Tag Archives: DeWalt

Don’t Have a Large Router Bushing? Make One – It’s Easy

IMG_1488This week there came a need to rout an oval that matched a smaller oval, and we needed to make the new pattern 1-1/4″ wider all around. A new design could have been made, but that’s a lot of extra work to layout, cut and shape. And getting the oval as an exact match would be difficult at best.

In the past (especially when working on goose-neck molding layout), I’ve made a wooden circle with a center hole just sized to allow a pencil to pass through to accurately draw around a pattern, providing a perfect over-sized pattern. As we discussed this technique, Dave (friend and fellow woodworker) suggested we bypass the pencil and use a router bit instead. Great idea.

IMG_1485To make it happen, you need to size the needed bushing. To add 1-1/4″ when using a 1/4″ spiral-upcut router bit, you need a 2-9/16″ outside diameter bushing – you cannot find that in the router accessories department of any store. So step one is to make a plywood disc to that size. If you do the layout work with a compass, you get the size and you mark the center of your disc, which is a good thing. Cut the rough shape at your band saw then smooth the edges using a disc sander. (You could set up a band saw jig to make the disc, but that’s way to involved when a single disc is needed.)

IMG_1486With the wooden disc in hand, drill a hole in its center that is perfectly sized for a standard bushing you have in the shop; in this case, we used a 3/4″-outside diameter bushing. Make sure you accurately center the hole in the disc – that’s where the prick from the compass leg comes into play. When you’ve drilled the hole, the disc should fit snug on your bushing. Load the over-sized guide bushing into your favorite router and your set to work.

With this arrangement, the bushing offsets the router as the cut is made. A good practice is to step your way through these cuts, making several passes while dropping the cutting depth with each step. The photo below shows the first light pass, which also confirmed the offset cut.


Router bushings are a great asset to have in the shop. In most available kits, the largest outside diameter is 51/64″. You can find odd bushings sized as large as 1-3/16″, but if you need something larger, turn to plywood and make the bushing in your shop.

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Filed under Jigs, Methods of Work, Routers, Shop Tips

How Do You Mortise?

IMG_Mortises2WaysThis week I have gotten little time in the shop. During the week that’s understandable because of my return to Popular Woodworking Magazine (PWM). But Saturdays I generally get six to eight straight hours woodworking – except for a lunch break for wings and a beverage at local eatery. However, this weekend I am teaching a class at the Dayton, Oh., area Woodcraft; the class is building a splay-legged end table.

In the class after we discussed how to taper legs at the jointer – no it’s not multiple passes made using a stop block (see the process here in a short video I made while at PWM) – we went over a couple ways to cut mortises. IMG_RouterMethodOf the six guys in the class, three chose to use a benchtop mortise machine and three elected to router-cut their mortises. (It didn’t surprise me that no one attending my class would decide to chop mortises by hand.) I was left wondering how you guys cut your mortises.

I’m partial to my floor-model mortise machine.  I would recommend that machine to woodworkers that plan to use mortise-and-tenon joinery in most of their projects, if that is, you have the funds necessary and are interested in spending a sizable chunk for one machine. But if I had to choose between a benchtop machine and my router, I think it would depend on how many mortises I cut annually.

What do you think? How do you cut mortises for your furniture projects? Leave a comment to let me know.

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Filed under Joinery, Power Tools, Routers

Re-purpose A Great Bench Vise

IMG_0469This week, while working on a project for an upcoming magazine issue, I ran into a little problem. The drawer fronts I worked on were too small to easily hold as I hand-cut the dovetails. I had just enough room to clamp my front as I sawed for tail sockets and during waste removal I could have moved the clamp halfway through, but that was time consuming and monotonous. So I opted for help.


Many of you recognize the apparatus shown above as Christopher Schwarz’s Moxon Double-screw Vise. I was a big fan of it when he wrote about on his Popular Woodworking Magazine blog back in June 2010, and continue to sing its praises. (You can read his post here.) This bad boy gets used whenever I have a stack of drawer parts on which to hand-cut dovetails – it saves my back so the only pain I feel when building some projects is a bit farther south.

IMG_0481Instead of sawing to define pins and tails, this time I used the vise to hold parts as I removed waste. (Something I most often do with the part lying flat on my bench.) To do this I had to modify the vise. I wasn’t at all interested in any permanent changes, so I simply added a small shop-made jig to the large shop-made jig. The piece you see spring-clamped to the rear member of the Moxon vise is L-shaped scrap assemblage where the back piece extends far IMG_0485enough beyond the ends of the top piece so as to get clamps in place. The top piece then acts as a support for my trim router.

Using this arrangement is quick and simple to use. Load a drawer front into the setup, level the front using a small flat scrap as shown in the photo to the right then twist the two hand-screws tight to secure the workpiece. That’s all there is.

