Making Router Templates

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Forum topic by SuburbanDon posted 02-15-2012 05:32 PM 17474 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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487 posts in 2994 days

02-15-2012 05:32 PM

Topic tags/keywords: template router

Hi, I am curious about methods people use to make router templates, particularly ones with small irregular curves.

What is the best way to get a nice smooth curve without too much hand sanding ? A spokeshave ?

Is hardboard the best thing to use ?

I really fall down when it comes to curved edges. I end up sanding too much and the result still looks like a bad high school project.


-- --- Measure twice, mis-cut, start over, repeat ---

15 replies so far

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404 - Not Found

2544 posts in 2969 days

#1 posted 02-15-2012 05:41 PM

I draw all my shapes on the computer, print off page tiles and spray adhesive them down onto 6mm mdf before cutting on the outside of the line with a jigsaw using a blade made for curves.
Clean up is minimal though some sanding remains, for inside curves I have a small set of drums used in a power drill, outside curves get a quick buzz with a 1/4 sheet palm sander.
It’s not let me down yet.

View GregD's profile


788 posts in 3136 days

#2 posted 02-15-2012 05:43 PM

I’ve used 1/8” hardboard on the few (small) templates that I’ve made. For sanding I use my Dremel as a small spindle sander – chuck in the 1/2” diameter sanding drum, load the Dremel into its router base, and clamp it in the bench vise with the drum pointing up. The router base gives me a small table, and sanding to the line is usually pretty quick and easy.

-- Greg D.

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

4932 posts in 3961 days

#3 posted 02-15-2012 05:46 PM

Hardboard or 1/4” ply (I use MDF core ply for stability). Big trick for templates is to be sure that the offset for the guides is considered in the design of the template. Making “fair” curves can be best done (designed) using FAIRING STICK. It is just a thin board that can be bent to the curve desired and held in place by string. Google it. There are also those available made from a bendable material that will
hold the desired curve for tracing onto the workpiece. I just prefer to make my own.
I often hold the template to the workpiece with double sided tape when routing.


View DS's profile


2917 posts in 2421 days

#4 posted 02-15-2012 05:47 PM

I use 1/4” polycarbonite (plexiglass) for my templates. I bought a 4X8 sheet a while back when I needed to make a bunch of drawer dividers and the left over has kept me in router templates for a while.

As far as getting good curved lines, it is a function of using the right tools. If you are hand drawing them, a compass works well. I usually draw on large plotter paper and then glue it with 3M spray 90 adhesive right to the plexi for cutting. I sometimes will print a complex pattern from AutoCAD and glue that to the plexiglass.

After transferring your pattern, it is about being carefull when cutting and sanding the template. You can afford to spend some extra time here so the resulting pattern will be near perfect and can be used many times over.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

View bandit571's profile


20013 posts in 2683 days

#5 posted 02-15-2012 05:58 PM

The only template I’ve made is for 1/2” dovetails for the router. I used some 3/8” thick Lexan( don’t ask where it came from) and drilled out and bandsawed to shape.

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View NiteWalker's profile


2737 posts in 2577 days

#6 posted 02-15-2012 06:13 PM

I make my templates first with 1/4” or 1/2” MDF since it’s easier to sand and shape.
Once the mdf template is perfect I use it to make my permanent templates out of 1/1” baltic birch plywood. Been working great for years.

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

View Loren's profile


10401 posts in 3648 days

#7 posted 02-15-2012 06:26 PM

Curves are easiest to fair using rasps and files in a draw filing
technique. Spokeshaves will frustrate you.

View rkober's profile


137 posts in 2293 days

#8 posted 02-15-2012 06:35 PM

Lately I’ve been using 1/4” mdf melamine. If the curve is to complicated to draw directly on the mdf I’ll draw it in CAD, print it out, and spray adhesive to the board. Then I trim on the bandsaw the best I can and start sanding. First I use the drill press drum and then go to work by hand. Lastnight when making one I used a thin (ie flexible) piece of stock to back my sand paper which helped a lot with smoothing. Previously I’ve used router collars but I’m going to try a pattern bit tonight which I expect to work fine and not have to deal with the offset issue.

-- Ray - Spokane, WA - “Most people don’t recognize opportunity because it’s usually disguised as hard work.” - Unknown

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2690 days

#9 posted 02-16-2012 03:01 AM

+1 on the fairing stick. Those French curve thingys from the office supply are also helpful for us that can’t draw. I cut close to the line with a bandsaw and then sand to the line with the oscillating spindle sander.

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

View devann's profile


2246 posts in 2693 days

#10 posted 02-16-2012 03:33 AM

Laminate flooring scraps make good router templates if size is not an issue.

-- Darrell, making more sawdust than I know what to do with

View Al Killian's profile

Al Killian

85 posts in 2626 days

#11 posted 02-27-2012 05:09 AM

The first teplate i make will be mdf or masonite. Then if it something im going to use alot I will take it to the macine shop and have it ade of of alum. If it something that get moderate use I make it of of 1/4 plexi. I cut them out on the bs and get close to the line then file and/or snd til it id perfect.

-- Owner of custom millwork shop

View NiteWalker's profile


2737 posts in 2577 days

#12 posted 02-27-2012 09:23 AM

Just to add, with a few of my templates where positioning is critical, I draw up the template in corel draw and send it to my acrylic supplier and have them laser cut a 1/4” template with etched center lines for me. Works great as long as you remember to set the depth correctly and not gouge your brand new template.

It only happened once…

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

View canadianchips's profile


2600 posts in 2997 days

#13 posted 02-27-2012 01:30 PM

High-Density white, polyethelyne panels. “Puckboard” Comes in 1/8, 1/4 , 1/2 thickness. Can ce cut easily with saws, planes very well.
Can be purchased at local farm supply stores (Used a lot in the farm industry)

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

10479 posts in 3429 days

#14 posted 02-27-2012 01:39 PM

Hardboard or 1/4” MDF, here. Cut to within 1/8” of the pattern line (I use a band saw or scroll saw) then clean up with a Rigid oscillating drum/belt sander. Most of my patterns are used on an over arm pin router so offset isn’t a concern. If using a collar, you need to figure the offset when making the paper pattern

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 3036 days

#15 posted 02-28-2012 11:14 AM

Have to agree with renners here, only I use Polycarbonate as the template material.

-- Martyn -- Boxologist, Pattern Juggler and Candyman of the visually challenging.

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