Workshop Wednesdays – Router Jig for Applying Decoration to Turned Work

Monday 9 July 2018

Last month I demonstrated fluting tapered legs using a homemade U-shaped jig. This time, Mark and I will look at another homemade device by Philip Steele, which does a similar job but is a lot more versatile. We will investigate some of its other functions next time but, for now, let's look at fluting straight or tapered components. It is similar to bought ready-made versions on the market. Also, we take a look at a manufactured version from Paul Howard, although it is worth noting that there are other variants available. In order to get the best out of any of these devices, you will need a baseboard large enough for them to slide on and do their job properly over the full range of activity.

Equipment used:

18mm MDF baseboard

Standard T-nuts

Forstner bit


The jig consists of several parts, the most important being a secure mounting for a small lightweight router, such as the Trend T4E. The height of the turned tubular columns can be altered to bring the cutter into the same axis as the lathe centres, once the unit is sitting on a suitable baseboard. This height dimension is therefore variable, depending on your own lathe's swing over bed


For comparison, Phil's unit is placed next to a proprietary model from Paul Howard. The latter unit has some refinements, such as infinite height adjustment and a cutter depth setting shield


The unit sits on a baseboard to which it can be bolted down so it can rotate on a regular arc if needed. Also shown here is a flexible plastic arc setting device


The front of the router mount features two adjustable bolts that run along the plastic arc device to limit depth of cut when decorating bowls, etc. We will look at this feature in use next time


First of all, we need a sturdy 18mm MDF baseboard. It has a regular grid of holes drilled large enough to accept standard T-nuts. These have teeth that bite into the MDF to lock in tight. The best procedure is to drill the small holes first so the grid spacing is exact, then follow with a Forstner on the underside to create shallow depressions for the T-nut flanges


Clamp the baseboard securely to the lathe bed and the leg blank – in this case already part worked from the previous article – mounted between centres. The indexing plate is already in position behind the chuck


The wooden columns that hold the router need to be adjusted in length to suit your lathe, so they are the correct height. Next, drill the centres right through to admit studding


The router unit needs to run against a batten, which is bolted down to the baseboard. Set the batten at an angle identical to the leg taper; this will allow you to achieve a fluting of even depth from end to end


Here you can see fluting in progress working from the headstock end down the taper. Any tendency to fluff in the flute can be eradicated by moving back in the other direction. It is necessary either to start and stop the flute by eye or fit end stops on the baseboard


Repeating this procedure with the proprietary unit entails firstly mounting the router firmly by using an Allen key to tighten the collar around the router neck


Next, adjust the height of the router so it is on the lathe centreline. The long slots allow adjustment over a wide range


In this case, I withdrew the depth shield enough to avoid interfering with the cut. The problem with flutes so close together is that the shield might not sit evenly on the peaks of each flute and affect the accuracy of each flute. The blue dot on the shield is helpful in seeing where to start and stop each cut


Use the base to guide the flute depth as with the homemade version. Care is needed to avoid chippings packing between it and the batten