The best kept secrets of the wood working trade ... router accessories.
When I first started my woodworking, I focused on buying the tools themselves. My first purchase was a wood router. I remember taking it out of the box with such huge excitement. I had images dancing in my head of all the soon to come woodworking masterpieces. Since that time, I did create some beautiful woodwork. But it took me time to build my skills and learn the "secrets" that make the work easier and more fun.
The one best secret I learned is to use router accessories (such as a bit extender). I can't tell you how much time and frustration this has saved me over the years. Case in point, changing router bits. Soon after beginning to use my first router, I quickly found out what a chore changing a bit can be without some time saving tricks. I was having a lot of fun making the cuts, but the fun would get interrupted when I had to change a bit, adjust the cutting height, make some test cuts, etc. This process took a long time, time I felt could be better spent.
So, I investigated and found that I could reduce my bit changing time by using a bit extender. This did a couple of things. First, it let me use one hand to loosen the the bit. This was quick and it freed my other hand to grab the replacement bit. Second, the extender increased the cutting height range of my bit. Many times I could find no way to raise the bit high enough to make a cut I wanted. I would have to stop and figure out a way to do it. Very often, the solution involved removing my router from the table. Talk about wasting time!
Surprise yourself with huge gains in productivity and safety when you use the correct router accessories for the job.
You may find that a good dove tail jig (such as a Porter-Cable 4210 12" Dovetail Jig) will become an indispensable addition to your wood router accessory inventory. It takes a bit of getting used to. But, once you figure out how to use one, you will see how it greatly increases the speed with which you construct corner joints. But that's just the start. Dove tail joints are both super strong and long lasting. Plus, they look excellent when done correctly, especially when you use two different color woods.
Reduce set up time with a non-slip router mat.
I've found that many woodworkers over look the simple but powerful accessories. For example, a non-slip router mat is a cheap, but effective way to reduce setup time. Without a non-slip mat, I must clamp down my work piece to keep it from sliding as I apply the router. With the mat, I just put the piece down and cut away. At times I may still need to clamp a piece, but I always save time when I can just use the mat.
Another often overlooked accessory is the bit holder. I used to keep all my router bits in a box tucked away in a drawer. I also used to find myself searching through that box of bits to find the one I needed at the moment. Then I got a bit holder that I mounted on the wall over my router table. Now, I keep the bits I use the most in holder. I simply look up and (90% of the time) the bit I want is right there. Very nice!
Try some new router accessories, you will like the result!
In closing, I'd like to say, "Be aware of your frustration level". If you feel the least bit frustrated, stop and ask yourself, "How can I do this smarter?" When I do this, I invariably stop and investigate to see if there is some accessory, jig, tool, or technique that will make the job at hand easier. Most times, I find an answer that works. Sometimes the answer lies in a simple and inexpensive accessory. Other times, the accessory costs a bit more, but the increase in productivity I see far outweighs the cost.
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