Lee Valley Tools    Woodworking Newsletter
   Vol. 4, Issue 3
   January 2010
   Pattern Routing

  Completed bookcase
  Completed bookcase with corbels.
The pattern routing process is pretty straightforward. Draw a pattern of the desired piece to size onto some thin plywood, carefully cut it out and then use it to produce all your pieces. Tape the pattern to your material and roughly cut the curve using a bandsaw or jigsaw. Bring the piece to the router table for final cutting. The bearing from the router bits runs along the plywood pattern, and the cutter cuts the wood flush to the pattern.

To demonstrate the process, I'll use my recently completed bookcase project. Since some of the bookcase's design was inspired by the Mission style, I added four corbels under the top. In order to look the best, all four needed to be identical.

Project plan   Corbel dimensions
Project plan.   Corbel dimensions.

The first step was to transfer my drawing to some 6mm Baltic-birch plywood. I find this type of plywood's best feature is its lack of voids within. I was careful in making my master pattern, as every bump, notch, or ding would be repeated in each final piece that I cut. To cut along my pencil line, I used a fine blade in the scroll saw and carefully sanded the piece until I was satisfied that all the curves flowed well and that there were no bumps or wiggles in the sides.

One thing to note is that the corbels were quite small. Each was 8" long, but only 1" wide at the top and 1/2" wide along most of its length. This added a level of complexity to the process. It would be far too dangerous to try to hold such a narrow piece in my hands while routing the edges on a router table. I could have found a jig for safely holding small parts like this; however, I worked with a larger board and sliced the finished piece off of this instead.
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