CARVING WITH ROUTERS

Carving has traditionally been the exclusive domain of artisans wield­ing hand tools. But, armed with a router and one of the jigs shown in this section, you can produce carvings similar to hand-wrought works.

Although most plunge bits can be used in router-caning, some cutters have specific applications. With their capac­ity for removing large quantities of waste, bowl bits, for example, are ideal for relief carving. A V-bit can be used for pro­ducing serifs in lettering, while veining and lettering bits, excel at creating the lines typical of incised letters. It is easi­est to feed the router with a pulling
motion, rather than pushing it along, so set up your operations accordingly.

There are few hard and fast rules in carving, so it is a good idea to practice your cuts on scrap material, particular­ly when you are routing freehand.

ROUTING A FAN CARVING

Making the template

To carve a fan with a laminate trimmer, you need a two-piece |ig consisting of a template and a routing ramp (inset). For the template, use a compass to draw a semicircle of the desired diameter on a piece of ‘/«-inch plywood or hardboard. Draw a sec­ond semicircle from the same center about 1 inch larger than the first Mark lines for the rays of the fan along the larger arc, spac­ing the marks equally. Also mark an area around the arc center;

this will provide a solid bearing for the ramp point. Drill a hole for a scroll saw blade through the waste section of the template and set the stock on the saw table, then slip the blade through the hole and cut away the waste (above). Drill a hole through the template at the pivot hole mark and each ray mark, using a bit of the same diameter as the dowels you will use in the ramp.

2 Making the routing ramp

Cut a l-by-3 wood block a few inches longer than the fan rays you plan to carve. Rout a slot through it; the width of the slot should accommodate the template guide you will use on the laminate trim­mer and the length should equal that of the fan rays. Starting a few inches from one end, bevel both faces of the block on your band saw so that it tapers to a thin wedge. Smooth the cut surfaces on a disk sander (right). To finish preparing the ramp, mark a point on each side of the slot for dowels; the distance between the points should equal the gap between the pivot hole and the ray holes on the tem­plate. Drill the holes and glue a short length of dowel into each one. Trim the dowels flush with the ramp top.

3

Setting up the jig and laminate trimmer

Install a straight bit or core box bit as well as a template guide in a laminate trimmer (above). Then lay the workpiece on your benchtop and clamp the template on top. Set the routing ramp in position, fitting the dowel at its thick end in the pivot hole and the other dowel in the first ray hole.

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4 Routing the first fan ray

Start by holding the laminate trimmer on the thick end of the ramp, tilting the base plate so the bit is clear of the stock. Then turn on the tool and pivot the cutter into the workpiece, butting the template guide at the end of the slot. Once the trimmer base plate is flat on the ramp, feed it down the ramp. Turn off the tool and tilt the base plate off the ramp once the template guide contacts the end of the slot (left).

BOWL-CARVING JIG

Made entirely of ті-inch plywood and a piece of ті-inch clear acrylic, the jig shown at right will enable you to use your router to carve decorative features into faceplate turnings while they are still mounted on your lathe. The jig holds the router upright over the work – piece (below), allowing the tool to pivot into the cut.

Prepare the jig so the base and sub­base are as long as the width of your lathe bed and wide enough to support the router. The sides of the jig should be high enough to hold the tool above the turning when the jig is set on the lathe bed. Starting halfway up the sides, drill a row of aligned holes for machine screws up the center of the boards at 1-inch intervals. Cut the braces and support arms as shown, drill holes through the arms near the

top end, and assemble the jig, fasten­ing the base and braces to the sides and the sub-base to the support arms. The bottom ends of the sides should extend below the base and hug the lathe bed.

To use the jig, set it on the lathe bed so the turning is positioned between the sides and clamp it securely. Attach the router to the sub-base. Then fasten the support arms to the sides with machine screws, washers, and
wing nuts at a height that will enable you to pivot the bit into the stock for the desired cut; leave the wing nuts loose enough for you to swivel the arms. Adjust the bit’s cutting depth.

To space the cuts equally, make index marks on the lathe chuck. Rotate the chuck by hand until one of the marks is at the 12 o’clock posi­tion and tighten a handscrew around the lathe drive shaft to prevent it from rotating. To make the first cut, turn on the router and pivot the arms of the jig to plunge the bit into the stock (above). Turn off the router, remove the handscrew, and rotate the chuck by hand to align the next index mark with the bit, then reinstall the hand­screw. Repeat until all the cuts are done deft).

2 Duplicating the pattern

Turn on the router and grasp the handles adjoining the stylus firmly with both hands. Starting at one corner of the pattern, begin running the stylus slow­ly along the surface; the router bit will make a corresponding cut in the work – piece (above). For best results, move from the high points of the pattern toward the low ones. To copy the pattern exactly, the stylus must cover all the pattern’s surface; you can lift the jig and router off the workpiece periodically (left) to check your progress.

