machine similar to a stationary spindle moulder or Shaper--
but -- at the spindle, using a much higher rotation speed, to
produce more highly-finished work. Since the 1930s -- the
Stanley-Carter router, discussed below -- a portable
version of this.
versatile power tool, a router can do many woodworking
Because of its high speed -- operating at from 8,000 to 24,000
r.p.m., when it's used with a Router Bit,
especially a Carbide-Tipped router bit, it produces
surface that requires little sanding.
with readily available accessories, and/or home workshop-made
and fixtures, a router is adaptable for many specialized
woodworking operations, including a Power Plane,
a Spindle Shaper, a hinge Mortiser
or as a Dovetail Cutter.
a manual tightly packed with photographic images, colored drawings, and
clear text, the British-based writing team, Albert Jackson and David
power tools are no more than mechanized versions of their
They take much of the graft (sic) out of woodworking, but the business
end of these tools remains much the same -- a saw cut is still a saw
cut, a hole is just hole, and a screw will do its job
whether it is inserted by hand or with a power screwdriver. The
power router, on the other hand, is in a different category.
This is a tool that has revolutionized the home
workshop. It has all
but replaced the specialized hand planes used for
molding, rabbeting and grooving, and works with a
accuracy that was once only the prerogative of the most skilled
craftsperson. Combine all these functions and you can cut a
of woodworking joints, follow templates, trim plastic laminates, even
carve wood sculpture. The remarkable power router is nothing
less than a minature machine shop.
Albert Jackson and David Day Good Wood Routers
Cincinnati: Betterway Books, 1996, pages 6-7.
of Term "Power Router" Hard to Trace:
common sense tells us that "router", as a term identifying this machine
is straight-forward, dictionaries, especially the Oxford
English Dictionary -- the source I consult first
-- are disappointing, because the first use of the term
identifying the power router, ie, Kelley, are lacking from their
the term Router -- i.e., as reference to the current popular tool --
came into usage to identify a "power router" is wrapped in mystery.
Keith Rucker has found bits of
-- advertisements from from 1911 to 1929 --in the magazine Wood-working.
For tracing the etymology of this term, the OED
is not very useful, as the examples below demonstrate:
form of vertical
boring machine is known as a router or recessing machine or overhead
Barr McKay Joinery, London:
Longmans Green, 1946, page 24.
router has taken
over a great deal of the lighter work up to 1 in. or 1 in. thick which
was formerly done on the spindle-moulder.
router... This machine works on the same principle as
Source: W. E. Kelsey Carpentry,
Joinery and Woodcutting Machinery 1954,
Below is an exploded view
of the famous Carter-Stanley router, in 1929.
straight- forward: they
are powered by universal motors, controlled by
"on/off" switches, a base for stability and maneuverability, handgrips
for control, and a lever for lowering the
rotating bit into the work, called "plunging
the router". Equipped now with variable speed controls, rotation can
range from 8,000 to 24,000 rpms. (Shaper speeds vary from 6,500 to
are images -- above
and to the right -- of my Stanley-Carter router-shaper. Anthony
Blankley, biographer of Ray L Carter, thinks
that this router shaper is a 1950s vintage,
and not from the 1930s. He bases his claim on the "M 510A" above. "M"
is likely Model, the model no "510" But the punched in later, by hand,
is a mystery. Please look at my 1935 Stanley Router Shaper Catalog,
Many routers -- like
my Elu -- have a mechanism that
allows "soft start", meaning that rather than
jumping immediately to
the high speed, the motor works up to the speed more gradually, a
feature which gives the operator more control on cuts requiring extreme
depth stops give operators control over
obtaining precise depth of cuts.
accessories such as
-- see diagram for my Elu, on left -- guide the router along
the side of a
workpiece as it cuts a "profile".
Popularity of Routers
early in the 21st century, a hand-held, portable router is
often the first power tool purchased by the wannabe
to R J Cristoforo:
to touting the virtues of the portable router because, "Is
woodworker with a soul so dead he never to himself has said, 'I love my
router'." The mechanics of the router haven't changed but
continue to make it an exciting tool, especially the plunge feature.
