Canadian Woodworking

Top 10 Router Table Safety Tips

Router tables are versatile workhorses but, as with all machines, require great respect and care. Learn what their limitations are and you will find router tables helpful and enjoyable.

1. Don’t remove too much material per pass

This is possibly the most important safety tip. Router tables are very versatile, but the one thing they can’t do is remove a lot of material in one pass. Kickback and poor cut quality are the result of pushing the limits. Making several passes, adjusting bit height or fence position, or removing the bulk of the waste with another machine (I use the table saw for this purpose quite often) are safer options.

2. Use a solid fence

Any movement in a router table’s fence will at best ruin a workpiece or bit and, at worst, cause personal damage to the user. Ensure your fence is bombproof so that even very strong pressure will not cause fence movement. Add a clamp to either end of the fence when in doubt.

3. Use push sticks when necessary

Push sticks come in many shapes and sizes. Allowing fingers to come too close to the rotating blade is not safe. Push sticks also work well away from the bit when machining large, heavy pieces, as a push stick allows the user to better grip the workpiece. Dedicated, single-purpose push sticks can often be made.

4. Use featherboards

When routing profiles on long pieces a featherboard not only ensures the profile will be smooth and even, it maintains pressure near the bit, so your hands can stay a safe distance from the cutter. A featherboard also reduces the chance of kickback.

5. Understand what climb-cutting is, and when it can be used

The general rule is no climb-cutting. This is great for the beginning to intermediate woodworker, though there are times when climb-cutting can be employed. For starters, when a workpiece is hand-held, this is probably not the time to start climb-cutting.

6. Use ear, eye, and lung protection

Beyond the obvious safety concerns, I find ear protection especially important while working on a loud router table, as it allows me to focus on the operation at hand, rather than be deafened by a painfully loud router motor.

7. Ensure the router table doesn’t move during a cut

When using a router table, the workpiece is typically of small to medium size, but when dealing with larger, more cumbersome workpieces you may find yourself pressing into the router table’s fence more forcibly. The very last thing you want is for the entire router table to move. If it’s not heavy enough to stay put you can clamp it to something stationary.

8. Use infeed/outfeed supports if necessary

These third and fourth hands will help out greatly when routing longer pieces and allow your focus to remain near the cutting edge.

9. Understand the hazards of using large bits

Even though the RPM of a large bit may be the same as a smaller bit, a large bit’s rim speed is much higher. Burning the workpiece, as well as potential personal danger, are more likely with larger bits. They also need more clearance around the fence, so make sure to use a split fence to eliminate the gap.

10. Only remove small amounts of material with each pass

This is an important tip, and if it doesn’t sound familiar to you at this stage I suggest you reread this article, starting with tip #1. Use sharp bits? Buy a shaper instead? What are your router table safety tips? Share them online, at the end of this article.

Rob Brown - [email protected]

Rob is a studio furniture maker and the editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement. Instagram at @RobBrownTeaches

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