Flatten Any Wooden Surface by Using a Handheld Router

A router is one of the most versatile tools found in any workshop. It is basically used to trim, detail, hollow, drill, and edge our areas of wood. A router has infinite uses, only limited to the type of router bit available and your imagination. The router bit will dictate the abilities that this versatile tool may be subjected to. There is virtually no limit to what you can do with a router. A handheld router can be used to flatten any wooden surface through a simple process which will be covered in this article.

Back to the Basics

Routers are generally categorized into two, each with its own benefits. Ideally, they are categorized into either fixed-base or plunge routers. Plunge routers have the ability to start cuts in the middle of the work piece. They are ideal if you do not want the plunge to extend to the edge of the piece of work. A fixed-base router is an excellent edger, offer more accurate depth adjustments, and are ideal when one desires a more accurate depth when cutting. A combination of fixed-base and plunge routers affords the wood workmanship better options when using the router.

A handheld router has router bits that come in various shapes and sizes. They are used for shaping the edges and adding a decorative touch to the work piece. They are also used in the creating of grooves, finger joints, dovetail joints, and many others. Router bits can either be High-Speed Steel or Carbide-tipped. Carbide-tipped is the most expensive since they last longer when compared to High-Speed Steel. For short-term uses, it is ideal to buy a high-speed steel bit.

Flattening Wooden Surfaces

The traditional flattening tools for wooden surfaces include the use of winding sticks and hand planes. These traditional workman tools have now been replaced by the more efficient power tools. Nonetheless, the traditional tools still remain a favorite to some folks. A handheld router is such tool that should form part of a wood workman’s arsenal. It is an excellent tool when it comes to the flattening of wooden surfaces. It is a cheap and simple tool to use. To flatten a wood surface using the wood router follow the following steps:

  1. Prepare the bench-before flattening the piece of work ensure you make any necessary repairs. You may have to reglue, tighten, remove, or even reinforce some joints in your work piece. This is done to make the material solid and crack-free. You also need to remove any available brads and staples from the material and for this, a metal sensor can help avoid damages on the router bit.
  2. Position the bench-place it in the work area. Ensure the top is well leveled and this may require the addition of wood shims on the base legs so as to achieve a well-balanced top. Ensure you mark the position of the bench on the floor so as to make it easy for any future uses when looking for well-balanced positions.
  3. Place the router inside a sled that will ride along two rails aligned parallel to each other. These rails are well positioned on the sides of the bench. You can easily make the rails from 2×6 standard lumber and the router sled made from ¾ inch plywood. Once you have these in place, ensure that the guide rails are parallel to each other and roughly parallel to the top as well. This is most difficult part of the process but to make this easy use a string or a thin cable.
  4. Once the rails are well-positioned drop the router into the sled and plunged down the bit. Set the bit at the lowest part of the bench. You can simply do this by plunging the bit until it comes into contact with the bench.
  5. With the power off, move the sled and router across the bench to ascertain whether the bit slides freely or it catches. If you find out that it slides freely at any point, you have found a spot below the original location. Adjust the depth of the router plunge at the new setting and carry on scanning the bench. Once the bit is set on the lowest point, you can sled back to the end of the bench and begin routing. The routing process eliminates anything that is higher than the lowly set point and thus you end up with a smooth flat surface.

Additional points to note:

  1. Safety: Ensure you wear your safety gears when routing. Wear safety goggles to avoid tiny cut particles from landing on your eyes. Ensure you also have ear protection since a working router generates a lot of noise. Finally, ensure the power is plugged off when setting up the handheld router.
  2. To allow for expansion: Insert the router’s shank into the collect and pull it up a bit. The bits get excessively hot when cutting and thus this allows for expansion.
  3. Power switch position: The power switch should be within a close range from the work area to make it easy when you are on the router.
  4. Variable speed routers: Are ideal since single-speed are only perfect when using small bits. The general rule is the smaller the bit, the faster the cutting speed should be and vice versa is true. Any failure to follow this may burn the bit.
  5. Feeding the material to the router: When cutting wood whether in handheld router or tabletop router, the general rule is that the material should be feed opposite bit rotation.

Summary

In theory, the operation of handheld router seems complex and impossible to maneuver but once you begin using it, you realize the many things that can be done with it. It is an amazing tool which any woodworker will find useful and it is a personal favorite of many. It is not only used in woodworking applications such as carpentry and cabinetry, but also works on other materials such as plastics, metals, and other materials. Choose a router that best meets your individual needs and you will realize quickly that it has become one of your favorite tools too!

Christopher Thomas
 

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