R J DeCristoforo, The Jigs and Fixtures Bible:
Tips, Tricks and Techniques for Better Woodworking
Cincinnati: Popular Woodworking Books, 2001, page 17. First published
in PW, April
2000, page 17
Between Routers and Shapers
using routers and shapers shows us quickly that that two capable tools
differ in several ways, primarily in speed of rotation, scale of
project, but also, that in many operations, they are
is, woodworkers who
own both tools often need to debate which of these
are used for the performance of a woodworking task. For example.
putting a Profile -- or, Molding, on the edge of a
1-inch thick top can be done by either tool. However, putting the
profile on a 1-inch thick oval- or circle-shaped table-top might be
accomplished more easily with a large router, rather than a
two authorities quoted in the boxes below, Nick Engler and
Bird, each give their take on the distinctions between routers and
use a shaper spindle router accessory in a router with a variable speed
control — either a control that has been built into
itself, or an external control that you can plug the router into. Set
this control for no more than 10,000 rpm — the top speed of
shapers — when using the spindle accessory. Most
are designed to operate within shaper speeds, while many routers spin
more than twice that fast. At excessive speeds, the cutters
apart, peppering you and anyone who happens to be standing nearby with
Engler, Routing and Shaping: Techniques
for Better Woodworking. Emmaus, PA:
Rodale Press, 1992, page 4
A good-quality shaper will be able to run at multiple speeds to
accommodate cutterheads of various diameters. At minimum, the shaper
should have at least two speeds, with a low speed no higher than 7,000
revolutions per minute (rpm). A large industrial machine usually has
several speeds, with a low of around 3,000 rpm.
small-diameter cutterhead has a slower rim speed than a large-diameter
cutterhead when run at the same rpm, and so a higher rpm is needed to
increase the rim speed to produce a smooth surface. (This is one reason
why a router runs at such high rpm.)
the other hand, because a large cutterhead removes so much stock in a
single pass, it must be run at a lower rpm to reduce the rim speed.
This way the surface doesn't get burned. Running a large cutterhead too
fast is unsafe (these cutterheads have a specified maximum rpm) and may
burn or burnish the stock.
causes the wood surface to become glazed. It can occur when the feed
rate is too slow for the rpm of the cutterhead.)
Lonnie Bird, The Shaper Book.
Newtown, CT: Taunton Press, 1996, page 13
Routers Start Out as Stationary Machines?
modern router", claims Anthony Bailey, Routing For Beginners,
4, "descended for the fixed-head machines". With
this claim, I think that Bailey is, in the idiom of today, "onto
although in his book he doesn't elaborate on the point.
Nonetheless, his statement stimulates our thinking on the
especially when you consider the Workace "shaper" introduced in 1929 by
the J D Wallace Company.
For example, check out my post on the "royal-treatment" given
the Boice-Crane floor shaper
in Popular Homecraft in November, 1930. For me, side-by-side, the two
images have remarkable similarities. Yes, one is floor-standing, the
other bench-top, comparison that is --perhaps -- a
"stretch", but -- taken together -- the round cast-iron tables on both
models, the fact that Popular Homecraft sees the B-C shaper as
appropriate for home workshops, make the analogy seem
though, is why, in the 1935 Boice-Crane catalog, the
floor shaper is absent, suggesting that it had a short-life span.)
evidence about the truth of Bailey's claim about a linkage between the
modern router and the shaper is available, but -- without
more evidence -- I hold back about drawing any firm
for example, is a digitized reprinting of the page from the 1932 J D Wallace Woodworking Tools catalog.
But, strangely, this shaper is not in the 1933 J D Wallace catalog.
of Workace Electric Shapers are in service -- in
large plants and small
shops-schools and hobby shops, maintenance departments, pattern and
cabinet shops and furniture repair departments, etc.
large plants the Workace Electric Shaper supplements the larger
equipment -- handles all the lighter work and short runs at an enormous
saving in set up time, power and in-vestment. It is portable, can be
taken to a job -- saves steps.
off light circuit, can be economically run at any time independently of
the other plant equipment -- that is a decided advantage in equipment
of the Wallace and Workace type.
The capacity of
Electric Shaper, the speed and precision with which it operates, the
small investment and low operating and maintenance cost, places the
small shop, pattern shop or cabinet shop, furniture repair departments.
schools and hobby shops in a position to do all kinds of shaping
efficiently and economically, to handle long runs or short runs,
specials and repairs; any type of moulding, grooving, beading, shaping
Electric Shaper comes complete as illustrated above including two steel
shaper collars 2" dia., 3/8" thick bevel grooved for knives; four
spacing collars 1/3" thick; locking pin. 10 ft. lamp cord and separable
Motor to operate on 110 or 220 volts DC
and AC, 25
to 60 cycle, single phase, or 220 volts, AC. 120 cycle, three phase
(7200 RPM) 1 HP., or 220 volts, AC.. 180 cycle three phase, 1 HP.
