What Is the Best Speed for Router Bits? (Router Speed Chart)

Routers for woodworking have become an essential tool in the workshop. They are multipurpose tools that can be used for a variety of tasks. Knowing how to use a wood router and setting up this handy power tool correctly, on the other hand, is a skill that requires time and patience to master. Finding the proper speed for router bits is one of the most difficult parts.

The right router bit rate will give you the level of finish you envisioned. To determine the correct router RPM, you have to take into account the type of router bit you work with and the material through which you want to rout.

In this guide, I’ll go over the problems that woodworkers face as a result of erroneous router bit speed settings, as well as how to quickly discover the right router bit speed for your projects.

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How is the speed for router bits indicated?

The speed at which a router runs is always indicated by the abbreviation RPM. These three letters stand for revolutions per minute and thus indicate how many revolutions the router bit makes per minute. With a router, the RPM can be up to 35000 rpm.

Depending on the type of wood router you have, this speed, or RPM, will be variable or fixed. If you don’t have a router yet, I recommend getting one with variable speed. After reading this article, you will also understand better why.

Why Does router rpm Matter?

The right speed will always be the key to success. The level of finish of the work you do with a wood router will be due in large part to the speed at which the router bit runs.

A simple incorrect speed setting can damage not only the workpiece, but also quickly dull the shiny new router and throw it in the trash. There is also the safety aspect. The wrong speed can cause the router to shoot, resulting in injuries.

The piece of wood or other material you have chosen will determine the speed at which the router should be set. But there are also other things that you have to take into account to determine the right speed.

Yes, the router rpm does matter, so let’s take a look at some of the common problems woodworkers face when determining the correct router speed.

What happens if your router bit speed is too fast

Burn markings and skip marks can be seen at the borders of the cut where the router bit has made contact with the wood, indicating that the router bit speed is too high.

Burn marks on the wood are the first and most common sign you’ll notice. This could be because the cut was done with uneven pressure or because the cutting speed was too fast.

Another sign that your bit was spinning too fast is the appearance of skip marks. However, be aware that this could indicate that you didn’t apply enough pressure when milling. When you look down the cut line, you’ll notice that the bit jumped in several spots on the wood, leaving some areas of the cut line uncut.

Due to the bit bouncing and nicking on the wood, pieces of wood may be torn from the cutting line. As a result, you’ll have missing ripped portions instead of burn marks.

When routing end grain, this can happen more commonly. On a routing project, this is the worst area you’ll come across. When a router spins at an RPM that is too high, it can catch the fibrous parts of the wood and bounce. You can destroy your workpiece in seconds if you don’t properly adjust the router speed on this part of the wood.

Following the router bit manufacturers’ recommendations is a good idea, but it is still recommended to use your own common sense and adjust the speed according to visual observations or observations based on sounds and vibrations.

Ebook part 1 woodworking basics

Before you get started, it is a good idea to carry out a check first. Before starting this check, make sure the router bit is installed correctly.

Turn on your router at the slowest setting available. Examine the behavior of your router, including the sound and the way it vibrates when the bit spins.
Increase the speed slightly if everything appears to be okay. Increase the speed in small increments until you reach the recommended speed by the manufacturer.

Every time you try a higher speed, keep an eye out for changes in the router’s behavior. You’ve reached the upper speed limit for your router bit if the router vibrates more forcefully or makes weird noises.
You can now make a test cut on a scrap piece of wood at this speed. Pay attention to vibrations and noises once more, and adjust the speed as needed.

What happens if your router bit speed is too slow

If your router speed is too high, this can cause issues, but also if it is too low.

When the speed is too slow, the router bit will bounce, which is the most typical problem.

This is a symptom that is comparable to when your router’s speed is too high. However, if the speed is too slow, there is essentially no risk of burning or extra harm to the wood.

The bit can’t cut quickly or deep enough during the cut because it moves too slowly. If you notice an inconsistent cut that looks like a wavy form, your router speed is probably too sluggish.

However, keep in mind that a wavy finish does not always imply a slow speed. A dull router bit can cause a similar impression on a piece of wood.

What determines the speed for router bits

When it comes to choosing the correct router speed, it’s not just a matter of guesswork. There are a few things to think about, including the sort of router bit you’re using and the material you want to process with it.
Before moving on to the router bit charts, it’s a good idea to go through these topics first. 

Router rpm variance according to the most common bit types

Carbide and high-speed steel (HSS) are the two main materials used to make router bits. Carbide router bits are further separated into two types: solid carbide and carbide tipped. Each has its own set of applications, which I’ll go through in detail below.

High-speed steel is a low-cost material. Router bits constructed of high-speed steel are prone to dulling because they overheat quickly. Soft pine wood is best suited for these router bits. To acquire a good finish, use the High-Speed Steel router bits at the slowest speed feasible.

When working on larger projects or requiring a lot of routing, high-speed steel router bits are not the ideal choice. These router bits are ideal for someone who is just getting started with a router and is on a tight budget.

High-speed steel router bits are far less robust than carbide-tipped router bits. They are thus suited for use in both softwoods and hardwoods, and they are less likely to dull if the cutting speed is set according to the instructions in this manual.

The most expensive router bits are solid carbide router bits, which are utilized for very specialized milling jobs. Solid carbide cutters are most commonly used for hole creation, laminate trimming, and pattern cutting.

