April 22, 2022

How to use a wood router

A router is a tool used to shape wood or other materials. A wood router has a cutting bit attached, which is used to add a decorative design to the edges of furniture, picture frames, baseboards, and other wooden objects. A wood router can also hollow out a specific section of a log and cut grooves in wood.

Wood routers are one of the more versatile tools in a carpenter’s arsenal of tools. You can use them to build a picture frame, trim a window, or create decorative designs for souvenirs and gifts. You’ll need a router to get the job done no matter what you want to make.

How to use a wood router for beginners

woodworking router carpentry work close up
  1. Check and study the manual included in the package of your wood router. That helps you adjust the usage of the said tool. You may want to apply a uniform speed throughout your routing for a cleaner and more polished surface on the wood. If you slow down the spinning speed of the router, you will have an uneven cut and rougher exterior of the wood. Use different combinations of drill bits to weigh the difference of each bit to the wood. Routers cut patterns, grooves, and designs across multiple pieces of wood (Bobvila.com) .
  2. Attach the router bit by placing the router machine on a steady bench. The router should be unplugged to avoid unnecessary accidents. Insert the bit firmly to the collet.
  3. Tightly attach it to the end of the motor’s shaft to remain secure once the router spins. Wear a face mask and protective goggles for precaution.
  4. You need a perfect depth setting in the machine to follow the specification and design of the woodwork you are going to do. Place the router on a level platform, and then adjust the router until the router bit touches the surface of the platform. Tighten the lock of the router after you have done this. For routers with a plunger capability, lock the router for a certain depth. 
  5. Make adjustments for the cutting depth. Place the router bit at the depth you want to cut. 
  6. Release the lock to allow the router to go up while checking if the depth is adequate and accurate for the cut you want.
  7. You may decrease the pressure on router to allow the machine to lift. 
  8. Once you have the correct measurements, you can now start the router. Move the router across the shape that you want to make. Move the router while judging the output of the cutting process.
  9. Cut it more thoroughly using the router till you are satisfied. Consider the speed and time of exposure to the router bit following the hardness of the wood. Allow the spinning motor to stop before you remove the router in place. That allows the router to clean up and polish the cutting process.
  10. Use a fence for cutting straight lines. Attach the router fence near the portion of the wood you want to cut. Move the router while in contact with the router fence. That ensures that you make a straight-line movement.

How does a router work wood

The router features a flat base and a rotating blade extending past the base. The spindle is driven by an electric motor or by a pneumatic motor. It hollows out an area in hardwood. 

Feed a table router slowly from right to left for best results. Feed speed is determined by the wood and the type of cut. The wood goes in against the direction the blade is spinning. Resistance from the router means it is doing the work.

Avoid pushing the material with the spin of the blade. The blade might pull the material from your hands. It is dangerous to pull your hands or fingers into the router blade.

Working too fast, force-feed the router. Avoid doing this. Force-feeding stock means the bit touches wood fewer times per cutting pass. Force-feeding gives a rough surface as it leaves wavy lines called chatter marks.

How to use a router to cut a groove

  1. Set up the cut. Use a guide fence.
  2. Adjust the bit, so it is cutting somewhere around 1/4-inch deep. 
  3. Run the wood through the router to cut. 
  4. Raise or lower the bit and repeat until you have cut a groove to the depth you want. A handheld router needs the bit lowered. Raise the bit on a table router where the bit faces upward.

How to cut a slot in wood without a router

Without a router, you can still cut a slot in wood using different tools and even your hands. Try using any of the tools below as an alternative to cutting a slot in wood. A slot is also known as a slot/trench/channel (Rockler.com).


A jigsaw works together with a power drill when cutting the slot. Start by marking the areas where you need slots in the wood and make two holes on both the ends of the marked area using a drill. Use the jigsaw blade to cut the slot with precision. 

Circular Saw

Using a circular saw requires safety precautions, such as working with goggles and earmuffs. Clamp your wood, mark the guiding lines and adjust the blade according to your desired slot depth. Plunge the saw slowly into the board when it reaches its max speed.


You can use the power of hand tools. Consider the most effective method to cut a wooden slot. It can be a chisel or a rabbeting plane. A chisel is an efficient tool that makes slots or grooves of your choice in the wood. Its original use is cutting the wood since it features a metal blade with a sharpened end that cuts through the wood easily.  

Use the chisel with a hammer or mallet to drive it into the desired shape. The chisel cuts the wood as accurately as a router. Remember to measure twice and cut once. The areas you want to cut must be measured appropriately and marked on both ends before making the final slots. 

Another hand tool you can use is a backsaw. It features a large rectangular blade and a stiff brace on the opposite side of the cutting edge for stability and better control. Due to stability, backsaws are used frequently for precise cutting work. 

You can use the saw to cut along the lines you made for the desired depth of the slot. Use the chisel with the closest width of the slot and remove all the wood between the slots. Use sandpaper to smooth out the edges and give the piece a final touch. 

Rabbeting plane is a simple hand tool with sharp blades to cut the wood rabbets. When working with a rabbeting plane, start by marking the dimensions of the incision. Give a start to the cut using a home knife and once you have opened the slot, let the rabbeting plane take charge and cut till you achieve the depth you desire.

David D. Hughes

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