How to Make Edge Joints With a Router

Updated: Jun. 01, 2023

Cut sharp, tight-fitting edges every time

FH11MAR_ENGCOD_01-2 engine codesFamily Handyman
Although it takes longer than a jointer, routers can make clean, straight-edged joints for cabinet doors and panels, as well as for other woodworking projects.

You might also like: TBD

Two options for edge joints

Method 1: Straightedge guide

If you have a router with a 1/4-in. collet, buy a carbide straight-cutting bit with a 1 to 1-1/4-in. cutting length (sold at home centers and woodworking stores). Place your straightedge on top of the board you’re jointing. Set the straightedge guide back on the board so you remove only 1/16 in. of stock at a time. This technique is easier if your router has a base with a straight edge, but it also works with a round base. This “straight edge on top” method works best for 1/4-in. shank router bits because it puts most of the force on the router base instead of the bit’s shank.

Method 2: Flush trim bit with bearing

If you have a router with a 1/2-in. collet, go with the “straight edge on bottom” method by using a 1 to 1-1/2-in. carbide flush trim bit with bottom bearing (sold at woodworking stores). This technique puts the force on the bit’s shank, but that’s OK with these heavier bits. Just tightly clamp your straightedge on the bottom of the stock and set it about 1/16 in. back from the stock’s edge. The only measuring you need to do is to make sure your board winds up with the same width on both ends.

You can use a router to make those square, straight edges you need to join boards into a solid wood panel. It’s more time-consuming than using a jointer, especially for long boards, but in some ways a router works even better. You don’t have to worry about having a long enough outfeed table (or workshop) for long boards or having the infeed and outfeed tables perfectly aligned. All you need is a good carbide straight-cutting router bit and a piece of 1/2-in. medium-density fiberboard (MDF) with a factory straight edge. The photos show two ways to make your joint.

If you have a very bowed board, snap a straight line with your chalk box, then use your circular saw to get a rough straightedge before routing.

Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • Clamps
  • Router
You’ll also need a 1/2-in. flush trim router bit with a bottom bearing or a carbide straight-cutting bit.

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.

  • 1/2-in. MDF