Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Fun With Routers

I finally broke out my router and made some shelves, and it was a lot easier than I thought it would be. N has some cubicle-like shelves that he keeps his clothes in, and it actually works out nicely, except that their are like Ikea specials, and eventually all that stuff starts to fall apart. R asked me to make something more sturdy, and I figured it was a good time to break out the router. I’d never used until now.

I learned a thing or two about using it, and for that matter, making the shelves. In the past, making shelves was pretty easy. You just line of the boards perpendicular to one another and screw fasten them with screws. It doesn’t look perfect, but it definitely looks good enough, and the screws hold the unit together nicely.

Now when you really get into making shelves, you use a router and fit the boards together into the groove. In an ideal world, you don’t even need to screw the boards in, eliminating unsightly screw holes in the side of the unit, or the need to fill them in with filler or plugs. Just some wood glue and maybe some finishing nails and you’re in business. The other problem you run into is when two shelves meet at the same point, whereby you can’t drive two screws in both directions. This may be hard to envision, but suffice it to say that without that groove to hold the shelf in, you can’t put dividers between the two outer shelves unless you stagger the pieces, allowing for attachment with screws or nails.
My plan was as follows: attach the shelves to the outer boards with screws, counter-sink the holes (listen to me) and fill them in with plugs, and then glue the shelves to the middle divider. Of course, I ran into problems at every step of the way, but man was it a learning experience. First off, counter sinking the holes has never worked out for me. I realize I’m a novice here, but the holes always get shredded and it makes more of a mess than it’s worth. Plus, the plugs never fit in properly, and it looks bad. I found it much better to just drive the screws in deep, and fill with filler.

The second thing I found was that I could actually screw in one side of the middle divider, and then glue in the other side. This would make it much more sturdy, not to mention easier to make. I also realized that to glue the shelves in properly, you need something to bind the pieces of wood together tightly, and even draw them together. That’s the funny thing about wood, the lines usually don’t perfectly match, but it’s somewhat malleable, so you can force things into place. I found the shelves didn’t always fit in perfectly into the groove, and I wasn’t able to force it in with my hands. However, with the use of a clamp that I could tighten, I could force the pieces in place and it would look great.

Anyway, it was a bit of a fiasco, but I came out of it in one piece, and now all I need to do is sand the thing and paint it. I’m rather proud of it, actually, and now feel much more comfortable using the router. I admit I had reservations using a new tool, especially one that has a high speed bit that’s sharp. I had heard that you run into problems with shredding the wood, but nothing a little sand paper can’t fix.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

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