# Extremely naive router table question--please try to be a little kind

Okay, I have a really, really dumb-sounding question. I think I know the answer but I am not 100% sure.
How the heck do you use a router table to, say, cut a rabbett? Or, well, anything?
To be more specific, how do you line up the fence. I came up with the brilliant idea of making one to use with my dad's old router. I have used the thing as a flush trimmer but I have never done anything but that with a router.
I made the table out of a piece of 3/4" MDF and glued a piece of hardbaord on top and waxed the heck out of it. I made the thing to house only the router I have because, well, I did. That may have been a mistake but the entire contraption only set me back about \$20, so who cares?
I made a fence out of a piece of hardwood and worked hard to make it square. And I was actually successful.
Now the time has come to use it and...I don't know how!
It seems to me that a router fence can actually be placed in any direction on a router table like mine and will always produce a straight line because the cut will be at a single point (unlike a table saw, for example, because the blade rotates on a plane rather than around a single point).
Let's say I have a 1/2" straight bit set up in the router and I want to make a 3/8" rabbett...how do I set up the fence? I cannot believe it is all trial-and-error. Do I find the exact middle of the hole and draw a straight line all the way across the table and say that is 0" and place the fence 1/8" in FRONT of the line to cut the 3/8" rabbett? Because, in my mind, if you have a 1/2" straight bit and place it onthe line you drew, you would get a 1/2" rabbett.
If the above is true, it would seem to me that I need to place the fence directly on that line and draw another line on the backend of the fence so I could use the back line to gauge the 1/8" I need to move the fence forward.
AARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!! I am getting myself all wrapped up in my underwear!!! I think I am overthinking this and there HAS to be an easy way to do this!!!!!!
Any help is appreciated.
And I guess I will have to live with all the smears I will undoubtably get. But please keep in mind that it may sound like a really dumb question to all you that know but I simply do not understand at the moment. Everybody started out as a beginner and a novice, so...
Thanks
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Ray, I am no wood guru but all I do for a set up is eyeball it then use scrap to fine tune the cut. Puff

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My fence that I use for simple operations like this is so simple, it is lame. It is a piece of 3/4" plywood with a STRAIGHT edge, about 3 inches wide. I line it up on the correct side of the bit (behind it when feeding the workpiece from right to left) and clamp one end with a C- clamp. The I start the router, slowly plunge the bit into the fence by swinging the unclamped end of the fence into the bit. This makes a recess for the bit to be housed in. Then, shut off the router, turn the bit by hand so that it is perpendicular with the fence. Now, move the fence so that it measures the 3/8" or whatever to the outside of the bit and clamp the other end in place. Fine tune your setup with by running some scrap pieces of wood, and you will be good to go!
Frank
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Frank Ketchum said: snipped-for-privacy@posting.google.com...

--
Well, that's how I was going to do it, Frank. I made a fence that I
know is not all encompassing but it is more than adequate enough for
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On 6 Feb 2004 12:43:38 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@thesafety.net (Ray Kinzler) wrote:

there are all kinds of "tricks". for instance, don't try to hog out a big profile or a deep dado or rabbet in one pass...
a very good place to read up on router stuff is Pat Warner's website.
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Ray,
You didn't ask a dumb question. You asked the right question at the right time.
I could probably give a great write-up on how to do this, but I have a lot better suggestion. Find a friend who does woodworking and have him show you. Make sure he goes over how to be safe, how to measure the piece and the bit, and in general guides you a little on how to look at a project and a board and see the relationship. He'll also give you a few good tricks which come only with experience.
Another thing to consider is a local community college woodworking course. The beginning courses assume you know nothing, and build from there. Watch the woodworking shows on TV, check out a few books.
Once you are comfortable, get some scrap wood, and start cutting. When you can get the right cut at least most of the time, you're ready for a project.
Remember to keep your fingers intact.
Michael

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Nope - had the same question myself...

My rabbet bit had a bearing on it. So I could just hold the stock up to the bit (with the fence moved out of the way) and used it like a flush-trim bit.

