Draw or create an original piece. Let's use a fish (flounder) as an example. I suppose I would draw it on a piece of mdf and make corrections until I get it looking like I want. Then cut it out on the band saw (or scroll saw, which I don't have). Next, sand and tweak until I get the pattern smooth.
Does that sound about right?
Basically, that's about it. You can draw your pattern on paper and spray glue it to your template stock, or use a photo or whatever. Make the first template out of 1/4" MDF or ply, it'll be easier to sand and tweak. Any defect in the template will transfer to your project so do a really good job on this. Then if you think you'll use it more than once or twice or you'll be cutting thick material with a big bit just use a pattern bit to cut a duplicate in 1/2" MDF.
Want to get more advanced? Our fellow member Quillman
has begun a series of treatises on template routing, Chapters one
are currently available.
Charles Neil's The Magic of Routers DVD set
goes quite a bit in depth on making and using templates and a lot more. You might find it at a local Woodcraft or other woodworking store.
Just a note: Template routing is essentially a trimming operation. Bandsaw, jigsaw, chainsaw or table saw your stock as close to the finished product as you can. Use oversized bearings or bushings to sneak up on your final cut, making that cut a smooth and effortless operation will minimize the risk of kickbacks, broken bits, burnt work and trips to the emergency room. Make SURE the template is firmly attached to the work, don't rely on your fingers if you want to keep them. If you're using top-bearing bits, get one that closely matches your stock thickness in cutting length, long cutters flex and chatter and leave a lot of sharp metal sticking out of the router to come into contact with things they aren't supposed to cut(including you). If you think pattern routing is inherently safe just ask Darryl
. Better safe than sorry...
And have fun, there's a whole new world opening up to you!
P.S. Pat, you beat me to it! It's only 3:00 out there on the Left Coast, shouldn't you be working?