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post #1 of 14 (permalink) Old 09-07-2015, 10:09 PM Thread Starter
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Default My First Router

So Ive decided to join the woodworking community! I'm searching for my first router. I want something simple and basic. I don't plan on going into some large business or even making a living at this but more of a hobby and past time. That being said, I'm only looking to make unique gifts for Christmas, birthdays, and the occasional customer, etc.. I would like to create some unique items for personal use as well.

I would like something very user friendly and simple to use. I am good with computers and decent with learning most software programs. So far my searches have led me to think the CarveWright system is the best as a beginner machine. I think their small business package seems to be the most fitting but I could be wrong.

At this point I'm just looking for advice from others who have used or currently do use this system and advice or options of other systems on the market. Any advice is greatly appreciated!
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post #2 of 14 (permalink) Old 09-07-2015, 10:18 PM
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Welcome to the forum Jay. If you are looking for a handheld router then your first one should be a plunge or a combination package of motor and plunge and fixed bases.

If you are looking at CNCs then there is a lot more to consider.
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post #3 of 14 (permalink) Old 09-07-2015, 10:20 PM
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Jay, you would spend a lot less money with a regular router. That said I have a CompuCarve which is an A version of the CarveWright. If you don't mind spending a lot of time doing maintenance they are pretty slick for not a lot of money.
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post #4 of 14 (permalink) Old 09-07-2015, 10:29 PM
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Welcome to the forum, Jay. There are lots of friendly and knowledgeable people here who are eager to help "newbies."

There are three distinct ways to go with a router. First is handheld, where you move the router by hand around a stationary workpiece (least costly), the second is a router table, where you move the workpiece past the stationary bit in a router that is mounted in a table (it is said that about 95% of router jobs are best done on a router table). Both of these usually involve edge treatments and simple joinery but experienced router table users can do some intricate work.

The third way is a CNC machine, which you mentioned. It is the most costly and the most capable. With your computer experience you should, with some guidance and experience, be quite at home using a CNC machine IF you can afford it.

I fall into the first two categories and definitely not the third. However, there are many CNC users on here who can advise you.
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post #5 of 14 (permalink) Old 09-08-2015, 06:59 AM
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This is just my opinion but if you are just starting out and only going to make a few things for your self and Christmas presents getting a CNC machine is like putting the horse before the cart. You can get a router such as this one "see link" and use it in a router table or hand held. You can make a lot of things with this router.

Bosch 1617EVSPK 12 Amp 2.25 HP Combination Plunge and Fixed-Base Router Kit
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post #6 of 14 (permalink) Old 09-08-2015, 10:04 AM
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I think you'll find a lot of Bosch 1617 ESVPK router kit fans around here. Reasonable price, both fixed and plunge bases in the kit. You can use the fixed base in a table, and you can easily make a serviceable table yourself, often from counter scraps and material you can get from a Home Depot or Lowes. You can order a little handle that will let you adjust the height in the table from the top. Bosch tools are among the best in the world, and have superb quality control and customer service.

There are other brands that are quite good, such as DeWalt, PorterCable, Makita, Hitachi, etc, but you won't find a better router than a Bosch 1617 for all around use. There are a number of cheaper brands around half the price of a 1617, but the old truism "you get what you pay for" holds when it comes to precision power tools. The Bosch has 2.25 hp, which is more than adequate for all uses and has a speed control. I like the knobs on the fixed base because they are easy on my aging hands.

I now have 2 Bosch motors, one in the fixed base, the other in the plunge base. The plunge base is used for free hand use, the fixed for in the table and for many routine tasks like rounding over the edge of a piece so the edge is less prone to damage.

The Bosch has both 1/2 inch and 1/4 inch collets (the nut that holds the bit in place). Get half inch bits from the get go is my recommendation. You can buy kits with lots of bits in them cheap, but the kits are generally 1/4 in shanks (the steel shaft) and have lots of bits you are unlikely to use. To start with, you can buy a set of 3 Roundover bits. The cutter is a quarter of a circle. The most used are 1/4, 1/2 and 3/4. Freud bits are good and easily available at either big box store. The tips on most bits are carbide and extremely sharp. But carbide is fragile so don't just dump them into a drawer. Keep them in their plastic box or get a foam lined case from Harbor Freight. I buy other bits as I need them.

If you don't have one yet, buy a book on routers. My favorite is
"Woodworking with the Router: Professional Router Techniques and Jigs Any Woodworker Can Use," by Bill Hylton. You can get it used for less than 10 bucks at Amazon:

You can build a great collection of woodworking books for $50 or less by buying used on Amazon. There are also many books on making toys, boxes and other fun, gift items.

YouTube has countless how-to videos on woodworking and use of tools like the router. Some are better than others, but you'll soon figure out which works best for you. I like "The Wood Whisperer," whose producer now has a sponsor and a new, gigantic studio/shop.