Set ups for any shape are quickly
made on the
Workace Electric Shaper. To facilitate short runs we have worked out a
set of cutters in Nos. 2757, 2758 and 2759 which, in various
combinations, make it possible to cut practically any shape. Knives and
solid cutters, of course, are avail-able for long runs or shapes often
The Workace Electric Shaper operates
electric lighting circuit, also available for 120 or 180 cycle, three
phase. It is direct motor driven-direct, positive, powerful
economical drive; no belts to dissipate power. High speed, 10,000
R.P.M. (no load speed). Works with or against the grain;
easily taken to the job, saves steps. Precision ball bearing, air
We will gladly submit the Workace Shaper
to you so
that you may try not what we claim to be the biggest value in
woodworking equipment -- a high speed, powerful, accurate tool at a
very modest price -- the Workace Electric Shaper.
or four wing cutters for cuts used frequently, saves set-up time,
quotation on request. Knives are available in shapes shown on opposite
page. For quick set up on short runs of various shapes we suggest
cutters Nos. 2757, 2758 and 2759 illustrated on opposite page. Guard
No. 2714 and Fence No. 2713. These items are optional and available at
a small extra cost.
D Wallace Woodworking Tools Catalog
Below, the shaded box reprints the brief piece by the editor
of Industrial Arts Magazine,
suggesting that the Wallace high-speed shaper was introduced in 1929.
NEW WORKACE ELECTRIC SHAPER
J. D. Wallace Company, 134 So. California Ave., Chicago, Ill., has
announced a new Workace electric shaper, something entirely new in the
popular priced and portable line of shapers.
Workace shaper is equipped with ball bearings. It is motor driven, and
adequate means for lubrication are provided. In this machine, the belt
has been eliminated, thus slipping, slowing down of operations, and
loss of power is avoided. The shaper is mounted on a table with a screw
arrangement, which permits it to be raised or lowered. It can be locked
securely in any position by a handwheel. The spindle is a steel shaft
in. in diameter, which extends 3 5/8 in. above the table top, and
provides a capacity of 2 1/2 in. between two steel shaper collars, or 3
1/4 in. when using solid cutters. The machine is provided with a
General Electric Universal motor, which can be used
on an ordinary
lighting circuit, 110 or 220 volts, d.c., or 25 to 60 cycle a.c. It
weighs only 42 pounds and stands firmly on its own
Industrial Arts Magazine 18
September 1929, page 31A
With the text and image of the J D Wallace
Workace shaper (above),
including its direct-drive universal motor and 47 pounds, we
ideal setting for another breakthrough in the development of the
hand-held high-speed router.
until I find more conclusive evidence, I remain skeptical. I think that
perhaps the speed of the spindle rotation -- 13,000 rpm -- was too fast
for the cutters that existed in the late 1920s.
spindles on shapers operated by amateur
woodworkers rotate at two speeds --
governed by the
two-stage pulleys on the spindle's end, below the shaper's table
surface, that are belted to the motor. Operating the machine at higher
speeds -- especially with larger diameter cutters, raises the danger of
the machine causing problems, including injury to the
operator.) The Stanley Electric Bench Top
from the entry on this machine by Dave Potts on
top of this machine measures 12 inches square and has a round
throat/hole with a shoulder to permit the use of smaller throat plates.
The router motor included is one of Stanley's smallest types-- the hand
shaper model, and is held in place with a pivoting bracket that permits
tilting the router bit. The two leg brackets that are bolted to the
3/8" plate-steel top are identical, and are marked with casting number
C 1780. The unit weighs close to 50 pounds.
no fence is shown with the machine, Dave Potts, who owns the machine,
notes that there appears to be remnants of a guard that mounted from
below the table.
Two patent numbers are stamped into a plate
mounted on the machine, both assigned to Ray L. Carter c. 1925. Patent
# 1532683 was for a portable shaper and mortising machine, and number
1566824 was for a portable wood shaper
a disclaimer, Potts notes that neither of the patents in the links
above describe the machine pictured.
the sake of perspective, the picture above is "with this router table
placed on top of a floor-standing Stanley Router/Shaper table S5A that
I recently restored and use on a regular basis".
