Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Router Accessories 1

Router is a useful tool. Accessories and jigs make it into a amazing tool. When I purchased the router I just had a couple of needs in mind. I thought that would be enough.  Later I realised that it could be put to use for  much more than simple tasks but the problem was I did not have accessories and jigs for it.  I tried making a Dado jig for it to rout dadoes for shelves in a book shelf. I struggled with the jig as it was difficult to use and difficult to align. As a hobby woodworker it is difficult to develop skills that make assembling and using jigs easy. 
Few years down the line I set about completing the accessory set and ran into problems. Even with abundance of videos, articles,  reviews etc I still struggled to make sense of all the info and ran into problem of not having some one on hand to advise while making a particular purchase.  There are differences in which accessories available with accessory manufacturers which will fit with your router.  I suspect that many people buying and using the router will face the same problem.

This topic is quite huge and I will only cover some important basics. I will write more if people require further information. I will not be covering the basic usage of routers. If you have never used a router then you may want to look up some basics. Please free to ask questions if any.

Bases & Base Plates

The pic to the left shows the bare router body with a 1/4 inch collet  and a 1/4 inch bit in it. 
the pic to the right shows the plunge base. 

The pic to the right shows the fixed router base after it has been attached in the rectangular router table insert plate meant to hang the router under the router table.

So router usually come with two bases
  1. Plunge base
  2. Fixed base.
While buying look for routers which come with both as they are useful for different operations.

The router slips into these bases and is tightned by means of a clamp you see the clamp here in the fixed base. The clamp in the plunge base in above pic is on the other side.

The plunge base has a spring loaded mechanism. Once the router is fixed you can release the lock lever(which is again spring loaded usually) and push down or move the router up  which enables the bit to go deeper or out of the base plate or move inside the base plate.  The plunge base will also have a scale to indicate the motion up down motion of the router. It will also have a depth stop ring with a few steps so that the router stops down at a particular point while you plunge down. 

In the Fixed base once the clamp is locked you cant move the router in the base. However by releasing the clamp and moving the knob you can make precise movements of the bit up or down through the base plate.

However the some of the features described above may not be present in all routers. These features are helpful so look for them when buying a router

The router above with a fixed base does not have such features. It only has a clamp and and as you loosen t
he clamp the router tends to fallout if it hung under a table. You have to hold the router with one hand under the table and then measure the bit height on the table top and fix the clamp shut. Not too easy!!
Also see the big round hole in the base plate. We will discuss its significance further.

Watch the transparent after market base plate on this plunge base. You will notice the router base has lots of holes for screws. Your router will not come with this kind of base plate. 
Also watch the brass template guide in the middle.  First lets discuss the base plate. These vary in thickness so if you are replacing the base plate on your router you will need appropriate machine screws with proper length and size. All screw holes are not of same size. In general the base plate is held by three screws.  The holes in the base plate have a counter sink so the screw head is below the base plate level and does not interfere with your work.

After market bases are said to be compatible with different routers brands and models. You have to choose for the specific brand and model that you own. Now why would you need an after market base?  we will explore that issue later on.

Lets look at the original base. You can see the difference between the opening in the base above and the original base.This base uses the  Bosch template guide. This fits with its base plate which has a template plate adapter at the back of the plate seen in the next pic. The template adapter uses a spring release type rotating lever to put the hold the template guide. some what similar to what you see in many food processors. While easy to use it is cannot be accurately centered by nature of its design as there will be some play in it.

The after market base plate has a different sized opening which fits a Porter Cable style template guide. This adapter is fixed in the base. It has a screw like method at the back the ring of the adapter has a screw ring with a spring washer to tighten the template guide in place. The template guide sits like a screw with a recess to take its lip. You will see the guide in further pics.

This Porter Cable style template guide is the most common style used by most manufacturers of accessories and jigs. So to use many of the accessories and jigs you will need to ensure that you have a base plate which will accept a Porter Cable style  template guide.

