How to Use a Palm Router for Beginners

One of the tools that are most handy for finishing is the palm router because it’s easier to control than a plunge router. If you need to cut a lot of stock comfortably, this is the ideal tool, it’s very versatile and the best models have variable speeds and spindle locks. This means that you can use different trimming solutions to get the perfect finish for your projects.

In this article, we will take a closer look at how to use a palm router safely.

What Is A Palm Router?

choose a palm router

So, what is a palm router? This power tool is often referred to as a trimming router or a laminate router. Essentially, it’s a miniature version of a standard wood router and it can be used in a variety of ways.

Woodworkers use a palm router to trim laminate, it has a collet of ¼” and some models can spin the bits up to 30,000 rpm. Certain models have variable speed control and the feature set can vary a great deal. When you choose a palm router, it’s a good idea to understand how you’re going to use it in advance. This will ensure that you get a palm router with all the features you need.

What Can You Use A Palm Router For?

When you’re learning how to use a palm router, it’s easy to become overwhelmed because this tool covers a lot of territories. Despite its small size, you can get a lot of routing done in a very efficient manner. The smaller size and weight will eliminate much of the fatigue that you experience with a larger router.

A palm router is an excellent tool if you want to create round-overs and chamfers. There are various bits that extend the functionality and the smaller size allows you to route into tighter spaces where you cannot use a traditional router.

As the name suggests, laminate trimmers are an excellent tool when you want to cut veneers without causing damage to the work-piece. Using a flush trimming bit will cut the veneer to the desired size with the bearing guiding the bit to the wood substrate. The cuts are clean and you can work along the edge of the wood to a fixed or final size.

These operations are easy because the palm router can be held in one hand and they are light. In a shop that uses a CNC router, a palm router is useful because it can be moved during cutting. Some woodworkers use a technique known as “Onion Skinning” to cut through the stock piece with a small skin left behind to hold the parts. Routing through this “skin” with a palm router using a flush trimming bit will release the part from the stock.

How To Use A Palm Router Safely

learning how to use a trimmer router

Safety should always be the first priority when you use any type of power tool or electronic equipment. So, when you use a palm router wear eye protection, gloves, ear protection, and a dust mask for the following reasons:

Eye Protection: When you cut wood there is always a risk that small splinters can be thrown at your face and body. Splinters are easy to remove, but they are far more dangerous if they make contact with your eyes or the area around them. A pair of basic safety goggles should be the bare minimum and some better safety glasses are a sound investment.

Gloves: When you wear gloves you’re protected from the aforementioned splinters, but there are other good reasons to wear them. As you work you need a good grip on your palm router or other tools and you may need to lean on rough surfaces. This is when many woodworkers injure their hands with cuts and abrasions that may require medical attention.

Ear Protection: This is seen as optional by many people, but if you’re working with a loud power tool it’s a good idea to wear ear protection. A simple pair of safety ear muffs are inexpensive and they are comfortable to wear all day.

Dust Mask: When you’re working with wood it’s inevitable that a significant volume of dust particles will be released into the air and on surfaces. This material can be inhaled causing health problems that are easy to avoid. A good dust mask is inexpensive and you can change the filters regularly to improve the protection.

3 Features To Consider When Choosing A Palm Router 

As we mentioned earlier, when you’re looking for a palm router it’s a good idea to check out the features because they can vary a great deal from model to model. Let’s take a look at look at three key features that you may want to consider:

1.    Spindle Locks Makes it Easier to Change the Bits on Your Router

This allows you to remove the spindle and loosen the collet nut with a simple button press. This is a great feature for fast bit changes which most woodworkers will appreciate. If you don’t have spindle locks don’t worry it’s easy to make changes with a wrench, but this takes a little more time.

2.    Variable Speed Controls

This feature allows you to use the palm router in a CNC routing machine with superior results. You can use larger diameter routing bits and if you need to slow down for inlays and detail work this will be a very useful feature.

3.    Power (hp)

A palm router like many powered tools has a motor that is measured and expressed as horsepower (hp). The amount of power that you can bring to bear on a project can have a huge effect on the finish and efficiency.

When you’re choosing a palm router look for the peak and sustained horsepower figures. Peak horsepower refers to the maximum power that the router can use for brief periods. The sustained horsepower is the maximum power that can be utilized over a prolonged period of time.

Young carpenter using a laminate trimmer

Most modern palm routers have around 1 hp or less, but other models may have 2-3 hp or more. There is no one-size-fits-all solution because the needs of the job will determine how much power you need. It’s important to understand that higher levels of power should not be an automatic choice.

In most scenarios, a beginning to intermediate woodworker would be unlikely to use more than 1 hp. Unless you are planning to perform extensive routing tasks for prolonged periods 1 hp or less should get the job done.


When you choose a power tool and learn how to use it, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the details. But, the main determining factor when you select a power tool is the type of projects that you want to complete. A palm router is a useful tool, it’s flexible and well suited to detailed-oriented projects. Before you make a final choice consider your experience, skills, and needs carefully and it will be easier to make a final purchasing decision.