The Production Router: The text below -- it
comes from Herman Hjorth's article on the router -- reads "funny"
when we are confronted with terms such as "router machine",
or that heavy-duty routers "mostly resemble drill presses".
(During the first
half of the 20th century, Herman Hjorth was a leading figure in
Industrial Arts and woodworking. Notably, he authored
Principles of Woodworking
in 1930 and Modern Machine Woodworking,
Bruce, 1937, but in the revised edition, 1960, William F Holtrop was
senior author, suggesting that by that date, Hjorth was too elderly
for the task of managing the manuscript of a text on power
woodworking machines. It happens to all of us, let me assure you.)
production router that Hjorth speaks of has passed from the scene.
Big routers like the ones pictured are used
to cut patterns out workpieces, guided by templates. They are usually
called pin routers -- see below -- because they
normally are set up
with a pin co-axial with the cutter; the pin rubs against the template
that is fastened to the workpiece. They are also called over-arm
routers. The biggest maker of pin routers
Machine Works. OMW
made machines that resemble Hjorth's illustration. (I am
indebted to Jeff Joslin, one of the editors of Old Working Machines (www.owwm.com)
for this information.)
router machine in its heavy-duty production form
[writes Hjorth] is a type of machine that mostly resembles a
drill press.... Production routers -- large machines equipped
with a table that can be raised or lowered ....
The router arm extends to the center
of the table. In most machines the revolving part is connected to the
driving mechanism with a belt, which gives
the router a speed from 10,000 to 20,000 R.P.M. The table can also be
raised or lowered with a treadle and the length of the stroke can be
set beforehand. Some routers also have a chuck for holding a shaper
spindle. In this case the shaper cuts are necessarily made from the top
while a regular shaper cutter projects through the table and cuts from
Hjorth, "The Router: How to Operate Your Power Tools", Home
18, no 6 November-December 1949, pages 17-23+ (Curiuosly, this same
article -- both text and images -- is in a 1950 book published by HC, How
to Operate Your Power Tools, this time allegedly
authored by Milton Gunerman, listed as an Associate Editor of HC.
(Hjorth died in 1951.) See also William Holtrop
and Herman Hjorth, Modern Machine Woodworking,
The Bruce Publishing Company,
1960, pages 198-205. (First copyrighted by Herman Hjorth
Portable Routers: Kelley
Electric Machine Co. of Buffalo, 1900s
to chapter 2:5
electric hand router -- if you can operate a 60-pound tool by
yourself -- has
been around for over a century.
as 1905 the first commercially produced router -- three phase -- was
marketed by the
Kelley Electric Machine Co. of Buffalo, New York. That firm
-- incorporated with
an capitalization of $25,000.00 in October of 1908 --
Guilford W. Franicis, W. Morse Wilson, and George L. Kelley.
New York Times, October 24, 1908,
George L. Kelley, a
resident of Buffalo applied for a patent for a
router in 1906; the patent was granted in 1908. The
patent -- the first page is pasted below -- was assigned to Stevenson
Machine Co. (By "assigned" is derived through "mesne",
a technical term
in law, meaning "middle" or "intermediate".)
the purported 1906
genesis of the Kelley Electric Machine Co., router", Keith
Rucker speculates, "it is likely that
Stevenson Machine Co. was a predecessor of Kelley Electric Machine Co."
sixty pounds, it is
over 12" in diameter and 16" high.
image below comes from the Patrick Spielman book, The Art of the Router: Award
Winning Designs, 1999 -- permission to
post granted by phone, 9-17-2007.)
Rucker -- www.owwm.com
-- notes that
advertisments in the Wood-Worker
between 1911 and 1929 shows their
"Kelley Router" - a handheld router that looks to be at least twice the
size of any hand-held router available today.
bit rotates at 6500
RPM, roughly the slower speed of my two-speed
shaper. Rucker notes that an advertisement in a 1920
issue of Wood-Worker
claims that Kelley has sold their router for
fourteen years, a date which confirms their
is reproduced one of the Kelley Router advertisements.)
Patrick Spielman, The
Art of the Router: Award Winning Designs.