IMG_0486My trim router sits atop the added jig and sits level as waste is removed from the drawer front. Just as demonstrated back in August of last year in “Dovetail Evolution”, you freehand guide the router to remove waste. The work is easy as long as you stay clear of your layout lines and saw cuts.

As you can see below, after the router work is complete all that’s left is to chisel away the remaining waste – work that is completed with the front still clamped in the vise. Notice this time I’m working with half-lap dovetails whereas in the earlier post I worked through dovetails. Setup is a bit different, but results are equally great.


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PS. Next week I promise that my post includes zero router work.

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Router Surprise

I own a few routers. Most have cords, but I do have a router plane, too. Over time, I have come to use trim routers whenever possible. This past week while I was working on a bunch of mallet inserts, I made a discovery.

The photo above is of a small jig I created to rout a handle area into half of the assembled insert. A small block (each milled to the exact thickness, length and width) is slide into the jig then a pattern bit, installed in one of my trim routers, clears away the balance of the waste – this is step three of many steps to complete the inserts.

As each pair of routed pieces come out of the jig, I use a fractional dial caliper to measure the opening. In the past when I would make these pieces, I had measurements all over the place. I had to retract the bit depth every so often to keep the measurements within a usable guideline. It wasn’t clear what was going on. The router bit was not slipping – I have a phobia about this, so I make sure to install the bit and tighten the collet correctly. The adjustment was not a problem, but I had to keep an eye on things.

This week, as I checked each pair coming out of the jig, there was no adjustments made. From start to finish, pieces came out right. Of course, this caused me to wonder. Then it hit me. The only difference between this time and the other times when I made sporadic adjustments was the trim router used. Bingo, that must be the problem.

As shown in the opening photo, this time I use a DeWalt DWP611, which has become one of my favorite small routers. Previous times I used my Ridgid R2401. It seems my Ridgid trim router was slipping as I used it. Not the bit out of the collet as you may expect, but the motor was sliding down into the adjustable base.

I have to admit that I have used the dog out of my Ridgid router, so I don’t want to give the wrong impression. Until the DeWalt came along it’s the router I used for everything except pattern routing with a 3/4″-diameter bit. I use it so much that the bearings in my Ridgid are wearing out and the added vibration may be the cause of the unwanted slippage.

There is a fix for my problem and this is why I am bringing this to your attention. Under the clamp lock there is a nut that tightens to increase the hold. I have adjusted that nut and should no longer see any creeping of the motor. It’s important to check your small power tools on occasion just as you check your woodworking machines.

I am not going to toss my Ridgid.  No, I plan to use this router for regular routing of moldings and the like instead of operations that have critical measurements required. In fact, at $89 from Home Depot, I may purchase another to have in reserve.

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Dovetail Evolution

If you have ever attended one of my woodworking classes or a seminar on joinery, you probably have been bored to tears by my dovetail story. Or you laughed out loud. Just as my mind has, my dovetail work has evolved. As I began building furniture, I knew that I would have to dovetail if I had any hope of selling my work.

My first dovetail chapter included an old Sears template guide that produced perfectly sized, perfectly shaped dovetails with identically sized pins and tails – the kind used on kitchen cabinets. Ugh! Phase two brought about a better dovetail jig. With it, I decided that half-blind pins and tails were too difficult to set up, so I built drawer fronts from 1/2″-thick  stock then applied a 1/4″-thick shaped drawer front (kitchen cabinet construction was still in my blood). That process worked until a customer noticed the half-ass technique and verbally chastised me during the delivery. After a bit more trouble with fingers moving, I gave up jigs and succumbed to hand-cut pins and tails. I defined each pin and tail with a dovetail saw cut, then chop out waste with a chisel.

After some considerable hand-cut experience, I remembered that I was in business to make a profit. Hand-cut dovetails are period correct, but the process is slow when every minute has to earn dollars. As I discovered a way to cut the pins using my band saw and an angled platform as shown the photo above, my dovetails evolved again. I could power-cut the pins, but continued to chop away waste using my chisels. My tail boards were produced using the same techniques, but without an angled platform.

This method of dovetails produced perfect angled cuts that detracted, at least to my eye, from the hand-cut look I wanted. It was time for another evolution. This time I decided to hand-cut the pins and tails, but use a power tool to hog away the waste as depicted in the opening photo. This provides a hand-cut look – I am sawing the actual pins and tails – as the angles and the width of pins and tails different. It also provides a time savings due to the quick removal of waste when creating pins – waste between the tails is either nibbled away while at my band saw, or it is chopped out using chisels and a mallet.

If you’re not quite clear on this technique, below is a short video. You tell me, is this still a hand-cut dovetail joint, or is this a wolf in sheep’s clothing? Leave a comment below.

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Formidable Fretwork Frieze

With a project article for Popular Woodworking Magazine wrapped up, I got back to work on the large – some would say humungous – walnut secretary. This week I spent more than a few hours working on a frieze moulding to sit just below the crown.

