What is a Router? Do I Really Need One?

I was excited to build some bookshelves for my daughter's room, but the step-by-step directions I found say I need a power tool called a router.  This sounds serious!  I don't know exactly what that is and why I should use one.  Can you help?

The Money Pit Answer

A router is a wonderful tool that lets you accomplish a number of woodworking tasks.  it's great for applying detail to wood, like rounding off edges on shelves, countertops or on the end of pieces of furniture.  Routers also let you add popular bevel and ogee designs, and can be used to create dado joints - a helpful technique for building cabinetry, or, in your case, grooving out sides of bookcases to accept shelves. 
In short, a router is a tool that does what no other tool can accomplish, and once you explore a router's possibilities, you won't want to go without one!  My son just completed his Eagle Scout project; he created and installed trail markers in a park, along a three mile trail.  We got twelve 6x6 huge beams, cut them in half, and used a router to cut a 45-degree decorative top onto each marker. 
Even more, routers are not very expensive.  Ryobi, a trusted brand, makes a basic router that's very affordable.  If you make the imvestment, keep in mind that, by their very nature, routers generate a lot of debris.  This isn't the phase of a woodworking project that a young child should help with!  It's Important you use the router in accordance with the manufacturer's directions, and be sure to wear safety glasses with side shields, as well as any other recommended safety gear.  Good luck!  Post a photo of the completed bookshelves to Money Pit's Facebook page!

1 Answers
Money Pit Team answered 7 years ago

A router can be one of the most useful DIY tools you can own.  But most people are still very intimidated by them.  What is a router anyway and how do you use it?  Routers are very versatile and relatively safe and easy to use.  In simplest terms, it’s a shaft that runs off a motor. At the end of the shaft, there’s a router bit or cutter head. Basically, it’s the device that actually makes the shape or in router terms, the profile.  There are many projects you can take on with the help of a router…

  • Adding a decorative edge to furniture
  • Creating your own crown molding or chair rail
  • Building furniture
  • Adding a cable/speaker wire port to an existing cabinet or TV stand.
  • Adding a decorative edge on a fence before installing

 If you’re still a little hesitant, there is a great new starter kit available from Skil… perfect for beginners.  The router’s Soft Start Technology practically eliminates that kick-back you get when you turn it on. You’ll get better control over the tool as a result.  Plus it has micro fine depth adjustment for very precise measurements.  The kit comes with a bunch of extras including a plunge base, a fixed base and a carrying bag.  

As far as using a router safely, remember to wear safety glasses, and maybe even earplugs.  Clamp smaller pieces to a work station.  Always keep both hands on the router, and use multiple and shallow passes for the best results.  Follow these safety tips and then go ahead and play with your new router!