Remember That Routers Go Left!

Carpenter With An Electric RouterIf you are just getting started using a router and aren’t sure how to use it correctly, or you’re like me and taught yourself how to use it in totally the wrong way, then you are going to love my one-rule technique for using a router. After purchasing my first one, I glanced at the manual for a couple of minutes and then started using it incorrectly just about every time I used it.

My biggest problem was I just couldn’t remember the long list of specific instructions for when and what to do for every application and part of the process. Did it say to move clockwise around the outside edges or was it the inside edges? Did it say to move my router from To to Fro or from Here to There? Trying to take a wild guess didn’t work too well (after all, that meant there was a 50% chance that I would be wrong), so I determined I would just do it backwards each time.

The biggest problem with rules is there’s far too many to keep track of. After all, the wood router is your most versatile shop power tool. It performs a multitude of joinery, shaping and cutting operations. If you had to memorize a different rule for each application you would go crazy, and each time there would be a new technique to learn, you’d be at a complete loss.

However, it is possible to easily and quickly determine how to operate your router correctly and safely in just about any situation, thanks to the famous scientist Sir Isaac Newton. In Newton’s Third Law of Motion, he said that for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. When we apply this to the router, Newton’s law gets translated as: Routers Go Left!

This is such a simple explanation. Viewed from above, a hand-held router’s bit rotates clockwise. When you are cutting wood, and the bit pushes into it, the wood then pushes right back causing the router to want to go in the opposite direction. The same thing is true for any type of bit you are using, whether it’s surfaces you are routing, outside or inside edges, with or without fixtures, fences or jigs. Take note that your router moves to its left, which may or may not be the same as your left. The long version of our First Law of Routers is therefore: A Router moves to the left within its own reference frame.

You can use the inexorable urge of the router to go left to help you control it in just about any routing situation. Knowing this, you can allow the router to push itself away from harm during freehand cutting, snugly hold a template guide against a template, pull a pilot bearing on an edge, or push itself along a guide fence. Once you know that your router always goes to the left, you can harness the behavior of the tool to achieve precise results and safe control with very little effort. There is just one simple rule that you have to remember.

If you place a fence to the left of the router, precision is practically guaranteed and control is effortless, since the tendency of the router wanting to go left will hold it up against the fence.

When you move the router towards you, it tightly pulls the bearing against its corner-rounding jig, which results in trimming your workpiece accurately and cleanly. The only thing you need to do is make sure you keep your router moving level. There you go!


DO YOU HAVE a woodworking project or tip that you would like to submit to WooDesigner and get it added to our site? Then go to the contact tab below OR at the top of this page and let me know. Just make sure you are able to give us step by step instructions on it, as well as images as you see here, and we will put it on this site just like you have read on this page! As long as it is clear and concise like you just saw, it will go up. Your name will be credited to the project, as where you live. (Please include that.) Also include the type of lumber you use for the design. We look forward to hearing from you! (Take note that the tip and images and instructions have to become ours. I do hate that so much but in today’s society so many will sue, and yes, you can sue for a lot of money over images.) The tips will need to include YOUR IMAGES that you take. They can’t be images from somewhere online. Remember, we have to go through these images and if they aren’t your own, we will not be able to use them. This is illegal and it won’t be tolerated and you will be banned from this community by being blocked. We can get sued for this, and just one bad apple can ruin our community.

Ted Leger –


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Updated: February 16, 2017 — 11:56 pm
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