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  1. #1
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    Default Overhead Pin Routers

    Stephen's mention of his overhead pin router in his shop tour thread made my mind click on why I would want one. I am not sure I ever realized that they plunged!

    Suddenly I see their usefulness as I use my plunge router all the time with rub collars and templates to make recesses in my furniture to accept aluminum plates. I assume that a OPR would be more efficient at this by allowing for deeper cuts and better finishes than my plunge router. Am I on track?

    So What does one look for in an OPR? Do I even have the name correct? Brands? Features?

    I'd prefer smaller as I already feel a bit cramped in space, but would not want a toy. Recommendations?

    Also, any examples on how they are used would be fabulous.

    Thanks

    Peter

    divergenceleg.jpg

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    Pete-

    Generally speaking if the work is convenient to carry to the tool, the pin router is easier to set up, at least for multiples. I made a bunch of pin blanks so they are quick to make an odd or needed size. I also made one pin with an expansion sleeve to take larger disks, which sometimes come in handy. (Among other things, say to reduce a part in size from a pattern)

    Even though my Onsrud is actually a rebranded import, I like it for the tilt table, the overall configuration, & the pneumatic quill feed. I have briefly used others, not fond of the table rise and fall type, but that is personal preference. These things do not cost much at all, so don't buy one that has a lot of wear or is missing significant parts. Just keep looking 'til the obvious candidate is spotted. You mentioned "small"; Do not buy one of the Duro/Delta/Rockwell type with the tiny spring loaded table and expect it to work like a "real" pin router. I bought one a few years after getting the Onsrud, merely for a router table. But out of curiosity, I tried/played with it as a pin router a few times and the spring loaded table rise made the parts vary in depth unless I was really aware and careful. And of course it is just not nearly as "nice" as the real thing. I do use the Delta as a router table, and it could be rigged as an inverted pin router, so there are options that could be useful (Also use the very nicely built Rockwell router head on my metal planer, for woodwork). But I would recommend something with a full sized table and a quill for the use you describe.

    Most pin router tables do not tilt. I find it an often useful/convenient option.

    I never took many photos of work, but here is an example from a few years ago when making handles for the straight edges I was selling. I mounted a Thompson table on the pin router with a reference pin and clamp for the work, and used that with a metal pattern to cut the channels and drill the holes on the pin router. This could in fact have been done with a traditional wooden pattern, but I liked the clamping options and electric brake on the TT.





    An inverted pin router is good for some work since the cut depth is refenced to the surface of the work (rather than referencing to the bottom of the work as on an overarm style). IOW, your pockets and cut -outs. AFAIK, only Onsrud makes inverteds; and unlike the traditional overarm style, the inverteds tend to be higher priced used.

    Despite being in the same state, I know you are a few hundred miles away. But if you ever want to stop by and check it out, I'd be glad to meet you in person.

    smt

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    I was thinking of making a thread about Shapers, Upside down Routers afixed to a table and Overhead routers like the OP mentions.

    Overhead Router is just another name for Pin Router? What can an Overhead router do that a shaper can't? Plunging into the work is the only thing I can think of, but is that really a big plus since you could pre-drill a hole into the workpiece before setting up the work on the overhead Router?

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    I have never used a pin router but have used overarm/overhead routers. They can be very useful but they can also be the most dangerous tool in the shop. I watched the other apprentice split his thumb to the first knuckle in the first couple of weeks of my apprenticeship on an overarm router.

    I have primarily used the overarm router for thicknessing glued up parts and routing off urethane flush after casting it.

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    Spud-

    You are completely missing the point of a pin router.
    They are essentially obsolete with cnc routers; except in occasional small shops like mine.

    Until 10 or 15 years ago or so, they were a primary duplicating machine of multiple contoured parts in aircraft factories (aluminum); plastics fab shops, and woodworking plants. You make a pattern to hold the part, and the bottom of the pattern has the "program" for locating all the features and cut-outs on the part. This can include complex hole patterns on relatively precise locations.

