I stuck this out there before but noone saluted so I'll try again. This will help get things organized for you. Every discipline is a discipline only because it is organized with a system of measurement and a language. Using a router is a discipline. Some of this I "created" out of ignorance and some is "accurate."
I hope it helps.
=================== Router Classes:
I'm going to stick my neck out here and try this. Rotary Tools:
these can be used as routers and indeed have attachments that allow them to perform the plunge function. Typically they will use 1/8" shank bits and there are a wide variety available. The shank is the part of the bit that inserts into the armature of the tool. The dominant name would be Dremel. Drywall Router:
typically known as "RotoZip," this is a laminate trimmer with a "special" side cutting bit. Useless for most other projects. One of our members uses his on a duplicator. Laminate Trimmers:
these are "light" routers. Typically they are high speed, low power that are designed for quick, low stress work. Some come with variable speed but that is counter-intuitive since lower speed will add to stress on an already weak motor. This class will take small diameter 1/4" shank bits. "Inlay or Detail" routers:
I didn't get a howl of protest but I got a very carefully considered rebuttal (below) so I'm modifying as per that discussion.
Originally Posted by nickao65;
A regular sized router can be to big and cumbersome for some of the finer work, even with a clear base it's tough to see and on the smaller work, the base can be too big. Also sometimes the finished piece I am routing into is just too small and the regular routers base could cover the entire project. It worked, but I was never comfortable.
With a picture inlay sometimes I need 1/8" or 1/4" grooves a 1/2" deep in woods like Cumaru, Massarunduba and even harder woods. And they need to be made in one pass. Although a Bosch Colt has the power the lack of a plunge was a hassle. I needed something in between a laminate router and regular router size, with a touch more power and a plunge base. The trend T4 fit the bill for me exactly. It is stronger than the Colt router and small like a laminate router.
If it pushes more than 2HP and can reach >24,000 rpm, you can accomplish a fair amount with this class of router. I would peg the size more than 2HP but less than 3 HP. Variable speed is preferred but I would think, in this size, cheaper is better. Eventually, you're going to spend the money on a major router (below) so save it here and spend it there. A 1/2" chuck is a bonus but don't expect to handle good sized bits with this machine, hence the cheaper is better. "Major" Router:
Everyone makes an entry into this world. If you make a router, this is the one you make. It can be heavy (and usually is >12lbs/5KG). Their biggest advantage is they are big and heavy enough to handle any job you want to throw at them. The biggest disadvantage is they're too big and heavy. You will develop muscle using one of these all day long. However, major routers work very well in tables and on skis and in vertical tables. Template work may require an oversized base or shiis. This is a functional replacement for a shaper. If you can't afford a shaper, there is a good bet that you can do almost all the jobs with this router than you can with a shaper. It may not be as efficient but the results should be comparable.
The router, (except the "major" ones) consist of a motor barrel and some sort of base that will register the bit at 90degrees to the workpiece. The variable in the function of the base is the manner in which the bit is applied to the workpiece. Router Bases palm grip/barrel:
this is the laminate trimmer, palm grip routers as in the Makita Laminate trimmer or the Bosch "Colt" palm grip router. Depth adjustment can be precise or "close." The usual function of this base is to hold the bit at 90 degrees to a counter top to remove a thin piece of plastic laminate. The router is light to allow one handed operation. Wrap your hand around the entire router motor. Fixed Base:
these will have a large adjusting ring or some method of sliding the router barrel up and down thus setting the depth of cut. Plunging must be accomplished by tilting the base and carefully allowing the bit to cut into the workpiece. There would be two knob handles one on each side of the base. This is the preferred base for sign cutters but with a clear baseplate.
It must also be noted that this type of base is best used for edge rounding etc. where one approaches the workpiece externally. Plunge Base:
as the name implies, the router bit is started outside of the workpiece and inserted vertically into the material. The action would be the same as a drill press. Indeed, certain repetitive drilling functions are better performed using a plunge router.
It must be noted that cutting circles with a plunge base requires a "running start" so that you don't get an oversized divit in the starting point of the circle. Does this make sense? "D" handle:
a variation on the fixed base but providing a different method of holding onto the router. Typically, one side of the base will have a handle that you can wrap your entire hand around, like a hammer handle. On the other side would be a knob or some other holding method. This base allows one handed operation for light work but two handed for heavier tasks.
This functions the same as a fixed base router with the same limitations. However, this style of router and base are light enough for one handed operation.
At this point I have to warn you, you do not purchase "a" router, you merely begin a collection. I only have four/five if you include dremel. I'm constantly on the lookout for others but I always buy used and always major brand names with proven track records. I'm partial to Makita and own quite a few of their tools. I've picked up some pretty raunchy stuff at garage sales and every time I call for a part, it is available. The worst case, I waited 2 months for a gear for a 30 year old electric drill.
On the other extreme is Craftsman. I have a milk crate full of Craftsman tools looking for parts that are no longer available. I keep them as a reminder of money wasted.
Moral of the story, make sure you can get parts before you buy any tool. They don't wear out. They do break, usually as a result of mistakes and need to be repaired. Once repaired, they will continue to perform for many years.