Freud and CMT are two brands that I recommend because they are known for their high quality. Take a look at my post, “5 Most Important Must-Have Router Bits For DIYers”, for more information on which router bits to have in your woodworking shop.

router rpm Speed by type of material

Router bits can be used more than just on wood. A router bit can also be used to process soft metals, plastics, composites, and a variety of other materials. It goes without saying that not all materials necessitate the same level of speed.

If you read my post on how to cut plexiglass, you know that heat causes plexiglass to melt and deform.
There will be a speed variation between these materials as well. Hardwood, softwood, and plywood such as MDF, for example, will require a different speed.

While it’s hard to guarantee that every piece of a certain wood species will route correctly at the speeds specified in the table below, they’ll get you close. Based on observations made while routing, you can fine-tune the router speed.

Most hardwoods require a faster milling speed for a great finish. The router bit is more prone to the behavior mentioned in the category detailing what happens when the router bit speed is too slow.

Heartwood and sapwood are two different types of wood. In a routing project, each will behave differently and have an impact on the router speed you use.

Heartwood will in most cases contain less moisture.
Sapwood, on the other hand, will have a higher moisture content and will tend to burn when cut or milled. It is strongly recommended to use lower router rpm speeds with these planks, regardless of the density of the wood. In these circumstances, lighter, progressive cuts with lower router bit speed are preferred.

What Is The Best Speed For Router Bits?

Let’s move on to the router rpm now that you’ve learned everything there is to know about determining the speed of a router bit.
I’ve separated this into two graphs of router speeds.

The first router speed chart is based on the diameter of the router bit. It’s also the most significant router speed chart for figuring out how fast you’re going. You can see what speed you should use for the type of material you want to work on once you’ve calculated the speed based on the router bit.

You should theoretically have the best speed for the project you’re working on if you match the speed to the two router speed charts.

However, as I mentioned before in this article, before you begin working, you should do a test.

General router speed chart

Here’s a general instruction or router speed chart to get you started. Always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions first, and keep in mind that the speeds recommended are the maximum.

DiameterMaximum RPM
0 to 1-inch22000
1- to 2-inches20000
2- to 2.5-inches18000
2.5- to 3.5-inches10000
Speed for router bits accorded to router bit diameter

Router bit speed chart based on the type of materials

After finding the right speed according to the diameter of the router bit, you can check in this router speed chart which speed you should use based on the material you want to process.

MaterialMaximum RPM
Acrylic (plexiglass)19000

Tips to Find Your Optimal Speed

Finally, I’ll provide you with some helpful hints.

  • Before you start working on a project for real, always conduct a test cut.
  • You should always run a vibration check, as discussed before in this text. Increase the speed gradually until the router starts vibrating or produces odd noises. That is the maximum operating speed of the router bit.
  • Increase the speed on hardwoods.
  • Reduce the bit rate while milling woods that are prone to burn marks.
  • Maintain a close-to-consistent feed rate. Changing the feed rate might have an impact on the cut quality.
  • Slower speeds help decrease burns while milling grooves or dadoes, especially when the bit can’t clear the chips readily.

Use these tips to use the optimal speed for your router bit and get perfect results every time.

What Is The Best Speed For Router Bits? – Conclusion

The minimum and maximum speed on a variable speed router allow you to meet the speeds advised by the manufacturer for the router bit you’ll be utilizing with this router.

Now, you have a guideline when it comes to determining the proper speed, thanks to the router speed charts in this article. However, representing the highest potential router speed in an overall graph, taking into account your router, the router bit you’re using, and the material of your project, is difficult.

With the knowledge you’ve received from this article, you’ll be able to figure out what router speed is best for your project.

I strongly advise you to find your ideal router speed based on experience and observations, rather than relying on a graph to determine it. You will achieve the greatest potential result if you evaluate all essential aspects.

Being able to set the correct router speed is important, but will be completely useless if you don’t know whether to push or pull a wood router. That is why I advise you to read my article What Router Direction Should You Use (Clearly Explained).

In that article, you will get insights on how you can quickly estimate in which direction you should move the router for a certain situation. The solution is easier than you might think, discover them quickly in the article.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if you run a router bit too fast?

Running a router bit too fast can lead to various negative consequences. Firstly, it can cause the bit to overheat, which can result in a loss of sharpness and potentially damage the cutting edges.

What size router bits are best?

The size of router bits depends on the task. Smaller bits, like 1/4″ or 1/8″, are ideal for delicate work. Larger bits, like 1/2″ or 3/4″, are better for heavier tasks. Choose the size based on your project and router’s capabilities.

Which router bits stay sharper longer?

Router bit lifespan depends on quality, material, and cutting speed. Carbide-tipped bits stay sharp longer, making them ideal for demanding tasks. High-speed steel bits are durable but not as long-lasting. Carbide-tipped bits are preferred for heavy-duty work.

How deep should a router bit be?

The depth setting for a router bit depends on the task. It’s safer and more accurate to make multiple shallow passes instead of removing too much material at once. For handheld routers, set the depth at a maximum of 1/8 inch per pass (soft materials) or 1/16 inch per pass (hardwoods). Follow manufacturer guidelines for best results and safety.

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I hope this information on how to find the right speed for router bits was helpful, and that the router speed chart in this blog could help you find the router bit speed you need for your project.

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Christophe, founder of Christofix.com
Woodworking | DIY | Home decoration

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