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Howdy Folks...

I have been perusing the forums, looking for info to help me in my first purchase of a router. I'm sure many of you can understand where I now sit....a very confused customer! There are many many variables, and ideosyncrasies of particular tools, that are massing into a vat of router flotsam in my brain at present. I figure it is time to present my situation to the panel....

What I Will Be Using The Router For:

The primary use of this router will be to remove large amounts of Baltic Birch plywood, in many passes, to create a variety of slopes. These will be sanded down to create a variety in the surface, which will then be painted. The end result will be a painting that has a 3 dimensional aspect to it. I have already figured that I need a plunge router for the task at hand.

The way I see it, what I need is a router that can handle MUCHO GRANDE cutting...I will basically be carving with it. Hence, my first question:

Should I get a 2+, or a 3+, horsepower router?

I will be needing to adjust the cutting depth frequently to create the slopes, in essence will be creating a series of steps as I go from the deepest cut and work my way up to the panel's surface. So, question number two:

Any advice on routers that have exceptional depth control as evidenced by numerous "depth stops?"

I will be frequently working with large panels...sometimes 4 x 8 in dimension...and will also be routing straight lines, in parallel, one after the other. I expect I would be following a straight edge of some kind to maintain the perfect line, and I am hoping that someone has an alternative to having to measure and clamp the straight edge for every new swipe of the router. Question #3:

Are there any products designed to be used with routers that will provide a more "automatic" way of accurately moving and clamping my straight edge?

Thats alot of questions for one post, so I guess I'll stop right here. Feel free to chime in with any testimonials regarding personal favorites for freehand routers if the thought strikes ya.

Thanks for your help!

Mike
 

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I think figuring out how to make a jig to help you with this will save trouble over continually adjusting the depth of the cut. A wavy-walled jig that fits over your workpiece, depending on how big it is, might be an approach to this, although I have to admit I'm not sure how to make the router "follow" the wavy walls accurately.
 

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Most routers have a mounting plate that accepts a "guide" to make straight cuts. You can easily modify this guide so it can reach whatever footage you need.
Another note about routers, the higher the hp, the heavier they become. Unless you intend on using very large bits, you may want to stay in a lower range, 1hp - 2hp, with a 1/4" collet. Also make sure you take small cuts at a time with any router.
 

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Hi,

To be honest I'm a little lost as to what you are planning to do.... are you saying slopes like tapering the plywoods thickness? If that is the case then you will need some combinations of jigs and fixtures to do that.

Next it is best if you can to get a combo setup with both fixed and plunge base. I personally like the balance and reduced weight of fixed base systems. Plunge routers can feel a little top heavy for some jobs. I would also make sure you have both 1/4" and 1/2" capacity for bits. I also like variable speed as I can slow down the feed rate without burning by slowing the rpm. I also like major name brand equipment like Porter Cable, Hitachi, Bosch, DeWalt, and the like. This is general for any appication or use.

Horsepower wise the 2hp(+) ones are a lot lighter then the 3+ ones and work well for most hand held jobs. Once you start looking at some of these like the Hitachi km12vc at just over 7 lbs verses some of the larger ones at almost twice that weight you can make your own choice but I'm betting on the lighter being more to your liking.

Good question on the number of depth stops... I never even thought of that as a point to look for as I don't often use more then one of them. I'd have to look at my routers to even tell you how many they have but my guess is like maybe 3 or 4????. While fix base routers don't have stops then are do have some form of control of depth and most often easy to read dimensions so you do a 1/4", 3/8, 1/2 etc and get the same results.

Lots of options for doing a series of "lines" with the router, in most cases you can find a method that will be quick and will not require using a ruler. These methods can be as simple as using a stepping block at each end of a board you route against.

If you start with some searches here you will find we have had many many requests for help picking out a router...... I didn't want to go back and rehash all that but after reading some of these you will have a good idea that no one can pick out a router for you except you. Getting a router that feels good in your hands out weighs a lot of options they have or don't have. And if you get hooked like a lot of us that first router will be just that, a first router.... before long you have 2, 3, 4, 5, and on up (some people have as many as 50 or so I have heard).

