Woodworking Router: How-to operate, Tips and Tricks, Common mistakes

A woodworking router is a tool to create designs and cut-outs in wood. In this article, I will explain how to attach various router accessories, how to create a router fence, and how to operate a router. Additionally, I will go over common mistakes and router tips and tricks.

NOTE: This article assumes that you know the router parts and functions.

To learn about types of routers, functions, and tools, you should check out my article “Routers Complete Guide”.

How to assemble a woodworking router

In this section, I will explain how to assemble your woodworking router to get started.

First, I will go over how to insert and remove router bits, how to assemble and remove plunge and fixed bases for your router, and lastly, how to assemble your router to a router table.

Some routers are different depending on the make and model, but the methods of assembly are mostly the same.

You will still need to consult the official guide for your router for any warning or caution statements.

How to insert and remove router bits

Insert router bit instructions

  1. Insert router bit into loose shaft
    • Leave 1/8th – 1/4th inch gap between the router bit head and collet nut
  2. Position shaft wrench and collect wrench on shaft and chuck
  3. Pull wrenches apart to tighten the bit
    • Do not overtighten or use extensions for the wrenches

Remove router bit instructions

  1. Position shaft wrench and collet wrench on shaft and chuck
  2. Squeeze wrenches together to loosen the bit

How to assemble plunge base for router

Assemble plunge base

  1. Release base clamp lever
  2. Align arrows on router and its base
  3. Turn router clockwise
  4. Secure router in one of the notches
  5. Secure base clamp lever

Remove plunge base

  • Release base clamp lever
  • Pull motor upwards and then turn counterclockwise

How to assemble fixed base for router

Assemble fixed base

  1. Release base clamp lever
  2. Align arrows on router and its base
  3. Hold in adjustment lever and turn router clockwise
  4. Push motor into the notch of the desired depth
  5. Turn router clockwise to secure it to the base
  6. Release adjustment lever
  7. Secure base clamp lever

Remove fixed base

  1. Release base clamp lever
  2. Push in adjustment lever
  3. Pull router upwards and turn counterclockwise

How to assemble router to router table

  1. Screw router’s fixed base to table plate
  2. Assemble router into fixed base
    • Follow the instructions on how to assemble fixed base

How to create a router fence DIY

  • Assemble fixed base on router
  • Adjust router depth
    • Lower the bit so that it is barely touching the wood when the router is sitting
  • Move the router so that the bit is right past the cut line
  • Put a straight piece of wood flushed with the router
  • Move the router and mark the wood location
  • Measure the distance from the line and the wood location
  • Line the straight piece of wood that distance away to create a router fence.

How to operate a woodworking router

How to router edge of wood

  • Adjust depth and speed
    • Adjust the depth so that the top of the router bit blade is level with the top of the wood.
    • Tip: For deeper cuts, lower the bit and cut little by little to prevent kickback and burnt wood
  • Start router without it touching the wood
    • Starting the router touching the wood will result in immediate kickback
  • Slowly touch the router bit with the wood
  • Move the router against bit rotation
    • Feed router counterclockwise for outside edges
    • Feed router clockwise for inside edges
  • Slowly go over corners applying even pressure and make sure bit is flushed with the wood
  • Turn off router, then lift it from the work piece
    • Picking up a router with a moving bit is dangerous

How to plunge route

  • Set the desired maximum depth of plunge router
  • Adjust stop blocks
    • Use the tallest stop block that the router bit touches the wood with, complete steps 3-7, move down to the next stop block
    • If you get to the lowest stop block, use the maximum depth
  • Start the router without the bit touching the wood
  • Lower the bit to the stop block
  • Cut by pushing the router against the bit rotation
    • Feed router counterclockwise for outside edges
    • Feed router clockwise for inside edges
  • Turn off router, then lift it from the work piece
  • Adjust stop blocks again and repeat until cut at maximum depth set in step one

How to cut dados and dovetails

  • Mark dado/dovetail depth and thickness
  • Select the right router bit
    • Use a square router bit of the right thickness for dados
    • Use a dovetail router bit of the right size for dovetails
  • Adjust the router depth so that the dado/dovetail bit is slightly above the line
  • Cut by moving the router against the bit rotation
    • Feed router counterclockwise for outside edges
    • Feed router clockwise for inside edges
  • Tip: use a router fence or router table to ensure you have a perfectly straight cut. Uneven dados or dovetails will not join correctly.

Common mistakes

Are your cutouts and designs not looking as nice as you expect or hope? More expensive routers may be more user-friendly in preventing mistakes, but a lot of woodworking router mistakes are due to human error.

  1. Move router with bit rotation
    • Results in erratic movements and damaged work pieces
  2. Moving router too fast
    • Overloads motor and wears out router bit
  3. Moving router too slow
    • Burns wood and wears out router bit
  4. Using dull router blades
    • Overloads motor and can cause kickback and wood burnout
  5. Ignoring sawdust
    • Overloads motor, clogs router bit bearings, and can lead to router design imperfections, can overload motor
  6. Performing too deep cuts in one pass
    • Overloads motor, wears out router bit, can result in kickback

Move router with bit rotation

You do not want to move the router in the direction that the bit is going, because the bit will not be able to adequately catch the wood.

You want the bit to dig into the wood.

Moving the router with the direction of the bit rotation will result in router jumping and erratic movement.

This will totally mess up your work piece.

You want to move the router counterclockwise for outside corners and clockwise for inside corners.

In the Tips and Tricks section of this article, I explain how to easily tell which way to feed the router

Moving the router too fast or too slow

Feeding the router too fast can overload the motor, while feeding the router too slow can burn the wood and wear out the router bit.

When operating a router, hold it firm and steady against the wood with even pressure.

To ensure that you are moving the router at the correct speed, allow the router to do the work for you.

Just hold it steady and do not apply extra force to keep the router in one place or push the router along the wood.

Using a dull router blade

Router blades need to be sharpened and/or replaced just like any other blade in woodworking.

Neglecting blades and using dull blades can overload the motor since the router has to work much harder.

Additionally, dull blades are more likely to result in kickback and wood blowouts.

Ignoring sawdust

It is important to keep your work area clean and free of excess sawdust for safety reasons and to prevent router errors.

Edge routers follow the edge and surface of the work piece. Any sawdust that the router goes over will cause imperfections in the wood.

Accumulated saw dust can clog the bearings resulting in overloading of the motor and router jittering.

Performing too deep cuts in one pass

When making deep cuts with a woodworking router, you need to cut small pieces of wood at a time.

For example, if you need to cut a 2-inch dado, then you should cut in .5-inch increments.

The amount that you are able to cut in each pass will vary by the strength of your router, router bit sharpness, and router handling expertise.

It’s always better to cut in smaller increments to prevent error.

Tips and tricks

There are tips and tricks to create good router designs and prevent router error.

  1. Sand corners to make smooth router corners
    • Routers follow the edge of the wood so if the wood has a pointy edge, then the routed corner will have a pointy edge.
    • To get a nice, smooth corner, you should sand the corner edge slightly
  2. Determine router direction
    • To quickly determine the router direction when in doubt, you should put your right hand on the wood and move your thumb along the wood.
    • The direction that your fingers are pointing is the direction you will want to feed the router


My name is Rachel Blanding and I am a woodworker. I started woodworking at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. I mainly create and refurbish furniture and create art. In this site I will share with you the knowledge I have gained over the years, and what worked for me and what didn't.

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