What Are Routers Used For In Woodworking?

June 6, 2021

Carpenter use router to cut edge of a wood board.

So, you have seen your friend at work with his electric router in his shops, and now you are desirous of knowing how to use it and want to jumpstart your woodworking career. Well, the router is essentially a power tool in woodworking, and you need to understand how this versatile tool works if you want to begin some woodworking projects.

Wood routers, of course, can do more than make fancy edges. It can make the most reliable rabbets and dadoes and create those perfect fancy patterns that others readily appreciate. So, in this article, I have compiled everything that you need to know about this power tool.

What Is A Router?

A router is a tool that hollows out an area in any hard material like wood or plastic. You can generally use it in woodworking, especially in making cabinets. You can find routers that are handheld and routers that fasten to the benchwork with its cutting end facing up.

The old handheld router appeared like the classic single tooth of an old woman; hence, woodworkers of old referred to this tool as the old woman’s tooth. This traditional hand tool is a specialized hand plane that comes with a broad base with a narrow blade that projects out of its base plate just like the classic old woman’s tooth.

However, the modern counterpart of that original hand tool is a power tool router form that features a spindle driven by a powerful electric motor. You will see this type of router in most modern-day workshops. Moreover, there are CNC wood routers that let their users control the routing process using a Computer Numerical Control (CNC).

What Can a Router Do?

The router, as mentioned above, is a power tool that can do many things. Aside from hollowing out an area, the router can do several things which many are not aware of. Here are the things that a router can do to infuse creativity into any woodworking projects:

1) Cut Dadoes With A Jig

You can cut dadoes using a router and a jig. Woodworkers consider dadoes as the strongest and cleanest way to support shelves. If you want to create dadoes, you need a router with a straight bit and a DIY jig. The jig may be a simple T-square consisting of a straight 2-ft straight 1×2 wood screwed to a straight 1×6 wood. The 1×6 should be longer than the wood you will route. 

It should also have an extra 1-1/2-inch allowance to join the other wood. Then, screw the wood together using wood screws. Remember to keep the jig square when assembling it correctly.

You should also purchase a bit that perfectly matches the required dado width. With the correct bit, you can create the right dado in one pass. But before you use the router with the jig, you should first test it with a waste piece of wood. Set the bit at 1/4 inch. Then, use the T to make a pass on the test piece of wood. 

Afterward, check the dado using a square. If you have created a perfectly square dado, you can then work with the actual workpiece. Mark the location of the dado on the workpiece. Afterward, line up the groove of the jig using your layout marks. Clamp the jig onto the wood and start hollowing out the dado. 

2) Edge Routing

You will find the process of routing a clean edge profile a bit tricky and complicated, especially if you are working on narrow pieces of wood. The reason for this is that clamps can get in the router’s way. Moreover, the base may rock when you hit the narrow surface. 

You can remedy this problem by screwing a support board to the workbench. This support board should be as thick as the workpiece. By screwing a stop to the bench at the board’s end, you can prevent the board from slipping.  

This setup provides the router with a wide surface on which to work. It will also eliminate any rocking while forcing the workpiece against the stop and the support board. It does away with the use of clamps likewise.   

3) Create Rounded Edges

If you intend to make round edges, you can use the router to make those round edges. Of course, rounded edges are aesthetically pleasing to look at than straight edges. Moreover, round edges would showcase your creativity and skills better than straight edges. 

So, if you are making a nightstand, bench, or table, you can make their edges round using the router. Rounder edges are less risky than straight edges for children who would usually clumsily play around. 

To create a rounded edge, you need to attach your router bit to the router’s collet. Afterward, lock it in. Then, set your bit’s depth. Lastly, you run the router along the wood’s edge, letting you round the edge while smoothening it.

4) Carve Out Clean Rabbets

You will sometimes cut grooves or recess into the wood’s edge. These grooves are called rabbets, and they are often cut on the cabinet’s back edge or bookcase sides. You will also sometimes use rabbets for creating casement window jambs or doors. 

