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  • Novice in need of router advice

    Hi,
    I'm teaching myself basic cabinet making starting with a built-ins for my office. The base cabinet will have raised panel doors and I need some advice before I start buying router bits.

    I built the case using rabbit joints for which I bought an inexpensive Ryobi r163 router at Home Depot. Right off the bat I noticed looking at bits there seemed to be a fundamental decision on shank size: 1/4 vs. 1/2". It seemed like there was much more to choose from in 1/2", none the less, I went for the inexpensive option.

    Now that I'm shopping for bits for making the raised panel doors, it looks like that may have been a mistake. For example, MLCS has a decent selection of 1/4" bits but of course the ones I need only come in 1/2". Here are my naive questions:

    Should I cut my losses and buy a 1/2" router?
    What router should I buy? What should I consider in deciding which to buy?
    What router table should I buy?
    What are the best sources for router bits? (I just discovered MLCS in this forum.)
    A router table seems to be a popular project in the DIY books. Is this a waste of time compared to commercial products?

    Thanks
    Chris

  • #2
    Chris:

    Should I cut my losses and buy a 1/2" router?
    1. I would say yes and I would surmise that the majority of folks on this forum will say yes. BUT . . .
    2. Don't consider it as "Cutting your losses" - instead consider it as expanding your capability!
    3. Most serious woodworkers and especially one who does their own cabinets and work in that kind of situation - will have both 1/4 and 1/2 in routers. There is a place for both.
    4. Having said the above, 1/2 is much more suitable for getting large projects done than a 1/4.

    I have three 1/4 inch routers and four 1/2 inch routers. But they are divided up between the US home and the Japan home!

    What router should I buy? What should I consider in deciding which to buy?

    For brand - Read and decide partly on your gut feeling and partly on what people suggest here. You will get considerably different opinions on brands. On this forum, the routers that I see recommended here are all are great. They usually are: Porter Cable, DeWalt, Hitachi, Milwaukee, Makita, Bosch

    I would get one that had two bases (Plunge and Fixed) so that it could be configured in several ways. The second base could be attached to (under) a table and make it a table router. I would suggest looking for one that had an adjustable height key/wrench that can do that from the table top. I know that Bosch makes one of these, and I think one other company does this.
    Here is the Bosch name for "From the table top adjustment" for a router base: "Bosch RA1165 Under-Table Router Base with Above-Table Hex Key." You can find that at Amazon for more reading about it.


    What are the best sources for router bits? (I just discovered MLCS in this forum.)

    MLCS, Eagle America, Woodline.com and my favorite brand is Whiteside at Routerbits.com. IMO, the Whitesides are the best bits around. They consistently get the highest ratings in sharpness and durability, but the others have done very well for me also. I have bits from all of them.


    A router table seems to be a popular project in the DIY books. Is this a waste of time compared to commercial products?
    What router table should I buy?


    MLCS has some good tables and making your own is fine also. I made my own, but If I were to do it over, I would buy an ready made top. Mine is fine but it took a lot of finesse to get it right!
    Hank Lee

    Experience is what you get when you don't get what you wanted!

    Comment


    • #3
      regarding 1/4 vs 1/2 - some bits naturally are 1/4" shanks - like a 1/4" straght bit. But for the most part I buy 1/2" because there's four times as much material in the shank. Every once in a while you see pictures of bent shafts on 1/4" bits. 20,000 RPM is very fast, so although 1/4" of steel seems stout there's some huge forces working on it when out of balance or being pushed hard into material. I feel the added stiffness gives you smoother cuts as well.

      That said, 1/2" shanks are most really needed for larger mass and diameter bits like 3/4" or above. If you are using only smaller bits I might not worry about it too much.

      These larger bits you really want to get in 1/2" shanks include large chamfer, roundover, ogee, rail and stile bits, raised panel bits, etc.

