Your router table will really sing with these
great accessories. Like all good tools, our
accessories will increase safety and
improve results. Even though we
designed them specifically for the Best Buy
Router Table on page 39, they’re easily
adapted to use on almost any router-table
A stop block is indispensable for cuts that don’t
go the entire length of the board. Ours mounts on the
fence T-track for quick
settings that won’t budge.
Click any image to view a larger version.
Cut hardwood runners (V) wide enough to just fit into the
T-track slot, but not as deep. Glue the strips on the blocks,
and drill out for the 1-1/4-in.1/4-20 hex bolt.
Featherboards make routing safer and better. Safer
because they hold the work against the table and fence
instead of your hands. Better because the constant pressure
holds the piece on both sides of the bit for smooth,
The featherboards are made from clear, solid-wood stock like pine or
poplar. There are two sizes (see Cutting List, page 45). The longer
ones are mounted on the table and the shorter ones on the fence. Cut
the 45-degree angles first. The 1/4-in. slots can be cut on the router
table and the feathers are cut using a bandsaw.
A freehand guard and a starting pin are a must for
routing curved profiles, such as this arch-topped door panel.
Dust collection isn’t perfect, but it keeps the bit area clear.
Assemble the base (parts B, C and D) with glue and screws. Then
build the hood (parts E through H, N, P and W). Slip the hood over
the base and glue the two 1/4-in. guide dowels into the base. The
winged bolts allow you to adjust the height of the hood. Drill two
1/4-in. holes at the back of the base for the hold-down knobs.
A router-table sled replaces the miter slot found on many
commercial tables. It allows you to safely perform end-grain
cutting, such as the cope cut on this rail, without having to set
your fence perfectly parallel to a miter slot.
The only tricky part to making this accessory is getting the holes
for the bolts just right. Simply hold the completed jig up to the
fence with the base on the table and mark the T-track opening.
Then, drill your holes in the center of the marked opening.
UHMW T-track slides guide the sled along the fence.
A tall fence makes vertical routing safe and accurate.
It provides plenty of support for work that must be stood on
end to rout, such as drawer joints, lock-miter joints and
vertical panel raising.
The tall fence fits between the two outside supports of the main
fence. Build the two supports (U and T) and attach them to the
main fence. Use a square to align the top (S) with the face of the
main fence and secure with screws or winged bolts.
Are you tempted by the
benefits of owning a router
table plate but hesitate to take the
plunge because of the hassles involved in
mounting it in your table? That’s understandable
because a poorly fit router table plate leads to endless
frustration.A loose fit makes it impossible to maintain a
consistent distance between your bit and fence. A plate
that’s set too high or too low in the rabbet creates catch
points for stock and makes depth-of-cut settings difficult.
Fortunately, you don’t have to put up with these headaches.
Here’s how to correctly install the plate for peak
If you’re still worried about approaching your immaculate
tabletop with a screaming router, do what I did and
practice the procedure on a piece of scrap first.You’ll need
a pattern bit (Photo 1), a jigsaw, a drill,double-stick tape and
some 1-in.-thick stock. (The 1-in. material can be made
from built-up sheet stock.)
1. Choose a
Click any image to view a larger version.
2. Make an exact
template using your
plate as a guide.We
used 1-in.-thick stock
to accommodate the
depth of the bit and the
bearing (Photo 3).
works great for holding
the boards in place
without making holes in
your router table top.
3. Set the bit
your plate as
of the plate.
4. Rout the
base to the
5. Rough cut the opening with a jigsaw. Be sure
to support the cutout so it can’t break off before
the cut is finished. Predrilling the corners helps
start the cut and makes cutting the corners easier.
Accurately Centering the
Router on the Plate
If you want to use template guide bushings with your router
table plate, the router must be mounted dead-on center, and
that’s not easy.
Rousseau has developed a
baseplate mounting system
that’s simple and accurate. The
bit includes a centering disc,
alignment pin, longer mounting
screws and pointed tapping
screws that accurately mark
where to drill your plate.This
system works with any plate that accepts 1-3/16-in. guide bushings.
Priced at $5, it’s well worth the headaches it saves!
