Most project parts are straight and square. There isn’t much to them that a jointer, planer, and table saw can’t handle. But other times a project might be made up of curved or irregularly shaped parts. And what’s more, several of these parts need to match perfectly. That’s when template routing those workpieces to shape becomes your best option.
This process begins, of course, with making the template. It’s critical that the template remain flat and stable while you work, so materials like acrylic, hardboard, or MDF are your best choices. I prefer 1⁄4" hardboard because it’s the least expensive option.
Next, you need to lay out the shape you want to cut on the template. Since the template dictates the shape and size of all the parts you’ll create with it, it’s important to take a little time to get it right. Luckily, this isn’t difficult. Start by cutting the template out, slightly outside the layout line, on a band saw.
Then, use a sander to sneak up to the line and shape the template to final size. If your template has any sharp corners, you can rely on chisels, files, and rasps to cleanly establish those details.