 There are many brands of routers and many models in each brand. The base plate manufacturers sell plates which may fit a certain number of brands and a certain series of models. The one I purchased did say it was for Bosch and would fit this particular model. However only two holes matched. I had to carefully mark the third hole and drill the hole and the countersink hole on my drill press.

You need a base plate centering pin to ensure that the router base plate opening is exactly in center of the spindle of the router. this is a 1/4 inch rod with a expanding taper at top you insert the pin through the template guide and into the router collet(bit is not installed now) before tightening all the three base plate screws. You press down on the pin the conical part will ensure that the plate is in center with the router spindle while holding pressure on the pin to stabilize the base plate you tighten the screws. Two style pins are shown in pic above. Both work same way.

Router Table Insert

The best way to hang a router under a table is to use a router table insert(there are other ways too) Router table insert usually use the fixed base of the router attached under the insert. Usually the knob which is used to precisely raise or lower the router bit also has a means to be operated from the top of the base. As seen here this removable handle is used to rotate the knob underneath in the fixed base to lower and increase the height of the router bit. Here again these inserts come for specific brands and models of routers.  Also the base plate in the fixed base usually needs to be removed to attach the table insert to the fixed base. Since the insert is thicker than the base plate you will need longer screws to hang the fixed base to the plate. Also they will use probably use different holes in the router base to attach the table insert which may mean different size screws. 

Notice the red ring. This is a thick plastic which is attaches to the base with screw type thread on its circumference. You get them in different sizes. This one is designed to hold the Porter Cable style template guide. You need different sizes to accommodate varying profiles of bits. larger bits require rings with larger holes. Table inserts have 8-9 leveling screws to insure the base is fully level to the table surface. Any imperfections will catch the wood causing danger or causing inaccuracies in the work.

Seen above are a half inch collet at bottom of pic. Two more sizes of template guides in brass.  Two red  rings of different sizes. A 1/4" shank 1/4 " bit and a 1/2" Shank  1" bit with a bearing guide at bottom.

Original Base Plate shown next to the fixed base. Notice the opening does not have any place or lip to fix a template guide.  

Table insert fixed to the fixed base. 
I prefer to leave it fixed to the base. Whenever I need to do some routing on the table I just slide the router into the base and I am ready to work.

The table insert fits into the slot in the table and rests on a lip. the leveling screws on the periphery ensure the insert is perfectly level.

The back side of the original plunge base plate showing the  Bosch template guide adapter the black lever is pulled to release the template.

Different sizes of template guides that came with the router kit.

Dovetail Jig

 A  table top style dove tail jig. the jig uses two templates on opposite sides one for the dove tail pins and the other for tails. On the top left you see various other designs of  dove tail pins(actually they would not be dove tail but different design but dovetail style joints).
On the right the jig assembled with the perpendicular fence in place for routing pins.

 On left a drawer pins being cut.
 Close up now you can see the function of the template of the jig and the template guide. Both work as a team to guide the router bit through the wood. to cut tails. Notice the rounded edges of the tails and the dove tail template. These are for Half Blind dovetails.
Tails being cut on the left on the other side of the jig
Tails after beings

Tails sliding into the pins.

Now you can see why we need to center the template guide. The joint leaves very little space so everything has to be very accurate. 

These are scrap pieces. I am doing a test joint here so the wood is beat up and the jig needs further adjustment as the joint is too tight.

Dado Jig 

There are a variety of jigs manufactured for routing Dadoes. You can make a  few styles with plywood too.
I used a shop made jig didn't like fussing with it and the constant measurement etc resulted in too much wasting of time and inaccuracies.

This jig from Dado Wiz is really good in simplicity accuracy and versatility. It has been very nice to use. The idea behind the jig is good and the materials are good. it consists of a Clamp guide rail on which the jig rides with the router.

  I have placed the router template guide used with the jig to indicate how the router sits on the jig. You can click on the photo to enlarge it giving you more details. 