In building a woodshop, you will need a precise saw. A table saw is a basic item. There are several types, 1. portable (Bosch wins on this one), 2. contractor, 3. cabinet and a relatively new class, 4. the hybrid. The portable is really small and requires a lot of messing around to do any really serious precision cutting. Contractor saws are pretty good in that they have a larger cutting surface or table. Cabinet saws are heavy and built like tanks. Mostly they run on 220v (use the electric dryer outlet in the garage). They can be very precise. I and many of us here have Hybrids, which is what I'm using. With table saws, its about how flat the table is and what kind of fence you use. You can read about this essential tool in those used books.

Chop saws and sliding miter saws are tempting, but most of what they do can be done on a table saw. A simple chop saw can cut your wood to length (leave it a little long and do the final cut on the table saw).

I don't mean to do a dissertation, but I think this information may help you look forward a bit and avoid the mistake of buying cheap stuff, then having to replace it. At any rate, Jay, welcome to the Forum. Everyone here is friendly and helpful. Stick is terse, but really knows his stuff.

Last edited by DesertRatTom; 09-08-2015 at 10:04 AM. Reason: spelling
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post #7 of 14 (permalink) Old 09-08-2015, 11:44 AM
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Yep. +1 What Tom said. There is a big difference in size of table saws. Some of the compact portable cost as much as the contractor saws. The cabinet saws are a different animal. Powerful and quiet. Most will outlast your lifetime and possibly someone elses.

I have attached a pic of the little DeWalt DWE7480 sitting on top of a Grizzly 1023RLW 3hp cabinet saw.

As for routers, I have several including two Bosch 1617 combo kits, the little DeWalt 611PK combo kit, and a Triton 3 1/4hp which is dedicated to table use.

I have attached a pdf file on the Bosch I put together just for folks like you who are interested in purchasing a router. Hope this helps.

OH, welcome aboard.
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post #8 of 14 (permalink) Old 09-08-2015, 02:19 PM
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@ Tom-- Good post. Well said.

Welcome to the forum.

Decisions, decisions. It depends on what you want to do and the direction you want to follow. Either path will make sawdust. Each path is personal and there is some crossover between the two.

First path is a hands-on building and test of skills. If you want to be good with your hand/eye coordination... Your guide the router where you want it to go. Think of it as artistic expression. That is not to say that CNC is not that, is it also, but in a different respect.

Second path is a test of intelligent to figure out how to guide a computer / machine combination over many directions of movements. If you are good with computers, thinking in 3d and figuring out how to break thing dome into logical steps that a machine can follow, then this is a good path. That is not to say that a hand-guided routers do not need intelligence from you... Just different parts of the brain.

Like I said, many things cross-over between the two. Each is tooling wood with different profiles to create something. The big difference is the initial cost to get started.

You had said:
That being said, I'm only looking to make unique gifts for Christmas, birthdays, and the occasional customer, etc.. I would like to create some unique items for personal use as well.
So the next choice to think on, is what you want to make and how often? If most often than just a few items, for a business (you mentioned customers), then at what point will you make a return on your investment.

CNC is a larger initial investment, but it once you figure out the CAM file, setup and tool sequence to create something, then it is cheap and easy to recreate many of the same items. If just an occasional kind of thing (you implied both ways), then making a jig and pattern, then you recreate the same item with a hand-guided router.

More input from you would clearify which direction you want to follow and members here can proceed in helping you with that...
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post #9 of 14 (permalink) Old 09-08-2015, 06:24 PM
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Hey, Jay; (I'm assuming that's your name?) welcome!
I'm also a big Bosch fan...great customer service should you ever need it.
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post #10 of 14 (permalink) Old 09-08-2015, 06:46 PM Thread Starter
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Wow, I never expected this kind of response in just 1 day. Thank you to everyone who chimed in. I'll try to clarify a bit more about my intentions. While this new hobby is primarily just that, a hobby, I wouldn't mind making a few bucks at it as well. My biggest issue is time. I do appreciate those who have honed their skills by hand. I think being apart of the younger generation and wanting to get more into 3D carvings or intricate inlays a CNC router would fit me best.

In the event I do decide to make this a small side business I believe I could crank out multiple pieces much easier with a CNC machine. Not to mention the time factor. Hand held routers require a bit more time from what I've read and getting the same precision takes years of practice/experience. I also like the fact that I can create a detailed piece of work on a computer then watch it come alive on the table. I am a hobbyist photographer but love what I can do with an image on a software program. This is kind of the reverse in that I can create my work on a software and watch the CNC make it a reality.

My initial thought was to use a CNC router to create most pieces but hone my skills with hand tools to enhance the piece. I understand there are many hand tools that even a computer could never duplicate their detail.

I am prepared to spend $3-5k if necessary. This is why I was asking about a CNC machine. If I do this then I would definitely want to sell my work to re-coupe my investment. I was thinking the CarveWright system only because it looks to be the most user friendly as far as software goes. You are not required to learn G-code as you are with many of the CAD programs. Any additional input is greatly appreciated.
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