New York: Sterling/Chapelle, 1998, page 8; R J DeCristoforo, The
Jigs and Fixtures Bible:
Tips, Tricks and Techniques for Better Woodworking
Cincinnati: Popular Woodworking Books, 2001, page 17. First published
in Popular Woodworking,
that it is a "portable routing machine for working wood". Portable --
i.e., sixty pounds! ("portable" -- in those days defined
than today -- meant that it can be "moved about" and "used on work
benches, or elswhere, where the work can be done to the best
advantage". Also specified is that the machine can be operated
"rapidly" and "accurately" by "unskilled labor".
machine, the patent's text continues, "is capable of a great
variety of uses", including "cutting regular and
irregular grooves or channels of different dimensions and shapes in the
surfaces of boards". This machines is, espec- ially, "suited
grooves for stair stringers to receive the risers and treads".
two images side-by-side above show, more-or-less, before and after
views of stair stringers.)
innovation that Kelley's router achieved was to revolutionize the
method of cutting the grooves. Mobile,
the machine can be "moved about in any direction" and can be fitted
with a "plurality of driven cutters"
pattern plate is adjustable to enable the cuts to be made in the
desired location and relation on the work, and the pattern plate is
also preferably provided with mens for clampling or securinig it on the
Source: Datamp.org Patent no. 877,894
heady stuff for 1908!
With patent # 931,552,
H Ahlers, a Kelley associate, "invented a new and
useful improvement in guide devices for routing machines".
invention relates to guide devices for routing and analogous machines
-- more particularily, directly on the router, patent no 877,894. These
machines, again, are "portable" and their operation
can be guided by
a mechanism that supports their cutters directly over the wood being
patent also notes that the primary function of the router remains
dadoing grooves on stair stringers -- see images of stair stringer,
risers and treads above -- to receive stair risers and
treads. This patent creates improvements in routers which
the creation of grooves for stair risers and treads of different
In 1912, Kelley obtained patent #
1,042,120, which he claimed created
more improvements. (The obtuse wording of patent discourse
it difficult to determine how the original router is improved, but the
patent is granted.)
||George L. Kelley
|| USPTO |
|Aug. 17, 1909
||William H. Ahlers
||Guide device for
|| USPTO |
|Oct. 22, 1912
||George L. Kelley
||Guide device for
woodworking or routing machines |
Although the Kelley
router was very crude and heavy,it became the revolutionary
development for the wood-working trades—especially the
furniture and architectural millwork industries. The router eliminated
tedious hand carving and made correct geometrical cuts.
cited from Patrick Spielman, a letter in an early Kelley Electric
Machine Catalog from a user of the Kelley
Router states, "... for fluting
columns and pilasters (Kelley's) machine cannot be beat." Kelley's
advertising motto boldly read, "Clean finished cuts in straight or
L Carter and the Invention of the High Speed Hand-Held Router
to chapter 4:5 (Tony
Bradley has a book coming out later this year that investigates the
contribution of Ray L Carter to the development of routers. Until I
have an opportunity of looking at the book, I am going simply to leave
this brief account as is.)
1914, Carter routers, manufactured in Phoenix, New York, appeared and
quickly earned the designation of "Wonder Tool." They were considerably
smaller than the Kelly routers, but their 1 1/2 H.P. model still
weighed 35 pounds. Carter routers featured a threaded motor housing
depth adjustment system and many other features that are essentially
still the same as found on some present day routers. Edge guides, base
mounted template guides, D-handles, bits from 1/16" to 1" were likewise
similar to those available today. Carter patented a dovetail template
system in 1927, but records show an earlier patent was granted in
Germany for a dovetail system in 1906.
Electric Tools purchased the Carter line in 1929 and produced routers
until the company was sold to the Bosch Tool Corp. in the early 1980s.
search of the books in Google Print shows only
one hit, and that very obscure. The "hit" is the magazine, Industrial
on page 32, but the date is not given, although from the evidence of
the "snippet", view, it is the 1920s. In the smippet from Industrial
Education, the label for the "router"
is Carter Hand Shaper. CHS is
the name given in "tools for sale"
sections of 1930s newspapers, suggesting that the popular name for this
first router is "Carter Hand Shaper". (Thanks
Rucker, at owwm.com, I found data on
the Carter Hand Shaper in datamp.org.)
The image immedately below is the image posted by Carter in his patent
application, while the box below that is the text of the first
few paragraphs -- sort of a "preamble" -- of Carter's patent
application. As well as the images, the application includes 2 pages of
very dense text whic describes in tortuous detail how the
Oct 24, 1922.
STATES PATENT OFFICE
L. Carter, of Syracuse, New York
Application filed April 17, 1922.
