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Location: Perth, Western Australia, Australia

I have spent a life time working with wood now retired and still working with wood finding new methods of using the World's most versatile Woodworking tool The Router

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Elliptical Trinket Boxes

Producing a small item with the router (with safety) such as the Elliptical Trinket Box illustrated (180 x 90 x 35mm deep), requires a great deal of thought as to how the material is held, what cutters are to be used, and what accessories are required to complete the project.

Stages of Work:
There are at least four stages to follow to produce the base of the box and it will be necessary to consult the drawing board in the preparation of the templates required to rout the project. The material should be held secure and the router cutter controlled with the aid of a Template Guide (Guide Bush) and a Jig. The lid has been designed to fit neatly into the base with a small rebate on the underside. The underside of the lid has also been recessed to reduce the weight of the material.

Investigate what template/s will be required after sketches are made on the procedure of cutting out the shape. At all times care should be taken to ensure that the procedure chosen is safe. Constructing a Jig Holder is recommended to hold the material and template/s secure when routing the shape.

Jig Holder: This is the same Jig Holder that has been illustrated in previous chapters, and has been reproduced here for your convenience, and reference purposes.

Material Required:
1 @ 500 x 90 x 19mm Pine, 1 @ 310 x 90 x 19mm Pine, . The trenches are cut then the material is ’ripped’ to 40mm.

Template Preparation:.
Prepare a Template 400mm x 300mm from 12mm material with an elliptical shape cut-out from the centre. The dimensions of the elliptical shape will be determined by the shape and size of the box and the template guide and cutter to be used to remove the material from the base of the box.

There are a number of alternative methods of producing the elliptical shape required
(1) Find an elliptical shape from your local craft supplier and make a copy using the flush trim cutter or template guide and straight cutter.
(2) Purchase an Elliptical Jig available from Trend in the UK. Note: This jig may not be suitable for cutting small ellipses. (1)
(3) Construct your own Jig. There have been a few articles published in various routing magazines illustrating how to rout ellipses with a ‘home made’ jig. (Too large an article to be included here)

Calculate the template cut-out
The size of the internal dimensions of the box plus the difference between the template guide and cutter
Cut-out = internal dimensions of box plus 21mm (2)

New Template required to Rout the Lid: If the same cutter and template guide is to be used to rout the underside of the lid it will be necessary to prepare a second Template. This second template should be 5mm smaller all round.

Produce a New Template:
The new Template is cut using the existing template. Secure the first template to the new piece of material and select a 16mm guide with a 6mm straight cutter and produce a second template with a smaller elliptical cut out required to rout the lid. This combination of template guide and cutter will produce a template that is 5mm small all round.

1 Rout a larger ellipse than required then reduce to a smaller size with the template guide and straight cutter.
2 Subject to the selection of the 19mm dish cutter and the 40mm template guide combination recommended.

The prepared templates are classified as ‘Female Templates’ at this stage it will be necessary to produce two ‘Male Templates’. In this instance the male templates are referred to as ‘Plugs’ and are required to fit neatly into the recesses produced in both the base and lid of the box. Plugs should be prepared in advance before routing out the base and lid.

Routing the ‘Plugs’. The plugs can be cut with the router more accurately, with a 16mm template guide and a 5mm straight cutter.
Two plugs are required, one for the base material and one for the lid. Routing the plugs will ensure a good fit.

Method of routing the plugs: Secure two or three 9mm MDF material together and attach to a jig to be placed in the jig holder. With the first template secure in position, rout through the top two pieces, then remove the waste material on the other piece with a Jig saw to leave 1 – 2mm for trimming with the router. Repeat the process with the second template to produce the second plug.

When the plug is inserted it should be at least 10mm higher than the material. If you only have the one router and you do not want to insert it in the below bench position for trimming, turn the material over and secure it to a scrap piece of material on a sacrificial board. It will be necessary to give the router maximum support and therefore the router should be used in the ski mode. The plug can be trimmed with the router in the plunge mode. Once the plugs have been completed proceed to rout the base of the box.

Removing the waste material with a drill will reduce the routing time, and wear and tear on the cutter. Consider a number of methods of securing the material:
(1) Screw the material to the base through the waste material at each corner.
(2) Adding eight blocks, two at each corner would be sufficient or
(3) Nailing two ‘shelf supports’ at each corner to hold the material secure or
(4) Inserting two cams 40mm diameter and 12mm thick at each corner

To cater for a variety of different size of material adjustable cams will hold the material secure no matter what size it is. It will be necessary to insert ‘Tee Nuts’ into the base of the jig holder to secure the cams using the ‘cabinet connector’ illustrated or gutter bolts. The cams are cut from 40mm diameter material, and the length of the cams will depend on the thickness of the material to produce the project. Abrasive paper is glued to the bottom of the cams to increase friction.

With the material held secure in the Jig Holder and the template secured with the thumb screws, clamp the Jig Holder to the bench with two clamps. Or secure to bench with two screws through the ends of the Jig Holder.

Template Guide and Cutter:
With the material secured and the jig holder clamped to the bench Select 40mm template guide and 19mm dish cutter (No TD 706 ½Carb-I-Tool.)
Note: To preserve the life of the dish cutter rout out the majority of the waste material with a straight cutter (12mm) or simply drill out most of the waste material. Rout in stages to leave 3mm thickness for the base of the box.

Note: This particular cutter was short in length and to achieve the required depth it was necessary to use a 40mm diameter guide to allow the chuck to penetrate through.

Section through the Jig holder material, template and router support. Note the material inserted round the inside of the jig holder to support the template and prevent it from ‘Tipping’.


With the material and template secure in position plunge the router, until the cutter engages the material to be cut. Lock the carriage and set the depth of cut.

Set the Depth of Cut:
The depth of cut is set by inserting a piece of material the required depth, between the stop and the anvil.

Routing the Base
In a series of cuts, rout the base to the required depth. Rout in a Clockwise direction, and back and forward across the block. (Across the grain) Note; It is important to remove the waste material regularly. This should be vacuumed out before making the final cut.

Do not remove the Template until a final inspection has been made for any imperfection. Only when you are satisfied with the result, remove the Template.

Fit the Plug
Before removing the template the first plug is tried in the base to ensure it is a tight ‘fit'. The fit will depend on the cutter in use, E.g. The number of times the cutter has been sharpened. (It could be smaller) If the plug is small ‘paper shims’ can be added to give a tighter fit. The first ‘Plug’ should fit neatly into the base recess.

When fitted, the plug should project at least 10mm above the surface of the material, when inserted in the base. It will be necessary to build up the plugs to the final thickness by adding another layer and then trimmed to size. Some packing material may also be used under the plug to raise it to the required height.

Rout External Edge.
It is important to give the router maximum support when routing the external edge. To solve the problem make a simple set of ‘Skis’. Purchase two rods 650mm long from your local metal supply store. The rods should be the same diameter as your side fence attachment rods.

They say a photograph is worth a Thousand words.
What I have prepared in my CD-ROM 2 is photographs and detailed drawings to illustrate each process step by step.

This project is another achievement by the Vision Impaired


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