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Feed Direction and Speed on a Router Table

Jack Gordon - June 11, 2019 - 0 comments

Router table feed direction and technique

Feed direction is important to consider when you are setting up for a cut, particularly with large-size bits. With the router upside-down in the table, the bit spins counterclockwise. The safe way to feed the workpiece is into the cutter, i.e., to the left if you are standing at the front of the table (with the fence behind the bit), as shown in the bottom drawing on the facing page.

Which way to feed wood on a router table

Reverse-direction feeding, usually called “climb cutting,” should be avoided. If you feed the workpiece to the right, the cutter will tend to pull the workpiece toward itself, possibly dragging your fingers along with it. Climb-cutting cuts are also rougher and not as easily controlled; the bit may grab and throw the workpiece.

As you plan the feed direction, also consider the grain of the workpiece. Generally, it’s best to rout with the grain, but that is not always possible. If you must route against the grain and have done everything possible to ensure a smooth cut, yet are still having problems, here are two tricks to remedy the situation. One is to take several passes, making the final a light one in the neighborhood of 1/64 in. to 1/16 in. The other is to make a series of plunge cuts by pivoting the work off of either end of the fence into the cutter at intervals about 1/2 in. apart. It is often good to set the fence a little forward (or the bit a little lower) before doing this so that you are not plunging quite to full depth. Now run the work as you normally would; because the grain is in short sections it will not tear out.

On the router table, light cuts, a steady feed and firm pressure work best. Use enough featherboards to hold the workpiece flat against the table and fence, and let the cutter do the work. If the router bogs down (you’ll know by a change in the sound), you are feeding too fast and/or taking too heavy a cut. Recommended feed rate for a sharp 1/2-in. dia. two-flute cutter is between 11 ft. and 12ft. per minute. For larger-diameter bits and/or more flutes, the feed rate should be reduced.
Most people tend to feed stock at the wrong speed. The result of fast feeding is that wood breaks out excessively in front of the bit and the surface finish of the cut suffers. One of the advantages of a router is that its high speed leaves an excellent finish, but overfeeding increases the distance between cuts, giving the surface a scalloped look. On the other hand, feeding the work too slowly may burn some woods (like cherry) and the cutter can dull prematurely.


  1. Stock should be fed into the bit from right to left (when the workpiece is in front of the bit and the fence is behind it). Feed with the grain, not against it.
  2. Feeding in the wrong direction lets the cutter “climb” up onto the work and drag it forward, a risky situation since fingerS can also be dragged into the cutter.

Other router table technique: edge treatment and cope and stick technique.

Source: The Router Table Book

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