What is a Wood Router?- Why do I Need One and How to Use It

What is a wood router? This is an interesting question because a wood router is a useful tool, but it’s not essential for most wood shops. It is entirely possible to make furniture without a router. But, if you understand how, it works and learn to master it, you may be surprised at what you can achieve. A wood router excels at the creation of custom wood inlays, edge shapes, and more. In this article, we will do a deep dive into wood routers to help you determine if you need or want one for your shop.

What Is a Wood Router?

Wood routers originated as hand- or manual powered instruments but have slowly progressed into the computer-controlled rotating routers of nowadays. The wood router was initially introduced as manual equipment, having a large base with a thin blade that protruded far over the bottom plate.  

A wood router is a handheld or bench mounted power tool that’s used to cut straight or decorative profile grooves and moldings into the edge or face of the timber. There are fixed spindle, plunge, and combination variants and they all operate at high speeds. A variety of cutting bits can be used to rout different profiles and sizes, and they can be used to machine many grades of wood.

what is a wood router used for

Some models have variable speed controls and soft start systems to improve control when the router is operating at higher speeds. A wood router can be used to make dovetail joints, square slots, and decorative edges for cabinet and furniture construction.

A wood router can operate at 8,000-30,000 rpm to cut into timber without chipping or gouging. Handheld wood routers are moved over the wood, and bench mounted variants have the wood moved over the tool itself.

What is a wood router used for? Wood routers are tools to make sharp edges , cut joints and decorative cuts that helps in making Photo frames, kitchen cupboards, desks, borders, and doors are just a few examples.

The most intriguing feature a router can make is decorative molding. For doorways, baseboards, windows and chair rails, you may make anything from basic circular moldings to more intricate Roman aesthetic or beaded designs using various parts.

Today, many wood routers come with adjustable speed regulations and plunge grounds which can be confined in one spot so the router could also serve as a useful fixed base router. Some even have soft or delicate start functionalities, which means they slowly increase their speed, which is especially useful for routers with big cutters.

Some objects that are hard to shape or mold using conventional methods can be cleanly shaped and completed using a variety of routing techniques. A wood router could be more handy than a spindle shaper for some lightweight punches and can complete the work considerably faster.

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What is a Wood Router Used For?

1.    Edge Profiling

This is also known as shaping. It is common in home shops to create a smooth round over or clean bevel (chamfer) in minutes.

2.    Joinery

With the right fence or a homemade jig, you can use a wood router to cut a wide variety of joints easily, including rabbets, dadoes and mortise, and tenons.

A dado is basically a trench or slot used to hold shelves in a bookshelf or cabinet without being seen. A dado is by far the most durable way to attach shelves, and it’s cut using a flat bit on the router.

What Are the Wood Router Parts

The tool helps make it simple to slice the 2 most frequent kinds of dadoes: a through one, which passes across both sides of a board while keeping the endings open, and a blind or stopped dado, that finishes before the first or both incisions hit the surface’s edges.

A rabbet is a groove or recess carved in the edges of the wood, commonly found on the rear edge of cabinets or on the side of bookcases. Rabbets can be employed to make doorway and frame windowsills, and they could be utilized in conjunction with just a dado to produce a robust connection.

A range of rabbet bits, that cut the slots in the correct width, may be used with most routers.

Routers may be used to carve designs, swirls, and patterns into a variety of wood types. For example, if you possess a damaged table or any other item of wood, one could also make the use of a router to “trace” the actual item’s contour and duplicate it to as many repetitions as you want.

3.    Hinge Mortising

A wood router with a suitable trim bit can create a hinge mortise in a few minutes.

To cut room for deep gate hinges or keep locked face plates, make use of a router and a jig. Recessed gear has a more polished look and operates more smoothly.

4.    Flush Trimming

Cutting a piece of material to fit flush with a flush trim bit at the top or bottom is easy with a wood router. This is useful when you want to make jobs or flush-trim laminate on a kitchen countertop.

5.    Wood Inlays

These are easy to rough out quickly with a wood router and they elevate your woodworking to the next level.

Which Wood Router Should I Buy?

A router is among the most important equipment in any contemporary wood-shop. There’s a strong likelihood that no matter whatever woodworking job you’re working on, you’ll need to use a router for at least single operation.

Having the correct router for a project is essential, whether you’re doing a simple 1/2 inches round-over on a countertop or building cathedral design raised-panel gates.

