I am starting a DIY project to create a standing desk. Part of this project involves installing some electronics in the wooden desktop itself. I need to make the following cuts / carvings and am wondering the best tool to use:

  1. A 10" x 10" square on the surface of the desk that is 1" deep
  2. A 2" x 10" rectangle on the side of the desktop that is 2" deep

I am hoping there is a handheld power tool that can help me accomplish this. I don't need perfect cuts; a hand-made imperfect aesthetic would be just fine.

  • Have you considered 3 pieces of 1" thick - make the matching hole in two of them as necessary and glue together. Seems easier to get the surface finish on the "wells" etc
    – Solar Mike
    May 22, 2019 at 12:04

3 Answers 3


The tool you are looking for is a Router:

(source: homedepot.com)

If going the manual route, chisels would do the job too:

Chisel http://www.homedepot.com/catalog/productImages/300/15/151cd367-33fa-437e-8be0-19db9d29b7d1_300.jpg

  • Thank you very much for the information. Researching now!
    – bitpshr
    May 2, 2013 at 18:55
  • 3
    I would be a bit more precise on the router and suggest a plunge router. It allows to easily make cuts on a surface. Fixed routers are more useful for edge work. May 3, 2013 at 0:27
  • Unless you're already skilled with chisels, you are liable to make a mess of it. Make jigs to keep your router inside the area you want cut out. Be sure the router base is always properly supported, or you will find yourself with deep holes in an otherwise smooth cutout. Oct 27, 2016 at 20:39

I agree with Steven that a router is the way to go. However, I think it important to point out a few things to consider if you use a router for the project you described, especially if you have never used a router before.

First off, you shouldn't try to cut the full depth of the pockets you describe in a single pass. You will need to make several passes, taking out a little bit at a time. The amount you should take per pass depends on the material but I would start with 1/4" or less. The less you take the easier it will be to control the router.

Second, let's consider for a moment that the base of the router pictured above is about 5" diameter. You need to keep about half the base (at least) pressed against the surface to maintain control of the router. How will you route the center section after the first pass if your hole is 10" square? The answer is you need to make a larger base, one that will span both edges of your hole. Most routers are made so the base can be removed so you can make and attach a custom one for instances such as this.

Third, generally you should move a router against the rotation of the cutter in order to prevent the cutter from grabbing. If you are using the router handheld and working on the inside this means you should be working in a clockwise spiral around the inside of the pocket you are cutting.

Finally, it is always easier to control the router if you are working against a guide surface. A template router bit has a bearing above the cutter which you can ride against either a template or at least a straight edge. I think it is the right cutter for this job. Even if you don't make a complete template you can clamp a straight edge to the each edge of the pocket in succession to establish the outside edges.

  • Get some scrap wood of the same type you'll be routing, and make some test holes. Some types of wood route very easily with the grain, but like to shatter when cutting across grain. It'd be best to find out about that before you try working on a real piece of furniture. Oct 27, 2016 at 20:42

I would use a router. I am currently doing a similar cut out. You really need to keep the router resting flat on a template or temp base as you cut out the middle to maintain the flat cut. I have done 3 passes so far and it is working well just going deeper by 1/4" or so each time. If you are new to routing the router could catch and skip out or cut into the side if you are not slow and steady with it. Take your time and rest your back also. It's a tedious cut but so nice when complete. Good luck!

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