      Smaller diameter bits OK in 1/4" (altho if available I buy 1/2") are 1/2" diameter and smaller grooving, veining, straight. Many dovetail jigs will require 1/2" 14 degree dovetails bits in 1/4" shanks.

      so, if you are serious and go on and plan to use larger shaping/rail/stile/panel raising bits then yes, i'd recommend a router that will take 1/2" bits. Variable speed would be great for those also, some panel raising bits have diameters approaching 3" and there are very important guidelines on using slower router speeds when working with these large diameter bits.

      P.S. rereading your post, you should get a 1/2" router, preferably one that has both 1/4 and 1/2" collets, variable speed and at least 2 HP. I have the Bosch 1617EVS, its a nice router with dual bases but ther are others out there. Your use also requires a sturdy router table.
      Last edited by LCHIEN; 11-30-2009, 10:27 AM.
      Loring in Katy, TX USA
      If your only tool is a hammer, you tend to treat all problems as if they were nails.
      BT3 FAQ - https://www.sawdustzone.org/forum/di...sked-questions

      Comment


      • #4
        If you're gonna be spinning raised panel bits, you'll need a 1/2" router. No question. As for the table, building your own is a good project, because you'll get exactly the size and configuration that you want, but you may not know what you want until you've got some miles on you, so perhaps a good quality manufactured table is a wiser choice at this early juncture.

        Comment


        • #5
          WELCOME TO THE FORUM

          My suggestion is to have a router that takes either 1/2" or 1/4" shank by virtue of a collet change. Having a router that has a plunge or fixed base can be very advantageous. There is a trade-off on router size. My preference for a table router would be the most powerful one I could afford. The trade-off with that is that if it's also to be used as a hand held it may be a bit cumbersome.

          You might find that with what's available on the market, and the variety of project needs, you may want more than just one router.
          .

          Comment


          • #6
            It doesn't usually pay to buy the cheapest. 1/2" shanks are definitely preferable whenever possible. Having more than one router is good, or you can always sell the first one at a bit of a loss. I've currently got 4. Consider getting a larger one with variable speed to be mounted in a router table. I use my smaller fixed speed routers for hand use.

            There should be lots of good deals on routers this season. There have been some good deals on the Milwaukee routers recently. There are often good deals on Hitachi and Freud routers, but also keep your eyes peeled for deals on PC, DeWalt, Makita, Bosch, Triton, Ridgid, and even the newer Craftsman routers get mainly positive comments. Most variable speed of 10 amps or more will run over $100....don't worry so much about the inflated horsepower ratings. If you think you'll be spinning lots of large raised panel bits, consider getting at least a 13 amp router, and preferably a 15 amp.

            The MLCS bits are typically good value IMO for most operations...so are Woodline and Wood River from Woodcraft. For raised panels you might want to consider an upgrade to something like MLCS' Katana line, Infinity, Whiteside, Eagle America/Price Cutter, Freud, etc. Cost is quite a bit higher but they will cut better and last longer.
            Last edited by Knottscott; 11-30-2009, 05:41 PM.
            Happiness is sort of like wetting your pants....everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth.

            Comment


            • #7
              As stated above, having multiple routers is not a problem but for cabinet work, you should have one that accepts 1/2" bits. I have six routers, my first was a Ryobi that is 1/4" only. I still have it and use it often as it is small and easy to handle. My hitachi and Porter cable routers have two collets and the triton routers have 1/4" adapters. Some people haven't had good luck with the adapters in the Tritons, but I've never had an issue. Both my router tables have Triton routers in them.

              As for router tables, you can buy or build, it doesn't much matter and I've done both. Both of my router tables are equal in function although the fence on my store bought one (Sommerfeld) is a little better. The important part of a router table is that it is flat and big enough to support what you are working on. An advantage to building it is you get exactly what you want and can change it as your needs or desires change. On the other hand, For a novice, you may not know exactly what you want and you may spend a fair amount of money on something you later find doesn't meet your needs. Like all tools, you need to weigh time vs. money. Rockler has a build your own table section where you mix and match to choose the table, fence, base and router plate.