We also wrote about Best Trim Router

With all these routers to choose from, it can be tough to choose the one that is ideal for you. There are a few key aspects that you should be keeping in mind or examining before you make an informed decision of which router you should get your hands on.

Speed options:

Some routers only have a single speed setting, whereas the most adaptable routers include changeable or multi-speed settings. The flexibility to modify the speed variation depending on the bit size, operations type, and hardwood being cut will improve the standard of work and provide a safe working environment.

Collet Capacity:

The capacity of a collet determines which bits a hardwood router may use. Palm routers are typically restricted to 1/4″ of travel, whereas larger ones can go up to 1/2 inches.  Some router collar may be swapped out, allowing you to utilize maybe a 1/2 inch or even a 1/4″ collet, alternatively, a 1/2″ router bit.


Wood Router equipment depth is mostly determined by the unit’s design base, and many fixed base or plunge base models are now within 2 inches deep. Because of the “plunging movement,” plunge routers provide a bit more depth diversity than stationary or fixed routers.


Wood router motors or engines are measured in amperage (A) or horsepower (hp). In the situation of palm routers that are operated by batteries, a power ratings are frequently included (V).

The volume of a wireless router’s batteries is calculated in Amperage hours (Ah), and the higher the number, the more energy the battery holds, resulting in a longer operating time among charges.

Manufacturers frequently promote the effectiveness of wireless routers by quoting a cutting duration per Amp hours. For example, a decent wireless router can cut 20 feet per Ah.

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Base Style

The kind of base used is, in many respects, just as significant as the type of engine or machine that is used in the wood router. It is again one of the aspects an individual should look into when buying a wood router. Wood routers with different bases are Plunge base, fixed base and D handle base, pick the wood router with the base that matches your needs.

Additional Features

For router stability, a good grip is vital, especially with bigger routers which deliver tremendous torque. The majority of them have dual handles. Some variants include a convenient on/off button on the handle. Although novice woodworkers with tiny hands should examine physical measurements, most palm routers feature a chassis that can be gripped with a single hand.

How to use a wood router

In this scenario, a either a  plunge router or a small fixed router with dual handles might be more convenient. Another beneficial characteristic is the soft starting, which prevents the instrument from bursting into life at maximum speed.

Because wood routers produce so much of dust, a dust collector port could assist in keeping the cutting surface visible and reduce workshop cleanings. Those with workshops extraction must look into the port size. They may require an adapter, which is inexpensive and widely accessible.

Do You Push or Pull a Wood Router? 

Routing a clean edge requires a sharp bit and the tool rotating that bit in a counterclockwise direction around the work-piece. The bit pushes the wood router towards the operator rather than pulling away in the opposite direction. This improves the control characteristics and promotes safety.

What Are the Wood Router Parts and How Do They Function?

Understanding the various parts of a wood router is important for correct operation and maintenance:

  • The Base: A handheld router base has a center hold where the router bit protrudes to cut into the wood.
  • Motor: The motor is vertically mounted to convert electrical energy into the mechanical energy that drives the routing bits.
  • Speed Controls: Many wood routers have a speed control dial to increase or decrease the operating speeds.
  • The Depth Stop: This is a guide that can be set to a specific depth to make accurate and consistent cuts and prevent the routing bit from driving too deep into the wood.
  • The Collet: This is a steel sleeve with a retaining or locking nut that keeps the router bit in place.
  • The On/Off Switch: This is a trigger or switch that turns the wood router on or off.

Setting Up Your Wood Router

Before you use a wood router it’s important to inspect the unit and calibrate the speed. A 2hp router is more than adequate for DIY and home woodworking. Smaller models with a 1.25 hp motor can be used for trimming, and larger 3 hp routers are a good option if you need more power. When you purchase a new wood router, read the owner’s manual carefully to get a complete breakdown of the controls and included parts. Let’s take a look at some simple tips to keep you safe as you learn to use your router.

  • Always disconnect the power and turn off the router power switch when you change a router bit.
  • Choose the right router bit for the job, check the type, cutting length and diameter, sharpness, and shank strength.
  • The router bit depth should be set to ensure that you can’t cut deeper than you intend.
  • The router speed should be correct for the target material.
  • The routing bits, clamps, locking systems, and clamps should be tight and secure before you begin routing.
  • The target material must be clamped to prevent shifting.
  • The area should be clear of people, pets, and obstructions.
  • When you’re ready to begin, line up the router and then connect the power.
  • A guide fence can be used for straight cuts.
  • A trim guide can be used to make curved cuts.
  • The router bit should not come into contact with the material until the router has sufficient time to come up to speed to avoid kickback problems.