Yep!
Move the *split* fence up to the bit. Use a straight edge, that spans the fences and bit. Bring everything flush to the straight edge - and that's zero. Move fence back 3/8".
The notion that took me a few minutes to grab is that the fence does not need to be perpendicular to a table edge, nor parallel to an edge.
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The orientation only matters if you have a miter slot you want to be parallel to.
Interesting concept though; building a router table when you don't know how to use a router.
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Good for Ray. It sounds like he is diving right in there !
Toller wrote:

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wrote:

Yup!
Good for Ray!
Barry
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Toller,
You're right: it is an interesting concept. This may also be dumb but I thought it would probably be easier and safer to use a router in a router table if I am inexperienced. I don't know if it is or not but I sorta feel safer this way.
I guess I did use a router to cut the hole for the router in the MDF. It ain't the prettiest hole but ain't nobody gonna see it unless they turn the table upside down.
I also see all these router tables out there that cost so darn much money and they are really, well, SMALL. It seemed to me that a larger table would probably be better.
So I made one. It cost about \$20 for a table that is a little less than 30" x 48". I put a couple 2x4s on it and clamp it in my Workmate and I have a big, sturdy, and steady table.
Even if I don't use the stupid thing, I can say I made a router table for \$20. Plus it was fun. Maybe because I just winged it and made something. Not high tech, for sure, but practical as heck.
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Ray Kinzler wrote:

Not dumb at all. I use the table for 90+% of all the routing I do. I feel I have better control, less dust flying, more accurate setups. I watch Norm doing roudovers with a router. I just keep thinking how much easier and faster it wold be to zip the piece along the bit in a table.

Overall, bigger is better. Just be sure to place the router where you are comfortable using it. There is no reason that it must be centered. If you place it closer to the front, you can easily reack in doing smaller parts, but you can work from the other side it you have very wide parts.
Build a cheaptable. Us it, find out what you like and don't like, then build a better seup. The guys on Router Workshop use a simple setup of a flat top and clamped fence that is usually just a straight board.
Just keep them fingers away from the bit.
--
Ed
snipped-for-privacy@snet.net
http://pages.cthome.net/edhome
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snipped-for-privacy@snet.net says...

*now* would be the time for the perennial poster to the router table vs. shaper threads to appropriately make the comment that a table mounted bit won't follow the shape of the workpiece if the workpiece is not perfectly flat, while it would follow the workpiece if it is handheld (given that it is not so out-of-flat that it curves away from the router base)
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scribbled:

The concept of "learning" has always interested me as well, thus woodworking as a practical method.
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Didn't catch the first of this thread but lack of information never stopped me from jumping in before...
I built my router table using 2 \$1 countertop sink cutouts from Menards. They start out fairly flat anyway and by gluing the 2 non-laminated sides together it made a very stiff and flat surface with a smooth top to boot. The "trick" is to drill a hole in the center where the cut out will go. Once you apply glue drop a bolt through the hole and tighten it up. Use regular clamps around the outside. Once it is dry all you have to do is mount it to a base.
I used my router to make slots for some T-track the fence attaches to. The fence is simply MDF with some a strip of that laminate flooring screwed on the front for a slick surface. I can also mark on the laminate in pencil and just clean it off when I'm done.
Your right in that the fence doesn't need to be parallel unless you are using a miter. The T-track has enough slop that I can force the fence to a reasonable angle when it suits me.
Jim

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We have had many questions asked here and some even relate to wooodworking.
Using a router table is not somthing that comes natural to anybody. It is probably the most accurate way to accomplish anything with a screaming motor turning at 22,500rpm with a really sharp cutter on the end.
The basic fence is a straight board. It can be thick or thin but the more bit you can "hide" in the fence , the better and safer you are. A 2x4 or 2x6 and two clamps are usually good fences.
MDF makes wonderful material for fences because it has flat and smooth edges and surfaces.
Here is a simple router table and fence.
http://www.woodworkingtips.com/etips/etip040700wb.html and another fence http://www.woodworkingtips.com/woodtips/sntip54.html and even more http://www.woodworkingtips.com/etips/etip010803ws.html
"How to cut a rabbet joint"
1. Use the largest straight cutting bit you have. 2. Bury the bit in the fence and make a rough measurement with a ruler. 3. Cutting from right to left, make a test cut on scrap. 4. Measure and adjust fence. 5. Make another test cut. 6. Make the final cut.
Go to a library, bookstore, etc and start buying books on router operations. There are many,many books on this subject.
Ray Kinzler wrote:

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On 6 Feb 2004 07:00:56 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@thesafety.net (Ray Kinzler) wrote:

No such thing.

