Routing Stiles and Rails

Routing stiles and rails.

I was making some small frame and panel drawer fronts recently. The rails were too small to route using my miter gauge, so I used a clamp to keep my fingers well away from the bit.

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The clamp saved my fingers. The next step was to save the wood.

prevent tear out when routing stiles and rails

In the photo you may be able to see the backing board I used behind the piece I was working on. (It's hard to see because it is a similar color to the router base plate)

I used it to provide a wider surface to run against the fence for added stability. Without it the piece might  rock during the cut and either catch and go flying or ruin the cut.

However, there is another reason to use a backing board and that is to prevent tear out.

If you use a backing board when routing any tear out will be on that, your sacrificial board instead of your carefully cut rail. Tear out happens when you cut across the grain. So for routing the ends of a board I always use a backing board.

To the right you can see the difference between using a backer and not.

The board on the bottom was cut with a backing board, the one on top didn't have one. Notice the nasty tear out on the upper piece (the burn marks are an indication that I need to sharpen my bits. Sharp bits also help prevent tear out.)

zero clearance fence

Another useful tool for routing across the grain (as in routing stiles and rails) is a zero clearance fence. This is a sacrificial board I clamped to the fence of the router table. Then I cut through it with the bit I was using so the opening was the same as the bit profile.

The way I cut the opening was to clamp one side of the fence to the router table, then slowly, with the bit spinning, I angled the fence into the bit.

If your router bit has a bearing, as mine does, then you will need to drill an opening for the bearing or you won't be able to cut all the way through your zero clearance fence. (Notice that I used a backer board on my miter gauge as well).

Here's the finished pile. Stiles, rails and panels ready to be sanded and glued up.

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