    On really complex parts, there may be several patterns, and a feature of the work is located to the pattern each time, then a new set of operations performed on the part, perhaps even in a different, or several different pin routers or pin drills, all set up with a different cutter to process different features of the part sequentially. (Instead of a tool changer on a cnc, the part was changed to a different pattern and sometimes different machine for second, third, etc operations)

    The pin locates the work to the cutter. Sizing the pin allows a given pattern to make under or over-size parts from the same pattern. etc. You can use a RH pattern, and make a LH pattern by cutting through, then using that to generate a working pattern. Before cnc, that factor alone (mirror image parts from one initial pattern) was worth a lot.

    On a "good" pin router, the pin will be easy to center, easy to raise or lower to position, and be absolutely positive in position once set. I don't know how common the feature is, but the pin in mine runs in ball bearings, and it does seem to make a difference.

    Perhaps the point of this picture in the previous post was not clear.
    I'm making piles (couple hundred, eventually) of curved ribs for a modern looking shelf construction. They are rapidly bandsawn out of blanks, then held in the pattern shown with clamps, and run through the pin router so that all come out the same exact shape and curve. (There are shorter and longer versions, and then there are modified curve versions, but ignore that for now, and just consider making 200 or 300 identical curved parts.)

    The pattern has a groove on the bottom with the correct curve. This rides the pin, to translate the shape to the work held in the clamps against a fence on the top of the pattern.

    This is not the ideal example to convince someone who has not used a pin router because indeed the single side curve could be run on a shaper. But IME, it is often faster to set a pin in the router, than to make a fence for the shaper; or sort through sizes of cutters and collars on the shaper for a good match to the pattern. The router shines when the curves get tighter & more complex, or when there are internal cut-outs.



    There is a bandsawn workpiece in the pattern, and 2 finished/routed parts in laying in front on the table.
    The photo is not completely clear: the collet chuck is black, and can be made out behind the knurled knob above the bit. The knurled knob (which comes out looking like an offset chuck in the photo ) is to index the depth stop turret. Inside the door on the front of the machine, is a depth stop turret with 6 adjustable depth stops. That way deep cuts can be done in steps. Or different depth features cut at the same time if the same bit is used.



    Like patternmaker, I can't imagine using an "overarm" router without a fence, pin, or pilot bearing. I did not even know such devices existed without screw operated X/Y tables (the English "elephant" router, e.g.) unless someone took the pins and just kept using it freehand, which sounds like insanity.

    Well, having said that, I have on rare occasions used the pin router freehand with 3/16" bits and small DOC. But that does indeed seem more dangerous than a portable router used freehand, because there is more to grip and more inertia in the portable tool. But again, that is pretty far from the point of actual practical use of a pin router.
    smt

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    Guys thanks for the replies and please keep them coming.

    Stephen, Yes, would buy a small real one not a toy, although as I think about having to move some of my larger table tops around to precision cut them, I understand the allure of a very large table.

    Are you suggesting that I might be better with an inverted machine?

    Thanks so much for the shop visit offer. I truly hope to take you up on it one day. Likewise, please stop by if you are ever in the Saratoga area.


    Much of my debate is whether this is a good use of my precious floor space. I have plenty of machines and used to think I had plenty of room. Space has become quite a premium to me and my bad habit is I have a hard time of selling off machines that I don't use that much- I always have that "what if" mentality.


    Peter

    On edit- Stephen thanks for adding more pictures. Seeing different set-ups is definitely helpful! Love the toggle clamp floating paddle to grab the skinny end of that part

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    SMT

    The " Pin " you speak of, does that function like the ball-bearing guide on router bits for hand-held routers (below pic); essentially a guide for the tool bit ?


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    Yes, would buy a small real one not a toy, although as I think about having to move some of my larger table tops around to precision cut them, I understand the allure of a very large table.

    Are you suggesting that I might be better with an inverted machine?
    If the tops are big, a portable router will probably remain the most convenient option, for 2 reasons.
    1.) easier, more convenient to lift and manipulate the hand held router than to juggle the top
    2.) the surface reference again: a hand held references the surface it rides on, so absolute depth will always be to the finish surface and your hardware should be flush and parallel as well.

