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How to Use a Wood Router

Man using a router

Router Basics 101

Are you thinking about starting a woodworking project? Have you ever used a router? Routers can create numerous fresh profiles on the edge of the board. Before you start a project here are some beginner basics to using a wood router.

Dewalt Wood Router

What's a router?

A router is a tool used to hollow out a piece of wood, metal, or plastic. It can cut grooves, fancy edges, or patterns. There are two types of routers a fixed base and a plunge base. A fixed base router is set in place once the bit is locked in. A plunge base allows the bit to plunge up and down in the material. There are many different bits available to use, depending on the project and depth. Routers are small enough to be moved easily, making them very versatile.

Router Bits

What can a router do?

Besides cutting fancy edges on side tables and baseboards, routers can also cut flawless dadoes and rabbets. What's a dado you ask? A dado is a rectangular groove cut into a board to fit another piece of wood into it. A rabbet cut is a step-shaped recess cut along an edge or the face of a piece of wood. But those aren't the only cuts a router can do. There are a plethora of bits that allow you to create decorative picture frames, shoe molding, kitchen cabinets, doors, and edges. 

Planning out your cuts

Plan your cuts

Before diving into a piece of wood with your router, it is best to have a plan. Map out your cuts using a template and set the depth of your router bit accordingly. Always do a test cut before routing your workpiece.


Secure your work

Securing your material is the key to a successful project. Secure your material to your bench using a clamp or a router mat, which is non-skid and will hold your content in place. Clamps can get into your working space and need to be adjusted. Mats don't need to be adjusted and allow you to work continuously.

Man routing in the right direction

Always go the right way

The rule of thumb for handheld routers is to always work from left to right. Working this way gives you the most control over your router. If you work from right to left, the router tends to climb over the wood. If you are working with a table-mounted router, you will work in the opposite direction, from right to left. Make multiple passes for deeper cuts, rather than trying to cut it all at once.

Table Router

Getting a routing table

If your hands get tired or you have arthritis, investing in a router table is the way to go. Having a mounted router on a table gives you better precision since the bit is mounted in a fixed position. Speed is another benefit. You can work faster, knowing that the router will not go off course, improving the output of your work.

Eye Protection

Eye protection

Goggles should be worn at all times while using a router. Shards of wood will be flying when your cutting into your boards and can cause permanent damage or blindness.

Ear Protections

Hearing protection

Protecting yourself from injury is a crucial part of any job. Wearing earplugs are a must before turning on a router. You can experience hearing loss at extended exposure to sounds at a level of 90 decibels. Handheld routers often run at 95 to 115 decibels.


Dust mask

With any woodworking project, a dust mask is a necessity. Dust, wood particles, and grinding metals are hazardous and should not be inhaled. Wearing a mask will help prevent these particles from entering into your lungs. The last thing you want is to wake up the next day, not being able to breathe.