The jig rides on a aluminium guide.
the guide has a tiny clamp.  It clamps on to the sheet in which the dado is being routed. This is a little longer than 2 feet. Typical application would be dadoes being routed in the sides of a book shelf to hold the shelf's into the sides.

 The Porter Cable style template guide requires that your plunge base should be fixed with a base plate which accepts this template guide.
 You Can use 1/2", 3/8"and 1/4" bits to guide a large number of sizes of dadoes.  The principle is the jig allows right and left movement of the router guided by the opening width in the middle of the jig.  The inset peice in the middle of the jig can move right to left to decide the width of the dado. Of course you need to use a proper bit. You can use a 1/4" inch bit to rout a dado 1/2" wide but not vice versa.  Three indexing pins are used. the holes on the right use two

 pins insert in the holes indicating the bit size. 
Next place
the third pin in the red hole and place the wood which will be fixed in the dado(for example a plywood shelf). Next loosen up the screw on the right side e  of the third pin and slide the metal peice holding the third pin so the three pins are holding the thickness of the wood  snugly. Then tighten the screw. Voila!! Now your jig is set to rout a dado exactly the thickness of the wood that needs to be fixed in the dado!! No measurement needed. If the dado is snug you can make adustments again using the pins and a bit of paper etc.

 The Jig allows left and right movement to the template guide within the opening which is set by the pins to correspond to the thickness of the wood. The Notice three marking lines on the bottom portion of the pic near the wood on the jig(more clearly seen in the first pic of the jig). Those lines  indicate where the left side of the dado. Each one of them correspond to the three sizes of bits used by the router. So just draw the left side of the dado on the wood. Place the guide rail such that the lines on the jig align with the line on the wood and lock the clamp on the guide rail then  fix the width of the dado using the pins and the slider. In just a few seconds you are ready to rout an accurate dado.(You have to set the bit height by putting the jig on the router base and then raising the bit to the desired depth from the jig surface)

The jig is milled aluminium it has a small fence on the  left to enable it to be snugly tightnned when placed on the guide rail. and friction free tape on sides to enable it to slide smoothly. My jig has some problem where in there is a some unevenness in the guide rail. So precise is the jig that this unseen to the eye imperfection on the rail is causing the jig to catch a bit on the rail. I have used a painters tape to serve as a lubricant on the jig

Standard accessories 

Edge routing guides are available from router manufactures as well as from after market 
manufacturers. They are useful in a vairtey of operations

Shown her is in use for routing dados along the length of an edge. Reach is limited. to the rod length.

Below is another edge guide for Ryobi router.  You can see that the rods are not at the same distance. So if you are buying an aftermarket edge guide they you need  to ensure it will fit your router.

Edge guides are also avaiable for some palm sizes routers. Simple in function they get the job done. 

Now a days even Palm routers come in kits of plunge and fixed base. This is an old one which did not come with a plunge base.

Shop-made jigs

 This is a shop made jig to rout blind half lap joints. Pretty simple but very effective. two strips of wood  same thickness as the pieces in which the half lap is to be routed. Router base dia is taken , note the width of the bit you will be using and the width of the wood in the half lap joint. This gives the distance between the two perpendicular stops screwed on top of the two parallel strips of wood.

Here we see one piece of wood ie the stile which is inserted in the jig so it matches the cutting path of the router bit in the jig. this with is equal to the width of the stile. (this photo was taken after the fact with the ends of the stile rounded by sanding).
Then the next step is to rout the half lap in the rails  mark the place where the stile is supposed to go and place the stile in the jig at with the cutting portion aligned with the bit path. There is Stop on the top in the picture which stops the router from going fully back and routing through the stile edge(Not clearly visible in this pic.) With the stop in place the router bit cuts the half lap but avoids the edge. This joint is perfect to make a face frame for a cabinet where the sides would be visible.

