If you find your projects are a little plain and
ordinary and need that something extra to spice them up or add
character, then perhaps the Spirocrafter from Milescraft may be what you
are looking for?
This simple but interesting product allows to rout designs into your
workpiece for that added extra detail. It allows you to cut designs all the
way through the workpiece, and even cut out a wide range of templated
designs for application to other items of furniture, or other projects.
Even the kids can get some good, safe use out of this tool with a packet
of pens or pencils.
What's in the Box?
The Spirocrafter comes with the 2-part black base plate (which joins
together to form the base), 2 red templates to fit into the base, providing
10 template window shapes, a TurnLock Router Base and centering pin
(for attaching to your router) and 2 guide bushes (to use with the
TurnLock base). Instructions are also included to get you going.
So, to use the Spirocrafter, all you need to supply is a
router and an appropriate router bit to get started. No router? No
problem... If you have a Dremel (or similar) rotary tool, Milescraft also
sell the "Plunger" - essentially, it turns your rotary tool into a plunge
router and allows you to use the Spirocrafter product.
The TurnLock base is designed for use with many popular 6" routers. It
has many pre-drilled holes and slots to adapt to a number of brands. Once
fitted and centered on the base (using the centering pin accessory), it
allows you to use the guide bushings supplied with the product quickly and
easily. Unfortunately, the TurnLock base did not fit my particular router.
If you're router comes with guide bushings supplied (or available as an
accessory for your router from the manufacturer), the TurnLock is not
absolutely necessary anyway, so this issue, fortunately, did not hold me
back. So, armed with my small plunge router with its default guide bush and
a straight cutting bit installed, I was ready to create some art.
How Does it Work?
The black base plate components join together (without tools) to form
a one-piece base allowing the two red template guides to be used
with it. Each red template has a number of fixed shapes (pattern windows)
molded into them. By using a combination of shapes, and rotating the
templates around the base plate, a large number of patterns can be
produced. The included documentation shows how you can make a large number
of designs and provides the instructions to do so. Designs range from
floral-types to celtic-types, to more 'masculine' shapes. There should be
something to suit most people, and most projects. Additionally, you can
come up with your own designs if you wish. There are potentially limitless
numbers of designs that could be made with a little time and effort
invested in devising them.
To help you achieve this, or at least give the kids a
really cool art-producing product, Milescraft include a small plastic
pencil guide accessory. You slip a pencil through the middle of the device
which, on one end, simulates a 17mm bushing, and on the other a 24mm
bushing, and this allows you to test various designs on paper before you
attack your workpiece with the router, or provide endless hours of
creative fun for the little ones.
I actually found myself spending an hour or two discovering
what kind of interesting and unique patterns I could come up with using
the templates. A word of advice if you do this... Make sure you have a pen
and some paper handy to write any combinations/designs you have created
down for later use!
To give you a basic idea of the process of using the
Spirocrafter, firstly, you decide which design you wish to use. A simple
design uses only one of the pattern windows, more complex designs use
multiple windows. With a simple design you align the small pins of the
template into the appropriately lettered section of the template. You then
rout that pattern keeping the guide bushing running snugly against the
outside edge of the window, or if you are relieving the entire window
area, move the router all the way around the outside, and then move inside
until all material is removed. Once this is done, switch the router off,
lift the template up out of the black base and rotate it around to the
next assigned location (called a rotation interval). It may be 2
intervals, 3 intervals or 6 intervals, depending on the design. There are
24 interval locations around the base (marked A. B, C and D, and repeated
6 times = 24). The manual provides all the intervals and details for each
pattern shown in the booklet to make your task easier.
Once you have made all the cuts at all intervals, the basic pattern is
complete and you can remove the Spirocrafter and check your work. More
advanced patterns may require more pattern windows set at different
intervals, adding to the overall design.
That is, essentially, the basic process in words. Depending
on the guide bushing diameter used, you can cut patterns as small as
around three inches, or as large as about six inches, or sometimes a
little large depending on the pattern and guide bushing/router bit
smaller guide bushing makes wider patterns. Now, after cutting more than a
few designs for our test, let me give you a run down on the performance
and strengths and weaknesses of the product.
In Use... The Verdict
To begin with, all products did fit together quite nicely, and there
were no major setup issues with the base and templates themselves. The first
challenge you face is clamping the base and your actual workpiece down so
you can work them with the router safely and effectively. The black
Spirocrafter base must be held firmly to your workpiece, because if it
moves in the process, your design will not come out cleanly or be very
symmetrical. In actual use, I had no problem with it moving. I used a
combination of F- and G-clamps in most cases. If you are working with
smaller or thinner pieces, the Spirocrafter will overhang. You do need to
keep your clamps over the workpiece section to keep everything secured and
level, however, sometimes you have to reposition clamps so the router base
does not come into contact with them and prohibit you routing out the full
pattern window shape. The base plate does have provisions on each corner
to mount with screws directly to your workpiece, however, you may need to
cut out or fill those holes later. If you are making through cuts to actually
cut out designs for application on another project, clamping the tool
direct to your material is much easier (assuming your material is larger
than the base plate itself). I used a small straight cutting bit for the
first few designs and this worked ok, but personally, I thought a V-bit or
round-nose gave cleaner results for relief (non-through cut) designs. A
straight bit is needed for through cuts, naturally.
Milescraft do recommend the following grooving bits (not
forming bits) for best results:
Straight, Round Nose (or Core Box), V-Groove, Cove and Bead, Ogee, and
An example of some cutouts and applications using the
Spirocrafter. Image by Milescraft.
A fair amount of concentration is required to rout out
clean designs. If the guide bushing strays from the edge of the pattern
window, it could ruin the job. With a little practice on scrap beforehand,
and knowing the balance and tendencies of your router, you should do well.
It is important also to visualize the design as you go. If you drop the
template into the wrong slot by mistake and rout away, its very difficult
to replace that material you just removed! So before routing out a new
section, visualize the design and double check the setting of the template
in the base and you can avoid a costly mistake. The lettered intervals
help out greatly here.
The only weakness or issue I discovered in testing and use
was that in some particular situations, the location and pressure of your
clamps can cause a small difference in the height of the template against
the base. This meant that the router base would sometimes slightly nudge
against this raised portion prohibiting movement. I found that by checking
everything was level, and repositioning clamps as necessary, or at least
relieving some clamping pressure, it helped alleviate this issue in most
Overall the Spirocrafter functioned well and provides
routed designs not easily possible with anything but a CNC router, or
complex user made jigs and templates. Given the cost of many creative wood
cutting tools such as rosette cutters and the like, US$39.99 is a reasonable
asking price for the product.
Buy In Australia
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Some of the supplied components.
Here is the main base plate and templates.
The designs booklet outlines instructions
for creating many types of patterns.
The TurnLock base didn't fit either of my
routers, so I fitted the standard bushing on my smaller router instead,
and this worked fine.
The process is simple... set the template,
Rotate the template to the next interval, rout again, and the same
process continues until the pattern is complete.
Here's a simple pattern that might enhance a small cabinet door or
keepsake box lid etc.
Or mix in other patterns for different effects.
Close-up example of another created pattern using a wider round nose