    Which moves us to the inverted idea.
    My point was that you should be aware of the option, and consider its implications for your work.
    On a conventional pin router with the cutter above the table, if you make an error in handling, or the pattern is not parallel, or the work is not parallel, or there is too much dust under the pattern or between the pattern and the part, etc; then the depth of the pocket will be too deep.

    An inverted (bit below the table, pin and pattern over top) will "fail safe" in comparison. Walk through the scenarios above and the pocket will be too shallow - at least you get to try again!
    The inverted may not be as convenient to rapidly fixture work, though. So consider how you will use a pin router most of the time, and how big the parts will be.

    Getting back to the "fail safe" mode and large parts: Juggling a "large" top over roller stands and props on nearby machines and tables through a router with the bit on top is another invitation to mayhem. Perhaps only slightly mitigated by spring loaded roller hold downs. Running the same top face down on an inverted, once again gives the option for multiple tries "if at first you don't succeed.

    I have never personally used an inverted, though the guys demonstrating one at IWF '84 processed a yo-yo on it that I still have I imagine there would be a "faith development" curve cutting stuff below the pattern and out of sight. But like anything else, things would probably become second nature after a bit of practice.

    Per your note on selling seldom used machines:

    I tried and came close to selling my stroke sander after almost nil use in 5+ years. Good thing it didn't happen - been using it most days for the past couple months!

    smt

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    The " Pin " you speak of, does that function like the ball-bearing guide on router bits for hand-held routers (below pic); essentially a guide for the tool bit ?
    yes. But it is easy to use any diameter pin needed. So if you wanted to use that bit pattern, but move the cut "in" a little deeper, then a smaller diameter pin would do it. (using that pattern bit without a bearing or pilot on the end)

    Of course if I was running the straight edged part you show, I would just set up a straight fence. And the part you show would be safer, albeit slightly more tippy, to run on a simple router table with the bit below and a straight fence.

    smt

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    Every pattern shop I have worked in has had an overarm router in it with either an 1.5" straight cutter or a "safety planer" in it. The guys I worked with mentioned having similar routers in the shops they had worked in before. One of them might have been a pin router with the pin removed but I don't think there was a hole in the table under the router. It was a commercially made machine that the table could be raised with a foot pedal. The other 2 routers were shop built routers one having a large pipe mounted to a large cast iron table and then a cast arm with a router mounted in it. The rough height adjustment was done by raising and lowering the arm then the fine adjustment was the threaded ring on the router. The other one was an arm for a power feeder with a custom casting mounted to it to hold the router.

    They are really handy for when you glue up a stack of segmented rings. You leave each ring a hair oversize and you end up with the stack ideally about 1/8 over height. You then use the router to make the top and bottom parallel and to size. After pouring a urethane pattern in a mould we always pour an extra 1/8" to 1/4" to make sure it fills and to let all the bubbles out. This then gets routed off with the overarm router. Small patterns can be done in a mill and often are because small things are dangerous under the router but lots of these patterns are too big for the shop mill. As well the router is much faster and does not need a way to use hold downs.

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    Regarding getting rid of machines not used I am somewhat guilty of this although I have sold a few surplus machines. I should really sell my pattern lathe which is a sliding gap bed which I can turn 36" inboard on. The CNC router has largely made it obsolete for my needs. But it took me a long time to find the pattern lathe and I spent quite a bit of time cleaning it up, installing the motor and painting it. But I really need the space right now. My shop is looking tighter than Stephen's these days.

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    I would recommend an overhead or pin router to any serious woodworker. The one I ran for thousands of hours over a 27 year period had two speeds, 10,000 and 20,000 rpm. Ours was always set at 20,000. It was much easier to set up and operate than a shaper which we also had. I made everything from complicated moldings to thousands of Plexiglas windows for Chicago Transit buses. The head was stationary and the table which was about 20" x 30" moved up and down with a foot pedal. It was also good for dados and rabbits. Sorry, no pics. I retired 9 yrs ago and haven't been back.

