Learning from our mistakes - router templates

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Forum topic by richgreer posted 06-17-2011 09:17 PM 1418 views 1 time favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4541 posts in 3103 days

06-17-2011 09:17 PM

If you have seen my recent posts you know that I am completing a large project in which we made 72 pew end panels for the pews at my church. This has been a very educational experience for me.

I made several mistakes and, in theory, I learned from those mistakes.

Here is something I discovered that many of you probably already know.

After glue up, we drew an outline of the desired shape using a template. We then did a rough cut where we cut close to the line with a combination of a plunge saw with a track for the straight cuts and a jig saw for the curves. We then attached a template and used a straight router bit with a guide bearing on the end to do the final shaping.

I’ve used this technique many times with no problems. I always grabbed some scrap sheet material (plywood, MDF, OSB, . . . ) to make the templates. Of course, I was always using the template for just a few cutouts (not 72). This time I used some OSB I had laying round to make the templates.

Discovery – - The edges of the OSB will breakdown and get rough when used as a template many times. This results in a rough cutout and the need for a lot more sanding. In this application I think MDF (or even particle board) would work better. In my case, I discovered that a previously cutout pew panel that had to be discarded because of a major mistake on the cross inlay was a great template.

FYI – I decided to attach the template for routing to the stock with 2 little wood screws. I did not want to mess around with double sided tape. The 2 screw holes will be hidden on the inside of the pew panel at the seat height.

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

8 replies so far

View Bertha's profile


13529 posts in 2722 days

#1 posted 06-17-2011 09:33 PM

Thanks for this! I made a curved template once and bent thin aluminum around the edge. Worked perfectly. Just thinking.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4179 posts in 3193 days

#2 posted 06-17-2011 09:35 PM

I have no words of wisdom, but now I have a little more knowledge. Thanks for the heads up.

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 2999 days

#3 posted 06-17-2011 11:50 PM

Our foundry patternshop often uses 1/8” aluminum for templates when they need to last.

View rance's profile


4258 posts in 3189 days

#4 posted 06-18-2011 12:40 AM

Points well taken. Rule #1 for a project with multiple identicle parts, always make extras. I too cheap-out on jigs and support ‘stuff’ but that often times gets left out of the estimate from the aspect of both time AND materials. Again, very nice job on those pews and thanks for sharing your mistakes. So what actually happened to the inlay?

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View Don W's profile

Don W

18756 posts in 2596 days

#5 posted 06-18-2011 12:46 AM

and did you ever notice, you seem to keep templates forever, even if you know you’ll never use them again. Its like a couple of guys (one of them me) with broken frogs. Its a reminder. Of course, hopefully the template is a reminder of a job well done, not … well, like the broken frogs.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3103 days

#6 posted 06-18-2011 01:29 AM

rance – I personally routed the groves for all the inlays and I had a couple of jigs to help me be precise. If you saw the picture you will see that the crosses are towards the front portion of the panel. On one panel, I cut the groves on the back portion of the panel. Actually, I only cut the cross piece and then saw what I had done. I’m only human.

As an FYI – Our stack of panels that had to be discarded due to errors consists or 6 panels. I’m only directly responsible for one of those errors. However, since I was in charge, I am responsible for all of them. That is an 8% flunk rate. Accept that if you are working with volunteer help.

Observation – The absolute best volunteer worker I had was someone with no experience at all. He knew nothing and, more importantly, he knew he knew nothing. He was very receptive to instruction and was very conscientious to follow those instructions. My biggest problems came from guys who thought they knew what they were doing, but didn’t.

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

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4179 posts in 3193 days

#7 posted 06-18-2011 02:43 AM

Lets see…. you were an actuary in your previous life….and I bet you had a few significant errors from underlings…...but not from the janitor…......and you didn’t have any volunteers….. (-:

......and people in your business, and in my business, had best have a heavy dose of compulsiveness…...its about precision.

In my business…...I don’t think I’ll get into what happens with underlings….....(-:........ but of course, we do have hospital volunteers. They are corralled into a situation where they can’t make any health care decisions. They totally understand that they are limited to the gift shop, and push carts of library books around (and a few other functions including comfort dogs, etc). However, in those functions, with minimal training, they provide a disproportionate contribution to the welfare of patients. They are totally appreciated. I got a payment for being chief of staff, and I donated it all to the volunteer organization.

My comment in your project post, about needing gofers and clean up people was probably about right…(-:

So what is the upshot here…......probably that volunteer programs need to be highly structured and planned for, if they are contributing in an arena that takes considerable expertise to do well….....? I think your pew panel project, and hospitals, are pretty similar in a way.

Fortunately, here, there was only time and small amounts of money involved. I commend you for your effort. I am not currently involved with church issues, but when I was young, I profited from the many volunteer efforts in our church.

Have a good one…...time to reflect, and realize you contributed in a lot of ways.

...........finally got my minibench covered with Watco… gets electrified tomorrow, and presented as a project and blog on Sunday….....fingers crossed…........(-:

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2719 days

#8 posted 06-18-2011 04:34 AM

Wow, 72 pews! Now I see where the router bit sharpening issue came from.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

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