Router Table Apprehension

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Forum topic by Samsy posted 10-06-2011 03:10 AM 2804 views 0 times favorited 22 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Samsy's profile


3 posts in 2455 days

10-06-2011 03:10 AM

Topic tags/keywords: router table safety

Hi Guys,

I’m new here and I’m new to woodworking so go easy on the newbie, please :)

I recently purchased a router table to help in my woodworking projects. I’m fairly comfortable using the table with the fence attached and have gotten some nice results. However, yesterday I tried cutting a pattern into a curved piece of wood which required the removal of the fence and the use of a router bit with a bearing on top. I fed the stock into the left side of the spinning bit as I read you’re supposed to do but, much to my surprise, the stock flew out of my hands and across the shop. Needless to say, this gave me a bit of a fright and I’m a bit apprehensive about using the router table without the fence now. I did a bit of research and found out that I should have been using a starter pin but I’m still a little worried it’ll fly out again and perhaps I won’t be so lucky as to avoid the stock bullet next time.

I’m going out today to purchase a push pad (I think that’s what they’re called) to help bolster my confidence with the router table but I’m still a little unsure if that’ll be enough to stop any kickback or other dangers when using a router table. Are there any tips that you guys would recommend to someone in my position?

Any advice would be appreciated.

Thanks guys.

22 replies so far

View PurpLev's profile


8536 posts in 3678 days

#1 posted 10-06-2011 03:19 AM

first and foremost – welcome.

Secondly – good thing you posted this here, as you’ll get plenty of (mostly repeated) suggestions regarding safety and proper operation on the Router Table (RT)

1. always always always use a push pad/push stick, and keep your body parts as far as possible and protected from spinning sharp objects (blades,bits,etc).
2. On top of using push devices, also try to keep your body parts at a certain distance from the cutters (I try to keep my hands off the router table insert area, and table saw insert area as a general rule

3. As for operating with a router table without a fence, a starting pin is a great device to boost safety and control over the piece as you feed it into the cutter makes everything more controlled and easier to manage

Now, if you don’t have a starter pin or don’t have anyway to set one up you can also get your fence close enough to the bit (but still past behind it and use the fence as your starter pin. make contact with your workpiece and the fence just close enough to the bit, and then get your work piece to make contact with the pin while still in contact with the fence as well (to make a 2 points contact between your work piece and the fence and your workpiece and the bit). This will give you enough control to continue the rest of the operation with the router bit and your workpiece at which point you can move your workpiece away from the fence.

4. Always feed the the material against the rotation of the router bit (router table or freehand router).

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Guss's profile


94 posts in 2470 days

#2 posted 10-06-2011 05:19 AM

I have also found when I am using a bit to cut our a pattern I dont get the kick backs if I get the material as close to the pattern as I can without touching it. Also you can make more that one pass by starting with the bit lower and raising a couple of times till the desired height is reached. As for Push pads I Like a good rubber sole pad over the Foam Sole pads I get less slip with the rubber. My personal favorite is the GRR-Ripper for push pads.

View Tootles's profile


808 posts in 2531 days

#3 posted 10-06-2011 07:02 AM


I was interested to note where you wrote ”I fed the stock into the left side of the spinning bit as I read you’re supposed to do”. I hate to say this, but you possibly fell into the most fundamental safety trap around. Do you understand why it was said to feed it in from the left?

PurpLev gave the answer above – ”Always feed the the material against the rotation of the router bit”. In fact, that is so critical that I’m surprised he only made it point 4 of 4. A good router table should be marked with the direction of rotation. Better yet, just get into the habit of checking the direction of rotation before you start. Now, with that in mind, was that rule correct?

My main message is that rather than relying on correctly remembering a specific rule for a specific situation, you need to understand how the machine works, including how hazardous situations can occur. Then the most important thing that you have to remember is to think carefully before you start.

-- I may have lost my marbles, but I still have my love of woodworking

View Samsy's profile


3 posts in 2455 days

#4 posted 10-06-2011 07:23 AM

Hey guys,

Thanks for the replies. @Tootles, I think I wrote what I did poorly. I fed the piece in again the rotation as you suggest, I just fed it toward the left side of the bit as you look at it (if that makes sense). I suppose the situation that worries me the most about using a router table is that even if I do feed the stock in against the rotation of the bit, I’m concerned that the stock will fly back at me if, for example, I fed it in too fast or the bit’s dull and grabs the stock or something similar.

I think I’ll build myself a couple of push pads to start with. I’ve heard good things about the GRR-ripper but it seems a bit pricey for what it is. It might be something I get in the long run, unless someone can convince me otherwise :P

View Tootles's profile


808 posts in 2531 days

#5 posted 10-06-2011 07:50 AM

That’s okay Samsy

I suppose my comment comes somewhat from my perosnal situation – I have a very unreliable memory. Mind you, I have seen someone without that excuse get the rules mixed up for the direction of movement with a router. It is easy to do.

That’s why my main message, to everyone, not just to you, is to understand and think rather than just relying on correctly remembering a rule. I, with my memory issues, have no option but to do that. But even those without my memory problems can do well to approach all machines in that way.

