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Don’t Forget , Routers Go Left

Electric milling machineIf you are just starting to use a router and aren’t sure what the right way of using it is, or if you’re anything like me you taught yourself how to use it exactly opposite of how you are supposed to, then you are can definitely benefit from my old school, one-rule router technique. After I purchased my very first router, I took the manual out and set it aside, and then went on and started using it incorrectly practically every time.

The main problem I had was I didn’t know what the specific instructions were and what I was supposed to do for every application. Was I supposed to move around the edges clockwise and the opposite way around the outside, or was it the other way around? Was the router supposed to be moved from To over to Fro or from Here over to There? Just guessing really didn’t help (after all, there was a 50% chance that I would be wrong), so I figured I might as well do it backwards each time instead.

The biggest problem when it comes to rules, is that there are way too many. The most versatile power tool that can be found in any shop is the router. After all, it can do a wide array of joinery, cutting and shaping operations. You would go crazy trying to memorize a rule for each application, and each time a new trick came up, you would be completely lost.

However, it is possible to easily and quickly determine how to safely and correctly use your router in nearly every situation. It is all due to Sir Isaac Newton, the ancient scientist best known for his apple-watching. In Newton’s Third Law of Motion he said, that for each action, there’s an opposite and equal reaction. When you apply this theory to the router, Newton’s law can be translated as: Routers Go Left!

It is a very simple explanation. When viewed from above, the bit inside a hand-held router will rotate clockwise. When the bit pushes into the wood you are cutting, the wood will push back and the router will want to go in the opposite direction. This is always the case, no matter what type of bit you are using, and whether your are routing outside edges or inside edges or surfaces, and with fences, fixtures or jigs or without them.

Note that the router will go to its left, and this may not necessarily be what your left is. Therefore, when it comes to the First Law of Routers, the long version is that a router goes left inside its own frame of reference.

You can use the router’s relentless urge to want to go left to help control it in nearly every routing situation. In freehand cutting you can push the router out of danger, snugly hold a template guide against a template, pull the pilot bearing against the edge, or allow the router to push against the guide fence.

When you know the router always goes to the left, it allows you to harness the tool’s behavior to achieve precise results and safe control without a lot of effort. There is only one simple rule that you need to remember.

How To Use A Router Fence

If a fence is put to the left of a router, precision is practically guaranteed and control is effortless because the urge of the router to go left will hold against the fence, just the way you want it to.

How To Use Bearing-Guided Bits

If you move your router towards you, it pulls the bearing against the corner-rounding jig tightly, which trims the workpiece accurately and cleanly. You just need to keep moving your router in a level manner.

How To Rabbet A Router Table Top

This is another bearing-guided task. When you push your router away from you, it tries turning away from the opening edge, and cuts an inaccurate and wavy rabbet. If you pull it towards you, the bearing will stay tight and turn out a good rabbet.

Mortises are incredibly accurate when you allow the router to pull the edge guide against the jig tightly. Only increase the cut’s depth at the mortise’s left end. Next, move your router toward the picture’s lower right corner. It isn’t necessary for you to try to control the guide, since the router will do this on its own.

Freehand Routing

The smaller a bit is, the lower its thrust will be against the router. The groove in the decorative stringing shown in the left, was cut using an 1/8″ straight bit. It was as easy to follow the drawn pattern as tracing it using a pen. The American Beauty Rose’s intricate design was routed freehand using a 1/16″ bit.

All of the rest is entirely up you. Again, one of the main things to keep in mind and not forget- routers go left!

Updated: May 7, 2015 — 2:35 pm
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