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2 Woodworking Women:Router Feed Direction

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How to use a router: Which direction should wood travel?

Figuring out which direction to push wood through a router is dependent on whether the router is mounted in a table or whether you are holding onto the router freehand and drawing it around your piece of wood. Here's a few drawings that will help in your travels to learn the basics in how to use a router.

With a Router Used Free Hand:
If you are looking at the router upside down, the bit is typically rotating counterclockwise. The idea is to have the sharpened edge of the router bit hit into the wood for optimum cutting. The wood travels in one direction and the cutter in the opposite creating resistance. This offers more control. See the picture on the right for the correct direction.

If the wood AND router bit are moving in the same direction then the wood is more likely to get ejected across the table and cause an accident (picture on the left).

incorrect router feed direction            Correct router feed direction   

Now where the challenge lies, is in translating this into action. With the router standing upright and you looking down on the cutter it is of course now rotating in the clockwise direction.

router feed direction: inside cutSo if you are routing the inside edge of a glass door frame then you start at the top inside left corner and move in the clockwise direction to your right. You cut the top edge, then the right inside edge, followed by the bottom and then finish on the left. This causes the router bit to rotate into the wood and create a more controled cut.

router feed direction: outside cutIf you are routing the outside edge of the same door then you must travel the opposite router feed direction. I typically start a few inches from the lower left corner and travel to the right and up and around the top and down the left side. By starting a few inches in, if you do get any tearout coming down the left hand side it will be routed off when you finish that last few inches of the bottom edge.

Keep in mind that this is the norm, to allow for more control in operating your woodworking router... BUT with experience you'll also learn that there are situations that you have to go in the opposite direction to avoid a lot of tearout on fibrous woods like red oak. This is typically referred to as "climb cutting" and requires an experienced hand to use. You may want to wait for an advanced class on "how to use a router" before you attempt it.

With A Router Mounted in a Router Table:
Figuring out the rotation of the blade when the router is locked into a table always seems a little easier, maybe because you can easily see what's happening.

The blade is rotating counterclockwise as in the top picture on the right and as the red arrow indicates wood must be feed from the right to the left when you are using the edge of the blade that is closest to the front.

More Information

All About How To Use A Router .. and everything else you wanted to know about wood routers, buying them, what bits to use, how to make jigs and fixtures and more...

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