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  Topic Review (Newest First)
11-29-2014 11:39 AM
woodpig Thanks everyone for the great suggestions and the helpful photos. I'm sure I will make something a little better in time. For now, I found this simple kit at Menards and it works okay for the project I'm doing now.

11-27-2014 09:50 PM
Westbayman This is the gauge i made ...the ruleris held in place with a 1/4"rare earth magnet...got the plan from the woodsmith router handbook magazine...
11-26-2014 01:35 PM
denis lock
Router table -bit height adjustment

I use a simple stand made from MDF and my digital vernier (see attached photo). I have a Triton TRA0001 in my router table and can adjust bit height to 0,1mm.

Denis Lock - "Routing with Denis"
11-26-2014 01:23 PM
denis lock I agree with James 100%. The depth scales on most routers are a joke - they have a parallax error of 0,5mm which compounds itself most of the time. I drum the phrase "Gauge, don't measure" into my students heads.

Denis Lock - "Routing with Denis"
11-25-2014 06:34 PM
Cherryville Chuck You can find reconditioned Bosch routers that are just as good as new. I don't have an address handy but another member might.
11-25-2014 05:23 PM
jw2170 I have only ever set the depth of cut by zeroing the cutter to the workpiece and then setting an item of known size,ie drill bit, brass block, between the depth rod and the base of the router.

I do not use the rule on the rod...
11-25-2014 01:05 PM
Rogerdodge I use one of these. This is the electronic version - there are some simpler (and Cheaper ones.)


Good luck



Rog
11-25-2014 12:31 PM
woodpig Thanks Charles and Tom for your responses to my questions. Tom, I like the idea of that measuring tool you described. Is that a tool you made or something I could buy? (This would be me exercising the "no such thing as a dumb question" rule )
I like that because it would let me get an exact measurement without having to use the gauge on the router, which is inconvenient to use anyway.

I think I certainly will replace the Skil router at some point. Both of the routers you mentioned sound great but unfortunately are out of my price range just now - maybe I could find a used one in good condition somewhere. One of the reasons I wanted to join this forum was so that I could get input on which routers in my price range are considered good. If I were to try and replace my router now, I would have to keep it under $100. Would you say I'd do better to just work with mine until I can afford one of the ones you mentioned?

Thanks again -
Bryan
11-25-2014 11:18 AM
DesertRatTom As promised, here are my suggestions for rapidly improving your results. The following has been posted before so those who have read it before may wish to skip it.

1) If you use Firefox browser, get a free add on YouTube download helper app. Search for videos on all aspects of woodworking that interest you and collect them. I watch a video on the topic of whatever project, or phase of a project, on which I'm currently working. VERY helpful to see it done before you try it yourself.

I use a YouTube downloader that’s free using the tools menu/add ons. It puts a download button under the video on YouTube. Click the button, name the file (I always label it according to the tool or job it works on. For example, anything to do with routing, I label as "Router", which clusters all the similar videos together in Windows Explorer. All my videos go into a single folder. I sometimes watch woodworking video while on planes, which occasionally triggers interesting conversations.

2) There are hundreds of used books on woodworking on Amazon. Order some on basic tools and woodworking. You'll need to learn to tune up saws and other tools, and books are how I learned to do these things. It wasn't until I tuned up my saws that good results began to happen. My saws cut exactly 90 and 45, or any angle I need now. Two books I really love are Bill Hylton’s “Woodworking with the Router,” and “The Joint Book” by Terrie Noll. The Noll Book is a really concise and heavily illustrated reference with great hints for making every variety of joints. There are lots of good table saw guides.

3) Make some first projects with MDF before using more expensive wood. Make the same project several times with improved skill, material and workmanship each time. Great learning method.

4) Consider making cabinets or stands for each of your power tools as first projects. My first cabinet was of MDF and my sander and all my sanding gear still sit on and in it. I can't tell you how much confidence I got from building space efficient shop stands and now, all the tools in my smallish shop are on casters and easily moved around for use and cleanup. Put door on every cabinet to reduce wandering dust. BTW, if you add casters, use two non swivels on the back and two locking casters on the front--make sure the lock secures both the wheel and the swivel so your carts don't skip around in use. My shop made stands also take up far less floor space than the spread-legged ones that came with the tools, which makes it far easier to move tools around in a compact shop--which is necessary to clean out the insidious sawdust.

