The SpiroCrafter from Milescraft is an interesting jig system that allows you to make various designs as well as inlays. When I was much younger I used to play with something called a Spirograph, you might remember it from your own childhood. Basically, it is a set of gears and rings with corresponding teeth aligned with holes for a pen or pencil. It lets you create elaborate spiraling designs. The SpiroCrafter is pretty much the same thing. Using a set of gears with various patterns cut into them and a base plate to hold them in position. Using the gears, you make a series of cuts with the router and then rotate the gear and cut again. Repeating the cuts and rotating the patterns creates a flower-like design in your wood. Using the same principle you can create inlays using the alternate pattern plates, along with the bushings included in the kit. Previous versions of the kit didn’t include the inlay pattern disks but the second one I bought had them included.
You start by attaching the special router plate to your router using either the predrilled holes or by drilling holes that correspond to your router I have used both my Porter Cable router and my Trend T-4. Both attached easily using the predrilled holes. The SpiroCrafter’s custom base plate allows you to lock in either of the collets that are provided both easily and quickly. Then you attach the guide plate outer ring to the piece you want to rout a design into. You could also create a jig for holding pieces that are smaller than the screw holes included on the outer plate plate. If you were working on a large number of pieces you might want to work out a way that’s easy to change out the pieces as opposed to using the screw holes and re-attaching it to each piece which can add up to a good chunk of time setting up each cut. I found that a pair of C clamps worked as long as the router didn’t bump into them. If you use C clamps be sure to turn them upside down otherwise the handles can get in the way.
Once your piece is firmly held in place and the guide plate is attached, you then select one of the circular pattern guides. Then align it with the corresponding numbers located on both the base guide and the pattern guide.
The spiral design process is fairly simple. You can experiment by using the included pencil holder you are able to draw out a copy of the design that the router will create. I found this essential for figuring out a design you want to create. You can make fairly complicated designs by using the 4 included inner plates in different combinations and positions. When you have decided what combinations of the geared inner plates you need to create your design you are ready to move on. When you are done routing you simply remove the jig and sand your piece as necessary.
The other use of the SpiroCrafter is making inlays. The set of inner plates includes two plates with bow tie, hearts, circle and other shapes I suppose you could also use the 2 discs that are provided for the pattern cutting to make some unusual inlays.
Creating inlays is a lot like cutting the spiral patterns. You use the outer plate by attaching it to your work as described above, then choose an inner disk containing they shape you wish to make. Again, the pencil bushing is a nice feature when laying out your cuts. Next you place the right collet into the clear SpiroCrafter router plate and turn it till it locks in place. After routing out design you just change out the collets and lock everything down onto the material you are inlaying. For this process you will need to place a sacrificial piece down to allow the router to cut all they way through the inlay material without cutting into your work surface. I would like to see Milescraft create some additional patterns and offer them as upgrades to the system. Of course you could create your own patterns using wood or plastic, cutting in the desired pattern. Perhaps I will try that and include my findings in another article or project blog.
Milescraft offers their Design/Inlay Kit in 3 different configurations. Kit Model 1204 ($20+/-) includes just the 2 design plates and parts needed to use them. The Model 1208 Kit ($39) includes just the inlay guides along with the parts needed to use it. The Model 1207 Kit ($45 msrp) includes both the design and inlay guides along with the rest of the parts needed. The Milescraft website lists a lot of stores where you can buy them including Woodcraft ($58), Acme Tools ($39.99), Woodworkers Supply ($49) and Home Depot Online ($34) plus shipping of course. As you can see as with any product there is a broad range of prices, in this case as much as $10-$12 making shopping around necessary if you are trying to save some money.
What is my over all impression of the Milescraft SpiroCrafter Design/Inlay Kit? It’s unique design and versatility makes it a worthwhile investment assuming it doesn’t simply adorn your shelf and collect dust, but I guess that goes for any tool. As for me, I can see using this to dress up cupboard doors or add flare to box lids and signs. The included inlay system is a bit lacking in the designs available but it does offer a few. The 1207 model will get some use in my shop for certain. Look it over, it’s worth your time and maybe you will find this a good addition to your shop.