How does a

router work?

         
         
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How does a hand-held router work?

 
  Spindle, collet and nut, router internal parts, motor, on/off switch, collet, plunge columns, electricity  

A motor is mounted vertically above the base of the router and has a steel sleeve, known as a collet, fitted into the shaft at the end of its spindle. The collet holds the shank end of a router cutter or bit. When the machine is switched on, the motor converts the electricity into mechanical power, turning the shaft and collet holding the router cutter in a clockwise direction. When the cutter touches a material it will begin to cut or grind into it. 

 
         
  Router, cuts in wood, internal view, spring-loaded columns, speed selector, motor, collet, router bits, height adjustment  

Most routers let you make all sorts of adjustments in order to cut precise shapes over and over again. Speed selection permits you to control how fast the router bit spins, to allow for different materials and bit sizes. The router itself is also portable enough to be moved across a material to create and guide your cut. You can adjust the height of the router bit in relation to its base, altering the depth to which it can cut, often to a very precise degree. And, there is a vast selection of router cutters, designed to create grooves and housings, rout the parts for joints, and decoratively shape the edges of materials.  

 
         
  Router internal parts, motor, on/off switch, collet, plunge columns, electricity  

Plunge routers allow you to move the top half of the router up and down on a pair of spring-loaded columns, so that you can plunge the spinning router cutter into material from above, and then lock it at the desired depth for the duration of the cut. Allowing you to start the cut in any place, not just at the edge of the material. There are also many accessories, like templates, guides, and jigs, which can make your router even more versatile.

 
         
 

How does a router work in a table?buy router tables

 
  Stationary routing, router internal parts, motor, on/off switch, collet, plunge columns, electricity  

A router mounted in a router table will still work in much the same way, but because the machine is upside down, the router cutter spins in an anti-clockwise direction when viewed from above. This means that the feed direction for hand-held and table-mounted applications will be different. Always consult any manufacturer's guidelines and instructions for correct use of individual routers and router tables.

 
         
  Router table, stationary routing, feed direction, feed rate, inverted  

Because the router is now stationary, it is the material that must be brought to the router cutter, not the other way around. Though your movements are more limited by the table, accessories such as a router table fence and starting pin will help to support the workpiece and give you more control over the router's cutting action. 

 
         
 

Hand-held routing vs. stationary routing 

 
  Weighing up the options, hand-held routing, table routing, advantages and disadvantages, choice, benefits  

Most routers can be used either hand-held or table-mounted. Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages. You'll need a specially produced router table, and appropriate insert plate, which will fit your router if you want to use it table mounted. 

 
         
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  Fixed base router cutting groove, hand-held routing, table routing, advantages and disadvantages, choice, benefits  

Hand-held or manual routing uses

  • Routing large or heavy pieces of material will usually be easier using a router manually, as it would be difficult to balance the material on a routing table and manoeuvre it. 

  • Using a hand-held router is usually considered to be the easiest method, making it ideal for beginners.

  • When using a hand-held router, you are positioned behind the machine, with a clear view of both the cutter and the material. You can tell instantly if any adjustments need to me made for your desired cut.

  • Plunge-cutting is difficult, not to mention very dangerous, on a router table and should only be attempted in hand-held mode.

 
         
  Router bit spinning anti-clockwise, hand-held routing, table routing, advantages and disadvantages, choice, benefits  

Table-mounted or stationary routing

  • If you want to rout particularly small or thin pieces of material, you should consider using a router table

  • . Trying to rout these manually may pose problems as the material will not be large enough to support the base of the router, which could tip. If the pieces are very small, you can use push tools to move them in order to avoid bringing your hands close to the router cutter.

  • Larger router cutters can be harder to control in a hand-held router, especially when cutting the edge of materials. As a result, larger cutters are more suited to use in a router table.

  • Applications that involve making a lot of repetitive cuts are usually best done on a router table. This is because once you set up the router table fence and other accessories, you can simply feed pieces of material, one after another, along the table and produce identical cuts in each piece.

 
         
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