What Router Direction Should You Use (Clearly Explained)

The router direction can make a big difference between nice, smooth cuts or dangerous cuts with an increased risk of accidents and uneven and untidy edges. But what is the correct router cutting direction?

The correct router direction is always in the opposite direction of the rotating router bit. When you know that a router bit always turns clockwise, you will understand that you have to push the router in the opposite direction.

In this article, you will get a good idea of which direction to use a router , depending on whether you are using a handheld router or router table. In addition, there are some router cutting direction exceptions, which you will understand after reading all the useful information you can find below.

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What happens when using the wrong Router Direction

If you use the wrong handheld router direction or the wrong feed on the router table, the routerbit will push itself away from the wood you want to work .
Due to the high router bit speed , this will make the router difficult to handle and make sudden uncontrollable movements that can be very powerful.

When using a handheld router, the router can be pulled out of your hands and the router bit can cause injuries. With a router table, the material will be pulled out of your hands or your hands will pull towards the router bit.

Whatever you use, hand router or router table, feeding the wood incorrectly can cause serious injury . In the least bad situation, you will end up with an uneven and messy-looking edge.

Pro Tip

When working with cutting tools, there is always a risk of injury. Be well-prepared and set up a first aid kit in your workshop. You can read how to do this in my article How To Make A Workshop First Aid Kit – N°1 Guide | FREE CHECKLIST

Understanding Router Direction

To know which direction to use a router bit into the wood (hand router) or the correct input of the wood into the router bit (router table) , you must first know in which direction the router bit will rotate.

The correct router cutting direction is always against the direction of rotation of the router bit. This way, the router bit will cut into the wood (conventional cut) instead of pushing the wood away (climb cut). I’ll go into this in more detail in a moment.

In a handheld router, the router bit rotates clockwise, so if you have to enter it in the right way, the feed direction is usually from left to right. Please note , there are exceptions to this rule, which I will discuss further in this article.

When using a router in a table or mounted on a worktop, the direction of rotation of the bit changes. By mounting the router upside down , the router bit now rotates counterclockwise.
As a result, the feed direction will often be right to left.

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What is a conventional cut

The most secure cut is the conventional cut. The feed is in the opposite direction as the rotating cutter.
In other words, a conventional cut is made by turning the router bit clockwise and pushing the router from left to right.

What Router Direction Should You Use - Conventional cut
What Router Direction Should You Use – Conventional cut

What is a climb cut

The climb cut is the opposite of the conventional cut. The wood is fed in the same direction as the rotary router bit.
So when the router bit is turned clockwise, and you move the router from right to left, you make a climb cut.

The climb cut is therefore the unsafe way to work with the router.
Because the router moves in the same direction as the rotating router bit, it will tend to push itself away from the wood instead of cutting into it. Due to the shedding, the router bit will therefore move away from the wood and thus make a “climbing” movement, hence the name climb cut.

What Router Direction Should You Use - Climb cut
What Router Direction Should You Use – Climb cut

Different router feed directions for handheld routers

From all the information you could already read, you now know that when milling along an outer edge with a hand mill , you always have to work from left to right, against the rotation of the mill (conventional cut).

This is the safest way to work with a handheld router and will result in a smoother cut.

However, there are sometimes exceptions to this rule. For example , if there is a chance that wood will break out on the corner, it can be good to make a short climb cut to prevent this. After that, you can continue with the conventional cut.

There are other situations where the push direction of the router is different. Below I will explain all possible router directions briefly and clearly.

Routing along the outer edge

This is the most common situation you will face.
When you have a workpiece that you need to mill the outside of, always move the router counterclockwise.

What Router Direction Should You Use - Routing outer edges
What Router Direction Should You Use – Routing outer edges

Routing inner edges

Here you have to think the other way around. Remember that the bit always turns clockwise, so you have to push the router in the opposite direction.

When milling along the inside edges of a piece of material, you should work in a clockwise direction. this will allow the router bit to cut into the wood.

What Router Direction Should You Use - routing inner edges
What Router Direction Should You Use – Routing inner edges

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Routing a circle or arc

Although the circle has a different shape than a square workpiece, the method is the same. When milling an arc or circle with a handheld router, always move counterclockwise.

Routing a groove through the material.

When milling a groove through the center of a workpiece, there will always be material on both sides of the cutter. So you will wonder what the correct router direction is for this.

Well, if you’re cutting a freehand groove there’s really no right answer to this question. Any direction you use is the correct push direction since the router always has one side that moves with its rotation and one side that moves against its own rotation at the same time.

However, do not try to change the feed direction abruptly at any time, as this may cause the router bit to unexpectedly engage the wood and make uncontrollable movements.

However, if you are using a guide/side stop it is a good idea to choose the direction where the router bit always pulls the router towards the guide, thus avoiding climb cuts where the guide comes loose from the wood.

Different router feed directions for router tables

Routing an outer edge

When milling an outer edge with a stationary router, you must feed the material from right to left, as you could read earlier in this article.

Making a reverse feed motion is dangerous and increases the risk that the bit will pull the material out of your hands and your hands may come into contact with the router bit.

Route a groove through wood

As with milling a groove with the hand mill through the center of a workpiece, the router table will always have material on both sides of the mill.

So the correct direction for milling a groove with the router table is the direction where the bit always pulls the wood against the fence . This way you avoid the wood being pushed away from the fence by a climb cut.


The router bit rotates clockwise at all times. All you have to do is run the router counterclockwise to cut into the wood . This allows you to make the safest cuts while also ensuring that the cut is always nice and smooth.

If you want to learn more about how to get the most out of your router , I recommend reading my article, How To Use A Router – Easy 5-Minute Starter Guide.

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I hope this information about the correct router direction was helpful, and that this blog inspires you.

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