Dado on router table - direction of feed

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Forum topic by JeffP posted 05-11-2015 10:05 PM 2797 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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573 posts in 1569 days

05-11-2015 10:05 PM

Topic tags/keywords: router shaping

I’m just starting out building my skill and confidence with my router table.

I understand fully the reasons and importance of feeding stock from right to left for an operation where the bit is just peeking out from behind the fence. (like using a round-over bit). Despite “knowing” that, I did have to learn it in a more practical sense when I was gradually bringing the bit up to full height in multiple passes. In this scenario there is a VERY strong tendency to do it properly on the first pass…pause at the left while raising the bit some, and then move back to the right. Have to remember to reset it back to the right before raising the bit.

Anyway, this post is about feed direction for a different kind of operation. When using a straight bit for a dado. Here, the notion of “climb cutting” doesn’t really seem to apply. Also, my limited experience suggests that the router “doesn’t always like” one direction. Sometimes the other direction is smoother. Seems to depend upon where you are across the width of the board and how the grain runs.

Is there any sort of a rule of thumb specific to this particular operation? Is there a way to figure out the “good” way without actually trying it?

Bonus question: If my router motor is variable speed, should I leave it at max speed for normal size bits? (i.e. not a shaper bit)

-- Last week I finally got my $*i# together. Unfortunately, it was in my shop, so I will probably never find it again.

8 replies so far

View DalyArcher's profile


115 posts in 1296 days

#1 posted 05-11-2015 10:11 PM

with straight bits it is not so much climbing as you pointed out, but rather the direction of rotation will push the bit into the fence when fed right to left but may force the work away from the fence when fed left to right.

View timbertailor's profile


1594 posts in 1601 days

#2 posted 05-11-2015 10:36 PM

One should ALWAYS follow the manufacturers recommendations for bit speeds. Should come with the bit or listed on their website. Contact them if you can not find the information for your bit.

-- Brad, Texas,

View pintodeluxe's profile


5787 posts in 2990 days

#3 posted 05-11-2015 10:39 PM

For dado cuts I have found feed direction doesn’t make much difference. In that case the bit is contacting wood equally on both sides. Focus on featherboards, push sticks, and multiple light passes for safety.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View Logan Windram's profile

Logan Windram

347 posts in 2639 days

#4 posted 05-11-2015 10:46 PM

There are few reasons to climb cut, and I would never suggest someone climb cut while holding the router. Climbing cutting does have its place, and I use it to trim 1/16” or so veneer off panels flush with the hardwood capping, but there is almost no stock removal being done there.

My biggest worry is that cutter ripping out piece out of my hand, which can happen in a flash.

View dawsonbob's profile


3067 posts in 1932 days

#5 posted 05-11-2015 10:58 PM

pintodeluxe pretty much said all that needs to be said. As far as speed, smaller bits tend to perform better at higher speeds. Big fat raising bit should be slowed way, way down. As Brad said, the manufacturer should provide that information.

-- Mistakes are what pave the road to perfection

View JeffP's profile


573 posts in 1569 days

#6 posted 05-11-2015 11:17 PM

Thanks all.

Since the most obvious symptom of “going the wrong way” is the tendency of the router to start moving the piece for you (in an uncontrolled manner), I was mindful of that while doing the dado.

I found that I experienced some of that even when going the “technically” right way (i.e. from right to left). That’s what occasioned the question. Simply blindly following the “right to left” rule for dado’s doesn’t seem to work.

That said, I spent a fair bit of time staring at the grain and was NOT able to figure out by looking at the board which way would work best at any given moment.

My round-over work that started the day was on some recently acquired maple. Once I realized I need to ALWAYS go in the right direction, that went just fine.

The dado work was for insetting a couple of drawer slides into some soft home-depot 2X4 stock. Given the softness of the wood I thought I could take deeper passes, but a few times I found myself dialing it back to rather thin passes even with the soft wood.

I wasn’t using any featherboards or hold downs (even though I have them), because it didn’t occur to me it would be valuable for dado’ing. I also had the expectation that the softer wood would “cut like butter”. While I managed to accomplish the task and got a good result, my inexperience combined with the occasional unexpected motion of the workpiece left me feeling like I had a ways to go before I would be really comfortable with this process.

-- Last week I finally got my $*i# together. Unfortunately, it was in my shop, so I will probably never find it again.

View MrRon's profile


5150 posts in 3421 days

#7 posted 05-12-2015 04:41 PM

Are yo using a straight bit or a spiral bit? If a spiral bit, is it a down or up spiral. It should be an up spiral so the dust will be driven down out of the cut. Note the “UP” spiral bit is used when the router is used in a router table. The “DOWN” spiral bit is used when the router is used hand held.

View MT_Stringer's profile


3183 posts in 3408 days

#8 posted 05-12-2015 05:04 PM

Here’s my take on routing dadoes.
If I am making a dado such as a groove in the side/end of drawer stock, I run it from right to left across the bit with the workpiece spaced using the fence as a guide.

In the case of half blind dovetails, I adjust the fence so the groove will be hidden once the drawer has been assembled.

The result looks like this.

Now, if I am routing dadoes across the grain of the wood, I use an exact width dado jig. It works very well.

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

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