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Router Boss 2

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Frank Mutchler is an early adopter of one of the first Router Boss machines and he has kindly taken the trouble to send me his first impressions for us all to share.

So over to you Frank............

The Inevitable Comparisons

<Rant> It’s impossible for me to comment on the Router Boss® (RB) without comparing it to the WoodRat® (‘Rat).  There are definite similarities as well as profound differences.  I purchased my ‘Rat about 5 or 6 years ago and it’s been a love/hate relationship until just recently when I filed for divorce…my first! 

 

In my mind, the three most glaring deficiencies of the ‘Rat are the lack of squareness of the channel,( or box beam as RB refers to it), the slop between the sliding bar and the channel (rattle), and an unnecessarily complex procedure for cutting dovetail joints.  Pursuing the divorce analogy, you might say we have irreconcilable differences.

 

The lack of squareness between the face of the ‘Rat channel and the underside of the base plate necessitated the use of paper shims or the like to square the base plate to the channel. * All well and good until you decide to add the riser block to increase the  depth of cut and, voila, you get to fiddle with the shims all over again.  Oh well, small price to pay for such versatility in a single tool….right??

* In all fairness to WoodRat, the revised WR900 channel is very square plus my older version does not have any problems. Aldel 

 

The sloppy fit of the sliding bar to the channel of the ‘Rat was an equally abrasive irritant to me and one of the main reasons I discontinued using the ‘Rat.  Despite all sorts of workarounds, which by the way made for fascinating reading on the various forums, the production of sloppy joints due to lousy tolerances in an expensive tool was extremely frustrating.   Using the ‘Rat with these limitations reminded me of keeping track of a naughty child.  They might do what you want if you’re willing to watch every moment and resort to extraordinary measures but you’d better not trust them to behave on their own.  The uniqueness of the tool and its potential versatility have now faded behind dark clouds of frustration &……is that anger??

 

Then we have ‘the button’; brother to ‘the mark’, cousin to ‘the box’,  & etc.   The button had to be set just so using extremely hard to see tiny lines.  The button experience is followed closely on by the dance of the spirals.  I don’t dance too well, never have, and alas poor Spirals, we danced but once.  I resorted to a bevel gauge, never to dance again.    Finally, you begin to sense that dovetails are but a few moments away.  Wrong, yet again.

 

You now discover that you will have to reposition the base plate….full forward, or was it full back, or will we need the centre slot??  Having figured out which way to move it, you now have to reset those fiddly paper shims that managed to drop off the ‘Rat and land amid the dust & chips.  It was at this point that I recall uttering various unkind words, swearing to fiddle no more, grabbing  my Akeda and quickly popping out the desired joints.  No, the joints didn’t look handmade but they did look done! And done quickly!  And done easily!

 

 

For better or worse, the powers that be at ‘Rat chose not to correct these flaws, relying rather on extolling the Zen like experience of working with the ‘Rat and advocating the use of creative workarounds unselfishly offered by very clever, if not very savvy, purchasers.  Well I, for one, intensely dislike having to compensate for manufacturing cost cutting measures that result in a second rate expensive piece of tooling which naïve (speaking of myself) people blindly purchase.  I also resent being subjected to an attitude of ‘if my way is not the only way it is certainly the best way’.   I’ll only accept that kind of talk coming down from Sinai.   

 

Unfortunately, these as well as other negatives tend to obscure the unique and very creative concepts the ‘Rat embodies; some well executed, critical others not so well done at all.

 

The design of the RB, in contrast, includes fundamental and innovative changes that solidly address not only the above mentioned shortcoming but also many others.  </Rant>


How Router Boss Shakes  The ‘rattle’

 After mounting the RB on the wall, I checked for play or ‘rattle’ in the sliding bar.  To my initial chagrin, there was definitely ‘rattle’ present right out of the box.  Deja vu, all over again!  Not quite so fast here, Sherlock.  The RB includes the ability to completely eliminate all unwanted slop or ‘rattle’ between the sliding bar and the box beam. 