If you can post some pictures or sketches of what you want to make we might be able to give you some ideas as to how we might do it knowing what we know about routers/jigs/fixtures/add-ons/and general woodworking. We have members who have worked for years in this field, members who have been into routing for 25/30/40 years. We might even have someone who has doing what you're getting ready to do.... and as you might have heard you get what you pay for here at the forum.

Ed
 

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Mike, what thickness of material will you be working with? How much of this thickness will you be removing? Do you really want steps or would an even slope work better for your 3D effect? One very important thing in your router decision should be availablity of service and replacement parts.
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
Greetings, and thanks for responding.

Regarding what I am doing to the plywood panel....I am carving away the flat plane and winding up with a....rolling plane. I am giving my paintings additional depth by actually creating a 3 dimensional surface for the paint to sit on. Your description of varying the depths of the plywood's thickness is also correct.

I suppose I didn't put the questions in the best way...

Regarding the size of the router: How much harder is it to maneuver a 3 hp than a 2 hp?...it seems that because the router is sitting on a surface, the weight issue is somewhat ameliorated, and it also seems that the additional hp would tend to chew through the plywood easier, making it easier to push the heavier router through the plywood. I'm a fairly strong guy, but I know that the body position I will be in when I am carving towards the middle of a large panel will not be the best ergonomically for my back. Thats why I want to know, from those who have pushed these routers around many hours in freehand (signmakers?), which one of these is best for this particular task?

I guess another part to the question on router size is this: It seems to me that many folks who use routers are using them for tasks that are limited in regards to time spent cutting....like cutting dado's and trimming and such. I will be using mine to continuously carve large swaths of panels. Will the 2 hp stand up to this increased amount of use? Will the 2 hp overheat? Will I actually remove more material per unit of time with a 3 hp because it is able to chew through the material considerably faster than the 2 hp?

Regarding the thickness of the plywood and how much of that I will be removing: That will vary depending on the piece I am working on. Sometimes the panel might only be 1/2 inch thick, and I might remove anywhere from 1/16 to 1/4 of an inch at various points on the panel. Other times the panel might be 1 inch thick, and I might remove as much as 3/4 of an inch at certain points (I generally try to keep a minimum of 1/4 inch untouched to keep the panels strength sufficient).

The final appearance of the areas that I carve will always be smooth slopes...its just that the router's task results in a step-like appearance. Once the router has done its thing, I go in and sand down the "steps", take off the high points, and create smooth slopes.

Thanks again for your input.

Mike
 

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Elmiko

Just a thought have you tried a Belt Sander on the plywood panel, it works great to give you additional depth plus it's quick, I use it on signs sometimes to get the look I want.
I have use the router also but the belt sander works so much better.
The 3Hp is just a bit of a over kill, the 2HP will do it just fine...but the 2 hp is almost to big for the job but a speed control will help give you more control of the router and help save the bits from getting to hot.

I have also used a 1/4" plywood base and have glued in blocks of plywood sometimes 4 high to get the look I need i.e. 3D mountains,lakes,sun set,etc.then use a small router and the belt sander, to get that 3D look.

You may also want to check out the web site below,many 3D items and some great items,I have made the II-04 and the II-0850, alot of work but it's all wood 3D items.

http://www.intarsia.com/3.D.Rotating.Intarsia.html

http://www.intarsia.com/Judy G. Large Intarsia p6.html

http://www.intarsia.com/


Bj :)
 

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Mike, for your smaller panels I would free hand carve it with a Rotozip and a Sabercut bit. Many wood carvers use this tool for exactly that purpose. I honestly think you should look at some of the power wood carving tools instead of a router for the larger panels. Woodcraft has some interesting choices http://www.woodcraft.com/family.aspx?FamilyID=1846 and I'm sure others do as well. If you want to stick with a router for carving then go with one of the 2-1/4 HP models and remove it from the base. Build an angled wooden cradle and fasten your motor to it with a couple large hose clamps. The photo will give you the idea of what the cradle will look like.(Ignor the table)
 

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Gee now that I know what you are trying to do I'm going to say I wouldn't use a router for all of it.... boy am I going to be in trouble here at a router forum but I just happen to know some people who make large signs doing very much what it sounds like you want to do. They have trees, sky, water, and the like all at different contures then paint them up and they come out great!

