Woodworkers: Is a router (power tool) hard for a rookie to use?

I’m interested in building a small bathroom cabinet and need to cut a rabbet (sp?) into the wood, so that it can accept the back of the cabinet. I know a router is ideal for this task, but wonder if a newbie like me will have a hard time getting a precise cut.

Use a guide or a router table and you should be fine. The one thing to be aware of with a router is that there’s a right direction and a wrong direction to make the cut - making the cut in one direction, the spin of the router bit will pull the router tight against the guide. In the other direction, it will make the router want to float out away from the guide.

I learned to use a router in 7th grade shop class, and I don’t recall it being difficult at all to use. Now jigsaws, those are a bitch to work with.

I’ll second the router table. Once set up correctly, you can make muliple cuts that turn out exactly the same. Depending on the size of the work, rabbeting can be done easily on a table saw too.

I’m pretty amateurish with woodwork, but I’ve used a router for building simple bookcases and cabinets with little trouble. One thing to realize is that those router bits aren’t cheap, and you can easily wear one out with a lot of use. But boy do you get a nice look in your project.

You should not have a big problem. If you get a good carbide bit with the ball bearing guide it is very easy. I used to always practice a time or two when I first started using mine on some scrap wood.

One thing I’ve noticed about routers: They are INCREDIBLY LOUD!!!

Pound for pound, I can’t think of any power tools that are louder.

Using a router free hand is very difficult. But using it with guides or a table can become easy, quickly.

You should set everything up and use some scrap to practice on at first.
Keep fingers far from bit, it will remove a large chunk of flesh before you can react.
Make sure you have a good push piece built. Usually a piece of scrap will work well with a little custom shaping.
Like Table Saws & Radial arm saws a router should be used with caution and respect.

A router table is a must.

I will also suggest a router table, which can be as simple as a 3/4" sheet of plywood with a router bolted directly to it sitting on sawhorses. As Gorsnak said, there is a wrong way and a right way, the wrong way can do more than make the wood wander, you could end up with a wooden projectile so make sure you and anyone else is not standing in line with the fence. One of the more important safety tips to remember is to always know that the wood can be caught and thrown away before you can blink, and for that reason always, always, always know where your hands would be if the wood was gone.

This means not holding the wood directly over the bit. I use a bit guard to make sure that I can’t get close to the bit on purpose, much less by accident.

Here are some good sites for rookies.
The Router Workshop
Woodnet Forums
And the grisly site to scare you into safety

Now, to the project at hand. Are you talking about cutting a rabbet in the sides of the carcase to seat the back panel in? If so that can also be done with a dado blade in a table saw. Unless of course, you need to stop the rabbet before the end of the board, then a router is your only feasible choice.

One more thing, keep in mind that 3/4" or 1/2" or 1/4" plywood (if that is what you are planning to use) is usually 1/64" or more thinner than the stated thickness, this can make a difference between nice and sloppy fitting in dados and grooves. Good luck.

Cheap routers are loud. I find my planer much louder.

Completely off topic but I read the subject line as “routers for wookies”.

Interesting mental image.

I have a delta 3500 an it’s not too loud. Then again I’m nearly deef :slight_smile:

About that cutting direction: It’s immediately obvious which is the good and which is the bad direction. Some times, though, you may wish to know before starting the cut :). The “good” direction is when the work is going past the router blade in the opposite direction from which the blade edge is traveling. The blade is essentially pushing back as the router is pushed through the work.
The “bad” direction is when the work is traveling the same direction as the blade edge. The blade is digging into the work, pulling the router forward. Since you are already applying forward pressure, the pull from the router is difficult to counteract and can be quite dangerous.

In my machine shop days, on a Bridgeport milling machine, we called the “bad” direction “climb cutting”. We used this frequently because, though it is not as safe as the “good” direction, the cut is much smoother. If you imagine the blade turning into the work, when one cuts in the normal safe direction, the chips are being driven forward, into the work, in the direction of the cut. When you are climb cutting, the chips are being cut towards the rear of the cut, and they do not interfere with the smoothness of the cut as much.
We always used the normal direction to cut the materal to within a few thousanths of an inch of the final dimension and then took a very shallow cut in the opposite direction to clean it up.

