Woodrat Sliding Scale

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The WoodRat cuts finger joints, through and half-blind dovetails, sliding dovetails, grooves, dadoes, mortises, tenons, raised panels and even circles and dowels. That's a lot of versatility for the money. In fact, the WoodRat WR5 ($629) is one of the most versatile machines I've ever used.

If you have limited space, you'll appreciate the WoodRat's compact size. Designed to be wall-mounted, it extends only about 7 in. when the baseplate is removed. If wall space is unavailable, the WoodRat can also be adapted to mount on a bench.

The WoodRat requires a plunge router. The mounting plate is predrilled to accept numerous brands. I recommend at least a 2-1/4-hp 12-amp router.

Precise Control

The WoodRat provides excellentjoint-cutting control. The wood and router are both secured in the jig, so for most cuts, you don't have to hand-hold the material or router as you would on a router table or with other router-based jigs. I really love the power-feed capability you get by turning the crank to feed the material past the bit. This allows stich operations as climb-cutting shoulders on tenons. Climb-cutting greatly reduces splintering when you rout end grain.

Practice Makes Perfect

The WoodRat isn't the most intuitive machine to operate. Even if you've used other router-based jigs, such as dovetail jigs, plan to spend plenty of shop time learning to use it. When you understand how the WoodRat works, cutting dadoes, mortises and tenons becomes easy. But some operations—dovetails, for example—are fussy to set up and tricky to execute. I found I had to work completely through the dovetailing process start to finish to get the big picture and then tweak my skills on another practice joint before moving to the real thing.

How the WoodRat Works

The WoodRat consists of a baseplate and an extruded channel. The baseplate holds a mounting plate for the router that slides and can be locked in any position. The channel cradles a crank-operated sliding bar. Clamps on the sliding bar hold the workpiece and sometimes an indexing piece. The sliding mechanism operates with virtually no play, so no lock is needed.

To operate the WoodRat, you move the mounting

Woodrat Plunge Bar Manual
UP AND DOWN.The router's plunge mechanism controls the depth of cut and allows creating the distinct starting and stopping points required for mortises and stopped grooves and dadoes.The plunge bar makes this a simple one-hand operation (see "Must-Have Accessories," page 36).

plate and the sliding bar separately or in tandem, depending on the joint you want to rout. Four types of movement are possible (see photos, below).

In addition, the WoodRat can operate like a router table, with both the router and the sliding bar stationary. You simply push the workpiece through the bit, using the extruded channel as a fence and a clamped-on brush that holds the workpiece against the baseplate.

Woodrat Router

SIDETO SIDE.Turning the crank moves the sliding bar left and right past the router and bit, which are fixed in place. Cam-lever clamps mounted on the sliding bar hold the workpiece and indexing piece (used for some operations) in position, so they move with the sliding bar. Used when routing mortises, tenons, dovetails and finger joints.

Making Tenons With Router

FORWARD AND BACKWARD. The router's mounting plate slides in and out on the baseplate. Guide rails ensure it tracks perpendicularly to the face of the jig. Used when routing dadoes, dovetails, finger joints, tenons, or wide mortises.

AT ANGLES. The router's mounting plate can move forward and backward at angles, instead of perpendicular to the face of the jig. Eccentric spiral discs determine the angles. Used when routing dovetail sockets.

FORWARD AND BACKWARD. The router's mounting plate slides in and out on the baseplate. Guide rails ensure it tracks perpendicularly to the face of the jig. Used when routing dadoes, dovetails, finger joints, tenons, or wide mortises.

AT ANGLES. The router's mounting plate can move forward and backward at angles, instead of perpendicular to the face of the jig. Eccentric spiral discs determine the angles. Used when routing dovetail sockets.

Woodrat Dovetail Jig

Must-Have Accessories

Many accessories are available for the WoodRat. Here are two I really found useful.

To cut dovetails, you make a mark on the face of the jig and use that mark to index subsequent cuts (see "Dovetails," page 38). This system allows you to infinitely vary the spacing between dovetails, but it takes practice to learn how to position your work relative to the index mark, which is critical for good results. The digital scale simplifies making these adjustments (available as an accessory, see Sources, page 38).

Final Analysis

In most shops, the WoodRat WR5 will be used for joint-making, but it can also function like a router table to produce dadoes, grooves, edge moldings and even raised-panel doors.

The WoodRat can't be compared dollar-fordollar to dovetail jigs, because it's more versatile. If you focus on dovetailing capabilities, such as infinitely variable spacing and bit size choices, the WoodRat is comparable to premium dovetailing jigs, such as the Leigh D4R and the Porter-Cable Omnijig, but it costs more.

If you only want a basic dovetail jig, you don't need a WoodRat. But if you want to add a multifunction machine to your shop, and you're willing to put in practice time, the WoodRat is a great

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THE PLUNGE BAR, $35, adds leverage and control that make plunge-routing smooth and easy—you can even plunge with one hand while finessing the stop rod for depth of cut with the other. In addition, the bar is great for pulling the router through the cut. Versions are available for many different plunge routers.

THE QUICK-CHANGE CHUCK, $52, makes changing bits easy because it allows tightening and loosening the collet with one hand.This means you can hold on to the bit with the other hand —and keep it from falling through to the floor. Available for DeWalt, Porter-Cable and Bosch plunge routers.

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