Note: Product availability and prices are subject to change.
Hartville Tool, hartvilletool.com, 800-345-2396,
Top-Bearing Pattern Bits:
# R3004, 1/2-in. dia.;
#12638, 1 in. x 36 yards.
Don’t you just love it when something
that looks extremely difficult
turns out to be oh-so easy?
Making butterfly inlay with a plunge
router is a good example. The technique
is very easy to learn. All it takes
is a set of router accessories and some
1/4-in. plywood or hardboard to
make your own template.
Butterflies appear to bind two
pieces of wood together, but they’re
really just for show and are only
1/8-in. thick. Few pieces of authentic
Mission-style furniture were
dressed up with butterflies, but in
recent years they’ve become a common
decorative theme in reproduction
Mission furniture, adding a
light touch to heavy-looking pieces.
The easiest way to make inlay is with
a plunge router, but it’s possible to
use a fixed-base router instead. The
only problem with using a fixed-base
router is that you’ll have to tip it into
the cut by hand, which takes some
practice. This technique may also
put a good deal of stress on a fragile
Whatever kind of router you use,
its base must accept a Porter-Cablestyle
template guide. This is a stationary
ring that screws onto the router
base. If your router’s base doesn’t
have a hole sized for a Porter-Cablestyle
template guide, you can buy an
The inlay kit
Inlay kits are available from several
manufacturers, but they’re all very
similar. You get
a template guide, a 1/8-in.-thick collar
that snaps onto the guide and a 1/8-
in. solid-carbide bit. The bit is usually
a spiral downcut that cuts exceptionally
clean, chip-free edges.
The inlay set we used also includes
a centering pin for installing the template
guide in your router base. If the
guide isn’t centered, the inlay may not
fit well in the recess.
Click any image to view a larger version.
This kit has everything you
need to make both the inlay
and the recess it fits into:
Make the template
All you need is one template to make both the inlay pieces
and the recesses they fit into. Our shop-made template
produces perfectly symmetrical, straight-sided butterflies, but
you can modify the template for any shape or size butterfly
you want. You can also buy a template that has seven different
sizes of butterflies (see Source, below).
The material you make the template from should be 1/4-in.
thick. If it’s thinner, the router’s template guide will bottom
out on your workpiece. Most of the material you probably
have on hand, such as plywood or hardboard, is actually less
than 1/4-in. thick. You can use it, however, if you add a shim,
as shown in Step 4, below.
1. Make two rectangles of
1/4-in. material (A) and
cut them in half at a 15-degree
2. Flip one half of each
rectangle over and glue it
to the other half. You don’t
have to clamp them. Simply
apply a thin bead of glue to
one edge and rub the two
pieces together. Pull the
joint tight with a piece of
masking tape and set them
on a flat, non-stick surface,
such as a piece of melamine
or waxed paper.
3. Cut two larger rectangles (B) from the same material and
glue all four pieces together. Use the same rub-and-tape
technique. Make sure all the top surfaces are even.
4. If your material is less than 1/4-in. thick, shim the template
with cardboard, plastic laminate, mat board or whatever
you have on hand. The total thickness of the template and
shim should not exceed 5/16 in. Cut a hole in the shim that’s
about 1/8-in. larger than the hole in the template. Glue or tape
the shim to the template.
5. Draw centerlines on the template. (If you’re using dark
hardboard, first apply a dab of white correction fluid to
make these lines more visible.) Cutting the corners off the template
makes it easier to clamp the template to a workpiece.
Rout the butterflies
Prepare some straight-grained blanks 3/4 in. x
1-1/4 in. x 16 in. It’s a good thing to have a little
bit of contrast in color or grain pattern between
the butterflies and the surrounding panels. Butterflies
made of white oak go well with panels
made of red oak, for example.
Attach the template guide to your router base
and install the bit. Adjust the plunge depth of
your router so it cuts 1/8-in. deeper than the
template and shim.
