Saturday, January 17, 2009

Taming of the Shrill

I finally like my router. I purchased a Craftsman router about six years ago, when I first decided to do get into woodworking.  It’s a one horsepower basic model I purchased for $99.  Norm Abram used it all the time in New Yankee Workshop and I felt I should have one.  I plugged it in, turned it on, and the bit grabbed the wood, shot shavings all over the place as the motor screams to a deafening sound, dust filled the living room and then the smoke alarm went off.  I wrapped up, put it away and rarely used it unless absolutely necessary.

That episode along with my table saw purchase scared me into hand tools.  I am glad because the use of hand tools slowed me down and allowed me to be a better woodworker, being more in tuned with the wood and the cutting process.  But I'm getting older and hand cutting with expensive handsaws is getting old.  I want more efficiency.  Do I want more power?

The power comes from an electric motor. Our shopping culture is obsessed with the “more power” concept.  The manufacturers would gladly take a cheaper weaker ¾ horsepower motor, tweak it to provide maxium power though not efficiently and sell it a 1 horsepower router that screams to the top of it’s lung each time it is turned on.

After hand cutting wood for all these years, I found that my 1/10 horsepower right arm can cut pretty well with a sharp blade.  So I purchased a variable speed router controller hoping this would tame the router.  At $39 this device pulse current to the motor so that it runs slower.   Since it sends pulses of full current like a capacitor and not weakened the current like a resistor, the torque of the motor is not sacrificed.  This little addition tamed my once loud screaming uncontrollable wood burner to a civilized piece of wood sculpting masseur.  Of course I have to make more passes with the router since it takes off less pieces of wood at a time, but I don’t have the loud sounds, I don’t have the pieces of wood shooting across the room, and not cloud of dust that sets off the fire alarm.  I’m beginning to like variable speed power tools.  This will change the way I work.