Moreover, you can use rabbets along with dadoes for forming sturdy joints. You can use different rabbet bits with most routers and cut grooves according to the desired width.  

5) Bevel Frame

You can use the router to create a picture frame that features a beveled edge. It is easy to do if you use a router. Using your router, you can shape the frame’s inside and the outside edges. Then, you assemble the pieces with the help of clamps. 

Using a router, you can create an aesthetically classic-looking frame accented by molded grooves and lines. Moreover, your creativity level in creating frames with beveled edges will greatly level up using the router.

6) Recessing Door Hinges

You can use the router and a jig for cutting space for lock faceplates or recessed door hinges. The good thing about using recessed hardware pieces is that they offer more finesse and finished look and smoother movement and operation.

Most doors have recessed hinges on their side. These recessed hinges let you close the door tightly without gaps. If you do not have a router, you can chisel or hollow out the hinges’ space. But using a router will speed up the cutting process for you and provide you with a better result.

7) Putting Patterns

Having a router at hand can help you create multiple copies of patterns of any shape. It will help if you use a bottom bearing flush-trim bit. With this router bit, you can create various great artistic projects as you follow the technique of creating multiple patterns. 

You can utilize 1/2 or 3/4-inch plywood, fiberboard, or particleboard for creating the design. It will not help to use thinner materials because it will not allow enough depth to ride on the pilot bearing. 

Once done with the cutting of the pattern, you can then trace the shape onto the material you plan to use. Afterward, you can cut out the shape using a jigsaw or band saw, offsetting the cut by around 1/4-inch outside the traced line. You can smoothen the cut later using a flush-trim bit. 

After smoothening the pattern, you can then position the pattern onto the wood that you would like to cut. You can clamp it or use some drywall screws to keep it in place. However, it will help if you use shank lengths that will not poke out through the workpiece’s show side. 

You can duplicate the cutout pattern afterward. The clamps may also get in the way, so more often, you need to stop and shift the wood piece to get the best cutting position. Then, re-clamp the pattern and continue routing to complete the cutting process.    

8) Groove Routing

Aside from creating dadoes and carving rabbets, you can also use the router for groove routing. You can use the router bits to make flat-bottomed grooves, V-shaped grooves, and rounded grooves. The spiral or straight router bits can help you make flat-bottomed grooves, while the V-groove cutters enable you to make V-shaped grooves. The round nose cutters, on the other hand, make rounded grooves. 

It will help to distinguish between grooves and dadoes. The groove runs parallel to the wood grain, while dado runs across the wood grain. You can use grooves for cabinet making and housing frame panels.

9) Molding Routing

You will often see a building feature called molds that are both used for practical and decorative purposes. The molding comes in material strips form made of plaster or wood. The molds are often beautiful and also come in different designs and types. They can be used to conceal wires or cables. They can come in an elaborate form with exquisite artistry. To create these molds, you need to use a molding router bit.

10) Cove Routing

You can also use the router to engage in cove routing. The cove is also a groove; yet, it is a type of groove that is round. You will see this groove on the material’s edge. One can make this type of groove using a rounded nose, cove, or radius router bit. 

You can use coves as decorative fluting in woodworking projects. You can also use them together with an ovolo for creating drop-leaf table joints.

11) Chamfer Routing

You can make a chamfer cut—an angled cut across the material’s corner to do away with the 90-degree edge. You can use a V-groove or a chamfer router bit to achieve this angled cut. You will often engage in chamfer routing when making a miter joint. Thus, the chamfer cut is also known as a miter cut at the end of the material piece. You can use a miter joint for creating a picture frame.


As you become a prolific woodworker, you will also get keener on using the router. You will also get creative with its use to create more artistic projects that would delight others. There is no doubt, the router is a great power tool if you know and understand its various capabilities. Besides, with constant practice in using it, you will achieve full mastery of its different usage, and soon, you can raise your woodworking skills to the next level and become a master woodworker.  

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