What can you make with a router?
Mark Godden explains why a router could be your best ever investment
The sign industry has become increasingly print-centric and I think that’s happened for reasons that ought to be fairly obvious. For one, the underlying growth of the market for printed and applied products has been strong, and two, the cost of entering the fray is very reasonable. On the way to further growth though, a sign company’s trajectory should, in my view, intersect at some point with a computerised router.
I love routers. I was once responsible for selling computerised routers and I found it one of the most fascinating chapters of my career. Having a router to sell brings to your door those who have a need for them and also tend to have interesting ideas. If it’s their first router, it’s because they are at a point in their development where they’re being asked for things that can only be made with a router and they see value in the exercise.
What can you make with a router? Money!
If you’re a Pinterest user, go and make yourself a cup of tea and log in. If you’re not a Pinterest user, create an account, then make that cup of tea and log in. When you’re there type in ‘router ideas’.
I can’t really pause for the dramatic effect I’m looking for with the punctuation I have at my disposal, but by the time you’ve finished scrolling, I think I’ll have made my point, or had it made for me. Just look at all the cool, cool things you can make with a router. Some have sign-like leanings and some clearly don’t. That said, you’re printing Décor these days and other things you might not consider to be strictly signmaking.
Think you could sell some of that stuff?
Routers turn a handful of basic materials into objects that markets’ value. Sure, they cut 24” Helvetica lettering from Perspex, but they do much more besides. With a router in the shop you can engrave, you can carve, you can knife cut your printed production and you can create all manner of fabricated assemblies.
As you’d expect, you can make signs with a computerised router too. Unlike template driven production or hand tools, computerised routers cut with unbelievable accuracy. So you can, if you want, inlay a brass shape into a wooden one. Or you can incise resistant materials to very fine tolerances. In short, skills that might take someone with the right hands and headspace decades to develop, come as standard with a modern, computerised router.
Routers need a bit of elbow-room to work. It’s not like a printer that you can shove into a corner or alcove, you need to load and unload them and most have a lot of umbilical-like services feeding in big-boys’ electricity supplies and taking out prodigious amounts of waste material. You’ll also need space for all those materials you’re going to cut and, let’s not forget that, while it’s singing for its supper, a computerised router will sound like an executive jet about to take off.
Forgive them those minor considerations though, because a router will reward your business like no other piece of hardware can. It will help you make things that really put your business on the map and in terms of ‘money out for creative in’ the sums can be very compelling.
Next year’s printer is going to be faster and cheaper than the previous year’s. Routers push against raw physical limits so they tend to follow a different path in development. Routers just get smarter and smarter, and the things you can do with them are even more valuable.
When was the last time you considered putting a router in your shop? Maybe 2018 is the year you do it.