A Beginner’s Guide: How to Use a Woodworking Router

Woodworking routers are versatile and handy tools that can be used for a wide range of woodworking projects. While they are not essential, routers can greatly enhance the accuracy and precision of your work. In this guide, we will walk you through the steps of getting started with a woodworking router.

Definition of a Woodworking Router

A router is a power tool that is used to hollow out or shape wood. It has a motor and a collet that holds a rotating bit. The bit spins at high speeds, allowing it to cut through wood quickly and accurately. Routers can be handheld or mounted on a table, depending on the type of work you’re doing.

Overview of Benefits of Using a Router

While it is possible to complete woodworking projects without a router, using one can make your work more precise and efficient. Some benefits of using a router include:

  • Creating decorative edges and profiles
  • Cutting grooves and slots
  • Making mortises and tenons
  • Routing out dadoes and rabbets
  • Engraving letters and designs

With these benefits in mind, let’s dive into how to use a woodworking router.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Choose the Right Router Bit

Before you start using your router, you’ll need to choose the right bit for the job. There are many different types of router bits available, each designed to cut a specific shape or profile.

Types of Router Bits

Some common types of router bits include:

  • Straight bits: These bits have a flat bottom and can be used for cutting grooves, dados, and rabbets.
  • Rounding over bits: These bits have a curved edge and are used for rounding over sharp edges and creating decorative edges.
  • Cove bits: These bits have a concave shape and are used for creating curves and decorative edges.
  • Chamfer bits: These bits have a flat tip and angled sides, and are used for creating beveled edges.
  • Flush trim bits: These bits are used for trimming edges flush with a template or other surface.

Choosing the Right Bit for the Job

When choosing a bit, consider the type of cut you want to make and the material you’re working with. Some bits work better for certain materials than others, and some cuts require specific shapes or profiles. It’s also important to choose a bit that is the right size for your router.

Step 2: Set Up Your Router

Once you’ve chosen the right bit, it’s time to set up your router. Here are the steps:

Adjusting Depth of Cut

First, adjust the depth of cut on your router. This will determine how deep the bit cuts into the wood. To do this, loosen the locking lever on the base of the router and adjust the depth stop so that the bit extends to the desired depth. Tighten the locking lever to secure the depth stop in place.

Securing Router in Place

Next, secure your router in place. If you’re using a handheld router, make sure the base is securely attached to the router. If you’re using a router table, make sure the router is mounted securely to the table.

Installing Router Bit

Finally, install the router bit. Make sure the bit is centered in the collet and tighten the collet nut securely. Use a wrench or collet nut wrench to tighten the nut as much as possible without over-tightening.

Step 3: Practice on Scrap Wood

Before you start working on your project, it’s a good idea to practice on scrap wood. This will help you get a feel for how the router works and allow you to refine your technique.

Safety Precautions

Remember to always wear safety glasses and ear protection when using a woodworking router. Keep your fingers and other body parts away from the bit at all times. Keep your work area clean and free of clutter.

Testing Out Different Cuts

Try out different cuts and techniques on scrap wood to see what works best for you. Experiment with different router bits and cutting depths to achieve different effects.

Refining Technique

As you practice, pay attention to your technique. Make sure you’re holding the router firmly and moving it smoothly along the wood. Keep the bit moving at a consistent speed and avoid stopping or jerking the router.

Step 4: Make Your First Project

Once you feel comfortable using your router, it’s time to start your first project. Here are some tips:

Choosing a Simple Project

Choose a simple project to start with, such as a picture frame or cutting board. This will help you get a feel for how the router works without overwhelming you with a complex project.

Following a Plan

Follow a plan or design for your project to ensure accuracy and precision. Measure twice and cut once to avoid mistakes.

Applying Finishing Touches

Once your project is complete, apply any finishing touches such as sanding or staining to bring out the natural beauty of the wood.


Q: What is a router and how is it used in woodworking?

A: A router is a woodworking tool used to hollow out, cut, and shape wood. It spins a router bit at a very high speed, which is used to cut through the wood. With the right bit and technique, you can create decorative edges and shapes.

Q: What are some different types of routers?

A: There are a few different types of routers. A plunge router allows you to adjust the cutting depth of the bit while it’s running and is great for making cuts in the middle of a piece of wood. A fixed-base router has a stationary base and is best for making cuts along the edges of a piece of wood. A palm router is smaller and more portable, making it great for smaller projects.

Q: What’s the difference between a wood router and a trim router?

A: A wood router is generally larger than a trim router and is used for bigger jobs. A trim router, on the other hand, is smaller and more portable, and is designed to be used on smaller pieces of wood or for trimming edges.

Q: What are some important router safety tips?

A: Always wear eye and ear protection when using a router, and never wear loose clothing or jewelry that could get caught in the router. Make sure the router is securely clamped to the worktable or jig before use, and always make sure the router bit is sharp before use.

Q: How do I use a router?

A: To use a router, start by choosing the appropriate bit for your project and securing it in the router with the appropriate shank size. Then, clamp your piece of wood to a jig or worktable and attach the router base to the top of the wood. Turn on the router and run the router along the wood, moving the bit into the wood gradually until you’ve reached the desired depth.

Q: Should I move the router from right to left or left to right?

A: It’s generally best to move the router from left to right, as this allows the bit to cut counterclockwise, which results in a cleaner cut and less chance of splintering.

Q: How many passes does it take to cut through a piece of wood with a router?

A: This depends on the depth of the cut you’re making and the type of wood you’re cutting through. As a general rule, however, it’s best to make multiple passes rather than trying to cut through the wood in one pass.

Q: How do I create a decorative edge with a router?

A: To create a decorative edge, choose a router bit with the profile you want and set the depth of the cut accordingly. Then, run the router along the outside edge of the wood, moving the bit counterclockwise and taking small passes until you’ve created the desired edge profile.

Q: What is a router table and how is it used?

A: A router table is a woodworking tool that consists of a tabletop with a slot in the middle, through which the router bit can protrude. The table surface is usually adjustable, allowing you to set the depth of the cut, and the router is mounted upside down under the table. This makes it easier to control the wood and the router and to make precise cuts.

Q: What are some common woodworking projects you can use a router for?

A: Routers are great for a wide variety of woodworking projects, from creating decorative edges on picture frames and furniture to cutting dadoes, rabbets, and mortises. With the right bit and technique, you can also use a router to create curved or rounded edges, and to carve intricate designs into the wood.


Using a woodworking router can be a fun and rewarding experience. By following these step-by-step instructions, you’ll be well on your way to mastering this versatile tool. Remember to always prioritize safety and practice on scrap wood before starting your project. Happy routing!


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