using router without table to cut tongue and groove

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Forum topic by WOODIE1 posted 06-20-2012 05:37 AM 26513 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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117 posts in 2453 days

06-20-2012 05:37 AM

Is it unsafe to cut tongue and grooves using router handheld vs bits in table? Obviously wood would have to be locked down properly but ??? Common practice? unsafe? I have new Frued adjst bits. No panel bit just tongue and groove.

Don’t want to wait to get table.


14 replies so far

View a1Jim's profile


117273 posts in 3751 days

#1 posted 06-20-2012 05:56 AM

It depends on how big your router bits are and how much experience you have using a router. I think most folks do Tongue and groove work on table saws.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

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117 posts in 2453 days

#2 posted 06-20-2012 06:01 AM

Ok what do u mean by size? They are 1/2 inch bits in a new Bosch router. I have some experience but do not have everyday experience so I always like to ask 1st for safety and advise. You can never know too much.

I plan on doing the passes using an edge guide 1/4 of the cut which each pass. Any tips?

View Bobmedic's profile


381 posts in 2976 days

#3 posted 06-20-2012 11:25 AM

Are they tongue and groove bits or rail and stile bits? From what you have said it sounds as if they are rail and stile bits. Either way, it can be done but the safer option is to use them in a router table. The router table will also give you better more consistent results. This video shows a guy doing it with a Festool router. He even used the panel cutter freehand. So I suppose to answer your question, Yes it can be done but in my opinion I wouldn’t do it. The rail end cuts require a sled or a backer board of some type on a router table. Doing it freehand seems a little scary to me.

View woodchucker29's profile


6 posts in 2406 days

#4 posted 06-20-2012 01:37 PM

you could try rigging up some kinda of guide/track for the router to keep it in line if you don’t want to wait to get a router table.


View Ted's profile


2873 posts in 2385 days

#5 posted 06-20-2012 03:18 PM

I would make a simple jig something like this…

The red block is glued and screwed so it won’t move. The blue block is clamped so you can move it for different lengths of stock. You’ll have to experiment and see what works for you.

EDIT: Come to think of it, you will have to devise a way to keep the stock from shooting out when the router bit hits it, but this is a start.

-- You can collect dust or you can make dust. I choose to make it.

View crashn's profile


528 posts in 2639 days

#6 posted 06-20-2012 07:20 PM

You can go the cheap route and make a basic router table for really cheap! I made my first router table out of melamine shelf board, screwed the router base to it, drill hole for bit and use straight board clamped to table as fence. About an hours work and $15 in supplies.

It would be considerably safer than using a hand held router.

-- Crashn - the only thing I make more of than sawdust is mistakes

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3822 days

#7 posted 06-20-2012 07:47 PM

You can do it but the work will go quicker and probably
with less operator error if you use a table. Just screw
your router to a flat board and go to work.

View WOODIE1's profile


117 posts in 2453 days

#8 posted 06-20-2012 09:20 PM

I think I am spending too much time at the Festool sites. They do everything without dedicated machines. I have a MFT/3 and the assorted clamps.

I will either make a jig to hold wood or do as said and pop a hole in the top till I get a router plate.


View Cole Tallerman's profile

Cole Tallerman

392 posts in 2359 days

#9 posted 06-20-2012 09:22 PM

Ive made a temporary router table before buy putting a hole in a piece of plywood and just screwing the router to the underside. Then I used clamps to add a fence. Tongue and groove in most cases doesn’t need to be totally perfect so this should work fine. Its defiantly safer then free handing it.

View ChrisFranklin's profile


23 posts in 2364 days

#10 posted 06-20-2012 10:00 PM

Size in the context of safety is a matter of the cutting diameter mostly. And horsepower. A big cutter in a big router is potentially dangerous. With a cutting diameter of say 1 1/2” and say a 1 1/2 horsepower machine, I would be comfortable freehanding. I’d clamp the boards to my bench though. Anything bigger either in diameter or horsepower I would put in a table, as others have said.

One thing about freehanding, the smaller base will follow any moderate curvature in the wood better than a table, and if it’s moderate enough, the T&G may pull and hold the boards in line, if you’re just nailing up a wall. If it is rails & stiles for door frames, then obviously the stock has to be straight.

-- Mud thrown is ground lost.

View lumberjoe's profile


2899 posts in 2422 days

#11 posted 06-21-2012 12:20 AM

Doing tongue and groove with a router many times is the reason I finally broke down and got a dado set last weekend. Once set up, it’s not to bad, but it takes me FOREVER to set it up right. Plus I do multiple passes to avoid tear out or burning up the bit. I suppose if I had a real T&G cutter for my router it would be easier than using fluted straight bits, but a dado on a table saw is even easier than that.


View Knothead62's profile


2598 posts in 3135 days

#12 posted 06-21-2012 12:59 AM

Freehand is hard for me, if not close to impossible. A cheapy router table as mentioned. Cheap and dirty is the saying.

View Ted's profile


2873 posts in 2385 days

#13 posted 06-21-2012 01:43 AM

The problem with attaching the router to the back side of plywood or similar is that you end up with that thickness between the router base and the work piece, making it difficult to use the full depth of the bit. At least, that’s the case with my routers. Maybe other routers plunge deeper, with the collet actually extending beyond the router base. Mine don’t plunge that far, so to do that I end up having only about 1/2” or so of the shank of the bit clamped into the collet. That, to me, seems a lot more dangerous than anything else.

-- You can collect dust or you can make dust. I choose to make it.

View Bobmedic's profile


381 posts in 2976 days

#14 posted 06-21-2012 01:48 AM

TedW, I have used ½ plywood and removed the baseplate and had plenty room to adjust the bits. If you don’t have enough bit travel you can get collet extenders that can help.

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