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How to Get Started with Routing

Are you feeling inspired to equip yourself with some new DIY know-how? Then you might want to consider routing. Whether you want to get creative with decorative edges or try your hand at joinery, a good router tool is what you need. In our handy beginner’s guide to routing, we introduce you to the trade and the tools. From choosing the right router bit to working with Dremel’s Plunge Router, you’ll get your DIY on in no time.

Softwood, plexiglass and rubber are great materials for a handheld router

Tip 1: Gather your materials

Before you embark on a new DIY adventure, let’s take a look at the basics. Firstly, what is a rout, exactly? A rout is a groove or hollow created with a power tool, and routing is the process of ‘hollowing out’ materials. When you’re starting out, it’s best to choose materials that are easy to rout. Softwoods are great, as is carbon, chipboard, fibreboard, laminates, plastic, plexiglass, plywood and rubber. You can also use your handheld router on hardwoods – just move a bit more slowly. Here you’ll need to be careful of burning your wood and/or bit (see tip #7 for more on this).

Tip 2: Get to know the different rout types

The type of rout you want depends on the job at hand. If you’re starting out, you’ll be using your router quite often to make grooves. Grooves – long cuts in surfaces – can be flat-bottomed, v-shaped or rounded. You can create functional inlays with them in wooden tables, cutting boards or your kitchen countertop, for example. Another type of rout is a cove; also known as a rounded groove. This is a simple way to add an interesting edge to a plain surface. Use the chamfer as a decorative rout. Think of it as a ‘flattened corner’; the chamfer is straight, but doesn’t extend across the material’s entire profile. Specific types of routs require specific bits, which brings us to our next point...

Find the right router bit for the job

Tip 3: Choose the right router bit

Let’s take a look at router bits. A straight bit ( 650 , 652 , 654 ) cuts straight, square-bottomed grooves, such as rebates and trench grooves. A piloted bit is a guide that keeps the bit in place and is suitable for routs such as cove and chamfer. There are two main kinds. The first (612) is a piloted beading bit, and is used most often for decorative work. A piloted rounding-over bit (615) is used for smoothing edges. A v-groove bit (640) cuts decorative v-shaped grooves, while the keyhole bit (655) cuts narrow slots. It routs grooves into picture frames or anything else that needs to be hung. Want to know more? Compare all router bits.

Meet Dremel’s Plunge Router attachment

Tip 4: Equip yourself with the plunge router attachment

The most essential attachment, when it comes to routing, is the Plunge Router attachment. When woodworking or doing other DIY projects involving routing, this attachment converts your Dremel Multi-Tool into a plunge router. In other words, it negates the need for a separate plunge router tool. With just this one attachment, you can use your tool to rout circles, cut letters and signs, as well as inlay work. Want to rout in a straight line? Use the edge guide that comes with the Plunge Router attachment.

Gloves and goggles are routing must-haves

Tip 5: Tick off the safety precautions

Before you start your new DIY project, let’s do a quick safety recap. Protect your hands with gloves; they will prevent accidental cuts. Goggles and a dust mask are also essential when it comes to routing; you don’t want to be breathing in sawdust or plastic particles, or getting them anywhere near your eyes. Complete your router safety with a pair of insulating earmuffs, and then you’re good to go!

Before you start routing, first create a ‘slide’ in the wood

Tip 6: Hold the router slightly slanted

Now that you’ve got the right router bits and ticked off all the safety precautions, it’s time to get down to business. When you turn on the tool, hold it slightly slanted. Why? The tip of most router bits doesn’t actually cut: the working part is on the side of the bit. Holding the router at an angle creates a ‘slide’ in the wood. Once you make your way into the wood (or whatever material you’re working with), you can then hold the router upright.

The ‘feed rate’ depends on the material.

Tip 7: Set the RPM and move slowly

Ensure that your material or router bit doesn’t burn by letting the tool do the work and pausing when you see the material getting hot. Move slowly, especially with hardwoods like oak. If you’re routing in plexiglass, keep the Rotations Per Minute (RPM) low. The packaging of each router bit has information on the advised RPM. Finally, always rout in stages – don’t remove more than 3mm of material at once. Want your groove to be 1cm deep? Set your router’s depth to 3mm, and do it in 3 phases. And finally, always test it on some scrap material, and you’ll be routing in no time!

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