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  • Introduction to Router Safety

Introduction to Router Safety

This article was written by Rendel Anderson in our Product Specialist team. 

A woodworking router is a commonly used tool in most woodworking projects to hollow out an area. Like all tools, it does need to be respected, but not feared. As with all power tools, the right precautions need to be taken - for example, the use of ear and eye protection is always recommended.

Router Feed Direction

A router can be used in two different ways - the right way up for handheld use or upside down in a table. When handheld, the router bit spins clockwise and the router operates left to right. So naturally, when it’s upside down, the bit spins anti-clockwise and the feed direction is opposite, however as the router is mounted in a table, the workpiece is moving rather than the router.

The feed direction is important, go the wrong way, and the direction of the router bit will try to make the router move with the router bit, and the deeper the router bit is set, the more pronounced this action. Feed a piece of timber the wrong way off a router table, and it can become a projectile. When using a router handheld, the router can quickly and easily get away from the user, causing possible damage to the workpiece and injury to the user. The introduction of a fence or bearing, combined with the right feed direction, aids in using a router safely.

Router Bits

Router bits come in many different profiles, two common types are straight and round over bits. Some bits have bearings depending on their use. Straight bits are available with or without bearings, and can be used for cutting trenches, rebates and following cutting patterns that can either be straight or curved.

Router Fence & Table

Whether the router is handheld or mounted in a table, the router or bit needs to be guided. This is done using a fence on a table, and for handheld use, bits with bearings are generally used. There are exceptions to both of these examples, some routers come with an attachable fence, and some jigs hold and guide the router or bit. Bits with or without bearings can be used in a router either handheld or table-mounted, though generally, a bearing does act as a fence or guide, so the fence can be removed, though this is a more advanced technique.

Router Speed

The feed rate and router bit speed is another very important factor. The larger the diameter of the bit being used, the slower the speed needs to be set on the router. Feed rates for timber is more difficult to calculate compared to man-made materials such as aluminium, steels etc. due to the varying hardnesses, grain direction and natural defects. The sound the router and workpiece gives off is a good indication if the feed rate is too high or low - depending on the workpiece, whether it is long grain or end grain, and how close the cut is being made to the edge. With timber, there is no formula to use as a guide, the material will tell you if you are working it too hard, so the feed rate can be backed off a little, or the depth of cut can be reduced to compensate.

A good rule to follow would be, don’t over work your tool and cutter, do several cuts to get to the required depth, this may take a bit longer, but will place less strain on the tool and the cutter, as well as being a safer way to use your router.

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