Using a woodworking router is a bit intimidating if your not familiar with its proper use but once you know some tips and learn how to use it you will be able to do amazing things with it. The number one rule in using a router is to go slowly and take shallow passes. Taking a large bite out of a piece of wood can be disastrous. Router bits spin at very high speeds which makes it very easy to take away too much wood in a very short amount of time. You must have a plan before you even turn the router on. If you don't your project could be ruined almost immediately.
There are a number of different types of routers. The most common is the fixed base router. A fixed base router must be set up prior to doing any cutting. This means using the correct bit and setting it for the desired depth. In most cases with a fixed base router your going to be start with your router away from the wood and slowly present the cutter to the piece.
Another type of router is the plunge router. Here you can start your router and slowly plunge it into the work. This type of router is needed when starting your cut within the workpiece. Again the router needs to be set up to make the desired cut. To set up a plunge router first install the correct bit. Then you can adjust the router for the desired depth. This is accomplished with the depth setting on the side of the router. What this is is a rod that sticks up from the base that has an adjustable stop at the top. Set your bit to the correct depth first then run the adjuster down touching the top of the depth rod.
Now when you plunge your router into the work it can only plunge until it hits the depth stop. If the cut being made is more than about .125 you must do the cut in a couple passes. This will require you to keep adjusting your depth stop until you reach the desired depth. Always do your adjustments with the router stopped.
A laminate trimmer is another type of router. This is normally a smaller fixed base router used to trim laminate on a counter top. A common laminate trimmer is equipped with a cutter that has a bearing at the end. This is called a flush trim bit. In normal use this type of router is always cutting on the edge. To set up a laminate trimmer set the bit so the wheel is in contact with the wood below the laminate. The wheel will follow the outside shape of the counter while the cutter cuts the laminate flush. Be sure while trimming laminate to keep the router flat on the top of the counter otherwise it will either leave a bump in the laminate edge or cut into the laminate face.
In woodworking shops both fixed base and plunge routers are mounted in tables. Not having to balance the top heavy router makes it much easier to use. Today you can mount your router in a table and it can be raised or lowered with a router lift. Before these were available you had to adjust height from underneath which is a bit cumbersome. Some router bits can not be used in a hand held router. As an example a panel raising bit can not be safely used in a hand router and must be used with a table mounted router.
When using a router you need to feed your work into the cutter, not with the cutter. With a hand held router you route counterclockwise if your on the outside. If your on the inside you route clockwise.
As always be sure to use all your safety gear when using any woodworking tool.