Does your nice router cut like this?

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Forum topic by 29grampian posted 06-02-2011 06:22 AM 4680 views 0 times favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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13 posts in 2559 days

06-02-2011 06:22 AM

I have a Harbor Freight 1.5hp router and a set of $20 ebay router bit sets. For the price it is great for home repair / rough cut.

But the cut surface is always wavy when I run my fingers along, like this (exaggerated):

I am pretty sure my straight edge is straight, work piece is clamped tight and I push the router tight against edge.

It seems like the motor output is not constant or the collet is not straight.

Has anyone experience similar?

Or this could be an excuse to upgrade =)

18 replies so far

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1643 posts in 2601 days

#1 posted 06-02-2011 06:48 AM

I’d guess the router has excessive of run-out.

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philip marcou

264 posts in 2565 days

#2 posted 06-02-2011 08:41 AM

Does it have around or rectangular base?
A wavy edge will result from the router base not keeping continuous contact with the straight edge guide, assuming this is absolutely straight. If you are feeding in the correct direction the cutter should help pull the base in towards the guide edge.
If it is a round base and the router spindle and therefore the router cutter is not central in that base and you rotate the base (as is usual) then the distance form the router cutter to the staright edge guide will vary-giving a wavy edge.
How far apart are the ” high spots” and are they evenly spaced?
You need to give more information to get a better answer-a photo of the actual edge would be perfect otherwise we are just speculating….

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13 posts in 2559 days

#3 posted 06-02-2011 10:49 AM

Thanks for the reply. I am trying to do below with a straight bit.
It is possible I tilted the router and the reference edge of the work piece is not perfectly cut straight. (My straight edge is a metal ruler)

I think I am routing the right direction

This is the first time I use a router ever. I remember when I first used a circular saw none of the cuts were straight. Too some practice to steady the cut.

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philip marcou

264 posts in 2565 days

#4 posted 06-02-2011 11:03 AM

Check your fence/straigtht edge/reference . Avoid taking big cuts. Until you get more experience it is a good plan to make a final finish cut which is a very light one, which will help get a straight smooth finish.
I haven’t seen any cheap HF type or any other name which are worth the money- I am saying it is better to pay a bit more and get quality router cutters which will last longer and give better results therefore are less expensive in the long run than the cheap things.

View JasonIndy's profile


187 posts in 3403 days

#5 posted 06-02-2011 05:11 PM

I had occasion to cut some dadoes similar to what you’re doing and I found that even when I thought I wasn’t tilting the router away from the work, I was. It’s a lot more difficult to control than what it seems.

My understanding is that more money is spent on developing router technology every year than any other power tool, it might be worthwhile to take the plunge on a new router.

View PurpLev's profile


8534 posts in 3616 days

#6 posted 06-02-2011 05:18 PM

a router like a drill is cutting on center (unlike a saw blade that cuts on a line) so even if your router was having runout as long as you keep it tight against the straight edge it should perform a straight cut line. what a possible runout could result in is your cut line being wider than expected (a 1/2” bit could end up making a 3/4” groove) but that would still be in a straight line.

I wouldn’t throw your router just yet hoping that a new and improved router will fix this issue since it doesn’t sound like it would.

take lighter cuts, and make a final pass of ~1/16” to clean any irregularities. a lighter pass will also make it easier for you to control the router and keep it tight against the straight edge.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View DLCW's profile


530 posts in 2622 days

#7 posted 06-02-2011 05:52 PM

Since you went with economy bits, this is the first place I’d look. Cheap bits deliver results that you won’t get with better bits. This wavy pattern can be attributed to feeding to fast, taking to much on a pass or a bit that has two cutting edges and they aren’t perfectly symmetrical. If you have a jointer and one blade is just slightly higher then the other blades (we’re talking a few thousands of an inch), you will get the wavy results as well. Unplug the router and chuck up a bit. Now grab that bit with a gloved hand and see if you can feel any wiggle at all. If so, I’d return the router for a new one. If no wiggle, I suspect the bit is the culprit.

