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Newbie Tips

Things to consider

 So, you have purchased a new WoodRat then? Congratulations!! In the forums (fora?) there are a number of perennial questions that are asked and so I have written a few pointers that I have gained over the years. Nothing here is in any logical order but may answer a few of your queries.

The Router.

You have made a hefty capital outlay on the machine so it would be a pity to spoil it for the sake of a good router. It does not have to be a 1/2" capacity router but if you purchase a smaller one ensuring that it will take both 1/4" and 8mm collets would be very wise. You can more or less use any router and if you only have a budget one of the typical Elu clones then you can get by in the short term. Things to look out for are play in the bearings, slack in the plunge post bushes,  poor switch positions and insufficient plunge depth. The power output is of less concern as I have managed with an Elu MOF96E 900w for years. (out of production now). Any play or slack will mean that consistent accuracy will be near impossible.

The router plate comes pre-drilled for DeWalt  fixing screw spacing and some other makes will fit directly. This makes life easy but if you have to drill to some other spacing remember that central East/West positioning is critical but North/South isn't.

I now have three DeWalt routers and the concentricity of the shaft to base centre and guide bush leaves something to be desired so even good makes are not perfect.

WoodRat seem to favour the DeWalt 625 1/2" and I also use one now. This takes any router bit, has plenty of power, reasonable plunge depth (model version 3), easy switch operation,  good depth lock etc. There are a number of very similar models to this router. Trend T11 or CMT1850 for example. I do have a personal preference for lighter models but the 625 is universal and takes a great many of the  available accessories on and off the 'Rat. One thing though, the 1/2" models are heavy and it is advisable to use the alloy guide rails which give stiffness to the plate.

There are of course plenty of other makes that are perfectly suitable so please send any information to be included on the router feed back page. If you can, choose one of the better names for the sake of reliability and long life. I strongly advise you to visit WoodRat's website to ensure that a Plunge Bar is available. Having one fitted makes life so much easier. The big Triton is an exception as it works without the need for bars but is a bit hefty with a large base footprint. It has to be fitted further back on the plate otherwise it obscures the scales. If you are lucky enough to own a Festool (who have their own ideas) then it can still be used. Find Rolf's link on the links page. The popular American fixed base routers are not suitable: it must be a plunge router.

Router Bits

Buying quality bits pays dividends. If starting from new, you will not go wrong if you purchase the high-speed steel sets from either WoodRat or the Craftsman Gallery. These bits are longer and are suitable to get you started and for serious work. Use them to produce a wide variety joints. They can of course be sharpened with one of the 'credit card' diamond  stones but will quickly blunt if used on abrasive woods i.e. teak or iroko or man made boards like MDF. Tungsten carbide tipped bits are needed for those materials. Bits designed to be used on the Leigh Jig have long shanks and are excellent to use on the 'Rat too. Smaller diameter ovolo bits etc are fine but large bits are best reserved for use on a router table. Don't forget! You can make a router table with a WoodRat but you can't make a WoodRat with a router table. 1/2 inch shank bits are the strongest and in an ideal world are the ones to go for. I advise 8mm shafts as this will maximise the portability between different size routers and still give good strength. The majority of 1/2" routers are sold with 8mm sleeve adaptors which can be used to slightly increase depth of cut. This is a controversial subject, so just be sensible and safety conscious. If you can, build a stock of spiral bits, both up and down cut. Nothing beats 'em for cutting slots and mortises.

Just a note: One common error is to assume that the bit diameter is precisely that specified. I.E. a 6mm diameter etc bit is rarely spot on, as  there is always a manufacturers tolerance and will be + or- a tiny amount. That tiny amount can compound into a few millimetres over repetitive cuts such as finger joints in wide boards.

Mounting

The WoodRat is designed for and is best mounted on the wall but by virtue of its' design is easily de-mountable and set on a plywood board held in a strong vise or such like. The only real disadvantage of board mounting is that you have to find somewhere to to store it when not required. The Craftsman Gallery mounting plates make for quick and easy set up. I have mine mounted with the plate at elbow height. This allows me to have good posture and good vision of the bit. The carriage of mine extends 21 inches to the right and 17 inches to the left. This in theory means a space of 74 inches ideally but I never use that amount. In practise I need very little to the left and rarely more than 16 inches to the right.

Set up

The kit arrives, and you pull it of the box, read the manual and make and fix the mount so you are all set to go. No, no!! I assume that you have your router fixed to the plate and everything screwed together and you can't wait to make some test cuts. Well it is very important to set things square first. Adjust the fences to 90 degrees to the top of the channel. Loosen the fixing bolts and set the plate edges square to the face. Finally ensure that the underside of the plate is square to the face. If it isn't use paper, card or plastic shims under the relevant edge until it is.

Now you are ready to make your first test cuts!

Lighting

My eyesight is not now as good as it used to be and I find one of those small and cheap adjustable halogen lights a huge benefit. They cost very little and are a available in most of the DIY sheds.

Lines

Forget using a woodworkers pencil on the 'Rat. To get into the corners of dovetails etc a very fine "clutch propelling pencil" is best. Whilst at the stationers buy a couple of soft erasers. One is to replace the other which always gets mislaid. They are to remove the pencil "marks" on the channel. Occasionally I resort to some PVC window cleaning polish to remove those stubborn marks.

Lubricant

Silicone lubricant on the channel works but will play havoc with certain finishes if it gets on your work. Dry PTFE spray is a much better option.

'Rat or Table?

I use both. For an interesting discussion go  here

Rubber Mat

Always keep a rubber mat under your WoodRat. Saves any damage to dropped router bits. (sooner or later you will drop one!)

Thanks Al

Continuing..................


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