5) Many of the woodworking supply stores in the US (and I imagine overseas) have demos on weekends. Attend and get to know the people you meet there. They can turn you on to sources of wood and you can get some nice help and begin a friendship or two. Don’t forget to talk with the employees as well. At our local Rockler, several of the employees are serious and experienced woodworkers and always eager to help. I’ve also found some of the big box stores employ very experienced wood workers, carpenters, electricians and plumbers. You just have to start a brief conversation, if they seem knowledgeable, ask them about what they did before they worked at the store.

6) Among your first purchases should be some form of dust control. Many woods are proven carcinogens and can quickly damage your lungs. Dust collection information is on this site. I have a 4-inch system installed to collect sawdust, but I also have and recommend a dust mask with a small fan that pulls in pressurized air that not only keeps dust out, but also keeps my glasses from fogging. Got mine at Rockler and keep a couple of sets of rechargable AA batteries ready to use. For cutting just a piece or two, I keep surgical style disposable masks handy. I also built a box with 20x20 filter inside and a fan that pulls air through to remove fine airborne dust over time. You can even tape a filter to the back of a fan in a pinch. Don't take your mask off right after cutting or cleaning up because there is always dust floating around for awhile. If you start coughing, it means you need to pay very close attention to dust control and wearing a mask. It takes months to recover from a bout of working with MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) without a mask. I had a dust filter bag inside the shop, but recently found the shop was filled with the dangerous ultra fine dust that it let through, so now I port everything outside, through a filter box (and my cough subsided). Read about 2 stage collection.

7) Take your sweet time with projects, there's no rush and it is easy to have a project nearly complete, then make a careless, quick cut or other error that ruins all your good work. In most cases, it is best to fit pieces by putting them in place and marking rather than just measuring and cutting. Cut a bit over and shave for an exact fit.

8) Buy the very best table saw you can manage. It will quickly become the most used tool in your shop. A little debt could move you up a notch and help you produce better results and cut thicker wood. Get the best tools you can afford. Read the reviews and ask questions on the forum before you choose. To me, it is worth it to use credit if necessary to move up the quality scale.

There are models called hybrid saws that have the mechanical works attached to the cabinet rather than the top, which is good. I recently replaced my old contractor saw with a Laguna Fusion saw. My shop is not wired for 220, so I was happy with the 110volt, 1 3/4 hp motor. Many forum members have been very happy with less expensive models, Grizzly for example, but I prefer the Laguna for its amazingly flat table and extensions and its fit and finish (and reasonable price). Learn to set up and tune up your saws and tools (books and videos show you how) because you can’t make anything great if your tools are even slightly off.

The best safety device is paying very close attention to what you’re doing with a saw, but a close second is a MicroJig Gripper, which lets you control wood on the saw while keeping your fingers safely away from the blade. There is a fancy and a simpler model, either of which is good.

9) If you can, get an electrician to add a 220 outlet or two to your shop. If you set up in the garage, you may be able to use the electrical outlet for the dryer. There are many tools that require 220 volts to work best, and many used 220 v tools are available at good prices--if you feel comfortable buying used. Another tool source is to visit estate sales. Every once in awhile, you find tools no one else in the family desires or knows the value of, so you can get them cheap.

If you don't have a router yet, I have come to like the Triton TRA001, which is perfect for table use, particularly since you can adjust height quite precisely from the above the table with its built in lift. That feature really saves my knees. However, it is just too heavy for this old guy to control freehand. I really like the Bosch 1617 EVSPK for hand held use. There is a newer model that has a light and switch on the handle that costs more. Both come in a kit with fixed and plunge base. It has many accessories available that are very well made. Others like different brands, but Mike recently checked in on the topic and compared PorterCable and I thought the Bosch came out a bit ahead. I prefer the raising and lowering mechanism on the Bosch with its precise micro adjustment knob. The Bosch fixed base can be used as a lift in a table. The books on routers and other topics are really useful for understanding some of the arcane woodworking terms associated with this must have tool..