Serial no 558, 639
To all whom it may concern:
it known that I, Ray L Carter, a citizen of the United States, residing
at Syracuse, in the county of Onondaga and State of New York, have
invented certain new and useful Improvements in shaping Devices, of
which the following is a specification.
to shapers, designed for use by. pattern-makers, cabinet-makers,
carpenters and the like, and has for its object. to provide a novel and
simple device of the class for rounding and bending the corners of
patterns and various other wooden articles. A further object is to
provide a light, easily portable shaper, consisting of a hollow casing
which encloses a high-speed electric motor, on the armature shaft of
which may be mounted rotary cutters of various types, by which the
corners and edges of wooden articles may be given different shapes, in
a ready and quick manner. A further object is to provide a relatively
small and light shaper of the class, which may be held and operated by
one hand, said device being equipped with a conical head by which the
device is guided and being provided with novel adjusting means for
taking up looseness, as well as for facilitating the employment of
cutting tools of different size.
I attain these
objects by the
means set forth in thedetailed description which follows and as
illustrated by the accompanying drawings:
Enters the Router Manufacturing Business
to Chapter 5:5
Carter line Stanley Electric Tools
purchased and produced routers until the
company was sold to the Bosch Tool Corp. in the early 1980s.
The image on the left
is a pen-rendering.
Principles of Woodworking Herman Hjorth,
Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing
Company, 1930, page 47.
On the right is the
same Stanley router, this time in Herman Hjorth's 1937 manual, Machine
Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing
Company, 1937, page 190.
On the left, the title
page of the attractive 29 page, 1935 Stanley-Carter
Notice the claim, "for
the home workshop".
And, directly below. a
Sample Page from this Catalog, trumps with flourish the tools
( For full version of
this catalog, click here -- not yet uploaded.)
Scan of page
5 from the catalog (below)
gives you an idea of how "revolutionary"
Revolutions Per Minute!
the hand-held router
would be for any woodworker -- professional or amateur alike!
Its Fixed-Base Router, Circa Late-1940s.
Porter-Cable entered the router business
in 1948 with the purchase of the Unit Electric Company.
Rather than manufacturing their own untis,
from 1948 until 1950, Porter-Cable simple put their nameplate
on the Unit tools. Unit Electric manufactured two models of
routers. In 1950 Porter- Cable introduced their own
design, the model 100, a model that Porter-CAble
produced until 2006. Using the
label, Guild, Porter-Cable introduced
a line of
accessories, including components for converting the router
portable plane or a bench top shaper.
On the left is a
fragment from an advertisement in the San Antonio
11-14-1950. The occasion evidently included a factory representative
demonstrating the tool. Notice that Porter-Cable called the router the
"Guild Power Router". From evidence located in the
newspaperarchive.com, Porter-Cable advertised heavily -- this
advertisement is typical -- throughout America immediatley
following WW II.
Outside of the
newspaperarchive.com database, the
results of searches for evidence of routers in the
1940s is disappointing. For example, for the 1940s decade, the Reader's
Guide to Periodical Literature yields no relevant
hits on routers.
(While the RG is only
one of a handful of indexes that cover topics of technology in this
era, the lack of hits in it indicates that, as a topic, routers are
not important tools in this decade. How do we know? The RG
that indexes "selected" articles -- but
not every item -- published in issues of titles such as Popular
Science, Popular Mechanics,
Industrial Arts Magazine and
Industrial Arts and Vocational Education. What
this policy means is that brief news notes -- which might include news
of a new router on the market -- are ignored by the indexers of RG.
Past experience with PS
tells us, though, that these two "popular" science and technology
magazines generate their mass circulation by having news important for
a broad spectrum of their reading public, especially for science and
technology topics. Routers, as tools of the woodworking trade, and
potential tools in homeworkshops, certainly fall into that domain.
However, in his coffee table book, Power
Tools, Sandor Nagyszalanczy observes
The Guild model 1100 was one of whole line of power tools Porter-Cable
produced under the Guild brand. Although its dome-topped motor housing
doesn't lend itself well to bit changes—it
won't stand on
the bench upside down—its visual attractiveness still pleases
woodworkers today in the modernized form of the Porter-Cable model 100.
In 1950, Porter-Cable introduced the Speedmatic line.
Sandor Nagyszalanczy Power Tools: An Electrifying Celebration and
Grounded Guide Newtown, CT: Taunton
Press, 2001, page 63
evidence that routers are not yet considered tools in the homeworkshop
comes from the scant treatment they receive in several woodworker's
manuals of the late 1940s.