Clamp the template to a blank. You can center
it by eye. To cut butterflies near the ends of the
blank, support one side of the template with
another piece of 3/4-in. wood. Set the router
on the template and butt the guide against one
of its inside edges. Plunge the bit and follow the
Cut the butterflies
Stand the butterfly blank on edge and glue it to
a backer board about 6-in. wide. Run a piece of
tape along the top of the butterfly blank. Then put
a zero-clearance insert in your tablesaw, which is
essential to make this cut safely. Rip a 1/8-in.-thick
strip from the blank, remove the tape, and you’ve
got six identical loose inlay pieces.
Rout the recess
Put the collar on the template guide. Adjust the
plunge depth of your router to cut a recess 1/32
in. to 1/64 in. shallower than the thickness of
the butterfly inlay.
Clamp the template to the workpiece. For
vertical alignment, match the template’s center
glue line with a centerline drawn on the
workpiece. For horizontal alignment, match the
centerlines on the template with layout lines
on the workpiece.
Rout the recess. Take it easy, because the
1/8-in. bit is fragile.
Glue the butterflies
Cut the corners of the recess with a chisel or
knife. They’ll be rounded after routing, but they
must be cut to acute angles so the inlay fits.
Spread a thin layer of glue in the recess, put in
the inlay, scrape off any glue squeeze-out, and
cover the inlay with a small piece of white
paper. Clamp a thick board over the inlay and
let the glue dry. The paper will absorb any
further glue squeeze-out. After the glue dries,
remove stuck pieces of paper by lightly wetting
them. Level the inlay with a block plane or by
scraping and sanding.
(Note: Product availability and costs are subject to change since original publication date.)
Sharpening router plane blades can be no fun. For years now, I’ve made things easier for myself by honing the flat back of the iron through the grits and then removing the “burr” from the bevel with a polishing stone. This is way faster than trying to hone and polish the bevel while it is … Read more »
When it comes to doing precision work that has to be performed over and over again, it’s easy to fall into the siren whine of the router. The router is probably my least-favorite woodworking tool. I don’t like how it is noisy. It never produces a ready-to-finish surface for mouldings. And it can destroy a … Read more »
CNC routers are opening up lots of new ways to create
textures in wood. Here are my three favorite ways
of creating textures using a CNC. Th e fi rst method uses
the repetition of shapes to create a design that is routed
using one or more bits. If you enjoy doodling patterns,
this is a technique that you will enjoy. Th e second
method uses programming built in to the design soft -
ware to generate a texture design that simulates a handcarved
pattern. Th e third texturing method starts with
a photograph and converts the light and dark areas into
the routing paths. Each method has a few basic rules to
follow, but add some imagination and the variations you
can achieve are virtually limitless. I used Vectric Aspire
CNC design soft ware to create the textures for this article,
but other soft ware packages such as ArtCAM and
EnRoute can also be used to create textures.
Shape-based textures are created by repeating
a pattern of either asymmetrical or symmetrical
shapes. Patterns can be hand-drawn or drafted with
a CAD program such as Google SketchUp. Hand
drawn designs need to be scanned or digitally
photographed so they can be imported into the
CNC design program. CNC design programs are
also capable of creating shape-based patterns. One
creative aspect of this type of texturing is that you
can rout on the lines or between them to achieve
different effects. I routed the crackle texture shown
below using a 1/4" dia. 60° v-bit. It took about 60
minutes to carve the design into this 10" cherry lid.
The dome shape of the lid was created first using a
1/4" dia. ball nose bit.
Click any image to view a larger version.
Using the built-in texturing program that comes with most CNC
design software packages is an easy way to create a simulated
hand-carved texture. As shown in the program window to the left,
there are several options to choose from when designing this type
of texture. Adjusting these variables enables you to create a wide
variety of simulated hand-carved textures, ranging from those with
long, closely spaced cuts, to those with short, widely spaced cuts—
and anything in between. Once the options are selected, the
program creates a semi-random pattern of lines (see middle image
below) for the router bit to follow. I used the settings shown here to
create texture on the walnut lid show below. I used a 1/4" ball nose
bit to create the texture, but other profiles such as straight bits or
v-bits can also be used, expanding your options even further. It
took about 60 minutes to carve the texture shown below.
Another way to create a CNC texture is to start with a photo.
