Tool Review #1
When I first heard of the EZ-Route Universal Slide Guide, my question was, "What does it do?". Before requesting a unit for an evaluation, I decided to visit the website and see what information I could gather about it. As it turned out, very little. I found a sketch, a list of router tasks that it would make easier and some photographs. But I still came away with the same question.
The promo made claims of simplifying dados and rabbets, and I was beginning a cabinet-type router table project which was infested with both. I wondered if the Universal Slide Guide (USG) would help? One way to find out. So I requested and received a USG shortly thereafter. Being a gadget freak, I couldn't wait to get it out of the box and see what it was, and what the instructions said I could do with it.
Uh-oh. The instructions consisted of a half-sheet of paper with 6 steps (see the website for complete instructions.)
So, the only way to find out how this fixture would simplify routing tasks was to head out to the shop. (It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it.)
The USG is basically a 7" X 10" router base plate made from clear acrylic with enough countersunk holes to allow mounting it to most routers. On each side of the plate is an oak fence, approximately 1" X 1" X 10" long, mounted in slots with wing nuts which permit the fences to be adjust anywhere from near centerline of the bit to 2" from center. To make it simpler, imagine a router edge guide on both sides of the router (each with a 2" maximum distance.)
As it turned out, most of the construction of the cabinet could not make use of the USG's design intent. By far, the most practical use of the USG is in routing a mortise into the edge of a workpiece. For routing dados in the middle of a panel, the fences provide no help, and rabbets around the edges of plywood are much easier on the router table. Judging from the pictures on the box and on the website, the USG is most beneficial to those who mortise for locksets on the edge of doors, although it seems to me that in order to be really helpful for mortising the edges of doors, some type of auto-centering mechanism needs to be incorporated into the design.
While watching a Marc Adams video on router jigs, I saw a perfect use for the USG. The demonstration was how to trim strips of inlay that had been installed proud of the groove. Marc had designed a C-shaped router base plate from wood, and used it to follow the inlaid strip with a dado bit, trimming the inlay flush with the surrounding piece. But before doing this, he had to use a chisel to trim a small section of the inlay away to allow his plate to sit flat on the panel. With the USG, the two fences will easily straddle and follow the inlay, eliminating any preliminary chisel work.
The only drawback to this use is that the bolts that attach the fences to the plate are not counterbored into the oak fences. A quick trip to the drill press solved that problem. (Since the bolts have a distinct shoulder, I then had to stack a couple of washers below the wing nuts.) With this small modification, I was able to use the USG for a completely different application. (Perhaps a design change may be in order, hint, hint.)
Unfortunately, my projects so far do not seem to fit into the major design intentions of the USG and I was not able to make use of the types of mortising that created the need for this well-made jig. But, with the first use, it became apparent that it fills a void in the router accessory market. If your work involves edge mortising or inlay trimming, I highly recommend the USG. With a list price of $30 including S&H, you can't go wrong.
Tool Review #2
The foot plate has four slots, two opposing each other, with one set being longer affording a greater distance of offset. This feature means that an infinite number of adjustments can be made for a wide variety of material widths.
The guides have holes that are drilled in them to accept locking bolts that ride in the slots. These bolts can be loosened so that these guides can be moved in relation to the slots and adjusted to the material being worked. One guide has its holes drilled offset to its center, meaning that it can be turned around to achieve an even greater flexibility for the material being used. The inclusion of this concept alone makes the EZ Route friendly to use.
The fault I have with regard to construction is the thickness of the foot plate. In my view acrylic that is only 3/16" allows for too much flexibility; something not needed considering the nature of the EZ Route.
The foot plate comes pre-drilled with various hole patterns making it easy to attach it to a multitude of routers. The installation couldn't be simpler; you remove the base plate, align the proper set of holes of the EZ Route to your router base and secure it with flathead screws. I ran into a spot of difficulty here because the screws that were provided with the EZ Route didn't fit my PC 690 - just be sure to check that the screws you get will turn easily in the threads so that you don't strip them out.
Let's say you intend to route a mortise on the edge of a board and it's to be offset to the width of the board. Okay, well in this situation using a router table means that you'll be working blind because this cutting operation requires several passes and some very precise setups in order to ensure that you don't overshoot the intended parameters of the mortise. With the EZ Route and its clear acrylic plate, you're allowed to see exactly what is being done and ensuring that the cuts are precise. You equip the EZ Route with both guides, adjust them so that the cutter is delineated properly with respect to the material being worked, and have at it. In this case, this is where a plunge type of router will certainly be needed in order to give the best quality of cut.
In whatever position or application you use your EZ Route, there is a very real requirement for a way to adequately support the piece being worked so that it doesn't slip or give away during the cutting operation. So be sure that you're comfortable with it before starting the cut.
Remember when I said that a plunge type of router is recommended? Well, in this particular application a fixed base router was perfectly suited for the operation, but as I indicated above, a plunge type in that application was the best choice. So, you can see that both routers will work in different operations but only a plunge type will work in all of them.
If you'd like to take a peek at it then point your browser to the EZ Route WEB site.
If you care to order it or purchase it direct, then you can call or visit the following locations or mail order companies:
Timber Woodworking Machinery
According to Brian, he has basically
given up on Internet sales and is looking for more