PRINCIPLES OF FREEHAND ROUTING

resent several commonly used freehand router strokes, ranging from straight and diagonal cuts to gentle arcs and long, sinuous curves. The red arrows indicate the direction in which the router will tend to move as you make these cuts. To obtain the cut you want, you will have to counterbalance this tendency with feed pressure. With experience, applying the right amount of pressure

results, always pull the router toward you, rather than pushing the tool into a cut. For deep cuts, it is best to make several inter­mediate passes. To minimize splintering, cut from waste sec­tions toward uncut wood instead of the other way around. And avoid back strain by setting up your work at a comfortable height —which for most people is at the level of the base of the spine.

SAFETY TIPS

• Only use well-sharpened bits, and preferably ones that feature an anti­kickback design (page 25).

• Wear eye and ear protection.

• Avoid working when you are tired or under the influence of alcohol or medication.

• Make several shallow passes to complete a cut, rather than one deep cut.

• Apply adequate pressure to counter the router’s pulling tendency.

• Install the bit in the router so that at least three-quarters of the shaft is in the collet.

• Hook up your router to a dust collec­tion system.

• To avoid sudden distractions, keep pets, children, and onlookers away while you are working.

• Unplug your router whenever you are changing bits.

RELIEF CARVING WITH THE ROUTER

1

Transferring the pattern

Sketch or photocopy your pattern on a piece of paper and affix it to the workpiece (above). If you use a spray adhesive, you will be able to peel the pattern off the surface when the carv­ing is completed.

2

Making and installing an acrylic router sub-base

Replace the standard sub-base on your router with a clear acrylic one; this will enable you to view the cutting action as you rout the pattern. Cut the sub-base from /- or ^-inch – thick acrylic plastic, making the piece as large as necessary to keep the router steady on the workpiece; as a rule of thumb, the sub-base should be twice as wide as the workpiece. Use your standard sub-base as a template for drilling the bit clearance and screw holes through the acrylic, then fasten the sub-base to the router (right).

3

Defining the pattern

Install a small-diameter bit in your router; the cutter in the illustrations on this page is a ‘^-inch veining bit. Starting at one end of the pattern, cut along its edges to remove the waste just outside the marked lines. Work on the outside edges of the pattern, then move on to the waste areas on the inside edges. Keep the sub-base flat on the workpiece throughout the operation (above), guid­ing the router against the direction of bit rotation whenever possible.

4

Routing out the remaining waste

Feed the router in a series of back – and-forth, side-to-side passes to clear the waste remaining around the pattern. By varying the router’s feed direction, you can impart a hand-carved texture to the workpiece (left). Use a chisel, if neces­sary. to remove waste from tight spots.

* 1

Outlining the letter patterns

Clamp your stock to a work surface and mark two parallel lines along the surface, spaced to equal the desired height of your letters. Then use a pencil to outline the letters on the surface. You can either sketch the letters freehand (above) or trace them from a pattern; for an elegant, traditional look, you

can reproduce the old English letters shown below. Try to match the width of the letters’ strokes to the diameter of the bit you will be using. To produce a traceable pattern of the appropriate size, use a photocopier with an enlargement fea­ture; then, secure the finished pattern to the workpiece.

2 Making the straight cuts

Install a 60° V – bit in a laminate trim­mer, set a shallow cutting depth, and start by routing the letters’ straight elements; leave the serifs, or tail-like strokes on the top and bottom ends of the letters, for later (step 3). Use a T-square jig to guide each cut; align the bit with the outline and butt the arm of the jig against the edge of the workpiece with the fence on the top surface and flush against the trimmer’s base plate. Holding the jig in place, turn on the tool, plunge the bit into the stock at the beginning of the straight portion, and cut along it, pulling the trim­mer toward you. Hold the base plate flat on the. workpiece and flush against the edge guide throughout (right).

3

Routing the serifs

Before adding the serifs to the letters, practice making the curved cuts in a piece of scrap wood (inset). Cut the serifs by start­ing at their deeper, wider ends. Plunge the bit into the stock, rout the pattern, and slowly withdraw the bit from the wood while feeding the tool along the surface; this action will produce the narrow tail of the serif. Once you are satisfied with your serif-making abilities, add this detail to your letters (left).

2

Assembling the fence

Attach the fence base and upright together with glue and screws, using a try square to keep the pieces at right angles. Next, attach the supports in place (right)-, they will help ensure that the base and upright remain perpendicular to each other. Position the supports adjoining the fence opening to accommodate any dust extraction hood you plan to install on the fence (page 50).

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