-- I may have lost my marbles, but I still have my love of woodworking

View David Grimes's profile

David Grimes

2078 posts in 2669 days

#6 posted 10-06-2011 07:55 AM

Every router table I’ve ever seen (and both of my tables) feed from right to left.

-- If you're going to stir the pot, think BIG spoon or SMALL boat paddle. David Grimes, Georgia

View KnickKnack's profile


1090 posts in 3595 days

#7 posted 10-06-2011 09:47 AM

Welcome to LJ!
The key thing is that you’re, somehow, managing to hold your workpiece firm against something. That could well be a starter pin. These images from “woodmagazine” web site…

You can also find movies of people doing this kind of cut on the various XXXTube kind of web sites.

That said, I personally don’t use a pin – I place the fence in an appropriate place it provides the same “pivotting onto the bit” sort of effect. I find that I like to have something on the other side of the cut too – and the fence does that for me.

-- "Do not speak – unless it improves on silence." --- "Following the rules and protecting the regulations is binding oneself without rope."

View cloakie1's profile


204 posts in 2584 days

#8 posted 10-06-2011 10:06 AM

as has been said above always feed from right to left as you face the table. keep your eyes on the cutter and know exactly where your hands are.failure to do either of these things will most likely result in fingers getting reshaped and worse still you could stuff up your piece if you route to far or deep etc depending on the job.if you are using a pattern then make your pattern with a lead in so that you don’t have to start straight on your job….it will also get the bearing slowed down enough that it won’t burn your piece.
good luck and have fun….but above all be very careful…routers aren’t very forgiving if you get it wrong!!

-- just get stuck in and have a go!!!

View Howie's profile


2656 posts in 2952 days

#9 posted 10-06-2011 05:00 PM

Like Guss said. Don’t try to take off too much material at one time.

-- Life is good.

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

4950 posts in 3989 days

#10 posted 10-06-2011 11:33 PM

Right to left. I don’t use a starter pin unless I’m not using a bearing equiped bit.


View ajosephg's profile


1880 posts in 3590 days

#11 posted 10-07-2011 12:00 AM

Also, don’t try to start the cut at the end of the workpiece. I start about a 1/2 inch from the end and then SLOWLY back up to finish the cut, making sure you keep the workpiece in firm control.

-- Joe

View GregD's profile


788 posts in 3165 days

#12 posted 10-07-2011 12:38 AM

I’m going to repeat the recommendation for always using push blocks on the router table. Offhand I can’t think of a cut I’ve done on my router table in the last year or so where I didn’t use a push block. I find they give me at least as much comfort and control of the workpiece as not using them, and usually more.

And then there is the reassurance that there is more distance and material between my flesh and the cutter.

Then there was the time I had a brain-fart, did something stupid, and got one of my push blocks chewed up a bit. It wouldda been at least a trip to the Emergency room and maybe even time to sell the piano.

Rockler’s Bench Dog push blocks are on sale for about $8 each, $10 normal. Basic, but solid, “grippy”, and comfortable. Woodline and Peachtree have some that are more router-table specific for maybe $25 each although I think I see them sometimes for $15. I use my set of Grrippers a lot – they are indeed expensive but they make a number of operations safe and easy that would otherwise be at least more difficult. My table saw would feel incomplete without them.

In my view there is only upside to using push blocks on the router table – and on a lot of other cuts too!

-- Greg D.

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2719 days

#13 posted 10-07-2011 03:43 AM

If you fed it “into the left side of the bit as you face it”, you fed it the wrong way and thats a guaranteed wreck. As stated above, feed the work from right to left. It sounds like you were going left to right. You don’t need to fear your router table but you need to have a healthy respect for it and use it correctly. It is a great tool once you learn to use it.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View ,'s profile


2387 posts in 3576 days

#14 posted 10-07-2011 05:43 AM

One thing add that I dont think has been mentioned.

Push blocks keep getting mentioned, I cannot imagine using a push block without a fence.

We use a 3 hp shaper and when fence is removed, it is nerve racking, but it actually can be almost as safe as making a peanut butter sandwhich. Follow all steps given by PurpLev, then using a shop made jig, or purchase jig to positively grip the work piece in a clamping device/jig. This type of jig will tightly hold your work piece similar to how two slices of bread holds my meat and fixins. On top of the jig are large strong handles fixed permanently to the jig. The handles are for your hands to maintain positive control and also serve as a way of keeping your hands shielded from the bit.

This jig can be bought for 100.00 or so or easily built with scraps and some fasteners. I will try and follow up with pics of our shop built jig to give you an idea. I will take pics of it tomorrow.

Obviously, like already mentioned, using the jig I strongly encourage the use of the starter pin whenever entering material into the spinning bit.

I would personally not run anything without the fence if I did not have a sufficient jig that shielded my hands from the blade and that gave me positive control.

-- .

View ,'s profile


2387 posts in 3576 days

#15 posted 10-07-2011 06:05 AM

Just looked up the gripper and it is similar to what I speak of. But my shop made jig is larger and in my opinion better. The shop made jig takes an hour or less to build with shop scraps. Really cannot beat that and keep fingers intact.

-- .

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