Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Router Cutting the V-Notches

Joel's comment asking about how the router worked cutting the V-notch prompted this post.

I am not yet comfortable enough with a table saw to try cutting something like a V-notch in pieces as small as the staves are for the mizzen mast. Yes, I had help - more like I watched - ripping the staves.

Two years ago, in a fit of enthusiasm, I bought a MLCS multi-sided glue joint bit based on encouraging words from another boat-builder. But, once I realized how small the staves are for the size spars we use, my enthusiasm waned and I didn't do anything with the bit. So now, while building Gardens, I decided to experiment with the birds-mouth method.

Having milled the test sample staves to size (16mm x 22mm) and length (914mm), I installed the bit in a Hitachi variable-speed router mounted in a Craftsman bench-top router table with finger boards. Getting the bit height and fence adjusted took a few tries but once it was set up, the routing went very quickly and smoothly. Set on low-speed, this set-up cut each V-notch in a single pass and cut without tear-out. I imagine notching the longer staves will require more help and at least some in-feed and out-feed support. I suspect that notching hardwood might require multiple passes through the router but using fir, spruce or other softwood the single pass eliminates some handling.

Of course, having convinced myself I can make birds-mouth spars, I can see making all of the spars for Gardens using this method. And who knows, maybe, perhaps, going back to make a set of round spars for Karen Ann.


  1. Aha! I see. You used a high quality tool specifically designed to do this exact job quickly and efficiently. That explains why I didn't think of it!

  2. Will the spars for Gardens be tapered or straight-sided? Never having done it, my impression is that doing Birdsmouth on a tapered stave is possible, but quite a bit more complex. With the router bit and finger boards, though, it seems like should be possible, once you've cut the tapers in the staves based upon a radius to stave width conversion factor...