Sauna Wood Routing (aka, how to make a wood paneled wall)

All of the boards for this kind of paneling need to be routed identically so that they fit together tongue into groove. Here’s how the boards fit together:


Triage of the routing process:

  1. Decide which surface of each board should face forwards. Mark that side with a sticker.
  2. Set the router to do the groove cut — cut all of the groves
  3. Set the router to do the tongue cut — cut all of the tongues
  4. Set the router to do the angle-on-the-groove-side cut and make all of these cuts
  5. Set the router to do the angle-on-the-tongue-side cut and make all of these cuts
  6. Sand down all of the tongues and grooves for smoothness and double check fit and alignment.

Each board gets four cuts. It takes two people and about 2 minutes to do one cut on one board, but that could be brought down to 30-45 seconds per cut with the right routine.

Setup A: Setup the table and two roller stands:


Set up a router table with a fence that can be made very rigid using the clamp on each side. Setup two roller stands, one on each side of the table about 4 feet away from the table.

Setup B: Gather safety supplies and routing bits:


  • Two large wrenches for changing the router bit, three router bits: Tongue, Groove, Angle
  • Ear + Eye protection
  • Old board example for aligning the router
  • Fine sandpaper
  • Router bits: (groove, tongue, angle)


Skill 1: Change the router bit and adjust the router up and down.
The two large wrenches are used to tighten and loosen the collet. And when the buckle is up, the router can be twisted to adjust the bit up and down. Mess with the bit only when the router is unplugged. wain6

Here’s a 5-min beginner introduction to table-routing.

Skill 2: Align the bit and fence so that the blade is exactly aligned with the desired cut in the old board.



Note 1 : Make sure to align with the bladed pointing directly at the fence, not on an angle.
Note 2: Usually it’s good to get the height of the router adjusted first, then set the fence.


Skill 3: Two people feed the board through to make the cut.


The tongue and groove cuts are made with the board flat on the table. The angle cuts are made with the board on-edge. Cuts go much faster with two people working on it — one person feeding, the other receiving, and both using the hand nearer to the blade to hold the wood down and against the fence. For the angle cuts, it’s particularly important to hold the board precisely to the fence.

Last step: Sanding and fitting the boards together


The boards fit together very tightly, if there’s any unevenness, they don’t fit. Therefore, use fine sandpaper (the red stuff) to sand down the tongue and groove just a bit. Then make sure both sides fit flush with the old test piece.


On the front side, the angle-cuts make a regular striated pattern of grooves when the boards are fit together.

Bonus: Here’s a 3 minute intro to how to make a tongue-groove joint using a table-saw (no router).

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