Not all photos work equally well, however. That’s because
the CNC design software reads the light areas as high points
and the dark areas as low points and tells the CNC router to
carve accordingly. A good photo image is one that is evenly
lit without long shadows, but yet has good contrast. As you
can see in the alligator skin photograph below, the highlights
accent similar areas, while the dark areas are consistent in
the rest of the photo. This type of photo will create a texture
that closely resembles the contours of the original. Carving a
photo-based texture requires the use of a small ball nose bit to
attain the details. For the design below, I first roughed out the
texture and dome shape of the lid with a 1/4" ball nose bit and
then carved the final shape and details using a 1/8" ball nose
bit. It took about two hours to do the final routing and about
the same amount of time for the roughing passes.
Shape-based textures can take many forms, from low relief
to high relief, and from subtle to bold. The three textures
above are just a sampling of options that are possible with this
approach to designing textures for the CNC. The one on the left
was created using a collection of small circles that were then
routed around with a 60° v-bit. The middle design is simply an
array of concentric squares, while the one on the right uses a
grid pattern made with a 120° v-bit.
Software-based textures are the easiest—and often
the fastest—to create, and can be run on top of a shape
(left), around a shape (middle), or overlapping in different
directions (right). These options allow you to be selective
and creative in where and how the texture is applied.
Using different bits will also expand the variations you
can create with this method of texturing.
Photo-based textures are an easy way to simulate existing
textures—as seen in these three examples. The weathered
end grain (left) shows a surprising amount of detail, as
does the cloth texture (right). The stones (middle) create
an interesting pattern, although they are rendered quite
flat. Additional depth can be added to the stones through
the use of other modeling tools, if so desired. The thing to
remember about creating textures from photos is to
always start with a photo that has even contrast.
This story originally appeared in American Woodworker April/May 2012, issue #159.
A simple method for creating precision inlays
from almost any design.
By Randy Johnson
V-carve inlay takes advantage of a CNC’s ability to
precisely rout matching parts. In this case the parts
are made as opposites and fit together to create a
precise-fitting inlay. The sides of the parts are beveled
and fit together like the lid on jack-o’-lantern
pumpkin. The technique is surprisingly easy to
learn and implement, in spite of the fact that it
would be nearly impossible to create these parts any
other machine or by hand. It’s truly a technique
that’s unique to the CNC. The fact that almost
any design can be used, opens up many creative
opporutunites. As CNC’s become more common
in small shops, I fully expect to see v-carve inlays
showing up on furniture in some intersting ways.
Layout your design. Almost any design
will work, but all individual parts of the
design must be made with a single
continuous line so the router has a
complete path to follow. A shape that is
open-ended or has a gap in the line will not
be recognized by the v-carving program.
I designed this pattern (right) in about 15
minutes, using V-Carve Pro from Vectric.
I started with a single “petal” shape and
then copied it using a function called “copy
circular array” to create the 12 identical
shapes. There’s no need to shy away from
sharp details such as corners or points.
V-carving programs excel at capturing such
detail. For more information on v-carving
see “V-Carving in 10 Easy Steps”.
Click any image to view a larger version.
Set the flat area cutting depth for the pocket
portion of the inlay to .15”. Setting the depth to this
dimension provides clearance under the inlay to
ensure that it doesn’t bottom out in the pocket. The
dotted line represents the location of the pattern,
which in this case is the surface of the board.
Set the cutting depth for the inlay in two stages. First
set the “start” cutting depth at .10” and then the cutting
depth at .10”. Setting the cutting depths in this fashion will
ensure a small amount of clearance between the inlay and
pocket boards. The dotted line also represents the elevation
or the location of the pattern in the board.
How it works
The angled shoulders of the inlay and pocket
intersect to create a tight, wedged fit. The cutting
depths for these parts are set to provide clearance
between the parts (Steps 2 and 3). The excess
top portion of the inlay is removed down to the
dotted line to reveal the final pattern (Step 7).
Rough rout the background and wide areas with a straight bit. Rough routing removes the majority of
the wood in the large areas. This reduces the amount of material the v-bit needs to remove in Step 5 and
shortens the overall machining time for the project by about 15 minutes. I also routed the cutout profile
around each part at this time, although the parts are still attached to the outer boards with tabs. It took
about 20 minutes to rough rout and profile this design.