              I've had really good luck with the CMT bits which Marc Sommerfeld also sells, but they're yellow and not orange when the have the Sommerfeld name on them. I have a few MLCS bits and have had no complaints and the Rockler house brand bits seem to be pretty good as well.
              Chr's
              __________
              An ethical man knows the right thing to do.
              A moral man does it.

              Comment


              • #8
                Trying not to repeat what has already been said:
                1/2" shank has an advantage over 1/4" shank because bits are sturdier (already mentioned) but also because they dissipate heat better. 1/4" shank bits are easy to burn (I burned few). Larger router bits should come on 1/2" shank, smaller bits can be either 1/4" or 1/2" shank. Larger bits usually need to be used with reduced router speed and they should preferably be used in a table rather than in hand-held. Because of this router you plan to install in a table must have variable speed, 1/2" collet and at least 10 Amp rating. Router you plan to use in your hands does not have to have these features. Also hand-held router should be no more than 12 Amps or it will get too bulky and uncomfortable. Panel raising, rail and style and many other bits should always be 1/2" and used in a table only. In general - bits with cutting diameter over 1-1/4" I consider too large for hand use.
                Like many other forum members I have several routers. 15 Amp Hitachi M12V always sits in a table, Hitachi KM12SC (a kit with 12 Amp single speed router with fixed and plunge bases) is always used in hand-held mode, Craftsman fixed base router dedicated to dovetail jig and a rotozip with plunge base serves as a trim router.

                Making a router table in all cases require you to buy a router plate. After that you have the flexibility to make any table you want for it. However, making the table top sturdy and flat is not an easy task. Plus a beginner usually does not really know what he wants for a table. Another option is to buy a ready-made table top like Lee-Valley or Sommersfield's. You can still make a table the way you want for that top but the most complex part is already solved. Or you can buy a full table. Also consider the fence for the table. Options for the fence are similar - making your own is possible but not trivial.
                Alex V

                Comment


                • #9
                  I use MLCS raised panel bits and have good success with them. I used them or a similar brand for a 1/2 inch diameter, 1/4 inch shank dovetail bit and it snapped where the cutting head transitions to the shank. The CMT replacement is doing fine. So for some bits, it may pay to buy a CMT or a Whiteside but for a lot of bits, MLCS or similar brands are good enough. MLCS is great in including shipping in their prices and they typically deliver in a few days.

                  I have a Ryobi R-500 motor in my home built router table, at least the third I have built. It has screw adjustment of height using metal parts from McMaster Carr loosely following plans from an old American Woodworker article. The Ryobi has not been made for a lot of years but it draws 13.3 amps so it is a bit more powerfull than the typical mid-sized router although less so than the 15 amp models. The plunge base started to stick so I dedicated the motor to the router table. Works great.

                  I also have a Bosch Colt 1/4 inch shank router and two Porter Cable 690 motors with 4 bases. It's nice to switch routers instead of swapping router setups a bunch of times. But not absolutely necessary. The newer PC 890 routers are a bit more powerful and have above the table height adjustment capability, nice for router table use. The Bosch mid-sized typically gets better reviews, however. DeWalts, Makitas, and Milwaukee are other premium brands, just not known as much for routers. Hitachi may also be similar and was less expensive last time I looked.

                  I would look at CPO for a rebuilt (cpooutlets.com) or reconditionedsales.com. That is what my Bosch Colt is. They typically show a very slight amount of use but are 10-30 percent cheaper than "new" and have full warranty (but you need to check that specifically). I think you can get a Hitachi combo, two base, mid-sized router set from reconditioned for about $150. I think they had a Freud too which is probably OK. CPO had a Milwaukee for $170 or a Bosch for $180 when I looked. I would probably get the Bosch. They had PCs but wanted $200 plus for them. I like the brand but I think Bosch is at least as good. You could get just a mid sized fixed base router for around $100 but the plunge base adds versatility. Any of these should take 1/2 or 1/4 inch bits (they have both sized collets).