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    I have used an inverted pin router a decent amount. It is a very nice machine to use. I think that it is pretty intuitive to use and it seems to me to be a safer version of the regular pin router. On the inverted, the spindle and cutter raise and lower to cut depth and the pin is on the overarm on an air cylinder that is on the foot pedal. They are more expensive than any pin router I have seen for sale. I almost jumped on one but realized that I would not use it much once I got my cnc. One other nice thing about the inverted is that they are still being made and a person can get parts and service from CR Onsrud.

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    SMT and all,

    So a Pin Router = Overhead Router ?

    So in essense a Pin Router does the same thing as a hand-held plunge router but is more ridgid, accurate and powerfull plus with the addition of angling the cutter head to the workpiece via a tilting table?

    Here is a chap milling out a cavity in a guitar body with a standard hand-held plunge router fixed to what looks like a stantionary gantry with only movement in the Z axis. I was/am wondering how he managed to mill out the cavity without a template ? Too much chips and obscured view from the router fixture to eye ball it to the accuracy he shows.



    ---

    One more thing, he is a guy milling out a convex cavity for a seat with an overhead router and shop built rotary table.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HqL8e3uBJTQ

    Now wouldn't an overhead router be more versatile with the addition of an X-Y table ? That would make it a mill , so now that leads me to ask , why not just use a milling machine in place of an Overhead router ?? Is it because a Milling machine has no flat large stationary table to free hand patterns?

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    I can't imagine not having a pin router, it's a critical piece of equipment! Of course my advice is a bit biased, as I have one I'm ready to sell, and have offered it to Peter.

    Seriously tho, the pin router can do stuff that no other machine can handle, or is too inconvenient or inefficient any other way. You don't see them in "studio furniture" maker shops, mostly because they are usually university trained, and those shops don't have them, because the instructors are university trained, etc, etc. It all goes back to early RIT days and Tage Frid. But they were very common in commercial shops, and their were rows of them in big factories, like there used to be bridgeports. And rows of Tannewitz bandsaws cutting out parts and feeding them to the router guys. Now its all cnc.

    Spud - that guy with the guitar IS using a template, you can see it and the pin right at the end of the video. An x-y table might be useful, but the machine really shines on curves. And a bridgeport can do some of it, but the spindle speed is way too low to use router bits freehand, needs at least 10,000 and often much more. Plus its a PIA to set up the pin, need 3 hands to plunge head and hold parts at the same time, and the table is too small.

    My machine is a Wadkin UR, a compact, heavy cast iron little beast. Has a 2 speed, direct drive head, driven from a frequency changer. The head plunges with a foot pedal, and can tilt. It's really nicely built, as all Wadkin stuff was. I'm reluctantly letting it go as I've moved into a much smaller shop, expect a smaller one yet in the vague future, and am no longer making furniture. Banjo making requires a different assortment of machines, and smaller stuff.

    I've been pruning the herd by leaving a lot of my machines stored on pallets in the back of the shop. After 2 years, if I haven't needed it and dragged it out, or really wished it was set up, it's a candidate for severance. Not an easy process, lots of emotional attachments, and the "what if" factor. Will Tracey now has my beautiful Oliver 159 lathe, my heart aches... Sold my 24" Yates jointer to a guy in Texas, who really wanted one, and paid well for it. After all, nothing on a banjo is wider than 3", but I immediately started feeling inadequate, came across a great deal on a 16" and drove to Ohio to fetch it. Still on the pallet, unused, but...

    Here's some pix off the internet of the Wadkin
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails router-1.jpg   wadkin_ur.jpg  

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    That 159 that you sold me Richard is a sweet lathe. I like your Wadkin UR too, it's a great size, on the small side maybe as pin routers go, but still very much a real machine. The frequency changer is no lightweight either. I'd entertain buying it just because it's a Wadkin and it's a 1,000 feet as the crow flies from my shop, but I wouldn't have a lot of use for it. I went to a couple of those schools where they don't have such things because of Tage Frid, so I've never had the opportunity to use one At least places like RIT and RISD haven't held on to Frid's love of bow saws and belt sanders.

    It is curious, though, how certain production tools are or are not taught in schools. CNC technologies have certainly been embraced, but then it's a little more glamorous.

    Will

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    I have an Onsrud Ro-117........love it.

    Have shapers etc, but for quick jobs i go to the 117

    Need to do a quick round -over?

    Stick in a router bit w/brg pilot and go to it.

    I have both 1/4 and 1/2" collets, 1/2 for "heavy work" .....I just feel better having a stronger 1/2 shank spinning
    at 20K a few inches from my fingers.

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    Yes, I'm probably going to buy Richards Router. His offer to me was very generous and it would be my first Wadkin machine which seems fitting. I think I am going to learn on the fly.

    As an aside, Does anyone have any experience running a frequency converter on a rotary phase converter?

    Pete

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    Every pattern shop I have worked in has had an overarm router in it with either an 1.5" straight cutter or a "safety planer" in it.....(snip)..... The rough height adjustment was done by raising and lowering the arm then the fine adjustment was the threaded ring on the router. The other one was an arm for a power feeder with a custom casting mounted to it to hold the router.

    They are really handy for when you glue up a stack of segmented rings. You leave each ring a hair oversize and you end up with the stack ideally about 1/8 over height. You then use the router to make the top and bottom parallel and to size.
    Aha! Now that is a great idea. I was never exposed to that but it makes perfect sense.

    After pouring a urethane pattern in a mould we always pour an extra 1/8" to 1/4" to make sure it fills and to let all the bubbles out. This then gets routed off with the overarm router. Small patterns can be done in a mill and often are because small things are dangerous under the router but lots of these patterns are too big for the shop mill. As well the router is much faster and does not need a way to use hold downs.
    I was fortunate in getting a widebelt that has about 13" of daylight. Kind of rare, most only go to 5 or 6". (A friend of mine in MD had a taller one - it came out of a casket factory ) I feel a lot more secure running the mould box so the back side is parallel to the part line, then running it face up to remove the urethane overfill. But then I probably won't ever make any patterns much bigger than this one.











    smt

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    Seriously tho, the pin router can do stuff that no other machine can handle, or is too inconvenient or inefficient any other way. You don't see them in "studio furniture" maker shops, mostly because they are usually university trained, and those shops don't have them, because the instructors are university trained, etc, etc. It all goes back to early RIT days and Tage Frid.
    I am appalled by the ignorance in some university shops regarding many common practical machines and tooling used for wood working. Given an academic setting, it is even more appalling that much of the ignorance is in fact "willfull".
    Students should be exposed to common processes and machines for wood manufacturing, and then perhaps shown the work around involving hand held tools, wooden fixtures, and table saw kludges for various forms of work. Not taught the work-arounds and kludges as primary methods because the teachers and program can't be bothered to learn many common methods of machine manufacturing wood well enough to transfer the important aspects efficiently and effectively.

    OTOH, 3d printers and cnc routers are rapidly making many of my favorite old time machines obsolete anyway. Grumble, grouch.

    Realistically, what a student in a studio wood program should be exposed to is a seriously capable tool making course. A practical one. Make cutters and cutterheads. At least learn to grind simple tools and complex moulding knives freehand, if only for a woodplane. The creative aspects of wood design are where a woodworker will sink or swim. But having an effective production concept will help with the swimming process. Where the student will be able to realize the creative aspects of imagination involves understanding of & access to tooling. If they don't know what is out there, how to use it and how to make it, that is a significant limitation. Then the (supposed) creative process becomes little more than thrall to a limited concept of tools and tooling that can be commonly purchased.

    Richard, that is an awfully nice looking machine!
    Mine is only 5,000 & 10,000 rpm. Adequate, but there are times 15K would be nice. I think something with about 8K & 16K would work well for me.

    smt


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