View Full Version : Next machine - the plunge router

Pete Howlett
10-05-2009, 06:45 AM
I said I'd do a video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOwjfP3All8)of what this tool can do - see me make a classic bridge almost exclusively using an inverted plunge router on a simple table.

Matt Clara
10-05-2009, 07:10 AM
Hi Pete--great video. I'm not entirely familiar with routers, but I've heard a couple luthiers say it's the second or so most important tool in the shop. I'm curious, you say it's a plunge router you're using, you must have the "plunge" locked down, yes?

10-05-2009, 07:21 AM
I also watched that video (thank you Pete), and the straight runs were clear. The part where you use the jig to make the wings on the bridge raises a question. What determines the depth of the cut or the thickness of the material you can shape with the router in the jig. In my opinion it should be the length/height of the cutting bit in the router, and not the plunging distance of the router?? Is this right? HB

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
10-05-2009, 07:40 AM
Hi Pete--great video. I'm not entirely familiar with routers, but I've heard a couple luthiers say it's the second or so most important tool in the shop. I'm curious, you say it's a plunge router you're using, you must have the "plunge" locked down, yes?
Seems to me Pete is not using the router in "plunge" mode but is using the bit height adjustment feature on it. In that case, any router or laminate trimmer would do, it just takes more fiddling to adjust it. I use a plunge router to make captive cuts in my bridges, where it can't be done any other way than to "plunge" the bit into the wood.
BTW, when doing something like this where it takes time to set everything up, instead of doing one, do a dozen.

Pete Howlett
10-05-2009, 07:45 AM
I've watched so many boring videos just to get 10 seconds of good information that I have recently taken to very heavily editing the footage I take so I guess some stuff gets missed...

There are 2 types of router excluding laminate trimmers - more of them later.

Fixed head are very common in the US. The cutter on these is lowered by 'dialing in' the height so you have to set it at the outset and there is no facility to 'plunge' into the cut. These types are great for table mounting to create mini shapers, are very stable but limited.
Plunge routers on the other hand rise and fall on 2 pillars one of which is kept in tension with a hefty spring. With the Elu/DeWalt 900watt models you twist one of the handles (I can never remember which) and it allows you to plunge and lock so controlling blind entry cuts when you are inlaying for instance - I'm talking furniture here folkss... more on the Dremel below.. Where you see me using the fine height adjuster a depth stop is fitted; the fine height adjuster screws into one of the depth stop posts - that's why I said it was ingenious.
Laminate trimmers are compact, light routers that normally have a fixed head with very crude height adjustment. They are great for binding and grinding off oversize backs and fronts.
Dremels are a good buy if you are going to do inlay but would never be my first purchase. The high pitched scream that they emit destroys any peace and calm you might have in the workshop and is really irritating after a while. They are good for fine inlay work but when asked to perform the duties of a router, fall short - not enough power.

Now my fellow luthiers should respond with many counter arguments - lets face it, luthiery is probably the least rule based craft around. These are my personal opinions and methods that have stood me in good stead for over 30 years building stuff. I possess only 10 routers now since I down sized in the summer, most of them being dedicated laminate trimmers for binding. It's not TAS - the 60 that Olson the guitar maker has is TAS though....

Pete Howlett
10-05-2009, 07:50 AM
Perfectly right Chuck. The demo takes it for granted that standard use would employ the plunge facility as demonstrated in your thumbnail of a bridge blank. However, my point and the point of the video is that this type of router is more versatile than the fixed head type which laminate trimmers fall into. The other thing which I didn't say is that advocates of table routing rarely mention you need a 2000watt machine for them to be any use in a production setting.

I was trying to aim the video at those enthusiasts who post here and offer some advice on buying a router - if you only could have one... Sorry if I didn't make that clear.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
10-05-2009, 08:10 AM
Well you like a good argument Pete so........ If I could only have one, it would be a light weight laminate trimmer, with bench mounting capability. The lack of fine adjustment is a drawback however. Bridge slots can be made with a table saw but I wouldn't want to cut binding channels with a plunge router. I'm sure it's done all the time, I just wouldn't want to do it. There's no right or wrong here, it's simply a matter of what you're used to. The subject is moot anyway. There's no such thing as having only one rotary tool.

Pete Howlett
10-05-2009, 08:24 AM
I could see how a laminate trimmer would be a first must have. I'd buy both... though I would think that a LT is a bit under powered for table routing. They are mostly 600watt aren't they?

10-05-2009, 08:40 AM
That video helped me alot. I was wondering how to route the saddle slots with the Dremel. Ill try to do what you did turn it upside down. Makes me wonder why I didn't think of this earlier :).
Thank you Pete!

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
10-05-2009, 08:44 AM
Pretty close--6 amps. For efficiency purposes I have seven of them, each dedicated for a specific purpose and they are all the same brand and model. I chose Rigid brand only because I have a Home Depot near me and my choices are few on the island. There are certainly better makes but these are OK and relatively inexpensive ($100). I have bases that are permanently attached to several jigs; rosette cutter, binding cutter, bench-top fixture, etc, so that I can quickly mount any one of my laminate cutters into these bases since they are all the same. I could easily get by with one laminate trimmer and a half dozen bases but I'd be changing bits a lot.
I also have a bunch of Dremel tools that should be considered disposable tools. They are light weight but invaluable for certain tasks. My Foredom gets less use. I dislike being tethered to the shaft.
My plunge router is indispensable but only gets used once a year when I make bridges. I make several dozen at a time on long boards clamped to my bench. I plunge the slots right-side-up, then rip the board into the blank sizes I need.

10-05-2009, 09:01 AM
I believe we are on the same page Pete.

I have at least 10 routers myself (not counting Dremels). Now this may sound excessive but it's really not. I have a fixed head, two handle router with a dovetail bit installed. This set is only used with a dovetail jig. I just clamp in the board and away I go. This cuts out having to fuss with setting the bit to the right height each time I need to cut dovetails. The only reason this bit comes out is when I need to sharpen it.

I have two router tables with plunge routers permanently installed. Having two tables makes life easy when I'm making rails and stiles.

There are times when you need two or three different bits to complete a job at hand. Having each bit in it own router makes quick work when going through the steps.

With the exception of a router table, most of the times I grab a D-handle router for the control it gives over a plunge router. But there are times where you have to start and stop a cut in the middle of a board. You can't beat a plunge router for that type of cut.

Pete Howlett
10-05-2009, 10:03 AM
I have 2 Hitachi laminate trimmers that are now discontinued, some Makita's, a couple of Bosche's and my Elus. Most I purchased from eBay because of the limited use they get I wasn't about to pay top dollar. The Hitachis are phenominal. The motor is slightly off-set and if held right, hangs over the hand to provide perfect balance. Before my balance arm I could get a near perfect rebate on a spherical back. I have a dediacted jig for pocket routing saddle slots on pin bridges. Routing is a process I love. You are right about them dremels - nasty wee things but good for inlay work.