Thursday, March 28, 2013

Working in Another's Shop

Last week I had the opportunity to work in my employer's sample shop in Mexico.  The cabinet maker there is truly a master at what he does.  We were working on a prototype design for a new bathroom cabinet and I went down to answer design questions and help out where needed. 
One of the first things I noticed was it is a pain to use a right handed person's shop.  I now understand why some people have a hard time adjusting to my set ups or where items are placed after a machining operation is complete.  However it is good to be one of the elite, so I think I will remain left handed.
There is also a different way to do set ups.  In this shop they measure and cut a part.  If it is correct they nail a stop block to the bench to make the rest of the cuts the same.  I measure from the blade and clamp a stop block to the bench, then start cutting.  When marking parts, they make a template and trace.  I just draw them all out.  Both work.
I also believe that everyone becomes accustomed to a tool and it becomes the go to tool for that individual.  They can do anything with this tool.  For the sample shop I manage, it is the table saw.  They do everything with this machine.  They are also mainly doing sheet good work.  Down in Mexico the tool of choice is the router.  I was amazed at what he could do with the router.  He cut everything from arches to small parts with a tabletop router. My tool of choice has to be the sander.  I am not proficient in any tool so I just keep sanding out the mistakes.  Actually I am decent with the table saw however I want to get more into the band saw and router.  I am starting to play around more with template routing and grooving.  My goal is to try new things and that is how I grow. 
So in the spirit of what I have learned about the router I would like to share a few things that I have learned about routers.
  • Know what you are going to use the router for.  There are a lot of different different routers and options.  I started out with a Craftsman 1/4" collet, stationary base router.  It works fantastic and still use it today.  I started to do more and more furniture and so I wanted to do doors with a cope and stick feature and those bits only came in a 1/2" shaft.  So I tried to use my fathers plunge router.  It is nearly impossible to to adjust the height on a table.  It works great for plunging and cutting grooves but fails where it is not meant to used. So I ended up purchasing my Bosch router with interchangeable bases, one plunge and one fixed.  It also came with a 1/2" and 1/4" collet.  This does not make my Craftsman obsolete.  Now I can do multiple operations without changing set ups.
  • Have an idea of what you want the router to do.  The router is capable for a lot of different operations.  I started out with a lot of profiling and rounding over the edges.  I still do a lot of this however I am branching into the template routing.  Is the router going to be mainly used for door, drawer and box making or profiles, or is it going to be making several parts from a template?  This leads into the next topic of bits. Is the router need to be basic or does it need the horse power to do deep cuts.
  • I purchased a set 20 inexpensive bits.  Do I use them all, no.  there are still some in the protective coating.  I would recommend a cheap set of bits though.  You will burn out the bits and know which ones you should buy better then the cheap versions.  I do a lot of round overs and grooving.  I have a good 1/8" round over and a good set of downward spiral bits.  I was doing a fair amount of doors so I spent the money on a good set of cope and stick router bits.  I am doing more template work so I now have a good flush trim bit with the bearing on the top.  I will probably need more sizes in the future.I will probably also invest in some with the bearing on the bottom.
  • I have played around with the bushing system with the router for template cutting.  I am finding the it is a pain to center the bit in the bushing and then keeping it centered.  I like the flush trim bits better. 
  • If you can afford to buy a lift table for the router, do it.  It makes setups faster, bit changes easier.  Certain lifts only work with certain routers so make sure the router and lift match up. 
  • Table tops are designed around specific routers.  Don't mess with trying to center your router with a generic top, spend the money to get a top that will center your router without you having to drill more holes.
The router is one of the more versatile pieces of equipment.  Use it well. I technically have three routers and use them all.  Two routers are not duplicates

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