You'll be surprised just how useful the cheapie table will turn out to be.

Correct!
The bit will need to be recessed into the middle of the fence, so that only 3/8" of the bit, at it's widest point, sticks out. The height of the bit above the table governs how deep the rabbet will be.
So, to cut a 3/8" x 1/4" rabbet, you'd set the bit to protrude from the fence 3/8", and the top (normally the bottom) of the bit will be 1/4" above the table surface. The work will then be slid along the fence, keeping steady pressure against the fence and the table itself, for the length of the cut.
A 3/4" or larger straight bit would be much better for a 3/8" rabbet as at least half of the diameter of the bit would be behind the fence, making for a better cut.
Practice on scrap until you get it right. Once you do, you'll see how easy it is to setup.
One major safety note:
NEVER run the work between the fence and bit, as a board would be when ripping on a table saw, if the bit is cutting the full thickness of the board. Doing so will likely injure you, possibly seriously!
Some good router resources (check your local library for the books):
<http://www.patwarner.com/ <(Amazon.com product link shortened)>
The router is an extremely useful tool made even more so by even the simplest table. Get to know it well!
Barry
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On Fri, 06 Feb 2004 17:15:06 GMT, B a r r y B u r k e J r .

Hardboard top won't hurt, but is overkill IMHO. Waxed MDF isn't such a bad surface itself.
One thing I would do though is to try and arrange a perimeter frame of 2" deep softwood (minimum). MDF on its own will sag, especially under the weight of a router. Don't leave it hanging in there for days if it's plain MDF.

This is definitely good advice. I'd also suggest it for most cases when you're not going full depth.
If you're moulding, it's good practice to guide on the face you're shaping. Sometimes you can't do that, or do it easily, because the face is no longer flat and it's hard to arrange a suitable fence.
The advantages of trying to do it though are twofold. One is accuracy - if you have a proportional wobble in the spacing against the fence, then this has less result as a total wobble if the fence distance is small.
The other is in guarding against errors - it's commonplace for the workpiece to move off the fence at some point by accident. Does this cut a high point which you can re-cut later, or does it cut an irrepairable divot ? Guiding against the cut side of the workpiece means that a slip gives you a lesser cut, not a deeper one.
-- Die Gotterspammerung - Junkmail of the Gods
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I have an incra now, so I'm done with the trial and error, but here's what I did before...
Trial and error.
Get a scrap and measure 3/8 from the edge of the board and make a mark on the end where the router will first contact the board. You'll use this to fine-tune the fence later.
Eyeball about 1/8" or so and route everything. Repeat for 1/4" (you want to sneak up on the right size). Do the scrap board too. Now you only have 1/8 left to route.
With the router unplugged, rotate the bit so that one cutter is as far away from the fence as it gets (i.e. the bit is "90 degrees" to the fence). Put the scrap up against it and tap the fence over until the cutter just gets to the line, or maybe a little less. Fire up the router and route the first half inch or so of that scrap, just to see if you hit the line right. Measure and be sure. Tap the fence a little more if needed. Once the scrap's depth of cut is right, route all the other boards.
If you go too far on the scrap, cut off an inch to expose another section to test on, and mark your 3/8 again.
Second option: Get a scrap of the 3/8 thick board you're going to put in the rabbet and clamp it up against the fence. Now use a straightedge to line that up with the far side of the router bit.
Long term: Using a known diameter bit, use the above to set the fence exactly halfway across the bit (i.e. centered on the router). Now, use an awl or marking knife (or even a pencil) along the fence to mark the centerline of the router. Make a second line one inch to the left of that one. Now you have references to measure your fence against when setting it up next time. You can even make multiple sets of these at different angles for different types of routing.
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Well, this is exactly what I thought: trial and error. Not the easiest method in the world but probably the most useful because it teaches you the most. I do like the trick of routing little bits and to rotate the bit and tap the fence. Again, sort of what I thought because it is common sense and I would have probably learned to rotate the bit even the first time I tried to do it but it is better to know this going in. Thanks.

Now your long-term hint is a real nice one. I like that a whole lot! I know I am going to do that one! Problem is I will need to make sure my fence is perpendicular to these lines but that should be easily over come.
I want to thnak all of you for your suggestions and encouragement. One day, this novice tag will be dropped and I will have a bunch of people to thank!
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