth gauge. Set the cutting depth. Move the pointer to the desired depth and secure the nut of the depth rod. 

Then, you can loosen again the side handle. Allow the router to rise on its springs. Make a test cut to see if the depth setting is correct.

Tips on Installing the Router Bit

As mentioned above, there are many types of router bits. You need to select the appropriate router bit for your project. When installing the bit, it will be best to follow the instructions provided by the router manufacturer. 

Yet, you will only slide the bit onto the collet in most routers. Then, use the wrench that comes with the router for tightening the nut. 

Once you have installed the base back, simply adjust it up and down. If your router comes with a turning wheel, you can use the turning wheel to get a precise adjustment. Correct the cutting depth if needed.

Things You Need to Do Before You Start Using Your Router

As a beginner, you need to be cognizant of the essential factors to consider when using the router. Below are some of the things you need to bear in mind when using the router:

  • Don’t forget to wear your safety gear like safety goggles or glasses. You should also wear your face shield and earplugs to protect your eardrums from loud noise. 
  • You should disconnect the router cord from the power supply before you make an adjustment to the bits or before changing the bit. Check the bit likewise before you install it.
  • Make sure that you securely mount the bit onto the chuck and tighten the base. 
  • Position the router base on your work, guide, or template. Ensure that the bit freely rotates before you switch the router on. 
  • Ensure that you clamp the material you are working on. In this way, you can prevent injury due to kickback or sudden torque. 
  • Inspect the stock for any screws, nails, or staples. 
  • Ensure that the cords are out of the cutting line.

How To Profile Edges Using Router?

As a beginner in using a router, you might be at a loss as to how to do profile edges. It will help to check out the following simple steps on profiling edges using the router:

Step 1: Feed the Blade Correctly

If you look at the router from above, you will notice that the cutters rotate counterclockwise. This rotation of the cutters means that you need to feed the cutters right-to-left. In this way, the bit’s blade will turn toward the wood instead of away from the wood. This feeding enables you to prevent the router from slipping out of your grip.

Step 2: Select the Right Cutter

When using the router, you need to select the bit with the appropriate profile to fit the router. Set the cutting depth correctly and clamp your material securely. Ensure that the clamps will not block the router’s path. 

Let the soleplate rest on the wood’s face. Then turn on the router as you press the router down to set the depth. Afterward, you slide the blade sideways onto the wood edge and start cutting. With the guide roller on its bit, the bit will stop cutting onto the edge beyond the required depth. 

Begin to move your router along the wood’s edge. Maintain the flat position of the soleplate. Then, keep the guide wheel tight while it presses against the edge.

How to Cut a Parallel Groove?

You can use your router to make a parallel groove, and it will help if you are familiar with the following steps on how to make a parallel groove:

  1. To make a parallel groove to the board’s edge, you must attach the guide fence that comes with the router. This guide fence is attached to the soleplate. You can mark the point where you will make the groove and make this mark your reference point for setting the guide plate’s position and the guide fence. Make sure you set the necessary cutting depth using the abovementioned method.
  2. Set the router at the timber’s end and ensure the guide fence is tightly set against the edge. Ensure likewise that the bit gets aligned with the cutline. Loosen up the side handle. Then, press the router’s body down and preset the cutting depth. Then, tighten back the handle. 
  3. Please turn on the router and slide it towards the cut mark’s start. Ensure that your guide fence is tight and flat against the edge. Afterward, you can start cutting the groove. Apply steady pressure on your router as you plod along the track. Allow the router bit to cut until the board’s end if necessary.
  4. You must make your cutting guide if you must hollow a parallel groove beyond the guide fence’s end. Mark the router’s position where you want to start the groove and position the router bit over the cut mark. Position the wood against the sole plate’s side and secure it using the clamp.

Additional Tips on Using the Handheld Router Correctly

As a beginner, you want to gobble up any routing tips you can devour from the experts. Below are some extra tips that might help you raise your level of routing skills a notch higher:

Routing Direction

When you rout along an edge, you need to be mindful of your routing direction. It is advisable to run your router opposite the bit’s direction. So, this means you should run your router bit from left to right when running your router along the board’s outside edge. If you are routing inside your board, you need to run your router clockwise from right to left. 

Routing Depth

Another factor you need to consider is the routing depth. The routing depth, of course, varies depending on the requirement of your project. You can set the depth by adjusting the distance the router bit will stick out of the router base. 

You can do one pass to cut the edge when you rout a decorative edge. However, if you want to take much material off, you can make many passes to cut incrementally on the material. 

The efficiency of your router will depend on the bit’s sharpness and the power of your router. Besides, it will be best to make some practice routing so that you can set the bit and adjust it appropriately.

Use Router Guide and Jigs

You might be the master of the handheld router, so you seldom need a router jig. Yet, that rarely happens. Even if you are a master of the handheld jig, you would surely use the router jig and guide. Router jigs and guides, of course, can make your work accurate. 

The good thing is that most routers often come with some attachments that run along the board’s edge, allowing you to make a cut at a certain distance from the board’s edge. But if your router doesn’t come with such an attachment, you can use a straight edge to enable your router to run along the cut line

You can also find many jigs that can enhance your router use. One good router jig is the circle jig. You can buy this circle jig to let you mount your router onto that jig or make your own circle jig. This jig will let you make a perfect circle using the router.

Use a Router Table 

You might be using a handheld router, and you’ve been using it this way. Yet, you can also mount the router upside down on your router table. In doing so, you can expand the capabilities of your router, making your router compatible to use on mounting table to be safe and easy to use. 

Mounting the router on a router table allows you to secure the router in place and free your hands from holding the router. You can also use your router safely while feeding the stock into the router’s bit. 

A mounted router on the table can let you see how the bit hits the material, which is not possible with handheld routing. Router tables are also helpful when routing smaller pieces and using larger bits. In fact, you can only use certain router bits when the router gets mounted on the table. 

You can either buy a router table or make your router table. Of course, it is additional work for you if you would make your router table, but it will be a worthwhile project.

Guide on Using the Handheld Router Safely

Aside from the abovementioned steps and tips on using the handheld router, it will also help if you are familiar with the following guidelines on using handheld routers:

  • When using the router, you should hold both handles of the router with your two hands until the motor has completely stopped. Don’t put down the router when the router bit is still turning. 
  • Avoid overreaching and keep your foot well grounded.
  • You can start the motor with its bit over the stock when engaged in inside routing. Once the router gets to full swing, lower its bit accordingly.
  • When routing along the outside edges of the material, ensure that the router bit moves counterclockwise relative to the material. 
  • When making bevel cuts or moldings, ensure that the bit gets in contact with the material, starting from the left and moving to the right direction. 
  • Feed your router bit using controlled speed. 
  • Move your router as fast as it can move when routing softwood.
  • When routing hardwood, feed the router bit slowly. 
  • Be mindful of the motor’s sound. If it is whining at a high pitch, you are feeding the bit slower than the needed speed. If you push the router too hard, it will growl. 
  • It will be best to make several passes when the routing requires going slow. In this way,
  • you will avoid kickback and burning out of the router.
  • Make a test cut on a scrap to figure out the appropriate cutting depth.


As a beginner in using a handheld router, you might be aching to master the different routing techniques to enhance your routing skills. So, reading and learning about the abovementioned tips and strategies will help you broaden your routing skills. Learning the techniques can also raise your level of woodworking a notch higher. 

It will be best to learn the abovementioned techniques and learn them by heart assiduously. Of course, there is a learning curve in mastering the handheld router. Moreover, you can always learn from the expert and improve your skills by following their pieces of advice.  

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