Skill Builder: Router


The goal of this skill builder is to become experienced using the router in conjunction with jigs and guides.  Many shapes can be made using simple straight edges and DIY  jigs.  The circle jig was made from 1/4″ acrylic using the laser cutter.  The file can be found here.

The part we will make.

Wooden shape cut into plywood

Drawing for routed shape

PDF Dimensioned Drawing

Adobe Illustrator File

Document your process on your blog.

How to use the circle jig


What You Will Need

Router and Router Bit
Router circle jig
Circle Jig and Center Pin
Straight edge
Straight Edge/Ruler/Pencil
7/8 Wrench and Lock Pin
C Clamps
2 C-clamps


You will also need some flat sheet stock material.  Something like plywood or MDF.  I recommend 1/2″ thick, but 3/4″ or 1″ thick will do as well.



Always wear goggles or a face shield when using any power tool.  Also wear hearing protection when operating the router.  DO NOT wear gloves while using the router.

Hearing protection and goggles


The Process

The following is the order of operations I took to make the part.  Feel free to change it up, try different material, or even a different shape.  As long as the router is used with the circle jig and straight edges, I’m happy.  Document your process on your blog.


Attaching the Router Bit

Attaching an endmill, or router bit, is something we will be doing a lot of in this class.  No matter the tool, it is essential the same.  The router has a threaded spindle, a collet, and an end nut.  First unplug the router.  Then you insert the router bit into the collet to the proper depth, and tighten the collet nut using the wrench.  For our router, you must lock the spindle with the lock pin before you can tighten with the wrench.  ALWAYS remove the lock pin before turning on the router.

Router colletRouter colletRouter collet with pinRouter collet with pin and wrench

Note: In these images I have removed the base plate to make it easier to see what is going on.

Router bit in collet


Changing the Depth of the Router Bit

The shop’s router can change the depth of a bit by turning the adjustment ring.

Router with height adjustorRouter with height adjustorRouter with height adjustorRouter with height adjustor

Note: In these images I have removed the base plate to make it easier to see what is going on.

Router with height adjustorRouter with height adjustor


Attaching the Circle Cutting Jig

Remove the clear base plate of the router using a flat head screw driver.  DO NOT lose the screws or base plate.

Router with base

Attach the circle jig using the the same 4 screws you just removed.

Router with circle jig

Make sure the screws are tight.  It should look like this when you are done.

Router with circle jig


Preparing the Stock Material

It’s always a good idea to mark you cuts with a pencil line.  Draw the outer cut lines, find the center of the piece, and mark it.  I also made to lines where I should stop my circular cuts.

The piece of plywood I’m using  is from a corner of a full sheet of plywood.  That means that two edges are straight and that one corner is 90 degrees, this is called the factory edge.  If you can find a corner piece of stock material, it will save you a lot of time.

Plywood with pencil marks


Drilling the Hole for Jig Pin

Using a 1/4″ drill bit and the drill press, drill a hole in the center of your material.  Make sure the hole is about 3/4 material thickness deep.  Try not to drill all the way through the material, this will make using the circle jig easier.

Plywood with center hole drilled

You may need to wrap some tape around the pin so it fits snuggly in the hole.

Plywood with center pin


Cutting out the Circular Shape

Make sure the router bit is not initially out past the base plate, place the wooden peg in the 1/4″ center hole, and place the desired hole of the circle jig you wish to use (I’m using the 2nd hole for a 10″ diameter circle).   Spin the router around for a dry run in a counter-clockwise direction.  Make sure there is nothing obstructing the set-up.

Router with circle jig and plywood

Sneak up on your cut.  Make several passes, increasing the depth of the router bit for each pass.  Never extend the router bit out more than half its diameter for a particular pass.  For example, if you are using a 1/4″ diameter router bit, a depth of 1/8″ or less is a proper setting.

Always go counter-clockwise in direction.  Never cut clockwise.

Initial cut of circle jig

Keep extending the router bit for each pass until you are through the material.

Final cut of circle jig


Cutting out the Straight Edges

You will need to determine the distance from the edge of the router base to the inside of the router bit.  As well as the edge of the base to the outside of the bit.

Measuring bit placement

Measuring bit placement

Depending on where you secure your straight edge, you will offset from your cut line by one of these two dimensions.

Mark the wood where you will place the straight edge.

Pencil mark for cut

Place and clamp the straight edge to the wood.

Setting up straight edge

Straight edge clamped in place

You may need other clamps to mount your work to the workbench.  You can also screw it to larger pieces of sacrificial wood.

Make your straight cuts, starting with only a little of the bit exposed.  Remember, sneak up on your cut.  And remove the inside piece when it is cut out.

Plug cut out

Repeat the marking, clamping straight edge, and routing for the additional straight cuts.

Straight edge clamped in place

Straight edge clamped in place

Final piece cut

Make sure to clean up the shop when you are done and return all tools, bits, and attachments to their proper place.



Use the router table to “clean up” the outside edges of the part.