Photo by Rob Brown ; Illustration by Len Churchill
With a stationary (aka fixed-base) router, the cutting depth remains constant while the router is in use. With a plunge router you can move the motor and router bit assembly up and down while the router is in use. A combination router consists of a motor and interchangeable stationary and plunge bases. Either style of router can be had in one of three motor sizes: up to 1 HP for compact (aka trim, laminate, or palm) routers; between 1 and 2-1/2 HP for mid-sized routers; and 3 HP and larger for production routers. Features that you’ll want with any router include soft start, electronic feedback circuitry, easy-to-use micro-adjust depth control, spindle lock, and interchangeable sub-bases. For mid-sized and production routers look for models that have both 1/4″ and 1/2″ collets.
Adjust router speed for the type of material and the size of the router bit being used. Typically, the larger the bit, the slower the speed. Consult a router speed chart if in doubt.
Reduce tear-out by moving the router in the opposite direction of normal feed. On a router table only climbcut when using a jig or power feeder.
While bit sets may seem economical, many include bits you will seldom use. Buy bits when you need them, and select premium quality bits – they cost more, but they give better results and last longer than economy bits.
A router table makes it easier and safer to use the router – particularly for small, narrow stock. You can do more precise routing, with better dust management. Build your own or buy a fully decked-out router table.
Purchase or make jigs for freehand routing and for use on a router table. There are jigs for routing circles and arcs, inlays, mortises, and dovetails, and for shaping complex convex and concave surfaces.