Private Woodworking Instruction in a Box
with Hendrik Varju

Produced by Passion for Wood, Ontario, Canada

ISBN 978-0-9781432-9-9

As reviewed in The Australian Woodworker Issue 161

Many woodworkers regard the router (and router table) as one of the most versatile tools in the workshop. Hendrik Varju agrees though he also considers it the most dangerous tool in his workshop, particularly the router table. Hence the mention of ‘safely’ in the title of his latest DVD which covers the use of the router.

Starting with a look at common features of the router and router table, Hendrik states why he has six different routers in his workshop. He acknowledges that some hobbyists have even more and some have only one, but gives his reasons why woodworkers, having bought a good general purpose plunge router to begin with, should consider some of the more specialised models for inclusion in their workshop.

There are important advantages in having a second bigger router to make the best use of the router table. However, when purchasing a router specifically for table use, he recommends that a number of features be considered.

Hendrik’s own router table is a shop-made unit. He uses it as an example to explain the features that a router table should have, irrespective of whether they are shop made or bought commercially. If you are making your own router table, just the tips presented in this segment are worth the purchase of the DVD.

He then moves on to a discussion of those cutter profiles which he finds particularly useful. He covers straight, top and bottom bearing, up and down spiral, roundover, profile, fluting, bead and dovetail bits, plus slot cutters.

A well equipped router table will accommodate what Hendrik calls ‘massive bits’ such as a raised panel cutter, but he recommends that they are used only by experienced router users, due to their potential for destruction if something goes wrong.

Running through a series of routing operations, Hendrik covers both handheld router and router table methods, starting with the handheld.

While the router table is ideal for some applications, he points out the virtues of handheld routing, noting that it does a better job when the workpiece is not perfectly straight. Generally speaking it is safer to use and offers more freedom, though it does require more skill than the router table.

With each operation he provides a series of tips intended to improve the quality of the cut, eliminate burning and tear-out, reduce the load on the cutter and promote safety.

Other topics covered include taking incremental cuts with minimum set-up, zero tolerance inserts, routing end grain versus routing along the grain, the use of ‘balance’ blocks to provide stability and eliminate tear-out, varying cutter speed, reading the grain, positioning featherboards, use of wide-reach clamps, safe handling of the power cord and correct positioning of the operator’s fingers.

The first operations are machining an edge treatment or rebate on a four-sided board or panel, using either a pilot bearing bit or the accessory fence. This is followed by routing a housing or groove in the centre of the panel using a straight edge as the guide, a homemade trim guide or a housing jig (full details on the housing jig appeared in Hendrik’s Working with Plywood video).

Stopped housings require plunge cuts. He forms these with the trim guide or housing jig, but the operation is a bit more involved.

Mortises are effectively deep stopped housings, if machined with the router. Hendrik uses a template bushing and a shopmade jig to neatly and accurately cut the mortise in a coffee table leg. He repeats the process, this time using a top bearing cutter in the jig.

Moving to the router table, he machines a profile to the four edges of a board and takes a new piece of wood to show how to cut a rebate around the perimeter. On the table, not only is the end grain troublesome to cut but the workpiece is unstable if it is narrow rather than wide. The use of either a backing board or the mitre jig to overcome this is demonstrated.

Housings near the edge of the board or panel can be machined on the router table. These are cut in a similar manner to a rebate, but there are additional points to note, such as the clearing of shavings and the risk of climb-cutting when widening the groove the wrong way.

Making stopped housings on the router table requires the use of a stop block. If the housing is stopped at both ends, then a plunge cut is required. Hendrik explains how this is done on a router table. This is one of the riskier applications of the router and he recommends that all such procedures should only be undertaken by someone with significant experience with the router and a sound knowledge of how it works.

As an example of a stopped slot (ie. a full-depth housing cut), the mortise jig used earlier in the video for handheld router use is shaped on the router table.

Cutting or profiling shaped forms on the router table is essentially a freehand operation because the table fence cannot be used. Some table top inserts provide a starter pin, which Hendrik agrees is an important accessory for both safety and accuracy. However, he discusses the limitations of the typical starter pin arrangement and goes on to demonstrate his own solution, a shop-made starter ‘stick’ which he calls a single-point fence.

Climb-cutting, ie. operating the router or router table in the reverse direction, is a dangerous procedure which should only be attempted by a skilled operator. Hendrik discusses how climb-cutting can be used to eliminate tear-out, but also notes that other approaches such as larger diameter bits can achieve the same result.

The final chapters cover template routing with both the freehand and table-mounted router.

There is a brief segment on Hendrik’s use of a Dylos Air Quality Monitor to keep track of the airborne dust in his workshop. He installed it to check the improvement provided by his new cyclone dust extraction system, but it also provides interesting data on the dust production of various machines as well as the efficiency of his workshop air filter unit.

Like all of Hendrik Varju’s DVDs, Using Your Router and Router Table Safely is easy to watch and very informative. It offers excellent value for money for anyone who uses a router.

Duration: 8hrs, 24mins, 4discs

DVD – English – NTSC


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