10) When it comes to router bits, try to stick to the half inch shafts with carbide cutting tips. These are astonishingly sharp. Bosch and Freud are easily available at HD and Lowes, but there are lots of other excellent brands including the well liked Whiteside and Sommerfield bits. Be careful of those ultra sharp tips. I'd suggest storing them in one of those foam lined cases you can get pretty cheap from Harbor Freight. The tips are actually fairly fragile, so store them loosely packed so they don't click together. A few of the cheap bits don’t have carbide tips. Spiral bits are sometimes used to cut grooves. Carbide spiral bits are both expensive and fragile and it takes very little abuse to ruin them. Many use high speed steel bits for that purpose.

I buy bits as I need them and don't much care for the kits. However, someone recently suggested getting a kit to start out with, then gradually replacing only the bits you actually use with top grade bits. This makes some sense to me, but stick to the half inch shafts if you can manage it--most kits I’ve seen have 1/4 inch shafts. I would avoid huge sets with odd bits you are unlikely ever to use. A few standard bits most of us have are the round over bits. You can get them in different sizes, but mostly you’re likely to use the quarter, half and sizes. Another bit that is very useful for cabinetry is the half inch rabbiting bit with a bearing. Some come with a changable bearing that allows you to change the size of the rabbit. Doing fancier stuff makes those cash register numbers spin because those door bit sets cost a lot!

One more thing about using bits, don’t try to take off too much wood in one pass. Make several passes taking a little more wood with each pass. Pay attention to the grain of the wood (that is covered in most books on routing) with a final pass just shaving and making for a very smooth finish. My personal rule is to cut no more than 1/8 th of an inch per pass. The larger the bit, the slower you should set the speed control. I recently learned about "bumping," which means cutting nearly the full depth by pushing the bit straight into the wood so it has a scalloped edge, then making a full depth pass to smooth out the scallops. This has the advantage of allowing you to set up the depth of cut once on the table, rather than having to keep resetting the fence for subsequent passes and on multiple pieces. A more powerful router makes this work better.

11) The most useful item I own for my saws is a Wixey digital angle gauge, which allows me to set up all my saws to exact angles (eg: 90 degrees to the table). It wasn't until I started being meticulous about this that my projects started working out right. These are about $30 on Amazon.

I have a Bosch 10 inch compound sliding miter saw that I also love, but use it mainly for cross cutting long pieces, but its ability to cut at precise angles is wonderful.

12) Pocket Hole jig and construction. Although there are many ways to make cabinets and face frames, I have found that pocket hole screws have really made making them easier. Just remember, coarse threads for soft woods, fine thread for hard woods, and I find the square head easier to drive correctly than the Phillips type. My jig is mounted on a chunk of plywood that I can clamp down. The thing makes a lot of sawdust so dust collection is a good idea. I also find that with careful, exact 90 degree end cuts to the wood, the pocket hole approach produces absolutely square cabinets and face frames. You’ll need a couple of face clamps and a Kreg right angle clamp if you use pocket hole joinery. There are many helpful videos on this jig.

13) Make a table saw sled (lots of YouTube videos on how to) for perfect 90 degree cuts on your table saw. I have a little more money than time, so I bought the sled Rockler makes that has a swinging fence and a very precise angle scale. I love that thing and set up a special shelf right next to my table saw to store it and keep it flat. Cross cuts on the sled are wonderfully exact and it prevents most tear out, the ragged or splintered area at the end of a cut. The sled is also a much safer way to cut short pieces as well. Read how to set the sled to a precise angle using a drafting square.

Most saws come with a miter gauge, but I prefer one of the precision gauges. I have an Osborne gauge I really like, but many here like Incra’s gauge. Precision is important with gauges.

You will read a LOT about jigs here and in your books and videos. Jigs, accurate T squares, a good straightedge are all incredibly useful for producing good work. The more I venture into really good hard wood construction, the more I appreciate how jigs produce accurate results without wasting expensive wood through mis-cuts.

