Corrina is a Denver-based fine artist with an MFA in integrated arts who provides tips and tricks on how to go about art living.
What Is a Router?
A router is a tool used to hollow out a specific area from a solid surface such as wood or plastic. By controlling the shape and depth of the cut, a multitude of possible designs can be achieved. There is a wide variety of routers available on the market as well as routing bits that can perform large jobs such as furniture making, cabinetry, countertop, and other industrial design applications.
For smaller art-related projects, a smaller router may be more practical. Dremel makes a router attachment and a variety of routing bits that are easy and effective to use on such projects. Most Dremels that are purchased brand new include a router attachment and a routing bit, but if yours didn't come with one or you don't have it anymore, you can find them on eBay for just a few bucks.
I highly recommend using only bits that are intended for use with the router attachment. Always follow directions included with your particular Dremel model.
What Can You Do With a Router?
Routers are used industrially for all sorts of practical designs such as the indentations on countertops, in cabinetry, and in the production of furniture. By using specific router bits you can create all sorts of different edges, grooves, and shapes on the surface of wood. The chart above shows some of the various shapes that can be achieved with some of the various routing bits on the market.
I recommend shopping around to find unique bits and experimenting with them on scrap material until you find the ones that work best for your particular project. Routers can also be used to clear out a fairly large section of wood, without cutting completely through the surface.
This is useful to create three-dimensional layers in the depth of the wood. This can be a very useful technique to utilize in producing a relief-type carving on the surface of a flat piece of wood. Be creative, experiment, and find new alternative ways for this tool to benefit your unique art-making process.
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How to Use a Router
Using the router attachment is fairly easy, but it requires a great deal of practice before you can expect to achieve really precise results. I recommend using the router only on flat surfaces and not for freeform carving. The attachment simply screws onto to tip of your Dremel, and the bits are held in the rotating chuck, just like any other bit.
Routing bits are made at a very specific length to correlate with the measurements on the plastic routing attachment, so it is very important that you let the routing bit slide all the way to the back of the chuck before tightening and use. Using either the "mm" or "in" guides on the attachment, you can adjust the depth on the Dremel router attachment and take as little as 1/16" to an entire 1" off of your surface.
Tips and Tricks
- Routing a straight line: In order to achieve a perfectly straight line with the router, I recommend pulling your Dremel router along a solid straight edge, such as a 2"x4" board, which has been securely clamped down onto your surface. Never force the Dremel, hold it steady along your straight edge, and let it work its way through the material.
- Routing a circle: Use Dremels circle cutting attachment in conjunction with your router attachment to gouge out perfect circles on the surface of your project.
- Routing out a large space: Whenever you are trying to clear a larger space on the surface of your material, always start from the outside edge and work your way in towards the center. The reason for this is that you will need at least some edge for the router attachment to rest on, or you will risk cutting all the way through the surface. Keeping this in mind, first cut multiple verticle grid lines about 1/4" apart, then start making crossing horizontal lines (remember to work from the outer edge in toward the center), and you should start to pull little square chunks of wood off of the surface. Work nice and slow, let the tool do its work, and you should be able to clear a large section of surface fairly easily.
- BE CAREFUL WITH YOUR DEPTH! If you cut away too much wood, you are going to jeopardize the stability of your materials. This is okay within a certain limit, but if you push it too far, your project can become extremely vulnerable or may even simply break. I think a safe rule of thumb is to NEVER cut deeper than halfway; for example, never cut more than 1/2" deep on a board with a depth of 1" or 1/4" on a board with a depth of 1/2" etc. Some materials are stronger than others, so this rule can be somewhat flexible. Experiment with scraps, get to know your materials, and make decisions accordingly.
Marie on November 01, 2017:
Thank you so very much for your help! I'm refurbishing a 110 years old trunk and i REALLY needed this!
I do have a question though i can't seem to find saw bits any where they do have them right?
Thank you again !
Ampie on February 16, 2016:
How to get a v groove in the sentre of the wood