                  I would make a router table, you have to have one to use raised panel bits, but it does not need to be more complicated than a slick topped board (a sink cut-out is ideal) with a hole in it for the bit to come through and holes for the screws that attach the router base to it. Prop it up and clamp a board to it for a fence and you can make good doors. Melamine particle board is also good material for a router table top and the fence. I used a setup not much fancier than this in the extension table of my BT3100 before I made my current router table. Worked well and I made multiple raised panel doors on it (using one my PC 690s). The extension table top and the fence are melamine particle board. I still use it occasionally if I need two router table setups at the same time.

                  Jim
                  Last edited by JimD; 11-30-2009, 05:21 PM.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Don't forget Brian Holbren at holbren.com. Brian lurks around this site from time to time and is great to deal with.
                    Richard

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by vaking View Post
                      Trying not to repeat what has already been said:
                      1/2" shank has an advantage over 1/4" shank because bits are sturdier (already mentioned) but also because they dissipate heat better. 1/4" shank bits are easy to burn (I burned few). Larger router bits should come on 1/2" shank, smaller bits can be either 1/4" or 1/2" shank. Larger bits usually need to be used with reduced router speed and they should preferably be used in a table rather than in hand-held. Because of this router you plan to install in a table must have variable speed, 1/2" collet and at least 10 Amp rating. Router you plan to use in your hands does not have to have these features. Also hand-held router should be no more than 12 Amps or it will get too bulky and uncomfortable. Panel raising, rail and style and many other bits should always be 1/2" and used in a table only. In general - bits with cutting diameter over 1-1/4" I consider too large for hand use.
                      Like many other forum members I have several routers. 15 Amp Hitachi M12V always sits in a table, Hitachi KM12SC (a kit with 12 Amp single speed router with fixed and plunge bases) is always used in hand-held mode, Craftsman fixed base router dedicated to dovetail jig and a rotozip with plunge base serves as a trim router.

                      Making a router table in all cases require you to buy a router plate. After that you have the flexibility to make any table you want for it. However, making the table top sturdy and flat is not an easy task. Plus a beginner usually does not really know what he wants for a table. Another option is to buy a ready-made table top like Lee-Valley or Sommersfield's. You can still make a table the way you want for that top but the most complex part is already solved. Or you can buy a full table. Also consider the fence for the table. Options for the fence are similar - making your own is possible but not trivial.
                      Welcome to the forum! By and large, you won't find a nicer more helpful group of people anywhere on the web.
                      I agree with 'buy the top' in particular. It will make your life a lot easier, especially as you're just starting out. While building a top might be good experience builder, it probably won't be a good experience, can be very frustrating to get things just right.
                      I'll also throw in a vote for Holbren router bits, good, reasonably priced and a very decent guy to buy from.
                      Half inch is the way to go from here on out mostly, just figure that you already have the 1/4" covered! I have 4 routers and a trim router (your 1/4" inch bits will work very well in one of those), I tend to use the Bosch mostly, but everything mentioned here is good quality, hard to go wrong, just a matter of personal preference mostly. If you can, try to get to the stores and handle them; something that feels perfect in my hands may feel awkward in yours.
                      Last edited by herb fellows; 11-30-2009, 05:24 PM. Reason: incomplete
                      You don't need a parachute to skydive, you only need a parachute to skydive twice.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        if its an comfort to the OP, a poll i ran here a couple of years back indicated the average forum member had 2.6 routers... probably a testimony to their modest cost relative to other WW tools and their small size and a habit to grow their needs. Maybe also for those who like to have one in hand and one mounted in the table.
                        Loring in Katy, TX USA
                        If your only tool is a hammer, you tend to treat all problems as if they were nails.
                        BT3 FAQ - https://www.sawdustzone.org/forum/di...sked-questions

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