Herman Hjorth's 1949 Home
Craftsman Router Article
Herman Hjorth's article, "The Router", could be a sort of break-through
document in the history of the use of routers by amateur woodworkers.
It's appearance in the last issue of the Home
published in the
November-December, 1949 issue, puts it just inside that historic
decade when America fought in World War II, and just two years before
Hjorth's death in 1951.
(It is a mystery why, in
1950, as a book, How to Operate Your Power Tools
these same articles appeared under the pen of Milton Gunerman, at the
time listed as a Senior Editor for Home Craftsman
In the years 1949-1950, under the umbrella title, How
to Operate Your Power Tools
, Hjorth published a series of
articles for Home Craftsman
on a wide variety of power woodworking tools of potential use by
woodworkers in their homeshops. Among power tools he covers are the
radial arm saw -- domesticated versions of the industrial level units
manufactured by Delta and Dewalt -- the drill press, the circular table
saw, the bandsaw, the jig saw, the lathe, and the power planer.
covered is the combination tool that made a big splash with amateur
woodworkers at this time -- the Shopsmith Model 10ER Hans
Goldschmidt and his Shopsmith
-- a fact
that is mentioned by Gunerman in the Preface
to the 1950 book.) Rightly, Hjorth characterizes the router as
descending from a long line of commercial routers, which themselves
sprung out of heavy production routers. (See Glossary_R_ Router_annex.
Here's Hjorth's opening sentence
"The router machine in its
heavy-duty production form is a type of machine that mostly resembles a
demonstrate, Hjorth includes an image of the production router, reprinted above.
But I don't think the router's lineage is what
excited the wannabe
woodworkers of that day; instead, what they found exciting is the idea
of the router's versatility in perfoming at least 13 distinctive
operations: cutting rabbets, cutting dadoes, cutting grooves, cutting
"gains" for door hinges, for cutting shallow mortises; with the aid of
a dovetail jig, a dovetail router bit and a template guide, for cutting
dovetails; for cutting grooves and recesses for inlaying; and for flat
carving, -- "for flat carving the hand router cannot be surpassed" --;
as a shaper, the hand router can be used to cut moldings along the edge
or end of tables, bureaus, and other types of furniture; with the use
of a special stand to hold the motor, the router be used for fluting or
beading, a spindle shaper; fluting, chamfering and V-rabbeting; and
many molding cuts can be made easily with the hand router and pilot tip
bits. In other words, the hand router, consisting of the motor, router
base and guide, can be used for making almost any cuts required in
For the entire text and several of the numerous images of Hjorth's
landmark article, click here:
Document 45: Herman Hjorth "The
to Chapter 6:5
The "hand router",
though, is the main focus of Hjorth's article. That it was written in
the late 1940s is, I think, telling, as hand-held routers, themselves,
the market late in the 1920s, and were not purchased by amateur
My evidence on the last statement comes
from an investigation of entries in the Reader's
Guide to Periodical Literature
New York Times
, and the www.newspaperarchive.com
1946, the router as a tool for the homeworkshop receives "scant"
treatment in Popular Science
woodworker's manual, How to Get the Most Out of Your
The hand router, more familiar to the home
craftsman or the shop owner doing light production work, is primarily a
motor held in a base provided with two knobs. ... [A] versatile machine
[it] can not only bore holes, ... make mortises, cut grooves for inlay
lines and insets, cut rabbets, cut gains for hinges, make dadoes,
groove curved work, bead and round small moldings, and do veining and
routing after templates.
With ... a jig and fixtures ... the hand router can
be used to cut dovetail joints, bead and flute turned legs. With a
... [Stanley-made fixture you convert] a hand
router into a shaper. With the aid of a router stand, the hand router
becomes a bench router similar to the heavy-duty production router.
The hand router motor can be
raised or lowered in the base, thereby controlling the depth of the
cut. The base also has a reversible guide fastened to two steel bars.
One side is flat and used along straight surfaces; the other has a
depression in it and is used for cutting along curved surfaces.
Herman Hjorth, "How to Operate Power Tools", Home
Craftsman 18 1949, pages 18-21, 55-58; reprinted as
chapter 12 in Milton Gunerman,
How to Operate Yor Power Tools
New York: Home Craftsman Publishing Corp., 1950.
Plunge Router Emerges in Europe in the 1940s [under
construction -- these images are from the users' manual of my Elu
router; The idea of a variable speed motor is to be able to match the
turning speed to the material and the size of bit you're using.]
