Would anyone buy a router and then never use it? It happens all the time. According to a statistic quoted by Chris Marshall in Woodworker’s Journal Summer 2007 special issue, “Router Projects and Techniques”, roughly “60 percent of all routers purchased are used only once or not at all.” It's a surprising number, but guessing the reasons behind it isn't difficult. The tool seems straightforward and harmless enough in theory - or when a pro uses one on a TV woodworking show - but when it comes to flipping the switch for the first time, it can be a different story: The thought of all that dangerously sharp carbide whirling around at hundreds of miles per hour tends to give a newbie pause to reconsider.
We hate to think of thousands and thousands of expensive routers sitting uselessly on basement shelves, and we hate to think of all of the people out there who’d get tremendous pleasure and satisfaction of working with this versatile tool, but don’t because they can’t get comfortable with the idea of actually using it. Used correctly, a router is safe and fairly easy to get the hang of, and for those who take the time to learn a few a basic facts and safety rules, the new router user’s fear and intimidation is typically soon replaced by a healthy respect, enthusiasm, and rapidly increasing skill.
Educating yourself on the subject is a simple matter: There’s plenty of information available for anyone who wants to learn about routers, router technique and router safety. The above mentioned Woodworker’s Journal Special Interest Publication is a great place to start. A virtual one-stop router reference, it contains the latest on everything from choosing the right sized router and evaluating router bit quality to building router tables and jigs. You’ll learn what makes that Porter Cable 890 WWJ editor Rob Johnstone’s top pick for a mid-sized router, how to make reliably accurate cuts, what a consortium of experts say are the most important things for a beginner to know, and a lot more. It’s on newsstands right now, or you can order it from the Woodworker’s Journal website.
For more advanced research, try a router book or video. Rockler offers a number of excellent books and DVDs specifically devoted to routers and router technique, including Patrick Spielman’s classic Router Handbook and the highly recommended New Yankee Workshop "Router 101" DVD. Or, if you’re fortunate enough to live near a Rockler Retail Store, check their schedule of upcoming classes. Many locations offer basic router operation classes and demos on a regular basis. There’s no better way to learn than face to face with an experienced instructor.
If you’ve got a router collecting dust in your shop, or you just aren’t getting anywhere with your router work, don’t give up. In an hour you can learn everything you need to know to do most basic router operations correctly and safely. And with a little practice and a few tips on advanced technique, you’ll be a pro in no time.