Feed Direction when using the Router Table and Hand Held Router

Posted by on Jul 30, 2013 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments


The router has become an important part of the woodworkers kit, I would recommend that it should be one of the first portable hand tools you buy. Once you’ve got a router it’s worth fitting it into a router table. This need not be expensive, the table can consist of an off cut kitchen worktop (ask a kitchen fitter for a piece) with a metal plate for fitting the router (Axminster and Trend sell them), this greatly increases the versatility of this already versatile tool. However it can also make it more dangerous.

Using machines with rotating cutters is all about balancing forces. The rotating cutters are imparting a force in one direction, you need to ensure that in feeding the work onto the cutters you are pushing in the opposite direction. If you and the machine are both trying to force the work in the same direction it may be pulled out of your hands and thrown across the workshop. Or worse still, if you don’t have adequate guarding, which, let’s face we sometimes don’t your fingers may be pulled onto the cutters. Please note that in all the pictures the guard has been removed for clarity.

In a router table the cutters will be rotating anticlockwise, if you feed with the fence on your left the force imparted by the cutters will be in the same direction as your are pushing, the forces will not be balanced and the workpiece will be grabbed by the cutter.

If you feed with the fence on your right the cutter force and the feed force will be balanced The only exception to this that I can think of is if you have cut a groove in a piece and are re-cutting it to widen the groove on the right hand side then the cutters will be forcing the wood away from you.


The balance of forces is also important when using the router hand held. This is not such an important safety consideration, but it does give you a better cut. The rotation of the cutter has an effect by pulling the router into or away from the work depending on feed direction. When hand held the rotation of the cutters is clockwise, if you feed the router with the piece on the left and the fence on the right the force of the cutter will pull the fence against the wood, making the cut much cleaner. If you push the machine over the piece in the opposite direction the forces will want to force the fence away from the work, giving a much less clean cut. So the work piece should always be on your left when using the hand held router.

 2014921_orig  799223_orig

Come On My Router Skills Course

learn to rout skillfully

If you like what you've read or know someone who would,
please help me spread the word by using the buttons below


Thankyou, Chris.



  1. John Clarke
    1st November 2015

    I am having a debate with some woodworking friends in a group on Facebook about using my router table as a thicknesser. I have set the fence on my left hand side and am feeding the workpiece between the fence and the cutter. I am using feather boards pushing the piece to the fence and down onto the table infront of and behind the cutter and have a dust extractor port that has an overhang over the top of the cutter which acts as a guard and forces me to use a push stick. Can you explain the forces involved and whether there is a risk of the workpiece being propelled back at me.

    • admin
      1st November 2015

      Hi John, Thanks for your interesting query. Here is a drawing showing the forces involved in your set up.
      Set up for thicknessing on the router table Your feed direction and the cutter force should be in balance. The only problem may be that the cutter wants to drag the work piece away from the fence. If you hold it well with feather boards this should not be an issue. I hope this helps.



Leave a Reply