Elu firm developed t he
plunge router in 1949. (The
ShopNotes article cited below claims
that the date is 1951, when "a Swiss manufacturer built the first one".)
Soon, Elu routers
known throughout the world as the
best plunge routers, basically setting a standard for all other plunge
routers. Interest in
plunge routers in the U.S., however, emerged much later, the
early 1980s. Elu was purchased by Black and Decker who
also owns DeWalt Industrial Tool Co.
the early 1990s, the Elu included "soft start" motors,
speed adjustment -- from 8,000 to 24,00 rpms, and a precision "plunge
mechanism". (For more info, see t he
anonymous article, "Elu Plunge", Shop
no. 1, page 10-11.)
plunger router eliminates the "threaded housing"/base plate operation
of setting the depth of cut by the rotating bit. (See threaded housing
of router above.) This feature introduces both greater
accuracy and safety.
the Elu/DeWalt plunge routers
are still made in Europe and are direct clones of the famous Elu plunge
routers. Elu fixed base routers are made in the United States.
Otherwise, distribution of Elu brand routers in
the U.S. has been
discontinued. This is a pdf version of my Elu Instruction Manual
its cutting mechanism above the table
-- similar in many respects to the radial arm
saw and -- as described and
pictured above -- the
can shape, mold and rabbet the outside edges of workpiece, plunge-cut
and/or groove and bore precisely for inlay, cut
create identical parts. Dennis R Wilson's article explains six
operate pin routers, which cutters are best, and safe use.
information covers homemade overhead and pin routers.
pin router can operate in six modes: Mode one, freehand, similar
to using a portable router freehand, except that you move the stock
rather than router, with the advantage that you can
the operation. Mode two uses a straight
fence for straight-line shaping. In mode three,
you shape with the workpiece pressed against a pilot on the
cutting tool. In modes four and five, either the
workpiece is pressed against the guide pin, or the workpiece
is set on top of a pattern or jig. For mode six
-- for internal shaping, scroll cutting and flat-relief carving -- the
workpiece is fastened to a template whose underside has been routed out
to follow the guide pin. Mode six is good for routing multiple
recesses for Inlays.
Dennis R. Wilson, "The Pin Router: Basic Setups for This Versatile
Machine", Fine Woodworking No 29
July-August 1981, pages 63-65
common routing tasks can be performed with ease with the Plunge Cut
Router: Grooving, rabbeting, recessing, veining, and profiling on all
types of wood and plastic:
and Grooving. A method of decoration, to "vein", "groove",
and/or "dado" is -- using a template as a guide --
to cut fine, decorative lines on a workpiece's surface.
[Anonymous] How to Get the Most Out of Your
Homeworkshop New York: Popular Science
Publishing, 1946, page 79
In general, it may be said that inlaid work is of two kinds Lines are
borders glued up in many different designs in widths from 1/16 inch up.
Insets are center or corner decorations glued up of many small pieces
of wood of different color and shape.
Edges. Small moldings and edges of table tops, picture
frames, etc., are shaped on the router.
Mortises, and Dovetails. Gains for hinges and shallow
mortises are made with ordinary straight routing bits. For mortising of
greater depth, differnt templates and jigs have been created.
Dovetailing is done with a special bit and special metal guides.
Herman Hjorth, Principles
Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Company, 1930;
Herman Hjorth Machine
Woodworking Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing
Company, 1937 ; Herman Hjorth,
“The Router”, Home Craftsman 18
1949, pages 56-57; Milton Gunerman,
How to Operate Your Power Tools
New York: Home Craftsman Publishing Corp., 1950; Dennis
R. Wilson, "The Pin Router: Basic Setups for This Versatile Machine", Fine
Woodworking No 29 July-August 1981; [Anonymous],
"Elu Plunge", ShopNotes 1, no 1 January 1992, pages 10-11; Nick Engler,
Routing and Shaping: Techniques
for Better Woodworking. Emmaus, PA:
Rodale Press, 1992 ; Albert
Jackson and David Day Good Wood Routers
Cincinnati: Betterway Books, 1996; Anthony
Bailey, Routing for
East Sussex, England: Guild of Master Craftsman Publications, 1999; R
J DeCristoforo, The
Jigs and Fixtures Bible: Tips, Tricks and Techniques
for Better Woodworking Cincinnati: Popular
Woodworking Books, 2001 ( First published in PW,
April 2000 ; Dennis
R. Wilson , "The Pin Router"