'I Can Do That' Update

New Power Tool Added

In June 2006, Popular Woodworking Magazine introduced a new column on how to make nice furniture with simple tools and common materials available at your local home center. 

The “I Can Do That” column is directed toward new woodworkers, but many experienced in the craft rediscover forgotten techniques, or are simply have fun knocking out a project quickly. (The projects are published in the magazine and each and every one can be found on our web site where it can be downloaded for free, if you want to catch up.)

The guiding force for education on how to work with the materials and tools used for the projects is the free-to-download “I Can Do That” manual. The manual, along with information about purchasing materials, explains the tools included in the kit and how to use them as one begins in woodworking. The tool kit consists of a mixture of both handtools and power tools , we’ve promoting a “hybrid” woodworking concept from the time we started the column.

Under the power tool heading, there’s a jigsaw, a circular saw, an electric drill and a miter saw. (Each tool has a section of the manual devoted to that particular tool.) This week, in the Step Stool build from the August 2010 issue (click here), the manual was updated with another power tool.

We discussed long and hard as we decided what tool to add to the list. At one time we thought about a small table saw, possibly a benchtop design. But in the end, we selected a router. The amount of work that can be completed with a router is staggering. As you first learn about this tool, pattern routing and edge profiles are its primary uses. More advanced router operations include dovetails, mortises, half-lap joints and much more. Not only is a router the best tool to add to the kit, it’s a tool that expands in use as a woodworker’s knowledge grows.

If you’re new to routers, or just looking to shore-up your basic knowledge about the tool, check out the new section of the “I Can Do That” manual. Download the manual here, and for more detailed projects with step-by-step guidance and scads more photos of each project, click here to purchase the official “I Can Do That” book (some of the book pieces include router techniques).

Router Bits
A router without router bits is like an pencil with a broken lead. You can go through the motions, and you might even scratch the surface, but there is not much work completed.

New woodworkers often ask which router bits they should buy. My answer has always been to buy an inexpensive set and work with a number of different profiles. As your work progresses, you’ll notice which bits see the most action , those profiles should be converted to bits of the best-quality and you’ll have the lesser-used router bits available as you need them. Therefore, a good starter kit of router bits is necessary. And you shouldn’t have to pay a premium.
Ryobi has a set of good-quality router bits (Model # A25RS20) that are priced at $59.97. The set includes the most popular profiles with which to begin. In the 20-piece set, you have straight bits, roundover bits, chamfer bits and bits with or without bearings. There are plunge style router bits used for fluting as well as dovetail bits, roundnose bits and router bits to trim pieces flush. There are edge profile bits, rabbet bits and bits to cut slots. In fact, the set also has a couple extra bearings so you can adjust the profiles to develop different profiles. This is a great starter kit. Who knows , this may be the only set you need to buy, but I’m betting you’ll discover many more profiles that catch your attention.

– Glen D. Huey

  • For a huge amount of router discussion where it’s possible to learn too much, visit the Router Forum (click here). 
  • Not interested in buying the ICDT book quite yet? Click here to purchase and download one project that uses a router – a Round Tabouret.
  • Click here to watch a video on how to make your trim router a workhorse in your shop.

One thought on “'I Can Do That' Update

  1. Bruce Jackson

    Hello Glen,

    I like your update. I found I have almost exactly the set of tools in the ICDT manual. The router is the perfect addition. And you can’t beat the price of $60 for the set of 20 bits, $3/bit.

    If you’re looking down the road for another tool to add some time down the road, in the spirit of the tool set already in the manual (each tool has more than one use), I might favor the bandsaw (manual equivalent is the bow / frame saw similar to Frank Klaus’s) over the table saw. There are two reasons: safety and immediate versatility. We all know that table saws kick back and they sometimes bite skin and bones as well as wood and not by plan. We only need to look at feckless Spanish-speaking computer guy completely out of his element during his first week working as an installer for a time-crunched flooring contractor – who quite frankly dodged a big bullet when the legal beagle the victim hired filed suit against Ryobi only because Ryobi’s bank balance was much bigger than the grossly negligent contractor’s. Might want to ask the contractor if he paid Social Security tax on the wages it paid the installer (let alone cheat by paying the installer less than minimum wage). What a price to pay for the American dream, eh?

    The versatility is in the fact that it’s a lot easier to cut curves on the bandsaw than it is on the table saw. You could argue that you can do the same with the jig saw, but can you rip the same width several times (in production mode) with the jigsaw like you can with a properly set-up bandsaw?

    Hope you find this worth more than 2 cents.

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