-- Don, Diamond Lake Custom Woodworks - - "If you make something idiot proof, all they do is make a better idiot"

View MrRon's profile


4719 posts in 3211 days

#8 posted 06-02-2011 08:54 PM

If you have a round base, then I think it is not concentric with the bit. As you route you are probably turning the router. When the edge of the base is closest to the bit, the cut will run straight and when the edge of the base gets further away from the bit, the cut will move away from the cut line. Another possibility is the base may not be perfectly round.

View knotscott's profile


7980 posts in 3344 days

#9 posted 06-02-2011 09:19 PM

There’s no way for me to know what the cause of your issues really are without witnessing the process, but the bits and router are high on the list of suspects. For those who are contemplating a router and/or a bit purchase, cheap bits are ill-advised. They tend to cut with less than stellar results, dull faster, and are more likely to shed a piece of carbide that can seriously injure someone. Combining cheap bits with a poorly made router really amplifies the issues.

As alternatives to cheap off-brand bits, MLCS Woodworking sells a decent 15 pc set of the most commonly used profiles for $39.95 with free s/h. As an alternative to the cheap router, the current line of Craftsman routers gets pretty good reviews, and have been on sale for as low as $59 recently. Last year I purchased a refurbished Hitachi M12VC for $65 shipped…terrific router at a super price. I’ve seen the PC690 routers go for as low as $87 shipped. These may not be the lowest priced routers and bits around, but they’re not significantly more money, and their performance is.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View dbhost's profile


5705 posts in 3200 days

#10 posted 06-02-2011 09:31 PM

I have a cheap set of Skil bits that I used when I had my 1/4” shank Ryobi router. I haven’t used them in like 3 years, but no problems when I did use them…

Chances are, if it were the bits, then due to rotational speed, the bit would even the cut up all the way across.

I suspect that it is either technique (tilting the router during the cut will result in an uneven / wavy cut), or excess runout / flex of the arbor or base of the router.

For what it’s worth. I have 2 of the Hitachi KM12VC routers, and a good assortment of MLCS bits. No problems at all when routing. Then again, no problems with the Ryobi and Skil bits either…

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View 29grampian's profile


13 posts in 2559 days

#11 posted 06-02-2011 09:41 PM

Need to look into flexing! Very likely. It is a HF tool =) Black and Decker has an exact model on Amazon with lukewarm review.

The router base is connected to the two plunge springs. The two springs connect to the housing. If any of these connections flex a tiny bit the housing won’t stay true to the base. I do push it pretty tight vertically down against the workpiece and horizontally against straight/reference edge.

View Luke's profile


290 posts in 2655 days

#12 posted 06-02-2011 09:44 PM

I concur with MrRon, I had a similar problem until I realized my router base was not perfectly centered with the bit, I now keep one point marked with a Sharpie against a fence and do not rotate the base (I saw this in Woodsmith Shop)

View Kevin's profile


462 posts in 3173 days

#13 posted 06-02-2011 09:47 PM

You can also try a roundover bit that has the bearing. You don’t need a straight edge with the bearing as it rolls along the bottom of the wood. Take 1/8 passes or less off each pass you make going from left to right if hand routing and right to left if routing on a table with the router upside down.

I’ve had very little luck with skil router bits. They were ok for the first few boards, but then became quickly dull. I’ve then switched to Infinity, Freud, bosh and the quality of the cuts have been great.

-- Williamsburg, KY

View mrg's profile


819 posts in 2967 days

#14 posted 06-02-2011 09:47 PM

Another thing that is being over looked is the edge that the router is running against clean? If you have some residue from glue or dirt on the straight edge that the router is riding on it will create the waves you have going on as if it was a pattern.

Make yourself a new guide. Take a piece of hardboard and attach a perfectly straight board, angle iron etc, run your straight bit down the edge to make a clean cut, use this guide with that bit every time and see if that takes care of your issue. Or you could use a bit with a bearing and guide.

-- mrg

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13 posts in 2559 days

#15 posted 06-02-2011 09:47 PM

“I had a similar problem until I realized my router base was not perfectly centered with the bit”

Yes, but not the cause for my case. I did mark one point on the base and did not rotate like you guys.

Very likely it is flexing. The plunge springs on this one are funky.

showing 1 through 15 of 18 replies

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