Another vote for the cheap <=> loud correlation.

If you can afford it, get a good one. I have a cheap Craftsman router and a nice DeWalt one (don’t know how DeWalt’s reputation is these days, but they were A-list material when I bought the router). The Craftsman router is the loudest tool in my shop; the DeWalt, by comparison, purrs like a kitten. You can feel the difference in your hand as well: one feels angry, like it is going to break free any minute; the other hums like the well-balanced machine it is, instilling more confidence in your control.

If I were buying a new one, I would probably get a 1/2" router since there have been times when I wish I had one, but I already have a 1/4" one, so I am not going to buy a new one for one cut.

I’ve done some nice jobs with putting my work across sawhorses or a bench and clamping a long flat guide parallel to my cut. If it’s a deep cut take more than one pass adjusting the depth each time.

Take a practice cut on a scrap piece of wood you are using until you are familiar with the new tool and know how it will cut. Plywwod, and pine and oak are different creatures and make the tool feel different as it cuts.

Spend the extra few dollars on a carbide bit over the HSS.

I am not familar with that model, is it one of those cast iron monsters? Because if it is I will stop talking to you out of sheer envy. I have a meek Dewalt 733 planer. Hearing protection is my friend :slight_smile: it does the job well so I have no real complaints.

I should have mentioned before that you can pick up a Hitachi M12V router for not a bad price these days. I have this router in my table and I love it , 1/2" collet, 3.5 HP, variable speed . I also have a Skil 1/4"/ 1 hp that I don’t use anymore, maybe one day as a laminate router, but it vibrates and shakes and scares the hell outta me. 2 - 3 ounces of sharp metal being spun at 18,000+ RPM in a router that feels as solid as the airplane models I made as a kid does not inspire confidence.

I am not a pro, I am just above newbie in the woodworking world so take what I say with a grain of salt. I will second the carbide bit recommendation.

Second (or third) the recommendations for:

-1/2" router (if you really like routing you will want more bits, and the fun ones all seem to be 1/2")

-Carbide bits. Although I know that one dovetail jig manufacturer recommends high speed steel, but I still buy carbide.

-A router table. These can get more expensive than the router (mine was :rolleyes: ). Still, nothing beats them in certain applications. A guide is inexpensive; as stated above, clamp a straight piece of wood to your piece, and guide the edge of the router along that.

-Hearing and eye protection. Don’t fool around on this one!

-Push sticks and/or blocks. Ditto!

-Knowing the way the bit spins. Make practice cuts first, and practice the motion of routing with the router off so you can anticipate dumb mistakes like running out of extension cord or smacking up against your guide clamps (yeah, done those…)

-Always wait until the bit stops before you get near it.

-Unplug the router whenever changing bits.

I have a Bosch 1617 router. It’s a good balance between power and weight. The combination pack gives you a fixed base and a plunge base. I’ve also heard very good things about the Porter Cable Speedmatic which is more powerful if you want to use big bits. Not that your intended application would call for this.

In addition to the advice offered, see what feels good in your hands. My 1 HP Bosch is a D-handle unit, and is very comfortable. The big 3 1/2 HP Bosch is a beast, but soft start and variable speed help to make it controllable. Depending on what you want to do now and in the future, some router manufacturers offer kits with a motor unit, and multiple bases so you can get into fixed and plunge work. Here’s an article and evaluation of different manufacturers.

I am guessing your D-handle is not a plunge router, which is yet another consideration.

Seems to me I use to clamp a piece of scrap wood on either end to keep the cut consistent when using a router freehand. That was done to avoid rounding off the end. If you don’ t have a table I would spend the time to clamp up a guide just like you would for a circular saw.