Now they don't use plywood but rather redwood... they glue up panels to the size they need but that doesn't say you can or can't use plywood, you can test that out. They also use 2 x stock so some of the removed material is an inch or so deep.

They also don't use a router except for when they need flat areas and they cut that first while the wood is still flat. The smaller "signs" they do horizontal but for the larger pieces they go almost vertical. (A lot of that is to keep the work surface from being covered in chips.) They use an angle grinder with a wheel that has what looks like chainsaw chain on it. I don't know what the proper term for these are but check:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0000224SJ/qid=1150826229/sr=8-2/ref=sr_1_2/104-7292152-4207924?%5Fencoding=UTF8&v=glance&n=228013

They then use an angle grinder/sander to smooth things out. You can also get flapper sanding attachments for smaller indents and areas.

Now back to routers, and yes it is still a good idea to get a router.

The limiting factor on hand held routers is that you can not use very large bits (unsafe to do), these larger bits are what requires the extra power. If you attempt to take too deep a cut again it is unsafe... forceing the cut will wear out the bits very fast and that is also unsafe. The result is that the bigger is better doesn't apply. When I do signs I tend to go to my smaller trimmer routers and would never dream of using my 3-1/2 hp one.

Some routers are used in cnc machines and go 24 7 minus time for bit and workpiece changes. They get hot and at some point wear out and require repair, I have no idea how many hours that would be but yes some routers can take the heat. You will have to at least blow out the dust and keep it clean and replace the brushes as needed. Bearing are sealed but dust can wick out the lube so they don't last forever. You're right that most home users don't keep them on for extended times. I remember seeing a table once put most popular shop tools at one hour of operation for 20 hours of shop time.... ( I have seen cnc router mounts selling on ebay for Porter Cable and Hitachi so it is be assumed those two at least are used for that purpose.)

I have also seen those grinders with chainsaw blade used to carve all sorts of things and really remove material fast. Make sure you also read the reviews as they can also do fingers if the guard is not in the right place... or so the story goes.

Ed
 

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For free hand signs I use a trim Router that I bought from Harbor Freight with a home made base plate. It still takes time and small amounts of wood removal. I even use my 2 1/4 Hp router with plunge base but I sometimes find it too bulky. You will also need to make a large base plate for it so you can set it evenly on what you are carving.
 

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Howdy Folks...

I have been perusing the forums, looking for info to help me in my first purchase of a router. I'm sure many of you can understand where I now sit....a very confused customer! There are many many variables, and ideosyncrasies of particular tools, that are massing into a vat of router flotsam in my brain at present. I figure it is time to present my situation to the panel....

What I Will Be Using The Router For:

The primary use of this router will be to remove large amounts of Baltic Birch plywood, in many passes, to create a variety of slopes. These will be sanded down to create a variety in the surface, which will then be painted. The end result will be a painting that has a 3 dimensional aspect to it. I have already figured that I need a plunge router for the task at hand.

The way I see it, what I need is a router that can handle MUCHO GRANDE cutting...I will basically be carving with it. Hence, my first question:

Should I get a 2+, or a 3+, horsepower router?

I will be needing to adjust the cutting depth frequently to create the slopes, in essence will be creating a series of steps as I go from the deepest cut and work my way up to the panel's surface. So, question number two:

Any advice on routers that have exceptional depth control as evidenced by numerous "depth stops?"

I will be frequently working with large panels...sometimes 4 x 8 in dimension...and will also be routing straight lines, in parallel, one after the other. I expect I would be following a straight edge of some kind to maintain the perfect line, and I am hoping that someone has an alternative to having to measure and clamp the straight edge for every new swipe of the router. Question #3:

Are there any products designed to be used with routers that will provide a more "automatic" way of accurately moving and clamping my straight edge?

Thats alot of questions for one post, so I guess I'll stop right here. Feel free to chime in with any testimonials regarding personal favorites for freehand routers if the thought strikes ya.

Thanks for your help!

Mike
I'm not sure exactly what your trying to do, but it sounds like you are trying to create a stepped contour surface. Instead of whittling down a think piece, might be easier to build i up starting with thinner 1/8 - 1/4" ply?
 
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