Template routing on end grain

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Forum topic by BenDupre posted 03-06-2017 05:01 PM 2298 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View BenDupre's profile


724 posts in 1095 days

03-06-2017 05:01 PM

Hi all,

I was trying to template a shape on a long piece of Cherry and so I made a 1/4 in template and stuck it on. Using a flush trimming bit upside down in the router table. It’s a half inch straight flute with half inch shank but it’s 1-1/2 long. The workpiece is on/y 3/4.

When I come around on the end grain – total disaster. The whole piece is violently torn out of my hands and thrown meanwhile splitting it down the grain in three places. I will not try this again unless someone can educate me on safe and effective method of template routing end grain.

I found some shear bits online that say they will perform better but they are expensive. Will these work reliably and safely on end grain? Is there another technique I should be using?



Ben Dupre

-- The problem with communication is the illusion that it has occurred. – George Bernard Shaw

7 replies so far

View Bobmedic's profile


383 posts in 3409 days

#1 posted 03-06-2017 05:08 PM

Take very light cuts and make sure you aren’t climb cutting. You have to move the router opposite the rotation of the bit.

View pintodeluxe's profile


6038 posts in 3421 days

#2 posted 03-06-2017 05:13 PM

I have had similar experiences, and changed the way I do things as a result.

1. Make a jig that holds the workpiece in position with toggle clamps. This gives better control overall.

2. I actually avoid routing end-grain with a pattern routing bit. I use a spindle sander to finish shaping the end grain sections.

Good luck.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View HokieKen's profile


12005 posts in 1746 days

#3 posted 03-06-2017 05:17 PM

Spiral bits will help but there’s no “magic bullet” in my experience. Climb cutting sometimes helps. In other words, cut in the opposite direction you’re supposed to. If you have a pattern bit with bearings top and bottom, you can also try raising the bit and flipping your workpiece so the pattern’s on the bottom.

While end grain is always a bit of a PITA, I’ve never found cherry to be so difficult it couldn’t be tamed. If it were me, I’d start by trying to cut in the opposite direction and use a starter pin on the table for added support. Hold on tight and take light cuts.

Good Luck!

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 4255 days

#4 posted 03-06-2017 06:54 PM

I prefer template guide rings because they
allow incremental depth. You’ll find you
can easily remove 1/16” of depth from end
grain while 3/4” at once causes big problems.

I actually use a pin router, a specialized machine,
for trimming work to follow templates but
it also allows little depth increments.

View splintergroup's profile


3209 posts in 1830 days

#5 posted 03-06-2017 08:36 PM

I use 1/4” hard board templates and never have issues. Typically Ill use a spiral template bit (3/8” dia.), but just as often I’ll use a straight cut bit (1” dia.)

The trick is to trim as close as possible to the template on a band saw first. I try to get within 1/16”.

View JBrow's profile


1368 posts in 1528 days

#6 posted 03-07-2017 03:02 AM


My preference in template routing is to secure the template to the bench, the work piece (that has been roughed out to shape) to the template, and use a flush trim bit in the handheld router. It seems that I have a lot more control when holding onto the router. I have routed shapes with the shaper, but it is always a little scary especially when starting the cut. Unless a clamping handle is added to the template, routing a portion of the workpiece flush and then re-positioning clamps that hold the assembly to the workbench to complete the routing is required.

I generally prefer ¾” MDF for the template, mainly because the screw that holds the routing bearing can interfere with the template when secured directly to the workbench. I have used ½” template stock, but that requires elevating the template off the workbench, which is done with shop-made 1-1/2” thick x 2” x 2” stand-off blocks with self-adhesive rubber pads secured to the top and bottom faces of the stand-off blocks. The alternative to the stand-off blocks is to add a clamping handle to the template.

The workpiece is first rough-cut to within 1/8” to 1/16” of the final shape using a jigsaw or bandsaw. The workpiece is adhered securely to the template with double sided tape. The template and workpiece are clamped to the bench.

The workpiece is cut flush to the template with the bottom bearing of the bit riding on the template and the routing gliding on the workpiece surface. Several light freehand skim cuts taken before worrying about the final flush cut. Working the end-grain first can help with tear out since any tear out can often be cleaned up with long grain flush trimming. There are times when the clamps holding the workpiece/template to the bench are in the way. In this case, what can be routed is completed and then the clamps are re-positioned to finish up.

Since re-positioning clamps is time consuming, sometimes a clamping handle is screwed to the center of the template. This clamping handle is a piece of scrap that is just shy of the length of the template and about 4” wide. The clamping handle is screwed to the template at 90 degrees to and centered on the face of the template. The clamping handle is clamped into the end or face vice of the workbench. The workpiece is then secured to the face of the template.

I use a 2 cutter straight flush trim bit, but one of these days I may get a spiral or compression flush trim bit. I suspect these alternative bits would yield better results.

View TungOil's profile


1372 posts in 1103 days

#7 posted 03-07-2017 04:27 AM

end grain is always a challenge to pattern route, but you have gotten good advice above. I try to bandsaw within 1/32” to 1/16” of the final shape before I pattern route and I have a spiral carbide cutter that I use for this work. I made up a sort of universal fixture for pattern routing with a bunch of toggle clamps mounted to it that is very helpful for controlling the workpiece through the cut. I find that feeding very slowly as you are working the end grain helps. Incidentally, the smoothness of the cut that comes off that spiral cutter saves me a lot of sanding and made the high price worth every cent. Highly recommended.

-- The optimist says "the glass is half full". The pessimist says "the glass is half empty". The engineer says "the glass is twice as big as it needs to be"

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