For this week’s Skill Builder: Router Edition, we had to make a…shape. A 270º circle with a straight edge along one the remaining quarter. If you were to ask me to make this , my first instinct would probably just be to use a bandsaw, then clean up the inner edges after the fact to get them even. But after using and struggling through this with the router, I discovered that it’s a simple way to make a really clean (even though I had a few missteps along the way) cutout.
Cutting to size
First I cut down a larger piece of plywood to 12″ x 12″ using the panel saw. This was a mistake. But I didn’t realize it until I started routing. Lesson #1 – route your shape in a much larger piece of plywood. We’ll get to why later, as we see how this becomes a problem.
Step 1: Find the center of the piece. This was accomplished by laying a straight-edge from corner to corner. Pretty simple.
Step 2: Using a T-square, extend the center lines. Along those lines, measure a 5-inch radius to represent the circle.
Step 3: Connect two points along the radius to form the straight line.
Step 1: Drill a hole for the peg to use with the router circle jig
What I didn’t realize until too late was that the peg had too much play in it. So when I began using the circle jig, the router had a quite a bit of slop. More to see on this later.
Step 2: Attach circle jig – tough to see in this one, but it’s on there. I also attached the straight bit, after clearing the collet then tightening it with the wrench.
Step 3: Whoops! Guess what I forgot to do? I didn’t look at the depth of the bit. I got eager and just plunged the router into the wood. Turns out the bit was sticking out a solid inch, so it went right through the board. Lesson #2 – always check bit depth before cutting.
I fixed that and started routing. So far so good. Except what’s that weird shredded wood on the edge?
Oh, and check out how the clamp is about to obstruct the progress of the router. Which brings me back to lesson #1. I should have left more material so I could have clamped it without the jig contantly bumping into the clamp. I worked around it by adjusting the clamp over and over. Not ideal.
Here’s the shredded wheat…Maybe the bit is too dull? Maybe I plunged too deep too quickly? Not sure. But I wasn’t too concerned because I planned on cleaning up the edges anyway.
Yet another problem arises. At certain points I felt the router sticking. I realized it was chewing up the corners as I went around them.
See the brass screw head sticking up? Turns out I didn’t tighten down the plate all the way and the head was protruding, and dragging across the wood. Lesson #3: Tighten down the plate screws all the way!
Here’s where the slop in the peg became apparent. See the ridge at the bottom of the cut? The router was moving towards and away from the center hole, creating a larger cut than the diameter of the bit. To fix this I had to route each pass twice, one pass pushing the router towards the center, and on the second pass pulling it away from the center. It worked, but it wasn’t ideal at all.
Step 4: I finally got through the round cut. So I swapped out the plates, and made sure to adjust the bit back to a proper depth.
I clamped a straight edge in place and starting cutting the line.
On the second pass, I was pulling the router too hard so when it cleared the wood it slammed into the adjacent surface, taking a notch out. Doh.
Eventually I got through the whole piece and was left with this. Time to clean it up.
Step 5: Clean up the edges. I set up the router in the table with the edge radius bit to clean things up.
I managed to get a nice curve along all the edges. This part went pretty smoothly.
The Finished Piece
I’m glad we did this. To be honest, I thought it was going to be a lot smoother than it was. I ran into a bunch of tiny problems, which were entirely unexpected and can really only be learned by struggling through them. But it all worked out in the end.