V-carve the design details with a 90° v-bit. Notice that the inlay on the left is a mirror image of the design
on the right. They must be opposites in both relief and orientation in order to fit together. This is important to
remember when laying out and programming your design. This step took about 25 minutes.
Apply glue to both parts. A small brush makes it easy to
get the glue into the v-carved areas. The inlay portion has
been trimmed to rough size on the bandsaw.
Tighten the clamps lightly at first and then add a little
pressure to each clamp until they are all fully tightened.
Applying uneven pressure can cause misalignment of the
parts. Leave clamped until glue is completely dried.
Rout off the excess material to reveal the final inlay. The ability to control the cutting depth in
increments as small as .001” makes it easy to precisely remove the extra material. For this project I used a
3/4” straight bit and programmed it to remove the majority of the material in 1/8” deep passes until it got
to within .02” of the surface. I then continued with .005” passes until the bit removed just enough material
to expose the inlay and get rid of the dried glue. This step took about 10 minutes.
This story originally appeared in American Woodworker August/September 2011, issue #155.
Router duplication has been around a long time. Early machines used stiluses to follow the shape of
a pattern or master, while on the other end of the
machines, routers did the carving. In a similar but
computerized fashion, CNC routers are also capable
of duplicating existing carvings and furniture parts. A
digital “touch” probe is first used in the CNC to sense
the surface of the object, while the probe’s accompaning
software creates a digital image of the part.
The digital image is then coverted to a 3D model and
used to program CNC routing paths for a replica. To
test the capabilities of this technique, I hand carved
a traditional scallop shell measuring about 4" x 4" to
use as my original. My test revealed that a CNC digital
probe is quite capable of accurately recording the
shape of an object, with one exception; due to its ballshaped
tip, the probe rounds off the inside corners of
fi ne details such as the veins on this shell. A little bit
of hand carving easily adds the missing details. The
three carvings in the photo below are duplicates of
my orginal (photo above). Watch the digital probe in
action at AmericanWooodworker.com/CNC.
Click any image to view a larger version.
Set the scanning parameters. The
software control panel is used to set the
size of the scanning area, the precision or
resolution of the scanning action, and the
speed of the scan. The Scan Limits of X and Y
represent the width and length of the scan
area, while the Z Scan Limit represents the
range the probe travels vertically. The Step
Sizes are the X and Y distances the probe
moves between measurements. The Scan
Velocity controls the speed of the probe as
it moves across the part’s surface. The Part
Coordinates show the location of the probe
during operation. I used the Shark CNC Pro
Plus to scan the shell for this article, but
most CNCs, including the CarveWright and
Shopbot, are capable of probe scanning.
Scan the part. I set parameters for this shell
carving as shown in Step 1. The X and Y
scanning limits are penciled on the backer
board. The Z limit was set at 1” to provide
sufficient vertical travel for the carving’s 5/8”
thickness. The step sizes of .005” for this shell
equals 800 passes across the shell for a total
of 680,000 steps, or measurement points, and
took about 12 hours. ( I ran this overnight). The
Shark CNC probe has a .075” dia. wear-resistant
industrial ruby tip, so certain details such as the
fine veins on this shell were not fully captured;
but the remainder of the surface was captured
with surprising accuracy. A larger step setting
can be used on objects with less detail, such
as a chair seat. Doubling the step size reduces
scanning time by a factor of four.
Adjust the digital image. The
scanning creates an .stl file, which is a
common file type used in 3D modeling.
The scanned area surrounding the shell is
not needed and is removed at this time.
Create the 3D model. The .stl file is
converted to a 3D model with CNC
design software such as Aspire by
Vectric. I also used Aspire to increase
the thickness of the shell’s base to 1/4”.
Smooth the surface. If needed, the
design software can also be used to
smooth the surface of the model. My
scan was fine enough so I only needed
to remove a couple scratches.
Remove the background.
