Pattern material to use


Senior User
Hey y'all, I am about to make a one off build and need some advise as type of material to use for pattern making. Also, when using a bit to follow the patterns, would a single or double bearing bit be best to use? Please state reasons, pro and cons or comments for each. Hope that I have explained myself clearly enough. If not, let me know. Thanks to all and stay safe.

Bill Clemmons

Corporate Member
I like to use 1/4" hardboard (not MDF) for router patterns. I also use a single bearing bit since only one bearing can ride the pattern at a time. The position of the bearing depends on whether you are routing from the top (hand held router) or bottom (router table) and where the pattern will be in relation to the work piece (above or below).


For routing I use 1/2 mdf. It's cheep and stable. It's relatively easy to clean up the edge for a fairly good finished piece.
For just tracing I use 110# card stock I can print on. It's the thickest material I can print and still use to transfer with a pencil.
Some times it's just 1/4" plywood/mdf/hardboard . I've always got some and it easy to get a faired edge.
If I'm using template to cut parts on table saw I use 3/4" stuff.

To make a template that can't be cut with scissors or knife I print one and then use 3M spray mount to stick it on material for cutting with band saw or table saw.
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Wiley's Woodworks

Corporate Member
I prefer 1/2" or 5/8" plywood. It will let you use double bearing bits. 1/4" tends to flex and doesn't add any stability to thinner working stock, and if your bit ever jumps on end grain the 1/4" template doesn't provide any protection for your working stock.


I'll use 1/2" Ply if I'm planning on using the template multiple times and want it to last. For a one-off piece 1/2" MDF will work fine. Pattern bits are by far the most used router bit in my shop. I have multiple sizes of both top bearing and bottom bearing bits. It's worth investing in both in my opinion.


Senior User
For one-time use patterns, I'll use 1/4" hardboard. For patterns that'll get multiple uses, I'll use 1/2" or thicker plywood. It partially depends on the pattern (some designs create weak areas in the pattern) and the stress (how much side-pressure will be applied). Those need thicker plywood and maybe reinforcing too.

I have a routing pattern I did in (cheap) 3/4" hardwood plywood. After ~20 uses, it's about done.

Single bearing only..or use a collar in your router.


Joe Scharle

Corporate Member
My permanent patterns are with 1/4" plexiglass. After cutting the pattern I smooth the edge using a butane torch. I've made many patterns using whatever is on the floor and any hardwood works well. Patterns, like fences are guides, not barricades! Go lightly...
I'll use double bearing bits if the other bearing clears the workpiece. I also like the shear cutters from MLCS, but they are impossible to hone!


Senior User
I prefer MDF over plywood. Most of the time I use 1/4". It won't flex if its attached properly.

If its a permanent jig I will use over and over I'd go with 1/2" MDF.

Theoretically a 2 bearing bit has less chance of grooving into the edge of the pattern with repeated use, but I've never had this be an issue.


Senior User
type of material to use for pattern making
single or double bearing bit be best to use?
I've use 'whatever was at hand' for patterns over the years. Last was a Rooster cut out of a piece of 1/4" blue plastic and another was a fence picket I used to make a all the other fence pickets. Nothing too soft - it is a 'roadway' for the bearing and you may be bearing down on it a bit! Key is smooth edges that stay so for teh duration of the project (or make duplicates if a long run is needed).

I've never used a bit with bearings Up and Down, but use Top/Upper bearings when the pattern sits over/on top of the material and the router on top of the pattern and a Bottom/Lower bearing when using the router in a table. So, I'd say the position of the bearing is dependent upon the approach.

The bits come in different lengths and this can impact your selection of pattern material as it is best to have the bearing ride on the pattern without the cutting edges of the bit touching the pattern piece at all.

When cutting out an opening for a patch (in the sub-floor during a kitchen remodel) I used four lengths of 1/2" whitewood to define the size of the patch and cut out the (top layer of) flooring using a top Mounted bearing equal to the diameter of the cutter. I have a kit from Craftsman that contains two collets and a straight router bit designed so cutting the 'patch' using the one collet and the opening using the other results in a patch that fits nicely and precisely into the opening.

Which would indicate that judicious selection of collet and bits might (depending upon the task) eliminate the necessity of mounting a bearing on the bit at all.

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