Woodworking Tips
Woodworking Tips Index
The "Right" Way to Rout

A week or so ago, we had a little discussion in our shop about the right way to feed a hand-held router across a workpiece. When it comes to routing along the edge of a workpiece, everyone agrees it's best to feed the router from left to right. This way, the bit cuts cleanly into the wood and won't bounce along the edge. But what about when routing a groove or dado? With wood on both sides of the bit, is there a wrong direction to push the router?

After trying both directions, we found out that yes, there is a correct way to rout a groove. Like any hand-held router operation, the router should move left to right (assuming the fence isn't between you and the router). If the router is moved in the wrong direction, the rotation of the bit can cause the router base to drift away from the fence. When fed the correct way, left to right, the rotation of the bit keeps the base of the router pulled tight against the fence. (Or if you're using an edge guide, the guide is held tight against the workpiece.)

The Right Way to RoutThis reminded me of a little trick I learned a while back. Whenever I have to stop and think about the right direction to feed the router, all I do is look down at my right hand. I simply hold my right hand with the knuckles up and my thumb extended out, see drawing. Then I orient my hand so my thumb is pointing to the edge of the workpiece or the edge of the fence. My index finger will automatically be pointing in the direction I need to move the router.

By the way, this also works with a router table, as well. But since the router is suspended upside-down, I simply flip my hand over, so it's also upside-down. This time, when my thumb points to the router bit, my finger points in the direction I need to feed the workpiece, which is usually right to left.

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