How To Use A Wood Router?

One of the more common uses for a wood router is to cut a decorative edge. Let’s take a look at four simple steps to make these cuts in your chosen target material:

Step 1: Set Up the Router

For a straight cut, select a straight bit, and for round edges, select the round-over bit. There are many router bits if you want something more specific, and the decorative edge will be determined by the size, shape, and bit type. Insert the bit in the collet, check the bit depth and set it to a shallow level.

Step 2: Cutting the Material

Line up the router with the target material, turn on the router, and when it comes up to speed, make an initial pass. Reset the depth to remove more on the second pass and repeat as needed. The router direction is important; push left to right on the perimeter and right to left for interior cuts.

The router should always be moving against the router bit rotation direction. If the wood grain pulls the router away, use a climb-cutting technique to finish the cutting. To do this, push the router in the bit direction instead of against it as usual until you clear the wood grain obstruction.

Step 3: Making Passes

The router bit will cut into the material, move the tool along the edge to create the decorative edge, and start with grain sides first to prevent tear-out at the corners. You can clean up cuts with the router as you route along the other sides. Work at a slow and steady pace, move clockwise for interior cuts and counterclockwise for perimeter cuts.

Step 4: Resetting the Depth and a Final Pass

When the first pass is complete, reset the depth and prepare to rout the next pass. Repeat this process until you’re ready for the final pass. Certain projects only need a couple of passes, and others may take three or four until you’re happy with the results.

Safety When Using A Wood Router

When you ask some people, “What is a wood router?” they will answer, “A dangerous tool” and there is some truth to this. A router demands respect, and the sharp bit can cause horrendous injuries. To stay safe, there are five essential safety tips that you need to follow:

1.    Avoid Distractions

Keep the work area clear of any distractions, and pay close attention to the router as you work. If the tool starts to make a strange noise, this is a sure sign that something is wrong. This could be a loose collar, the bit may be dull, or there may be another problem. Turn off the router, remove the power, and assess the situation before you continue.

Wood router with router bits on wood

2.    Watch the Feed Direction

The router bit spins in a clockwise direction, but the direction that you feed the tool into the wood is important. If you push with the cut, you can cause the router to run and climb away from you, which is dangerous. Always push against the cut and feed counterclockwise around the work-piece until you’re ready for advanced techniques.

3.    Don’t Remove More Than ⅛” at Once

Stick to this rule when you’re new to routing, and then move up to ¼” when you become more comfortable with the tool. This will help you to understand the boundaries and how to work safely with your wood router.

4.    Work Slowly and Steadily

Always work in a slow and steady manner when you’re starting out. There may be some router burn, and clean up can be an annoyance. But, this is crucial until you gain confidence and learn how to work safely. When you’re ready, you can speed up a little to prevent router burn and damage to the work-piece.

5.    Only Use Sharp Bits

A dull router bit can cause tear-out, and it’s dangerous to use if you push the router too hard to compensate. If you notice blue or black coloration on the router bit or it’s under-performing, it’s time to get it sharpened or replaced. A quick online search will help you to find a router bit sharpening service in your area.

What is a wood router FAQ’s

What is the purpose of a wood router?

Routers may be used to carve designs, grooves, and patterns into a variety of wood types. For example, if you own a damaged tabletop or another piece or object of wood, you can make the use of the router to bring back or trace the actual item’s contour and recreate something new out of it as you want. 

What is the wood router good for?

Wood router can be used for a variety of purposes. Also, now that its available both manually and motor operated it can perform a number of tasks. Most commonly it is good for building joinery, making designs, and executing edge work.

What type of wood router do I need?

Depending on your needs you need to choose one which would be the right pick for you. There are certain aspects that one should keep in mind while buying a wood router that are also discussed above. A good wood router would bring excellence in a job and make tasks easier.

What is a Wood Router-In Conclusion

We hope that we’ve answered the question, “What is a wood router?” to your satisfaction. A handheld router can be purchased in a wide variety of sizes to make cuts, joints, grooves, and decorative edges.

Learning how to use a router properly can certainly elevate your woodworking skills to the next level. This is a powerful tool that can cut straight lines, make connections, create intricate joints and shape impressive decorative edges.

But safety must be the primary consideration when you’re using a wood router because the potential for injury is high. Always follow the safety tips discussed in this article, keep the router clean and ensure that the tool is properly maintained.

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