 

In approaching the problem, the RB engineers used a completely different method of positioning the sliding bar within the box beam; steel v-guides that ride in UHMW v-grooves.  While the fit between the slider and the box beam is infinitely adjustable, there are no instructions provided by RB concerning this adjustment.  Accordingly, I would like to offer the following as it has proven successful for me.

Crank the slider all the way to one side and spray a Teflon dry wax lube in the exposed upper linear bearing track.  Then crank the slider all the way to the opposite side and spray the same lube in the newly exposed bearing track. 

lubing the bearing track

 Lubricating the upper linear bearing track.

 

Next, refer to the photo lower left and loosen the four retaining screws that secure the upper linear bearing to the box beam.  Don’t remove the screws, just loosen them.  The photo shows a T handled allen wrench inserted into one of the retaining screws. 

Now, refer to the photo lower right and carefully snug up the linear bearing adjustment set screws.  There are 3 of them; one each at the top left, top centre, and top right of the box beam. The photo shows the Router Boss allen wrench inserted into the right most set screw.  Do  not overly tighten the small set screws, simply snug them up.  After snugging all three set screws, loosen each one a quarter turn.  That is an arbitrary amount that I found worked just fine on my Router Boss.

loosen screws 

 

 Loosen the retaining screws.

 

 

 adjust set screws

 

 

Adjust the set screws.

Lastly, after traversing the slider fully one way and then the other to insure ease of movement, you can centre the slider in the box beam and proceed to securely retighten the upper linear bearing retaining screws.   At this point, there should be no perceptible movement of the sliding bar when you grip it on each end using both hands to attempt to twist/rock it.  You will find this feature a God-send if you have struggled with the ‘rattle’ of the ‘Rat.  Absolutely no ‘rattle’ with the RB.  Can you believe it?  Should the ‘rattle demon’ ever rear its ugly head in the distant future, you can easily vanquish it by repeating these simple steps.


 

A Square Box Beam

 

A second 21st century design feature of the RB is that the box beam was manufactured with its top surface square to its face.  This essential feature was not incorporated into the ‘Rat.  A reason given on the ‘Rat forum stated that it would be too expensive to have the channel top manufactured square to its face.  This cost savings measure has led to all manner of frustration for me.

 

Thankfully, the RB engineers wisely considered it crucial to the success of their product.  The benefit of having the box beam faces square to one another becomes apparent when mounting both the fixed fence and the massive aluminium base plate. 

Mounting The Fixed Fence

 

Let’s get the fixed fence mounted.  Using some spray glue you can quickly apply a piece of fine sandpaper to the face of the fixed fence and trim it nicely using a shop knife.  You will be pleasantly surprised to find that the fixed fence is easily squared to the box beam.

 

Four screws capable of being used to mount the fixed fence were supplied with my RB.  Two of the screws were about ¼” shorter than the other two.  I had a 50/50 chance of picking the right two and naturally, I chose the wrong screws.  The two long screws I used to attach the fixed fence to the box beam interfered with the travel of the slider and prevented it from traversing more than about 17” to the right.  After using the shorter screws, full travel was restored.  So, use the short screws for the fence and the long screws for the massive base plate.

fixed fence

Sand Paper applied. Fence squared.

 

Mounting The Base Plate—The Massive One!

 

O.K., making progress now!  The two long screws nestled nicely in their counter sunk holes and securely held the massive aluminium base plate to the box beam.  That massive aluminium base plate is extremely reassuring when you hang a heavy router off the end of it.  Absolutely no perceptible sag whatsoever.  If you’ve purchased the optional aluminium guide rails, the cap head screw is used to install them to the base plate.  If you’re using the plastic guide rails with the flexible wings, go ahead and install the two cap screws into the rear of the base plate.  Did I mention that the aluminium base plate is massive?

 Mounting the base plate

 

 

 Two long screws to mount the base.

 

 

Time for excited discovery number 5 or is it 8??  Unlike my experience with the ‘Rat, I found the base plate, the massive aluminium one, was dead square to the box beam.  Sounds of joy rang throughout my garage.  If you’ve not experienced the frustration related earlier in this article, you will not understand this at all.  The RB team is to be commended for their attention to engineering detail.  Quite refreshing!  No need for makeshift paper shims to try and square things up. 

base plate 1

Squaring the Base Plate to the Box Beam 1

If you don’t understand the importance of this, imagine cutting a dado across the face of an 8” board and the dado ends up being 1/16” more shallow at one end than the other because the under-side of the base plate was not square to the face of the box beam.  You should never experience this with the RB.