I removed the background to get
the waste material out of the way
in order to make it easier to add the
final hand carved details in Step 10. I
programmed the toolpath for the 3/4”
straight bit at a .1” depth-of-cut per
pass and a stepover (pass width) of .2”.
The tool path was also programmed
to leave the shell profile .125” oversize.
Removing the background for the
three shells took about 30 minutes. The
board started out .875 (7/8” ) thick and
the routed background is .25” thick.
The shell will have a final thickness
Rout the final profile and tabs.
The final profile is made using a
1/4” straight bit that cuts all the way
through the material. Tabs are left to
hold the shell in place. These tabs can
also seen in bottom photo on page 15.
A piece of plywood underneath
protects the metal machine bed from
damage. I programmed the toolpath
for the 1/4” straight bit for .125” depth
passes. The profile and tab routing of
the three shells took about 8 minutes.
Rough rout the shape.
To accomplish the rough routing I
used a 1/4” ballnose bit programmed
to a .1” depth of cut and .1” step over
(pass width). This roughing phase
removes the majority of the material.
The amount of material left by the
rough pass is adjustable, with .02” being
common for a carving such as this shell.
Leaving this small amount allows the
final pass to be completed in one pass,
saving time and wear on the finishing
bit. The rough routing of the three
shells took about 60 minutes.
Rout the final pass.
The final carving is done with a
specialty .0625” (1/16”) ballnose bit
(available at BeckwithDecor.com). I
programmed this bit to make .01” wide
(1/100”) passes. The tiny tip of this bit
is capable of recreating a considerable
amount of detail, and leaves a surface
that only requires a light sanding with
220 grit sand paper to make it ready for
finishing. The final routing of the three
shells took about 70 minutes.
Detail by hand as needed.
Complete the carving with some touchup
hand carving of the veins and finish
sanding. There are CNC operations
where the goal is to create a part that
requires no additional hand work—this
application is not one of them. A CNC
is a tool capable of many things, but a
realistic expectation of what it can do
is also important. In the case of these
shells, I accepted the fact that I would
need to do some hand detailing to
achieve the results I wanted, similar to
scraping or sanding a board after
jointing and planing.
Make the boxes. After making the
shells, the box shape is simple to
program using the profile of the shell
as a pattern. It took about 150 minutes
to rout the 3 boxes on the CNC using a
1/4” up-spiral bit. They were cut out of
Project Time Card
CNC the lids: 55 minutes each
CNC the boxes: 50 minutes each
Set up and material prep: 15 minutes each
Detailing and sanding: 45 minutes each
Staining and finishing: 20 minutes each
Total time: 3 hours 30 minutes each
I spent 5 hours 15 minutes (total for all three)
doing something else while
the CNC ran.
V-carving is one of the simplest ways to create
attractive carvings on a CNC router. With special
software and a little practice, it’s possible to transform
almost any lettering style or 2D design into a
carving that requires only minimal cleanup before
finishing. I use V-Carve Pro software from Vectric,
but the steps are similar with other v-carving programs.
The software tells the machine to raise the
bit at the inside corners; the machine then uses the
tip of the v-bit to create corners that are clean and
crisp—as opposed to the rounded corners made by
a handheld router guided by a template. For more
examples of v-carving visit AmericanWoodworker.com/CNC.
Layout your design. All it takes is a
simple hand sketch or photograph.
This can be imported directly into the
program and then outlined using the
drawing tools in the v-carve design
program. Since both letters and shapes
can be carved, there are not many limits
to the kinds of designs you can v-carve.
You also have the choice of carving
on the inside or outside of letters or
Click any image to view a larger version.
Make sure all shapes are closed.
This is one of the cardinal rules of
v-carving design. A circle, square or the
outline of an object qualifies, but a single
line or parallel lines with open ends will
not work. The v-carve programs need
a continuous outline to follow. Some
outlines may look continuous, but even a
little break in the line will cause problems.
Fortunately, v-carve programs are able
to recognize shapes that have small
openings and will automatically close
them for you.
Set the cutting depth for the
background of your carving and
the inside of the letters (as needed).
This cutting depth is mainly a design
decision, and of course it cannot
exceed the thickness of your board.