So, the next question is how do you use all of this stuff. Well, here are a few "different" methods of using a router. Please note, that this list is far from exhaustive and subject to change, frequently.
====================== Physically challenged aids
- some interesting stuff for some of our physically challenged members. You must stop by. Necessity is the mother of invention and this is where necessity exercises the little gray cells. Horizontal table
this is a standard horizontal table with a hole in which the router sits with the bit sticking up ready to chop away at anything that gets within reach - including your fingers. It is usually supported by some sort of fence either fixed or adjustable.
Philosophy plays a big role here. There is the OakPark/Router Workshop philosophy "frugal reigns" and simplicity with elegance. To change a bit, take off the fence (if it's in the way) lift out the router, change the bit, set the depth and dump the router back in, clamp in the fence and away you go.
The other philosophy is to spend gobs of bucks for stuff that may meet your needs, with more gadgets than inspector gadget has imagination... Needless to say, I follow the OP (Oak Park) philosophy but implement it sparingly and only as needed. vertical table
take the table, above, and stand it up on its edge and work out some method of raising or lowering the bit to the table. All of the adjustments for a horizontal table, just vertically. baseplate
A baseplate provides some basic functions. It is a mounting point for a router into a table, or onto skis, or on jigs of various types. They can be phenolic, lexan, aluminum, iron... They are usually drilled to accept your router and to allow a template guide to be fit into the baseplate.
However, baseplates can be long for cutting circles, skinny for offsetting the weight of a router when doing edge treatments and you want to stop the router from leaning over. (Shiis perform the same function but differently and with less flexing.) template routing
Almost every router comes with the ability to implement templates, except some sort of idea how to do it. The other frustration is that no template guide will fit another router. If you have three different routers, it is conceivable that you'll have to get three different sizes of guides.
The guide will fit into the baseplate. The bit will protrude through the guide. Take a 1/4" thick strip of plywood or wood, set the router on top of it, butt the guide up to the strip and push the bit through the template guide. If the router were turned on, you'd be cutting a groove dictated by the position of the strip. Neat tricks here. Search templates for "Template Tom" and a myriad of his, and others, creations. circle template/elliptical jigs
I stuck these two together because they perform a similar function, however their structure is completely different from each other. Look for these throughout the fora. inlay
Inlay work is also called marquetry (I think.) You remove some material and stick another material in to provide contrast or other artistic embellishment. My only attempt at inlay resulted in my purchasing a planer to remove the miserable attempt. If I were to attempt this again, it would only be under the express tutilage of a few of our members. duplicator
A duplicator is just that. It allows the router to be used to duplicate other three-dimensional objects. Sort of like a super-carver. Carve one original and the duplicator will mass produce the copies.
I prefer to think of the duplicator as the hand operated CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) machine. pantograph
You used pantographs probably when you were a kid. It was the device that allowed you to shrink or grow a picture. Our router versions have proven to be less than roaring successes. routerlathe
This is a real interesting tool for me. The router sits up on top of a turned workpiece. As the workpiece turns, the router moves along and "mills" a detail into the workpiece. Spirals, flutes and a wide variety of other effects are possible. pin routing
is the reverse of a template. A template is a negative of the cut pattern. Pin routers use a template but a positive template. A pin is anchored over the router bit. The positive template is attached to the work piece and brought up to the pin. Follow the template with the pin and the router will cut an exact duplicate. I can accomplish something similar with a bearing on a flush trim bit but there are those who could argue that it is entirely different, although I don't know how. Gantry Router
uses the arm of a radial arm saw with the head of a router. It sort of works like a ???? Unline other router forms, the gantry will operate at degrees off of vertical, if it is set up to do so. I have not seen one work, yet. One of the disadantages of the radial arm is that it will "dive into the material" when put under load. The router works on a different axis so I can only think that it would either push the workpiece away or move the arm.
At the other end of the gantry spectrum, CNC machines all use double-ended indexed gantry structures. Bearings
A pin router requires a positive template. A bearing uses a positive template exactly the same way but the template runs along a bearing attached to the top of the bit. Neat twist here though. Vary the size of the bearing and you can "adjust" your workpiece subtlely. skis
Skis are probably one of the most useful and unknown mounting strategies for routers. Search for "Skis for neophytes" for an article I wrote on skis. shiis
This is a term that I coined to describe two sticks that are flush with the baseplate but extend out on both sides of the router. If you're cutting a template, the shiis will stop the router from "falling" into the hole left by the removing material. You can also do bearing edge treatments using shiis. Put one hand on the shii toward the centre of the workpiece and the other on the router. The inboard end of the shiis will act as a cantelever to the weight and torque of the router. foots
A foot (plural is foots - multiple of a single foot as opposed to feet that come in pairs) provides a different support point for cutting templates. It allows you to support the router on the outboard side when cutting templates.
================== dovetail jig
A dovetail jig is thrown in here because it is very popular, not because it belongs. Everything to this point has been some method of attaching or controlling the router itself. A jig is used to control or guide the bit or hold material and guide the bit. What is above is used to mount or support the router, not guide the bit.
That is the first and last jig that I'll list. Bob3J creates multipurpose engineering and artistic marvels for the fun of it. He can't even begin to list his creations. How do you expect me, a beginner, to list something I can't even figure out what it's for!