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I'm looking to know it I can actually plunge-cut with a router right into the end grain, and use a template with some bit with a bearing to cut a non-through hole into the end grain. To make things more clear, I'm looking for a way to craft something like this:

enter image description here

I am using oak, so as it is very dense, it's quite hard to drill, especially into end grain.

I actually tried to drill into the end grain using a Forstner bit, but the process is really slow and I'm pretty sure I dulled the bit by making only two of these holders, so I'm looking for faster and cheaper way to do this (assuming the router bit is cheaper than a Forstner bit).

Please let me know if that can be done with a router at all and what issues should I expect.

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    Like so many things the quality of the bit you buy is important. This is as true of router bits as it is of drill bits. But before you go looking for a router bit for this, realise that a good Forstner bit will outlast a cheaper alternative by many times (even if both are HSS, but especially if buying HSS and your current one is carbon steel). However, regardless of the bit's material, Forstner bits are sharpenable. So if you have a suitable file(s) or slip stones (small honing stones) then you can proceed in minimal time and with what you currently have.
    – Graphus
    Aug 8 at 20:26
  • You might want to edit the Q to include two details which might be important to the recommendations you receive: which wood species are you making the tea light holders from and how many of them are you seeking to do? Quite a difference if the requirement is just for a few more or you need to produce them on an ongoing basis.
    – Graphus
    Aug 8 at 20:29
  • @Graphus I am using oak, added that. Speaking of how many of it - why does it matter? One and ten - actually the task is the same, just repeated ten times.. Of Forstner bit - it's sharpenable, sure, but still it took an enormous effort to drill like 15mm into the end grain. So I wonder if there is easier way to do it. Aug 8 at 21:26
  • Having just made many holes using a forstner bit I can concur that cheap ones are garbage and expensive ones are worth the money if you are doing more than a handful of cuts. This sort of work cries out for some kind of jig or drill press if you are using a drill bit. I'd probably just try a router pattern bit in some scrap to see if it would even work in the material with the tools you have.
    – jdv
    Aug 9 at 0:23
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    The reason number matters (and the more you do the more and more it matters) is that you can get away with cheap tooling for a few/handful of uses, but once you're doing, say, 20 of something it begins to make sense to use something better quality that won't fight you through the process. And will hopefully produce better results too. In this case, you can get solid-carbide 'end mills' which will eat through any material you'd ever need to drill, and will outlast the best HSS by at least a factor of five. And with Forstner bits, a good HSS one can outlast a cheap one by a factor of 20 or more!
    – Graphus
    Aug 9 at 6:52
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I've recently done a fair amount of slotting, grooving, and holing in plywood and hardwood, so I may as well offer an answer.

First of all, the typical answer for the usual commercial items you picture is: CNC. This is almost certainly how this is done at scale, even when making 10s of items for local gift shops.

The comments mention another option of using a better Forstner bit, keeping it sharp every few holes. This is probably doable, but it is easy to run a Forstner bit at the wrong RPM, feed rate, tool pressure, or failing to clear chips enough, without burning the material or taking the edge of the tool right off. So I understand your interest in asking if a router would be better. There is a learning curve associated with Forstner bits.

It sort of depends on the size and depth of the hole. If the hole diameter is much larger than an inch then Forstner bits can get a bit unwieldy. A large good bit will be kind of pricey, but you'll want to set up a jig or drill press -- something with a positive stop -- so you can clear the chips and manage the heat of the cut by managing the speed of the cutters and the pressure on the tool.

A router with a pattern or template bit would also work. Again, depending on the material and tooling, you'll probably have to work your way down to the depth you want. You'll have to dream up some sort of jig to lower the cutter between passes if your router can't do this easily. I find it easier to just remove 3/8 inch shims to drop the entire tool in the jig, rather than messing with the tool height. There are lots of DIY examples of jigs like this out there for you to copy.

Also, you will want to pay attention to the direction of the cutters. You probably don't want to climb-cut (have the cutters spinning such that they "pull" themselves along and across the material).

Finally, it might be a lot of material to remove with a router. One trick is to hog out most of the material with an auger bit (one without a centre screw, probably) in a press or jig, stopping quite short of your diameter and depth, and then use the router to clean up the bottom and edges.

My advice is to just try it. Get a scrap piece and try a few different methods. See how easy it is to make consistent holes with an expensive name-brand Forstner bit in a jig while clearing the waste a lot. See how this compares with a router hogging out all or some of the material. See if climb-cutting gives you a nicer edge, or if the tool wants to run away from you.

As is tradition in my WW.SE communications: Please be wary of routers. Remember that the primary job of any power tool is to separate the meat from the unwary operator.

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    "Try out a few different methods" - which is why the quantity (as asked in a comment on the OP) is important. If there are only 2 or 3 more to go, then just suffer with what you've got. If you're making 20 or 30 or more, then experimentation and tool investment is definitely worth it!
    – FreeMan
    Aug 9 at 12:58

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