New machine is a joint-making marvel

I spent part of last week in nearby Oregon City, shooting photos of the PantoRouter, helping its U.S. distributor get the word out about this wonderful new joint-making machine. Based on the pantograph principle, which transfers a pattern and changes its scale, the current version of the PantoRouter began as a DIY project in a Canadian woodshop and ended up as a collaboration between passionate people in three countries. The result is the fully-featured commercial product you see here.

Mathias Wandel developed the first PantoRouter, offering plans and creating a YouTube channel that went viral (not Kardashian-level viral, but woodworking scale). The project attracted the attention of Kuldeep Singh, an Indian guy who happens to live in Kyoto, Japan, and signed on to develop a commercial version. That’s where my new Oregon friend Mac Sheldon came in, collaborating on the final details and then marketing and distributing the product here in North America. Sheldon continues to add templates and capabilities as he learns what woodworkers want most from the PantoRouter.

Without the deep pockets of a big tool company, it’s a labor of love to bring a machine like this to market, and I’m really happy these three guys persevered. I’m also happy to have met Mac at my local woodworking guild.

I’ve seen all the joint-making machines out there. For example, I edited and shot a full tool test of all sorts of mortising machines l when I was at Fine Woodworking. After working with the PantoRouter for two days, I’m pretty blown away.

mortising-is-foolproof
The PantoRouter is intuitive to use, and the templates make it foolproof.

The key is the mortise-and-tenon templates, which come with the basic package. The pointer on the PantoRouter, actually a small bearing, first rides the inside of the template to make the mortise, with zero wiggle room, and then rides the outside to form a perfectly matching tenon. With various bearing and bit combos, you can make matching joints of almost any thickness.

the-guide-bearing-rides-in-the-center-of-the-template-for-mortising
There is no wiggle room when mortising, meaning you can’t mess up.
the-bearing-rides-the-outside-of-the-template-when-cutting-the-tenon
The bearing rides the outside of the template to make the matching tenon, and any hand wobbles go outward, meaning you can’t mess up the tenon either.
you-get-perfecttly-matching-mortises-and-tenons
What you get is perfect-fitting joints in minutes.
the-templates-are-slightly-tapered-for-adjusting-the-fit
What is really cool is that each template has slightly tapered edges, which lets you move the bearing in and out to make tiny adjustments to the fit of the tenon, for a perfect press-fit right off the machine. No sanding or planing.
their-are-templates-for-vertical-mortises-and-tenons-too
Among the many templates are vertical ones for M&Ts across the grain.

Not to get too deep here, but because the ratio of movement between the guide bearing and cutter is 2-to-1, any inaccuracies are reduced by half. The only downside to the M&T templates is their fixed widths. Sheldon is working on templates that have variable width, but for now the templates only make M&Ts that are either 1-1/2 or 2-1/2 in. wide.

That said if you use the tapered pin (included) instead of the bearing guide, as shown below, running it in one of the slots on the aluminum extrusion, you can make mortises of all lengths and arrays, meaning you can crank out matching mortises for slip tenons. It works great!

the-machine-can-make-any-array-of-mortises-for-slip-tenons
Another cool way to use the PantoRouter is to run a tapered guide pin in one of the slots in the extrusion, as shown, using the templates simply as stops, letting you make any length or array of mortises. This is killer for slip tenons.

There are more thoughtful features than I can cover here, but here are just four more great ones:

this-simple-step-centers-the-template-on-the-stock-thickness
To center the template on the thickness of your stock, you just sit the workpiece on a stop and bring the template holder down onto it as shown.
setting-the-cutting-depth-is-quick-and-easy
To set the cutting depth, you touch the bit to the workpiece and then set the depth stop using a simple scale. Note that the whole router carriage rides on round rails.
the-new-dust-collection-hood-grabs-every-chip
The new dust collection shroud comes off in seconds for setup, goes back on just as fast, and collects almost every bit of router mess.
the-new-t-square-fence-is-included-with-the-package
The new T-square will be standard in the $1,500 package, making workpiece setup even quicker.

Mortises and tenons are far from all this machine can do. There are templates for excellent box joints, plus fixed and variably-spaced dovetails, all with the same foolproof bearing-guided system.

the-box-joint-template-sets-up-in-just-a-minute-or-two
There are templates for both 1/4 and 1/2 in. box joints, and they are as foolproof as the others.
this-machine-makes-perfect-box-joints-in-minutes
You simply use a spacer that is the same thickness as your bit to set up the second workpiece, and the fit is amazing.
there-are-templates-for-both-fixed-and-variably-spaced-dovetails
Last but not least, there are templates for dovetails with fixed spacing, and also for variably spaced joints, and all of them cut both pins and tails with a single template.

Like Wandel does for his DIY version, Sheldon makes all sorts of custom joint patterns (the ones for sale are in tough HDMW plastic), such as butterfly keys, S-curves, dog bones, and much more, which you can buy from the PantoRouter site . He accepts custom orders, too.

If you are as geeky as Wandel clearly is, you can make your own templates or have them made at a local CNC shop. The PantoRouter website has a calculator for the offset for various bearings and bits. The pantograph principle is the key, and the possibilities really are endless.

Best of all, the collaborators keep improving the machine. A while back they built tilt into the table for angled joints, and Sheldon recently developed a T-square fence that makes workpiece setup even quicker. Next up are those adjustable M&T templates I mentioned.

Not much new really happens in woodworking, and I have a feeling the PantoRouter will be making headlines for years to come. It’s about $1,500 for the package that includes everything you need to make M&Ts, box joints, and dovetails, including three top-quality Whiteside solid-carbide, up-spiral bits. All you need to add is a standard router motor. When you consider that the similar JDS MultiRouter is $3K and Festool’s larger Domino machine is over $1,000 and only does mortises, you see the value of the new machine.

Trust me when I say this machine makes great joints quickly and accurately. Click through some of the PantoRouter videos to be convinced. That and more, including various packages and accessories, are at the official website:

https://hybridpantorouter.com

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2 thoughts on “New machine is a joint-making marvel

  1. I want this machine to Kenya.
    Complete with all the necessary clamps and etc. Send me the price together with shipping.

    Like

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