I say formidable fretwork frieze not because the moulding causes fear or apprehension, or due to its awesome strength. To me, frieze arouses feelings of grandeur. It is a nice addition to a piece of furniture, but it’s not a moulding you should include if you’re short on time. To make this moulding, I use a scroll saw which is not part of my machine inventory. I borrowed this Craftsman saw from a friend and would highly recommend it if you’re in the market.

To make my frieze, I developed a pattern from my SketchUp model. (To read how to do this from an earlier post, click here.) After my pattern is spray-glued to thin walnut stock, the work begins. As shown in the photo above, step one is to drill a small hole through each and every one of the areas that are to be cut away. Your hole has to be large enough to fit a scroll saw blade through, but still smaller than the waste area – this almost didn’t happen for me and I thought I was going to have to go back and rework my pattern.

With every hole, you have to thread your blade through the hole, reattach the blade to upper arm, tighten the blade holder screw then re-establish blade tension before you cut. Each repeating pattern has four waste areas around the oval, then between each oval there is a small diamond. You can see why I say don’t use this moulding if you are short on time.

Note the small bridge used to elevate the moulding above the tabletop and provide clearance for my router bit.

You may have noticed that I did not drill a hole through each of the ovals, which is also waste area. I planned to speed-up this part of the process. Yes, I use my router and a plywood pattern to do that. To create a pattern, I pasted my paper pattern to a piece of plywood scrap that was sized to match my working stock. I cut a short piece of stock at the scroll saw to use as a test piece and determined that my original oval was too thin. I needed to boost the width of each oval. (you can see by how much in the photo.)

Instead of making a new pattern that would be difficult to position – the pattern oval was exactly the size of my original pattern – I turned to router accessories to do the job. Take a look at the photo immediately above and you can see a bushing with my router bit peeking through. My bushing rides the edges of the pattern while the router bit sits inside the lines. Bingo, my ovals were beefed up, and routing out oval waste was much less time consuming than doing this work at the scroll saw.

The moulding shown here is from paper pattern to sanded smooth. When I get things wrapped up on the secretary, I’ll drop in a close-up photo of the finished frieze.

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Filed under Power Tools, Routers

Router Work: Perfect Off-set Profiles

One of a handful of  important tools in my shop are routers. No, I don’t have routers sitting on shelves circling my shop as did Mr. Abram during his long-running show, but I do own more than a few. I have them not for show, but because they do almost any job you ask. When I teach routers I run through many of these uses, such as plowing grooves and dados, sliding dovetails, hogging out waste between pins, edge profiles and more.

One fun technique that I always demonstrated toward the end of the seminar was how to enlarge a hole using routers. I found this technique fun, but not all that practical. How many times do you need to enlarge a hole to a specific diameter? I do this occasionally whenever I need to hang pipe or duct-work for dust collection, and mostly that’s about all. But as I worked on a secretary interior recently, I discovered how I could put this technique to use.

Here’s the technique: Begin with a hole drilled through your workpiece – it doesn’t matter what size hole as long as you can get a rabbet bit into that hole. Next, slip that rabbet bit into the hole so a bearing runs along the bottom edge of the hole, then make a pass around the hole to enlarge the top portion as shown in the above photo. The next step is to use a pattern router bit to waste away the portion of the hole not cut with your rabbet bit. Voila. You now have a perfectly round hole that is larger in diameter. (See below.)

What makes this technique valuable is that you can step from any diameter hole to a desired-diameter hole by adjusting your rabbet size. In the photos, I took a 1-3/4″ hole and moved to a 2-3/4″ diameter hole. A second run through the process would take my hole to 3-3/4″ in diameter due to the fact that I had my rabbet bit set for a 1/2″ rabbet. If a rabbet bit were set for a 3/8″ rabbet, the hole would move from 1-3/4″ to 2-1/2″ (+3/4″). A second run through would produce a hole with a 3-1/4″ diameter (+3/4″). Any size step is possible. You can combine any different rabbet bit setups to get to exactly the size diameter you want – one pass with a 3/8″ bit and a second using a 1/2″ rabbet bit would increase your diameter by 1-3/4″ (3/8″ + 1/2″ x 2).

Nice little technique, but how is this going to help with my secretary interior? In the top photo, the bottom and middle shelves have the exact same profile except that the middle shelf steps back a 1/2″ exactly. Not simply back at all the straight areas – each curve also steps outward, too. I could have developed a second pattern (as discussed a few weeks back in my “Are Full-size Plans Available?” post), traced the pattern onto my shelf, then cut the shape at my band saw. Instead, I used this rabbet/router technique and had a completed shelf in two quick steps. I cannot believe it took me this long to put this technique to use.

This is a simple process to use and can really save you time in the shop, but I will add a caveat. It’s important to watch the direction of your grain and the undulating profile as you rout (work from high to low as you would when turning at your lathe). Also, I found it best to climb-cut most of the shape as I worked to keep from splitting out wood in chunks.

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