14) I had a lot of problems with tear out at first, but most of that stopped when I started using a sacrificial backup block to push the last bit of a piece through the router. I often use square pieces of MDF (medium density fiberboard) because it is cheap and stays flat. When it gets torn up, I just cut off a chunk and use what’s left. Really helps! You can do the same with any piece by putting a backer board behind where the cut goes--you cut through the piece first, the backer last. You may also want to use feather boards to hold boards in correct alignment to the fence and blade or bit.

Zero Clearance Inserts for the table saw: On the table saw, buy or make blank inserts to make zero clearance inserts (see YouTube for how to do it), this really helps make great, tear-out free cuts. I also found that I wanted to push that last quarter inch through the bit too fast, now I feed at a steady pace all through the cut.

15) Clamps: The joke is you can never have too many clamps. The ones I use most are about $3 each at Harbor Freight, about 9 inch F clamps (they look like an F). I have 18 of them at a couple of bucks each. The same source has longer versions up to 24 inches and I keep 4 to 6 of the 18 and 24 inch models. I have four sets of two of 24 to 60 inch (Jet) parallel clamps for making really square cabinets and other items where holding things square for glue up is important. The better the quality of bar clamps, the thicker and stronger the bar will be. I’ve all but given up on plastic clamps, but have a few that look like scissors for lightly holding things together or down. Depending on what you’re making, a few wooden hand screw clamps could be useful, including holding small parts for safer routing.

16) Hand planes and hand tools: Learning to use these is something of an art, as is proper sharpening and setting of their blades. There are lots of woodworkers who really love working with hand tools, most will suggest you buy used and clean and tune them up--which is actually quite fun. Chisels are important particularly if you are making furniture. Sharpening chisels is a basic skill involving many ultra fine grits of sandpaper, ultra flat surfaces, maybe diamond grit sharpening stones—arcane stuff, but anything less than a razor sharp chisel is pretty useless. Don’t scrimp on chisels, cheap ones get dull fast. Look up sharpening methods on YouTube, it takes patience but not much money to work sharp. I recently bought a diamond sharpening device with diamond dust imbedded in a nickel steel plate. It has small cut out ovals so the metal grit doesn't clog the diamond surface. Use these sparingly and use one of the specialty diamond sharpening lubricants with it. I use this for quick sharpening touch ups, just 4-5 strokes will do. It’s a little easier to use than the sand paper method, which I save for major sharpening tasks.

17) If you have a dedicated shop space, take the time and trouble to insulate it. You will enjoy working in it much more if you're not roasting or freezing. I recently installed a middle sized window AC unit through a shop shed wall for relief from our desert summer and it is now even more of a pleasure to be out there. Insulation also holds in heat during winter. A couple of heaters bring the temp up, but just one keeps it comfortable after that. Cold fingers are clumsy, not good around spinning blades!

Woodworking is not really a cheap hobby. Wood can be costly, so are decent tools, but there's hardware, stuff for jigs, dust collection and on and on as you get going.

This has run pretty long, but I think the information is helpful for someone new to the hobby. The suggestions represent a LOT of trial and error. And yes, you can spend a lot getting set up, but your wife will like you being around home, but not under foot.
11-25-2014 11:15 AM
DesertRatTom I think Charles hit the high point on this. I always measure depth of cut using a measuring tool that straddles the base while you touch a sliding rule down to just kiss the high point of the bit. I just don't much trust those built in rules on tools.

I think you will be much happier using another router, and if you look around the site, you'll see two that seem to get the lions share of praise. One is the Triton TRA001, which is a very powerful and fairly heavy piece of gear best suited (ideally suited) for use in a router table. The other is the Bosch 1617 EVSPK, which comes in a kit with fixed and plunge base. These go for about $220 or so these days. The fixed base can also be used in a table. You buy a small accessory key that allows you to set exact height from above the table.

Many folks here stick to the plunge base for freehand use, in part because it has easy to control handles. The router is a 2.25 hp model that is just fine for table use. A table is a far safer way to route. You must really think through how you use a freehand router because the extremely sharp cutters are exposed. NEVER lift the router up and out of a workpiece with the bit still running-that is a big source of injuries and ruined pieces. I'm going to post a followup of 17 things that really helped me get up to speed in woodworking over the past 6-7 years, which I think will be useful for you.
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