The router is arguably the most useful tool in woodworking. Despite its simple design the router is a very versatile tool. Most people use a router to cut fancy edges but it can be used for much more than so. Here is a short woodworking router overview.
Nowadays, the word router is associated with the Internet but the woodworking router is much older than the networking router. The first electric router was introduced in 1905. Of course, the router has been improved a lot over the years but it is still a very simple power tool.
Several different types of routers are available. Most routers have a small electric motor, generally in the range from one to three horsepower. The motor spins a bit at a very high speed, typically 20,000 to 30,000 rpm. It is the bit that does the shaping or cutting. By changing the bit, you can create several different kinds of profiles. To be precise, the bit is secured in the collet. The size of collet determines what router bits you can use. The router also has two handles, making it easy to operate the machine.
The two most popular types of router are the fixed based and the plunge base. The fixed base router holds the bit at the same distance from the motor all the time. You set the depth of the cut before you start using the router and the motor will stay at that distance from the wood during the whole cut. A plunge base router on the other hand lets you lower and raise the engine during the cut.
The collet of a router has a similar role as the chuck of a drill, it holds the bit by gripping the shank of the bit. Collets come in different sizes, the most common sizes are quarter inch and half inch. Needless to say, you need to buy the right sized router bits to your router. It is possible to use an adapter, a collet insert, so that you can use quarter inch bits in a half inch router. But you need to be aware that the high speed of the router requires that the bits are perfectly concentric. The slightest imbalance will cause the router to vibrate, making it almost impossible to use. This also means that you need to keep the collet clean, otherwise you will get the same problem.
Router bits are made of HSS, High Speed Steel. Good router bits have carbide tipped cutting edges. The carbide tipped bits are more expensive but they last longer than pure HSS bits. In most cases, it will be cheaper to buy carbide tipped bits, they last much longer so it is worth paying extra for them.