How to Use a Router to Cut a Groove

May 15, 2021

Cutting groove on cabinet wood with router.

Several woodwork scenarios, especially for making furniture, can make it necessary to add a groove to your project. You see, grooves are crucial to controlling moving parts and joints on furniture. One way to cut a groove into a wood piece is to use a router, and we’ll walk you through how to do it.

It is not enough to simply fashion a groove into a wood. It is vital to ensure the groove is straight and accurate for it to be genuinely beneficial. Thankfully, advancements in technology have provided the perfect tool for the job – a router. Now you can achieve a groove in a plank of wood very conveniently.

However, it’s one thing to possess a router and another to use it efficiently. Not to worry, a router is a relatively straightforward tool to use. All it takes is to know the proper way to use a router to cut a groove and some enthusiasm on your part.

In the next few paragraphs, we’ll walk you through a step-by-step guide on cutting a groove into a workpiece with a router. You will also discover some tips on achieving your desired results as safely and as correctly as possible. But, first, let us examine the tools you need to complete this project.

Essential Tools You Need for This Project

You’ll agree that using the right tools is crucial to the success of any project. So, before we dive into the steps on how to cut a groove with a router, here is a quick checklist to ensure you are ready. 

  • A work table
  • Clamping tools
  • A guard rail
  • A limit stop
  • Router bits
  • and, of course, a router.

If you have all this in place, then you are ready to proceed. Now, to the icing on this article’s cake – how to use a Router to cut a groove.

A Step-by-step Guide on Cutting Grooves with a Router

A router is just like every other power tool in the workshop – useful in the right hands. That said, here is how to use this innovative tool to cut a groove in wood:

Step 1: Select a Suitable Router Bit 

Before you start cutting, it’s essential to choose a suitable bit that fits the size of the groove you’re making. Moreover, you also have to make sure the bit you pick corresponds to the shape of the groove you want to produce. For example, if you intend to create a V-shaped groove, you’d have to use a V-shaped bit,

Step 2: Fix the Bit to the End of the Router

The next step is to attach the bit you chose to the router. At the bottom of the router, you will find a mechanism under a circular guard. Unscrew the circular guard to access the bit mechanism. After that, remove the bolt holding the bit in place with a wrench. Then, fix your selected bit into the hole and screw back the bolt with the wrench. Also, make sure you replace the circular guard and secure it.

Step 3: Set the Router to Match the Depth of the Groove You Need

It is important that the depth of your router corresponds to the depth of the groove you’re trying to achieve. So, to ensure this, you may have to fine-tune the router with its adjustment dial. The dial that controls a router’s depth typically sits on its side or its guard. Once you locate it, you may turn the dial to raise or lower the router bit to the depth you desire. 

The adjustment dial usually has depth measurements printed on it, but you should check the bit depth with a ruler to ensure it’s correct. Another method to confirm if you have the right depth is to place the router on a plank such that the bit hangs over the edge. Then, see far it hangs downwards. Once you have the right depth, lock the adjustment dial in place.

Step 4: Draw Out the Line Where Your Groove Should Be

Before you start cutting any groove on a piece of wood, you must mark out the board. This way, you can achieve your groove with a much higher level of accuracy. We recommend you use a pencil in drawing the line so that you can correct the lines if there are mistakes.

Step 5: Secure A Wood & Set up The Guide for Routing

Secure and clamp a piece of scrap wood just on the top of the wood piece you want to cut the groove. The clamped scrap wood is used as a guide to drive the router along the edge of the scrap wood line parallelly.

Step 6: Place the Router on the Measured Wood

If you’ve followed all the above steps, then you’re ready for this one. Place the wood you’ve marked out on your worktable, and then carefully drop your router on it. You can guide it with the guard rail to ensure that you place the tool correctly. Ensure that the bit under the router is in a perfect position with the line you’ve drawn.

Step 7: Cut the Groove

Now, this is the final and most crucial step. Pull down the router’s plunging level to control the bit and move it towards the point you want to cut. Remember, the bit should be directly on the top of the line you’ve drawn. Finally, slowly drag the router along that straight line and continue the movement until you have a clean and satisfying groove.

Safety Tips for using a Router 

Like every other tool, routers can cause injuries, and worse, if its user doesn’t take proper care while using it. However, with adequate care and safety precautions, it is possible to avoid such accidents. Here are some tips to help you stay on the right side of your writer:

  • Wear personal protective equipment before you start any operations in the workshop.
  • Make sure the power button on your router is off before replacing or mixing any bit.
  • Maintain a comfortable standing position or stance. Stretching to cut may cause you to overbalance, which may result in an accident.
  • Ensure that your router bit is firmly secure in the bit mechanism before switching on the machine.
  • Keep both hands firmly on the router handle while it is on to ensure that it does not slip off the workpiece.
  • When routing, make sure the router motor has full power before lowering the plunging level.
  • To prevent tearaways during routing, attach a scratch piece of wood at both ends of your workpiece so that your router motion starts and ends on the scrap wood.
  • It is usually best to cut from left to right with a router to achieve the best results.¬†
  • ¬†Never exert too much pressure when cutting with a router, as it may burn your workpiece.
  • Finally, make sure to release the plunge lock on your router when you finish cutting the groove.


By now, you should have a pretty good idea about how the router works and how to cut grooves with it. However, it may take some time and practice before you can achieve top-notch grooves like the pros. Nevertheless, we hope this article on how to use a router to cut a groove helps you on your way to mastery.

Remember, if you do not quite get it right the first, don’t be hard on yourself. Keep practicing, and you’ll be handling the router with so much finesse in no time. However, always exercise caution when working with a router. While accidents may be sometimes unavoidable, following safety precautions goes a long way in preventing them

We hope you have fun taking on creative projects now that you know how to cut a groove with a router.

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