Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My Favorite Tool: Part I

No, it's not what you think and shame on you. I'm talking power tools here and yes, I do have a favorite. I cannot think of a single woodworking project where this tool has not come in handy...well maybe framing but, in my book framing does not qualify as woodworking.

My favorite power tool is a laminate router.

"What? Is he crazy?" you might ask. The answer is yes, but like a fox.

A laminate router is a small version of your standard router. Its usual role is trimming plastic laminate (Formica, Wilsonart etc.) on kitchen and bathroom counter tops. With the proper bits, however, its value in your shop increases exponentially.

I began my journey of discovery by messing up several counter tops using the methods I was taught in the two cabinet shops where I learned the basics of the trade. The standard method of cutting laminate was to take your measurements, turn your laminate upside down, draw your lines with a one inch fudge factor and make your cut with a circular saw. This method works well if absolutely nothing goes wrong. Heh.

The problem is that Murphy's Law is always in effect, as is human error.

Many kitchen counter tops are "L" shaped and cutting that 90 degree angle with a circular saw gives the laminate an open invitation to crack at the junction of the two cuts every time it is moved. Some old hands will drill a hole at the junction to avoid this problem, but this technique is far less than fool proof. Both the hole and the cuts have to be dead on. There is also the problem of having to make your cuts upside down and backwards and, believe me, I have observed much wailing and gnashing of teeth (not to mention loss of profit) over mistakes made because of this.

So how do you cut a piece of laminate to proper size and shape, reduce the possibility of it cracking at the angle and what the hell does this have to do with the many uses of a laminate router?

Stay tuned...

No comments: