An introduction to the Overhead Router

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ScottyT

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I am currently making some louvre doors for a couple of air conditioning rooms somewhere up in the capitol, and it got me thinking as I was on the machine, I wonder how many people have one, use one or used to use one or have no idea what one is at all?

I am an enormous fan and could not be without one personally, but given the prices of them these days (not far off scrap value) and the shift from a more hands on/mechanical machining approach to a digital world of mass production and super low prices I wonder if they are becoming a bit of a dying breed?

Anyhow I thought I would do a thread on the basics of the machine, it’s principal purposes (atleast for myself I am sure they have been utilised in 1000’s of ways) and how incredibly versatile and accurate they are.

Here is the one I use and have been using for the last 14 years (yikes)

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Also known as a pin router (I’ll get into that) it’s a very basic tool, the table rises up and down, the head of the machine that houses the Chuck goes up and down via a foot pedal and there is a hole exactly centre over the head that houses a pin.

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The wheel is for the table height, and the foot pedal is for the head rise and fall (the cutter essentially)

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The head of the machine

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The Chuck that takes a selection of imperial collets to hold the tooling

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A 3 way depth stop turret (top) and the side mounted handle below is to keep the head in the ‘top’ position off of the foot pedal.

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Some collets and basic tooling kept behind the machine

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And here is the pin (shiny upstand in the centre of the table) and my hand is on its selector, you can move the pin up and down in 3 positions from this lever.

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I have posted this thread in this section because almost all work is run off of either jigs or templates, all made up for whatever the job may be. A fence is used occasionally if I am paneling or running chamfers.
The beauty of this machine is its ability to repeat work very accurately very quickly, if my jigs and templates are made well it’ll take care of the rest.
I will try to show as best as I can some work it has done for me over the years and the jigs and templates etc.
Unfortunately I only have the louvre jig to go into great detail with accompanying photos of the work as that is what I am working on now, but I have a heap of templates and jigs I can post up without photos of what they were used for so you can get a feel for it.
 

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I am currently making some louvre doors for a couple of air conditioning rooms somewhere up in the capitol, and it got me thinking as I was on the machine, I wonder how many people have one, use one or used to use one or have no idea what one is at all?

I am an enormous fan and could not be without one personally, but given the prices of them these days (not far off scrap value) and the shift from a more hands on/mechanical machining approach to a digital world of mass production and super low prices I wonder if they are becoming a bit of a dying breed?

Anyhow I thought I would do a thread on the basics of the machine, it’s principal purposes (atleast for myself I am sure they have been utilised in 1000’s of ways) and how incredibly versatile and accurate they are.

Here is the one I use and have been using for the last 14 years (yikes)

View attachment 158958

Also known as a pin router (I’ll get into that) it’s a very basic tool, the table rises up and down, the head of the machine that houses the Chuck goes up and down via a foot pedal and there is a hole exactly centre over the head that houses a pin.

View attachment 158959

The wheel is for the table height, and the foot pedal is for the head rise and fall (the cutter essentially)

View attachment 158960

The head of the machine

View attachment 158961

The Chuck that takes a selection of imperial collets to hold the tooling

View attachment 158964

A 3 way depth stop turret (top) and the side mounted handle below is to keep the head in the ‘top’ position off of the foot pedal.

View attachment 158965

Some collets and basic tooling kept behind the machine

View attachment 158963

And here is the pin (shiny upstand in the centre of the table) and my hand is on its selector, you can move the pin up and down in 3 positions from this lever.

View attachment 158967

I have posted this thread in this section because almost all work is run off of either jigs or templates, all made up for whatever the job may be. A fence is used occasionally if I am paneling or running chamfers.
The beauty of this machine is its ability to repeat work very accurately very quickly, if my jigs and templates are made well it’ll take care of the rest.
I will try to show as best as I can some work it has done for me over the years and the jigs and templates etc.
Unfortunately I only have the louvre jig to go into great detail with accompanying photos of the work as that is what I am working on now, but I have a heap of templates and jigs I can post up without photos of what they were used for so you can get a feel for it.

So, in reference to louvre doors (excusing the poor design from the architect) I need to machine 45 degree trenches in my stiles and it’s here where the Overhead comes into play.
I need to machine 8 stiles, and it’s 19 per so 152 all in.
There are a number of ways to do it, whether it’s on a radial saw with a dado or over the top with a hand held router etc etc but in my environment it’s the OH all day long.

First up it’s a really simple jig

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A bit of crusty 3/4 ply, but it is flat and that is important.

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Get 45 degrees on there

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Working from centre, this is where it needs to be accurate. I am going to get my router and sink a 13mm slot into the ply, this will accommodate a 13mm pin in the overhead router bed!

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Slot and pin ready to go, that’s essentially it, I will sling on two fences front and back to keep it square and avoid tear out. A jig like this typically takes 30 minutes to make, but saves me a heap of time, but more importantly it’s the accuracy I can get on the Overhead, and that is what I am after.

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I slung a set up piece in first to check the depth, behaviour of the cutter and how it was all feeling before I put my first stile in to machine. Everything is as i expected it so I can proceed with confidence 😃

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Really crisp and clean cuts, effortlessly done on here, and they take 5 seconds a pop.
 

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Now it’s all set and I am happy, I can dog Into all the stiles, 4 are going in one direction 4 are going the other (we call this handing) means no more than 4 are going left and 4 are going right and when you pair them together to make the door they are both going in same direction as they are opposites to each other. No need for two jigs though you simply flip the ply over and Roberts your dads brother!
I mark them all out from my rod so I have a reference and then it’s insert and go, just sliding it up to the mark every cut. I cramp up every time to avoid slippage and break out. Once I machine all the way through I lift the head gear up out the way and return the work back through ready for resetting, I don’t want to back my work up through the cutter again on the reverse slide as it may widen my groove ever so slightly and fluff up my joint.

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Ready to go

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Guard In place, pin up through the jig, cramped up to avoid tear out, push and go.

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You get the idea from this shot at the repetition and accuracy and how clean it is. It takes minutes to get this done it’s a fantastic machine.




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One jig and a few hours work. I have loads of stuff I can load up here if interested! I’ll have a dig about in the archives for some interesting bits
 
We had a couple in the college workshop I used to run, one pin version like yours and the other had a moving milling table. Both good bits of kit but can bite and be quite dangerous in untrained hands. Used a lot in the past for chair making and curved component copying.

Cheers

Peter
Superb. It’s all dangerous in the wrong hands I suppose.
I have done some super tight and very small glazing bars off profile on it in the past with great results.
We had a couple in the college workshop I used to run, one pin version like yours and the other had a moving milling table. Both good bits of kit but can bite and be quite dangerous in untrained hands. Used a lot in the past for chair making and curved component copying.

Cheers

Peter
superb. I suppose it’s all dangerous in the wrong hands. I have machined some insanely tight glazing bars from profile on it in the past with great results. I use it all the time, as often as I can to be honest. From lattice work and curves, halving out on profile, trenching, paneling it’s endless.
Perhaps one of its greatest feats was some huge elliptical hoops I made for a folly some years. The thread is on here called ‘an interesting roof’ if you’re interested.

Scotty
 
30 years ago when I did Furniture making at college I used one of these mostly with Jigs and pin for profiling tapered legs and general profiling was good fun!
 
Fab info thanks, I've seen them often going for some pretty low prices etc and thought a little about how they worked but never seen in action. Too big for my little shop, but with a house move on the horizon I could end up with more space for more machines!

Warning preach incoming!
No intent to upset but the breath you take after lifting your dust mask to blow off the dust is likely undoing any benefit of the mask, you have your face in the dust zone by the work piece and are taking a nice hard breath in. Preach over!
 
Really useful machines,once you understand their potential.I've used four of them at various times,from one like the Wadkin shown down to a tiny Zimmermann with a rotary table and a tilting head.With a home made fence,notched for relief around the cutter,they can produce mouldings too.The sign on the machine relating to the guard needs to be adhered to religiously.For some jobs,jigs that have handles which extend well away from the cutting zone are almost essential but this gets to the most difficult part of the process;the machine will accurately duplicate the jig,so you have to make a very accurate jig.
 
3 hoops template i machined off of the overhead to use as my pin profiler for 12 of these to go in to columns.



I made this entrance gate years ago and these photos are when i went back to rectify a bodge by the automation company. All of the lattice work in the bottom regarding halving was done on the overhead in a very similar way to the louvre stiles, only real difference is there is no need to mark it all out, I just need to mark a datum point and half up to it every time.
The curves are also halved out on the overhead, it’s pace and accuracy and ability for clean sharp edges are unrivalled to anything else i have at my place.
Fab info thanks, I've seen them often going for some pretty low prices etc and thought a little about how they worked but never seen in action. Too big for my little shop, but with a house move on the horizon I could end up with more space for more machines!

Warning preach incoming!
No intent to upset but the breath you take after lifting your dust mask to blow off the dust is likely undoing any benefit of the mask, you have your face in the dust zone by the work piece and are taking a nice hard breath in. Preach over!
I would say if you have space for one Fitzroy then you’ll have a use for it at one or another time down the line, it’s fantastic for repetition work and as I have stated very accurate.
However it is a finger muncher, unfortunately this very machine has taken a couple of digits over its time but solely down to user error! As long as you are confident in your ability and are aware of the proper and safe working practices (as with any tool let’s be honest) you’ll be golden.

You need not fear preaching to me, I don’t bite and I am putting myself and my work out there for all to see no matter the opinions of the product or practice so any scrutiny of anything you see or don’t see is a valid opinion.

Thankyou for taking the time to look at the post
 
Really useful machines,once you understand their potential.I've used four of them at various times,from one like the Wadkin shown down to a tiny Zimmermann with a rotary table and a tilting head.With a home made fence,notched for relief around the cutter,they can produce mouldings too.The sign on the machine relating to the guard needs to be adhered to religiously.For some jobs,jigs that have handles which extend well away from the cutting zone are almost essential but this gets to the most difficult part of the process;the machine will accurately duplicate the jig,so you have to make a very accurate jig.
Fantastic that you’re familiar with them and rate their usefulness, I get the feeling machines like these are dying out never to return.
It’s all in the jigs for sure, once that has been mastered and you know your way around it you’re well away.

Thanks for the reply
 
That Wadkin looks great. I have an Elu overhead router, it had a MOF11 in with too much runout. Luckily found a Dewalt for it (627). I look out for them to have one for backup but they're rare as an honest politician.

I use the pin with some fixtures but I do most of my template routing on it (guitars). It's brilliant, if it exploded I'd hunt another one out asap. It lets me do things quickly that would be a pain and or/iffy with other methods. One is rough-shaping necks with cutters like helicopters.. the necks are in a fixture so hands are well away from them. Still keeps a chap fairly well awake though. I can do small mods quickly & accurately that people would likely struggle to find another tech to do, I love the thing.
 
That Wadkin looks great. I have an Elu overhead router, it had a MOF11 in with too much runout. Luckily found a Dewalt for it (627). I look out for them to have one for backup but they're rare as an honest politician.

I use the pin with some fixtures but I do most of my template routing on it (guitars). It's brilliant, if it exploded I'd hunt another one out asap. It lets me do things quickly that would be a pain and or/iffy with other methods. One is rough-shaping necks with cutters like helicopters.. the necks are in a fixture so hands are well away from them. Still keeps a chap fairly well awake though. I can do small mods quickly & accurately that people would likely struggle to find another tech to do, I love the thing.
That’s brilliant, like yourself I could not be without it and i have seen them go on eBay fairly regularly for sub 300 pounds!
I had a job not that long ago to make up some large hoops, that were in essence a 90mm post, twisted into a diamond profile and then made into a huge ellipse. It was a challenge for me to come up with a way of doing.
The spindle was not capable of it, you couldn’t saw it out due to its elliptical shape, there was no way of roughing them by hand and then cleaning up after as they had to be perfect.
And then cue the overhead, I made a very simple bearing guide and got the biggest 45 degree cutter we had, made some accurate templates and ran them off the pin in multiple passes.
It was a breeze and the results were fantastic. (That’s very simplified by that was the short version of it, the templates were quite tricky to get out in a way for it all to work)
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A ridiculous job this was, when my old man (I work for my dad) took it on I was thinking goodness me can we actually even do this? 😆

If it wasn’t for the overhead this would have been beyond me.
 

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If this kind of information gets out,I can see the prices of used machines going up quite soon! Nice work ScottyT. I had thought that the widespread adoption of CNC routers had pretty much sent the good old overheads the way of pump screwdrivers.
 
They are indeed , very versatile machines. I too have the much smaller Elu version , with the MOF 11 router motor fitted.

A friend used to have a large Interwood in his shop, complete with frequency changer. which was quite a 'noisy beast ', when he powered it up. The previous owner had used it to make, amongst other things, what I believe were called ' elephants feet' These were large sections of elm trunk with a deep rebate in the top to accommodate the large tent post of a 'big top', which stopped them digging too deep into the ground.

At the other end of the scale, the same machine was featured in the in the old ICI booklets on machining Perspex - from letters for shop -fronts, to the delicate frames for spectacles. There is one on Ebay at the moment , though it's going for about £ 2500.
 
The hoops structure is amazing Scotty. Everything I do is small, or small and fiddly both. Love to see that kind of thing, as well as everything that gets made around here.
My good mate badgered me to get an overhead and so glad I did. I've seen some in the premises of well-known makers, they're about ideal sized for guitar stuff. But that Wadkin.. looks ace.
 

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