What Does A Wood Router Do? – All You Need To Know

Since ancient times, woodworkers have been using various handheld tools to create boxes, drawers and finished edges using wood. The emergence of power tools caused a revolution in woodworking, and accomplishing various processes became almost effortless.

One of the most common and useful tools in the market is a wood router. A wood router is typically used to cut and finish wooden products, creating features such as dadoes, boxes, rabbet cuts and inlay banding among others.

So, what does a wood router do? In order to fully understand how it works and what it does, it’s important to explore its features.


What is a wood router?

Wood routers have been around for several decades. They first emerged as hand-powered tools that featured a wide base with a narrow protruding blade. They have gradually evolved into modern electronically-powered tools that now come in different forms including plunge, D-handled and double-knob.

What Does A Wood Router Do Image 1

Makita RP1110C Router in action by Mark Hunter, CC BY 2.0 | Cropped

Modern wood routers use electric-powered spindles featuring a flat base and a protruding rotating shaft at the bottom. Many of the latest wood routers utilize CNC (computer numerical control) to achieve a level of cutting precision and accuracy that has never been seen before.


What can you do with a wood router?

Routers have been used in woodworking to produce various cuts, finishes, holes and shapes. Routing is basically a high speed process that involves cutting, shaping and trimming wood; it’s ideal for finishing edges and creating different shapes.

It really is unbelievable what can be achieved with wood routers. Simply take a look at some of the furniture in your house like picture frames, desks, kitchen cabinets, edges and doors; you can bet all of them have passed through a wood router!

Having a wood router on hand can certainly help you bring many of your DIY home improvement ideas to life. Here is a brief list of things you can make using this power tool:

1. Boxes and drawers

Since the tools of traditional woodworkers couldn’t make modern cuts and edges, they made drawers and boxes from single-piece wood chunks.

With a wood router, you can make boxes with squeezed sides and joints with hardly any trouble at all. Simple run the grain from side to side to the bottom and press the sides out for better binding. The router will help you achieve similar edges and shapes so the final result looks both neat and level.

2. Dadoes

Dadoes are commonly used to support cabinet shelves on the side. They are basically flat-bottomed square-walled channels cut across a wood’s grain.

What Does A Wood Router Do Image 2

Through dado on the left and stopped dado on the right | By Woodworking-joint-dado.gif: SilentC derivative work: Zerodamage [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

You should use a single piece of wood that meets the width of the dado so you can cut it in a single slide. They are the simplest shapes to cut using a router, as all you need is one push and the tool will do the rest for you.

3. Shaping Wood Edges

A huge part of the work involved in woodworking is shaping edges. This is for both aesthetic and practical use as the edge will determine how neat (fit) the final piece looks, and also traces how the woodwork is presented.

A router allows you to trim and work the edges to precision so every joint and piece fits perfectly.

4. Cutting Rabbets

Rabbet joints will never cease to exist and are in fact the first joints new carpenters and woodworkers learn. They are neat-edge cuts within a block of wood into which another piece can fit and make a joint.

What Does A Wood Router Do Image 3

Rabbet joint | By The original uploader was SilentC at English Wikipedia [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

They are popular in tables, chairs, cupboards and other large furniture fixtures. Routers can be used to both cut and shape the rabbet to precision.

5. Inlay Banding

Then there’s inlay banding. It’s a common practice for woodworkers to cut shallow mortises on wood and fill them with inlaid veneer strips, wire strands, parquetry patches or even coloured epoxies.

This is precisely the work you want to finish with a wood router, which can help you trim the shallow edges evenly across the wood.

6. Creating Dovetails

There is no doubt that dovetails are a woodworking hallmark. They make joints even more stable. There are three different dovetail joints (sliding, through and half-bling) and only wood routers can produce all three.

What Does A Wood Router Do Image 4

Image by Robert W. Chambers, CC BY-SA 3.0 | Cropped

There are several other trims, cuts and drills you can achieve with the various settings available on a wood router. The outcome you want will dictate how you set up the router.


As I mentioned above, there are various models and designs available in the market, and not all will meet your requirements. When selecting a router, it is important to consider a few aspects starting with what you want to achieve. Here are a few tips:

Note down your requirements.

This has more to do with your work load, materials used and type of cuts and trims you want to achieve. Once you are clear about your needs, you can review existing options and look up customer feedback to determine if a given option is ideal for you.

Consider the router type.

Double-knob handles or plunge? You should be able to choose based on your needs. Take some time to learn the differences between each type of router.

Consider the features and feature quality.

Although routers generally perform the same task, they don’t have the same features, and certainly not all are reliable.

Check out the settings available and features that will help you work comfortably. You can also inquire from the manufacturer whether a given model can achieve specific desired tasks.

Consider the model and retailer reputation.

This can be verified from customer reviews, comments, complaints and testimonials as well as expert reviews. If more people are complaining about a given model or provider, it’s best to avoid them.

Compare prices.

This should come after reviewing all the other aspects, and is the last step of purchasing any product. Compare the best offers in the market and find your competitive affordability.


Final thoughts…

Wood routers, particularly CNC routers (you can see my article on cheap CNC routers here), are tremendously useful tools when it comes to cutting and finishing wood. They can produce various cuts, holes, finishes and shapes that turn good woodwork into amazing woodwork.

Now, are you looking for a quality wood router for use on your DIY projects? If you landed on this page, chances are your answer to that question is yes.

Well, I’ve got you covered. You can actually gain instant access to a step-by-step guide on how to build your own CNC wood router for a tiny fraction of the cost of a professional CNC woodcarving machine (which, as you may know, can be outrageously expensive). This includes:

  • a step-by-step instruction manual on how to build your own CNC router
  • blueprints and template illustrations for drilling holes
  • video tutorial showing you how to put together the tool from parts you can easily find in hardware stores

I picked up this program quite a while ago and was able to put together the machine for less than $300! Now I have my own homemade CNC wood router on hand that I’m using to turn my dream woodworking projects into reality.

For more information on how you can gain access to this guide, go here! Alternatively, you can read my full review of the program.

Thanks for reading this content. If you have any questions, feedback or comments, drop them in the comments! Feel free to share the article if you liked it using the buttons below.

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4 Responses

  1. Jack says:

    nice job Scott. I have a wood router at home, and I must say, it’s the best investment I ever made — you just can’t beat the accuracy and professional look!!

  2. Salenck says:

    What’s the difference between a cnc router and cnc miller?

    • Scott says:

      There are many differences; I’ll get into some of them here. First, a CNC router is meant for soft materials like wood, foam and plastic, all of which take less time and effort to handle. Routers are good for non-industrial jobs. Millers, on the other hand, are meant to work with harder materials like metals and are suitable for more involved jobs. Another difference is that on a typical CNC router, the work is stationary and the spindle head moves in the x, y and z, while on a CNC miller, the work moves in the x/y and the spindle-head moves in the z (up and down). CNC routers cut at a much faster RPM than millers.

      These are some of the main differences. Hope this helps!

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