Base plate 2

Squaring the Base Plate to the Box Beam 2

 

The Importance Of Being Centred…..It’s A Zen Thing!

The router base plate includes an embedded combination laser and LED light.  The former is used as a centre finder and the later illuminates the bit and the work piece.  Very nice.   Prior to mounting the router, you will want to zero the laser with the centre point of your bit. 

Laser

Here’s a photo of the laser showing the dot in the paper made by my centring bit.  Centring my bit to the laser required a slight movement of my router base plate; about 1/32”.  It was almost dead on out of the box.  I’m not used to this at all….tight tolerances in a mass produced item?? 

Following the instructions,  I placed the router on a piece of white paper which I had laid out on my jointer bed.  However, I did it in such a way that one of the base plate locking screws was exposed over the edge of the jointer bed.  After lining the bit up with the laser, I firmly tightened the exposed screw and then carefully turned the router over and tightened the second screw.  By being able to tighten one of the screws prior to moving the router I was able to keep the base plate from moving when I turned the router upside down to tighten the remaining screw.  I then replaced the router on the white paper, lowered the bit to make a tiny hole and turned on the laser.  The above photo is what I saw.

 

Mounting The Router

Things are going much too well….I’m expecting disappointment at any moment now. 

I loosely mounted the fixed guide rails to that massive aluminium base plate.  Next I slid the router between the guide rails and squared one of the rails to the MABP (massive aluminium base plate) while simultaneously snugging it against the router base plate to eliminate all play.  I excitedly repeated the drill for the second rail and quickly pulled the router toward me to test it out. 

It descended on me like a fox on a hapless chicken.  My earlier premonitions of pending disappointment  instantly bore fruit as the router jammed and juddered between the guide rails. 

But wait……….Teflon dry wax lube to the rescue.  Just as it had worked so well on the linear bearings it performed its magic on the router guide rails.  The router slid between those rails as slickly as castor oil down a kid's gullet!  I had effortless movement of the router with no perceptible play at all.  Surely I must have stumbled into router Nirvana!

Squaring the guide

Squaring the Fixed Guide to the Base Plate

Lubricating the Router Guide Rail

Lubricating the Guide Rail

Tossing the ‘T’…..The Vertical ’T’ Post, that is

 

I found the vertical ‘T’ post in front of the router to be a nuisance.  I think it makes changing router bits extremely difficult and so I chose not install it.  If I decide to use it, I will modify it so that it can be easily lifted off or popped back on…..no threads.

 

The Plunge Bar

 

Screws are not supplied to attach the plunge bar to the router and so you must use the factory screws that were used to mount the hand grips to your router.  My router is a DeWalt DW625.  Unfortunately, I had mistakenly shipped my screws when I sold my ‘Rat and so I purchased two replacements from a Big Box store for $1.60.  They were 8 X 1.25 metric screws.   The plunge bar works very smoothly and does not intrude into the work space.  I much prefer it to the ‘Rat version.

 

Well, that’s it.  I’m up and running and can concentrate on woodworking instead of implementing clever improvisations in order to cut simple joints. 

 

In conclusion, I see the  ‘Rat as a groundbreaking invention of a gifted man.  The RB, in my opinion, has become what the ‘Rat should have/could have been.  Lewis has successfully combined a mixture of superb, innovative refinements and completely new approaches to router joinery into the RB.  I have found that the RB has totally changed my user experience.  I can unabashedly recommend the RB to anyone with absolutely no caveats.  I certainly can’t say the same for the ‘Rat.  Now, your experience with the ‘Rat may well have been vastly different than mine.  But mine is what it is.

 

 Thanks, Lewis, for taking the time to do it right and for displaying an innovative, creative mind open to constructive change.  We all benefit.

 

Frank Mutchler


Thanks for that Frank. It is reassuring to know that the quality is high. I understand that Lewis has read your comments and is acting upon them right now.

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