The router is often the first power tool a novice woodworker buys -- just the tool to put a fancy edge on a bookshelf. But there's much more to the router than a high rpm motor, a collet chuck, and a profile bit. With the right knowledge and fixtures the number of tasks it can perform is virtually endless. The router is truly the Swiss Army Knife of woodworking tools.

The Basics:
• Versatile cuts: From circles to joinery
• Mount it upside-down: Router tables expand a router's utility
• Safety is paramount: Use the proper guards and safety aids

Versatile cuts
Out of the box you can use a router for edge shaping, routing slots for inlay, and trimming laminate. Shaping trim is probably the first and foremost use for the machine, and there is a large and ever-growing selection of router-bit profiles to choose from.

However, it is with the addition of jigs and fixtures that the tool's versatility multiplies. You can add custom baseplates, add pivot mechanisms for circles and curves, and use collars or bearing-guided bits to follow a template or pattern and reproduce the same shape again and again. The router's ability to cut joinery is unparalleled; there are several methods for producing dovetails, mortise-and-tenon joints, edge joints, finger joints, and lap joints. You can rout rabbets, dadoes, grooves, and sliding dovetails.

Mount it upside-down
Mounted upside-down in a router table, the router becomes a miniature shaper for raising panels and joining frames. Router tables are available from commercial tool vendors or can be shopmade. The addition of fences and sliding fixtures to the router table adds more functionality and makes routing easier and safer. Mounted horizontally over a table, a router can become a mortising machine.

Safety is paramount
Yes, the router is a loud, messy little fellow who demands respect for safe usage. However, with the addition of guards, hold-ins, and vacuum attachments, combined with the proper feed direction and light workloads, the router is a safe and undeniably versatile tool.