One common use of the router table is in the making of all types of molding, both for furniture and for architectural use. Not only does the router table do this job better than historical methods (planes), it also allows you to mill an infinite variety of profiles in just about any type of wood. A top-rated router table can do amazing jobs in your workshop.
Commercial moldings are very expensive, yet moldings can be made most economically on the router table. I milled all of the moldings for our home and saved myself a lot of money. I also had the opportunity to create complicated moldings that would have been difficult to obtain commercially.
Until quite recently there were few choices if you needed some special moldings for your project. You could use a shaper and expensive cutters to make your molding, use a series of hand planes to arrive at the profile you might need or buy ready-made molding close to the shape you wanted. Now a nearly unlimited supply of molding profiles is available from your router. Just about any source, you’ll find for router bits will have a selection of profiles that will give your projects exactly the effect you need. In my own work with moldings, I’ve found the following types of cutters very useful.
Make molding on a router table
Face molding bits are available in many sizes and shapes, including classical molding bits. They shape all or part of the face of the stock into some of the most frequently used profiles in woodworking. They come in handy for room trim and furniture.
Molding systems are sets of bits designed to produce an almost limitless variety of molding shapes. These often lack guide bearings and are intended for use only on router tables.
Accurately dimensioned stock is essential for making moldings on the router table. When smaller sections are ripped from a larger plank, they often twist somewhat. Milling moldings require plenty of featherboards to lock work down securely on the table and against the fence. If the stock is a little bowed and/or twisted, the featherboards will flatten it as it passes by the cutter. The fence opening should also match the bit profile as closely as possible. Use a zero-clearance fence in difficult work such as curly figured woods or milling against the grain.
For moldings of a larger section, bow can also be a problem. It is generally best to run the stock with the bow down so that the work cannot be forced up off of the bit and to use shorter infeed and outfeed tables. For this reason, it is sometimes better to run the work across, rather than the length of, the typical center-mounted router table. With an offset router, you can run the stock in the normal manner. Any residual twist and bow can be pressed out when the completed molding is applied to to the finished work.
It is good shop practice to relieve the back of wide moldings so they will naturally sit flat on uneven surfaces. This can usually be done most effectively with a rabbeting bit or a large diameter (5/8-in. or greater) straight bit. Typical relief is between Vs in. and 1,14 in. deep. If you are using a rabbeting bit, you have to set the bit to less than the distance afforded by the pilot bearing. Relieving the back requires an additional setup and pass on the router table, but is well worth the effort, especially on architectural moldings.
Stock Preparation to make molding on a router table
If you wish to make moldings, you must begin with stock that is square and of consistent cross section. The stock of inconsistent thickness and width will be difficult to feed smoothly past the featherboards, and a poor surface finish will be the result. You can prepare your stock yourself or buy a stock that has been surfaced at the lumberyard.
To prepare your own stock for moldings, start with straightgrained stock and joint it to establish a true face and edge. Then rip it to a slightly oversize cross-section, and use a thickness planer to bring the section to exact size. The result is high-quality material that will feed well and yield first-rate molding.
If you buy your lumber in quantity, having it surfaced on two sides (S2S), is often worth the cost, between $80 and $120 per thousand board feet. While the yard is at it, also have one edge “straight-line ripped” with a special saw (stock prepared this way is referred to as S3S). Prices vary greatly but typically having one edge straight-line ripped ranges from nothing to an additional $80 to $120 per thousand board feet. Many lumber dealers stock S3S material. For smaller orders, it is frequently worth the extra cost to get S3S material. If you try to do this work yourself on a small jointer and thickness planer, it will literally take you days to surface and true one edge of a batch of rough boards. You may be spending more in time than you are saving in dollars.
4 Steps to make molding
- The basic setup for making molding includes featherboards to lock work down securely on the table and against the fence and a fence that matches the bit profile as closely as possible.
- Push the workpiece halfway through the cut. In a good setup, the stock can be pushed halfway, then pulled the rest of the way from the outfeed side of the table. Featherboards ensure that there will be no telltale ridge on the workpiece.
- Pull the workpiece through the remainder of the cut. If working alone, you can walk to the outfeed side and pull the work the remaining distance, or a helper (if you have one) can take over at midpoint, leaving you free to fetch the next piece of stock.
- Finish the molding