Face frame right 

 Face frame resting upside down on the cabinet it was supposed to go. The top opening is for drawer and the bottom for the door. The unfinished cabinet is below the face frame. I will include pics of the finished cabinet later on.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Furniture that will stop you in your tracks

Continuing with the Texas furniture Makers show from the previous post. These photos do not do justice to the stunning beauty of these pieces of furniture. I noticed that the pieces which I was really drawn to did not come out good in the photographs. Even framing and angle of he photos is all wrong. I guess that I was so taken in by the product that photographing was secondary.

This pair of side tables are made of Quilted Burl of American Sweet Birch and American Black Walnut. The tables seemed to shimmer as if they were a large piece of jewelry.  I did not quite capture the sheen properly in all the photos in this post. Show pieces are also available for sale.
This one pair will set one back by $15000. Beauty costs money!!! 

Burl is the big bulbous deformed growth you see on trees usually due to infection or other causes. It is extremely rare. Sweet Birch is also called as Black Birch or Cherry Birch. This tree is source of 'oil of wintergreen' a sweet woody oil used by Native Americans to for sore throats, joint pains etc. It is used now a days in chewing gums and mouth wash products. It contains  methyl salicylate ie Asprin!! So it is possible that these bed side tables will banish headaches in the bed room!!

Apart from the amazing inlay work this table has a impressive presence in terms of size and heft. The photo has been unable to capture the scale of this table.

The table thickness is more than 2 inches.  Also if you notice carefully this is not just an inlay on  curved table top. The three main wood species that form the top are not inlay they are wood cut to  have complex curves. sawing them and gluing them together with those curves would be a very challenging task. 

A nice enough chair one would say whats so special about it?  The artistry lies in the use of steam bending of wood. The bent cherry wood (it is not carved) is used through out the chair in the arms and legs in the back supports and even in the slats at the bottom of the seat. The form is so fluid and light yet it is quite strong.

As you see both the pics follow the left leg  and its surface as it progress and bends to become an arm and then twists and bends and then turns over facing the ground  to from the back support, as it progress towards the right side it then flips over so that the surface is back on the top again.
In the pic below watch as the back leg spits into two and one portion joins the arm in a fluid motion the other portion twists bends and flips over to join the wood going to form the back. All this happening where that piece of wood is forming a back flip.

Another pic above of same design in Maple by the same furniture maker. I had downloaded this from the web but don't remember its link. I am including this here just to give more clarity to the  steam bent curves in this chair.

 This table was stunning though nothing much to it in terms of workmanship as exhibits go.

As you can see in this slightly out of focus pic the large book matched slab of pecan framed by a darker wood(cherry??) it has a very organic feel to it. If could afford it I would have had it in my dining room.  I will be on the look out for such a large slab of wood when I move to India.

 This coffee table is called suspension table. I uses wood, metal and leather. The base is made like a truck suspension, Two curves in the base are made of metal  the lower one has shaped wood between metal curves. the two suspensions are connected with leather straps.

A slight lip on the bread board ends give a special touch to the top.

This Inlay table was one of my favorites. Some of its design elements are going to make their way in some of my future work. It has a very pleasing proportions, the design  is elegant and restrained. It won the Judges special award and was also featured in the Fine WoodWorking Magazine a couple of months back.

 It is a very beautiful table hats of to the design effort of the maker.

This mixed media room divider was the only entry by an apprentice woodworker. It has ruffled cloth at the bottom and printed cloth at the top. Asian inspired with fine attention to detail.

Thin slats of wood make the up the middle part of the panel.

This concludes the posts related to Texas Furniture Makers show. I'm working on some ideas as to the direction the blog should take especially as it is targeted towards an audience in India. Hobbyist depend on each other to learn and support each other, relevance to their immediate needs would be important. I welcome any ideas. I see some good work being done by a couple of fellow bloggers I hope to add to that number. I'm sure more visibility will help discover more people who are involved in this hobby in India.