The cutting preview (example at
right) will show you how your chosen
cutting depth looks.
Select your router bits. Use a straight bit first to rout flat areas. The diameter of this bit
determines how much cleanup the v-bit will need to do inside a corner. A large diameter
straight bit removes material faster but leaves more for the v-bit to cleanup. A small
diameter straight bit leaves less material inside a coner but takes longer to clear the flat
areas. I typically use a 1/4" diameter end mill for drawer front or cabinet door carvings.
The three most common v-bit angles are 60°, 90° and 120°. I prefer using a 90° and
120° v-bit for wide or large letters and a 60° v-bit for small or fine letters. If possible, I also prefer to use a v-bit with a cutting radius that’s slightly wider than the width of the final bevel. This allows me to make one final cleanup pass (if needed) to remove any step
marks left by the initial passes.
Create cutting paths for the recessed background and export them from your v-carving design program
to your CNC machine. The cutting paths (shown above in red with tiny arrows) show the areas that will be
routed. Here I’m using a 1/4" end mill bit to rout the flat background area. I’m accomplishing this with 1/8"
wide passes (shown by the distance between the red lines). This dimension is referred to as the “stepover”
measurement. The cutting depth per pass can also be programed, as can the feed (travel) rate of the router,
expressed in inches per minute.
Rout the recessed background area. To ensure a smooth background on
this plaque, I used a couple techniques. First, I routed the background area
in two .06" (about 1/16") deep passes, plus a light .01" pass to reach the final
depth of .013". Three passes take more time than one, but create a surface
that requires only light sanding. Second, I programed the router to cut with
the grain (see Step 5). This reduces sanding, too. Milling the background for
this plaque took about 20 minutes.
Create cutting paths for the bevels around the shapes (the hand plane and perimeter rectangle in this
case) and export them to your CNC machine. For this design, I will be using a 90° v-bit, which produces a
45° bevel. The shaded areas above the handle and below the depth-adjustment knob are closely-spaced
tool paths where the v-bit needs to make many close passes to mill the background flat. These areas are too
narrow for the 1/4" end mill bit to get into.
Rout the bevels around the shapes. This requires removing the straight bit and installing the
appropriate v-bit. I used a 1/2" diameter 90° v-bit. It has a 1/4" tall bevel—more than enough for the
carved bevel, which will be only 1/8" tall. This step took about 20 minutes to rout. Except for some light
hand sanding and a little touch-up with a carving chisel, this part of the carving is now complete.
Create tool paths for the lettering. This requires a separate step because I’m changing to a 60° v-bit. I
prefer a 60° bit for small letters such as these because it creates a deeper, more distinctive v-groove than a
90° bit. The tool paths above show how v-carving requires two lines to carve between. The two lines are
parallel in these letters, but they can be any shape or spacing. For example, the outline of the hand plane
and outer rectangle represents the pair of lines that were used to create the hand plane carving.
Rout the lettering. Notice that “No. 4” is routed into the surface of the plane whereas as the logo is
carved into the background. I programed the difference in cutting depth into the cutting paths while
designing the plaque. This final carving step took about 8 minutes. To view a video on how I designed
and machined this plaque from start to finish, visit AmericanWoodworker.com/CNC.
The perfect fit
comes easily with
a simple shop-made jig.
By Tom Caspar
Purchase the complete version of this woodworking technique story from AWBookstore.com.
Box joints are a cinch to make on a
router table. All you need are a sharp
bit and a basic plywood jig.
The biggest problem in making box
joints has always been getting a precise
fit, because the line between success
and failure is only a few thousandths of an inch thick.
Fortunately, the solution simply requires that your jig be
easy to adjust, not difficult to make. I’ve added a microadjust
system to my jig that is incredibly precise but takes
only a minute to put together.
This jig is designed to make 1/2 in. box joints in stock
up to 5 in. wide. It’s dedicated to only one size of router
bit. To make wider or narrower box joints, you must build
another jig. For box joints wider than 1/2 in., you’re better
off using a tablesaw and a different kind of jig. If your
project requires box joints that are more than 5 in. wide,
widen the jig accordingly.