Insane router idea

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Forum topic by n00b posted 11-08-2010 02:21 AM 6999 views 1 time favorited 32 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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16 posts in 2765 days

11-08-2010 02:21 AM

I don’t even own a router, but I’m thinking about buying one. In the meantime, I had an insane idea about how to make a bowl with a router. I’m interested in some feedback. :-)

The idea: I suspend the router from the rafters over my worktable with strong string, so it can swing in curved (spherical) pattern. And I sweep it through a thick slab of wood from all directions until I’ve carve out a clean dish shape. The result would be a sort of modern bowl that’s just a cavity in a block.

Clearly this would be a misuse of the router. But would it work? Would it be dangerous? What kind of bit would I use? To be clear, I don’t propose to let the router swing freely like a pendulum. I would move it in a slow, controlled fashion, using the string as a sort of “jig” to constrain its movement.


- Joe

32 replies so far

View Dan's profile


3630 posts in 2875 days

#1 posted 11-08-2010 02:35 AM

There are ways to make a bowl with a router that are much safer and do work. I think there is a specialty bowl cutting router bit also…. However I have never done and don’t know much about. I just remember seeing it in woodsmith or shopnotes magazine.

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

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20 posts in 2767 days

#2 posted 11-08-2010 02:47 AM


Consider that suspending the router so high above the workpiece creates a very long radius of curvature. That would have to be one big bowl you’re making! And it also sounds extremely dangerous. Controlling the router safely as it passes through the range of thicknesses as it makes its curved passes over the flat workpiece will be more difficult than it sounds. I don’t think it’s a safe idea.

-- --Brian, Brooklyn, New York

View Chelios's profile


568 posts in 3060 days

#3 posted 11-08-2010 02:47 AM

Funny that I had thought about this same idea before. I had seen a video by David Marks where he builds an mdf jig to route a sculpted bowl in a maple slab table that turned out really nice.

I thought suspending the router might be an easier way to accomplish the same effect.

I would say that your safety should be your first concern suspending the router. Also consider that the radius will be huge (not bowl like) unless the string is rather short.

good luck

View TheDane's profile


5423 posts in 3657 days

#4 posted 11-08-2010 02:48 AM

Joe—It would be, IMHO, almost impossible to control and very dangerous.

The guys on the Woodsmith Shop TV show made a bowl with a router in season 3. Go to their website and you can download a PDF that details how they did it.

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View Chelios's profile


568 posts in 3060 days

#5 posted 11-08-2010 02:50 AM


Check this video out. It may help you do something that is more controlled. It is the video I mentioned before.


View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4119 days

#6 posted 11-08-2010 03:15 AM

I think it’d be worth thinking about hard linkages to control the router. The jig described in that video Chelios linked to seems like a good idea, but you could think of other mechanisms that would give you one axis of swing, maybe lockable rotation about that axis, that would let you only have to control one axis of movement at a time, and constrain the router if it got out of control. You don’t want a mistaken climb-cut to turn into a router flailing around your workshop…

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3069 days

#7 posted 11-08-2010 03:25 AM

If you have experience with routers you will know that you are dealing with a lot of torque when you start it up. It will be hard to control.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View shipwright's profile


7980 posts in 2792 days

#8 posted 11-08-2010 03:39 AM

Maybe a lockable telescopic pipe arrangement replacing the “string” and a ball and socket joint in the rafters and a good pre-planned escape route for when the aerobatics start. Sounds feasible to me…. if you want a four foot wide bowl. I like the outside the box thinking though.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

View bent's profile


311 posts in 3663 days

#9 posted 11-08-2010 04:21 AM

have you considered just using a lathe? it might be too heavy to swing from the ceiling, but it would probably work.

sorry, i just couldn’t resist.

View miserybob's profile


88 posts in 3039 days

#10 posted 11-08-2010 07:02 AM

Maybe I’m just tired, bent, but I’m still laughing at that one! Nicely played, sir!

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10094 posts in 4046 days

#11 posted 11-08-2010 07:06 AM

Go to…

They had a video not too long ago about doing just that… making a bowl with a router…

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:"

View davidroberts's profile


1027 posts in 3480 days

#12 posted 11-08-2010 07:15 AM

chairmakers suspend a router on a pole from the “rafters” to gouge out seats. a pole gives you better control, consistency. of course I’m thinking of a shallow bowl, no matter the swing of the router.

-- Better woodworking through old hand tools.

View n00b's profile


16 posts in 2765 days

#13 posted 11-08-2010 04:51 PM

Thanks for all the replies!

I watched the video that Chelios recommended. That’s a much more controlled approach – and of course it requires much more work! But the guy in the video mentioned something I hadn’t considered: if you sweep the router across the whole diameter of the bowl, on one side it will be making a normal cut and on the other side it will be making a climb cut. That’s the sort of think I wouldn’t necessarily think about in advance, and I guess that’s how you can get injured.

And since davidroberts said that chair makers already use this technique, I did some Googling and found a picture of a setup much like what I had envisioned:

I think the lesson for me is that I certainly shouldn’t be trying anything like this until I’m an expert in the normal use of a router! So for now I’ll just hang a circular saw on a string and see how it goes.

Just kidding.

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4119 days

#14 posted 11-08-2010 06:02 PM

But you can think about how you’d use a table saw at an angle to do a cove cut, and how a circular saw might be able to…

Hmmm… need some shop time…

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View bvdon's profile


482 posts in 3009 days

#15 posted 02-08-2011 06:47 AM

THanks for that link, Joe… good one.

I am making a router pendulum jig right now. I have the router carriage portion done, just need to figure out how I want to make the frame that it swings from. I plan to use it to make concave cuts. First use will be on the edge of a cutting board for finger grips on each side. The trick will be how I secure the piece being worked on so it is centered and secure. I will post on my projects page and maybe make a video to show it’s use.

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