This post was originally published on DIY Network’s blog Made + Remade in April 2015.
As a home improvement enthusiast with a workshop filled to the brim with “toys,” I’m often thrown the question of “What’s your favorite tool?”
New homeowners are always looking to slowly invest in “must have” items to create their own functional workspace. Without undermining the importance and significance of owning things like a cordless drill, a good hammer, and a set of handy pry bars and clamps (all must haves), the palm router is definitely one that I would deem My Favorite Tool.
I realized the power of a router years ago at a time when I was building picture frames for my home and to sell on my Etsy startup. A rabbet bit is pretty much the most important gadget to have if you’re trying to create an inset space in the back of a picture frame – the photo shown below demonstrated how I made a round mirror frame using a cross-cut of store-bought Basswood. The router that I used for those projects was heavier, not a lightweight palm router but instead the kind of tool you needed to use two hands to operate. The switch at the top of the tool, which was always my biggest concern/complaint, because I always had to let go of the handle with one hand while the bit was spinning full speed, in order to kick the power off. In short, it’s a good tool, but better when mounted in a router table (considering how much I love these routers, it’s surprising that I don’t own a table yet).
The palm router is a model that’s easier to hold in one hand, a little smaller than a coffee cup in width, and considerably less intimidating for an everyday DIYer or novice woodworker. Once you get the hang of using it, you’ll find yourself loitering at the hardware store, learning how all of those different router bits work, and scheming applications for which you could use them.
The bits for a router can get pricy (~$15 for a one-off), but they last a good, long while. I haven’t done a lot of highly custom woodworking that would warrant the bits that enable ornate trim and finishing work, but I do have a keyhole bit and a dovetail bit, both of which I promise to master use of someday.
There are three types of bits that I get a lot of use out of, and if you’re lucky like me, you’ll probably be able to find small kits including these popular bits at a lower price point (think, 3-5 bits for <$30).
Infinitely handy. They come in a variety of sizes/diameters, and are great to use with a guide on your router for creating long dados in a board (takes the place of a table saw). I used these bits to create in a creative way when I made a wood block stamp.
As previously mentioned, rabbet bits were really great for me when I made custom picture frames. They would also come in handy if you were installing a wooden paneled wall, and wanted to notch out the edges of the boards for DIY shiplap.
I used a 3/8″ roundover bit when I rounded off the boards used in my closet makeover project. The set I own came with a 1/4″ roundover, 3/8″ roundover,and 1/2″ roundover, which pretty much serves every board rounding need I can imagine, making all of the projects feel very professionally manufactured. It sure beats rounding squared edges smooth with sandpaper!
Passing on the baton: What’s YOUR favorite tool?