How to Engrave With a Router

Updated February 21, 2017

Learning how to hand engrave with a router can be very rewarding. Freehand engraving yields results that last forever. All you need is a small hand router. Draw your pattern on a piece of wood and establish your lines. Follow them with a router and a small engraving bit. Because you don't use guides to follow your patterns, it gives your engravings a custom, hand carved look. It's easy, fun and it's even safer than engraving with a knife. A popular grape-leaf pattern is traditional and easy to find, and is a good place to start.

Download a grape leaf pattern of your choice and print it out. Cut out the pattern with scissors.

Trace the pattern onto the pine. Clamp the pine to the edge of a worktable.

Insert the flute bit into the router and tighten the retaining nut using the wrenches. Loosen the depth of cut adjustment on the side of the router and slide the router base so that 1/4 inch of the bit extends out the bottom of the router base. Tighten the depth of cut knob.

Plug in the router. Hold the router base in both hands, position it over the pine. Reach up with your thumb and turn the router on.

Position the tip of the bit over the pencil lines and lower the bit into the wood. Let the sides of your palms on both hands rest on the wood as you hold the router between your hands.

Begin following the lines, like you would with a large pen sliding the router along slowly as you trace over the pencil lines, letting the bit cut the design with the tip of the bit. Trace the entire design.


Test the depth of your cut on a piece of scrap wood, or the back of your piece of pine before starting to engrave. When finished engraving, use a small piece of folded sandpaper to remove any feathered edges of the engraving lines.


Always wear safety glasses when working with wood. Make sure your router is turned off when you plug it in.

Things You'll Need

  • Small hand router, 1/4-inch capacity
  • Router bit, 1/4-inch flute
  • 2 wrenches that came with router
  • Pencil
  • Pattern
  • Pine, 6-by-24-by-3/4-inch
  • Grape leaf pattern
  • Scissors
  • 2 hand clamps, 12-inch
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About the Author

Specializing in hardwood furniture, trim carpentry, cabinets, home improvement and architectural millwork, Wade Shaddy has worked in homebuilding since 1972. Shaddy has also worked as a newspaper reporter and writer, and as a contributing writer for Bicycling Magazine. Shaddy began publishing in various magazines in 1992, and published a novel, “Dark Canyon,” in 2008.