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With a Router, You Need Direction

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With a Router, You Need Direction

If you constantly wonder which way to feed your router into a workpiece, you better read this.

You know the rule when cutting stock on your tablesaw: "Always feed against the rotation of the blade." The same usually applies to your router, but it's not always clear which way that is. When edge routing, it's easy to see which way the router bit spins so that you can feed against its rotation. But what about routing a groove in the middle of a board? Or edge cuts in the middle of a workpiece? Then, even though the rule applies, it's not always easy to remember. Here are some simple guidelines to help you know which way to feed your router for any task.

Routing a groove (a with-the-grain cut in the middle of a board or piece of plywood) in the wrong direction can be dangerous. The cutting action of the bit could pull the router out of control. And there's nowhere to hide when it happens-it's just too quick.

But here's an easy way to remember which way to feed for a groove. Looking down at the top of a hand-held router, the bit rotates clockwise, as shown in the drawing below left. With the router's edge guide fixed in position at 6 o'clock, feed toward 3 o'clock. The cutting action of the bit will try to move the router toward 12 o'clock. But this same action pulls the guide against the board, keeping the groove parallel to the edge of the board. If you rout grooves with a straightedge instead of an edge guide, clamp it to the workpiece at 12 o'clock. The router will run parallel to it for the very same reason.

Routing outside edges and edges on the cutout in the middle of a workpiece isn't all that different from routing straight cuts. Imagine that the workpiece is a piece of toast with the buttered middle gone, as shown in the drawing, below right. Going around the workpiece on the outside, you feed your router counterclockwise. For the inside edge, feed the router clockwise.

Featherboards add safety as well as accuracy when you rip on a tablesaw. Yet, they should be standard on your router table, too. So is a pushstick. That's because the router table enables you to do things you can't do with a hand-held router. But it also places your fingers nearer to the whirling bit, which you are normally feeding from the right side of the table. A featherboard and pushstick solve the problem by keeping the work firmly against the fence and table for a clean and safely done cut.

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