Routering a depression

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Forum topic by BB1 posted 02-19-2018 03:05 PM 524 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1643 posts in 1622 days

02-19-2018 03:05 PM

Another basic question that I’m hoping for some LJ insights. I am working on project that (I hope) will include a place for two small square bowls place to the side of a small end grain cutting board. I want to router a depression for each of these bowls to be placed. I have’t done anything like this before and was looking at bowl cutting router bits. I was thinking that I would need to have one with a bearing to ride on a template (yet to be made) but see there are many without a bearing. Do those use a guide bushing (and thus would still use a template?). Other than bowl cutting bits, is there a better way to create the depressions? The picture shows the orientation, although the bowls will be on walnut rather than the plywood piece I was using in my “brainstorming” session – i.e., the 20+ minutes I sat staring at this to figure out my design!!

5 replies so far

View Robert's profile


3747 posts in 2255 days

#1 posted 02-19-2018 03:10 PM

Other than carving by hand, I don’t know of another way than a router.

You can use the router base itself against a template or use a collet.

The profile doesn’t need to match exactly so you could use a cove cutting bit.

Then (carefully) route out the central flat part with a flat bottom bit.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View LesB's profile


2553 posts in 4217 days

#2 posted 02-19-2018 06:23 PM

The above method is what I would use.
Create a template with scrap pieces of wood to form the size square you need. Be sure to adjust for the distance from the bit to the edge of the collet (guide) to get the proper size.

End grain can be very difficult to cut so don’t go too deep with your cuts; make several passes. I would hog out most of the area you want to cut with a 3/8 or 1/2” straight spiral bit and then finish with the bowl bit. Tack some thin shims to the inside of your template (use double contact tape, carpet tape) while using the straight big to leave enough wood for the bowl bit to clean everything up.

-- Les B, Oregon

View CaptainKlutz's profile


3175 posts in 2268 days

#3 posted 02-19-2018 11:17 PM

I would treat this project just like making a router bowl.
Here is one set of online instructions from Peachtree that might help explain how to make a router bowl. MLCS, Woodline, and others have online instructions as well.

+1 on end grain cutting.
Have done end grain router bowls. Need to cut small amounts at a time (< 0.125 inch deep). After drilling out excess, I use 1/2 round nose solid carbide bit with router template guide to rough out shape to within 1/4” of final, then follow up with bowl bit w/bearing following the pattern template.

-- If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all, - Albert King - Born Under a Bad Sign released 1967

View John Smith's profile

John Smith

2437 posts in 936 days

#4 posted 02-20-2018 12:05 AM

I am assuming that you are going to make a new cutting board from scratch?
it will have to be pretty long to encompass what you want .
if that is the case – could you just leave a void open for the size you need then trim the holes to fit the bowls.
are you stuck on “square” bowls? for your first project like this,
it may be easier to use a circle cutter in a drill press to make round holes for round bowls
or – you could turn your own personal bowls on the lathe – THAT would look awesome

if you really want the square bowls, you will have to elevate the board with feet.
If I were doing it, I would make the board with the missing pieces to form a square hole the size required.
glue it all together then trim the excess glue and sand as you regularly do.
once you see it in your mind – you can make it happen.


-- there is no educational alternative to having a front row seat in the School of Hard Knocks. --

View BB1's profile


1643 posts in 1622 days

#5 posted 02-20-2018 01:56 AM

Thank you for all the suggestions. Looks like I’ll need to do some router bit shopping.

I actually have the cutting board part about done and was going to develop a “frame” to hold it with the bowls to the sides. I did some more work on it (picture below). The walnut horizontal long piece goes under the frame and will get some hand holds routered in the ends. I’m looking to router the depressions in that long horizontal piece so the bowls don’t shift around so much. The blue marks show where the cutting board will go (removable for cleaning).

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