Router Tutorial

By Derek Neil
Photography provided by Aaron Goodwin

 

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Router bits, size, quality and types,
Using templates & guide rails, 
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Size, Quality, & Types of Bits.

First off let’s identify the 2 major differences between all bits. Collet size & Quality. 

Collet size refers to the hole that the router bit is placed in, the 2 standards are ¼” which is on most cheaper routers, and ½” which is on the more heavy duty routers, although there are others used in special machinery. Some models come with a ½” collet and a bushing that allows use of ¼” bits as well. Why the 2 different sizes? ½” bits provide more surface area to be gripped by the router and deliver more power to bigger bits that are often used with heavy duty routers. Cheaper routers often using ¼” are usualy limited in power and weren’t designed to do heavy duty jobs, and thus don’t require the larger collet, this in turn means that ¼” router bits are made of less metal cause they are smaller and can be sold for less.

1/4" collet

1/2" collet

  

 Quality, u can break this down into 3 categories, steel cutters, cheaply made carbon tipped cutters, & high quality carbon tipped cutters/solid carbide cutters (industrial grade).

Steel cutters will need to be sharpened more often then carbon tipped cutters, as they will dull quicker. Cheaply made carbon tipped cutters will last longer then steel blades, but will also dull, and can only be sharpened about 2-3 times before the carbon is completely gone. This is where high quality carbon bits shine, the high quality of carbon used (there are a couple different types) holds it’s sharp edge longer then cheaper bits, and can also be sharpened more times, thus it could potentially last 3 or more times longer then a cheap carbide tipped bit. Although higher quality bits cost more, they’ll pay for themselves in the long run.

*!* SAFETY NOTE *!*: Bit quality also affects safety in that a router was meant to be used with a sharp bit, if the bit is dull then the user has to push the router harder to do the same job, sometimes this misuse can lead to injuries or damage to your piece of wood. A common solution is to move slower and make shallower passes once you notice the bit getting dull.

The Bits

- Template bit

By far the most important bit for making guitars would be your template bit, it’s basically just a straight cutter bit with a bearing on the shank (shaft that is inserted into the router)

As u can see the bearing is mounted on the shank and is meant to follow a template that is mounted on top of the wood and cut away the excess to duplicate the shape of the template onto the wood. (explained in detail later)

I prefer to use 2 bearings on the shank as much as possible, reduces the chance of misalignment and wear on the templates

- Flush trim bit

Similar to the template bit, but the bearing is mounted at the end of the cutters, not on the shaft.

For doing a trem hole thru the guitar for a trem, I would recommend going as deep as possible ( in several passes) then drilling thru to the other side and finish off the back of the guitar with a flush trim bit. This will ensure the hole is perfectly lined up thru the guitar and identical on both sides. This is also the bit used in “making you're own templates”

 - Core box bit / Round Nose

Very similar to the small pattern bit above, but the bottom of the bit is completely round. Can be used for to put several aesthetic features on the guitar such as the claw marks on a jem. In some cases you can accomplish the same thing just by rounded hand chisel.

 - Spiral bits

The spiral on the bit can serve 2 purposes depending on which you use (downward or upward) and weather or not it’s mounted in a hand held or a table top router. Using a downward spiral bit in a hand held router will in essence push the router upwards as it cuts, but the continuous and down ward pointing edge leaves a clean cut on finished guitar’s that are getting a mod. Using an upward spiraling bit upside down in a table mounted router will actually pull the piece of wood down as it cuts.

Spiral bits are a great for serious hobbyists or pro’s, but will usually run you about 10$ more then a standard bit, and are only available in cutters, and flush trim bits, not template cutters L

- Round over bit

Doing exactly as the name says this bit is used on guitars to round over the edges of the guitar. This Can also be accomplished by using some sand paper and your fingers to gauge the round over.

Larger round over bits can be used to router the back of a guitar neck to it’s shape. Although these bits are fairly expensive, and the setup can be dangerous and time consuming if your only making one neck at a time, spoke shaves, rasps and other hand tools along with some sandpaper would be a lot easier and probably quicker to get working.

 

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Prev The 2 types of routers, general use recommendations & hand held vs. table mounted,

Next

Router bits, size, quality and types,
Using templates & guide rails, 
Making your own templates,