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Router table - an idiots guide to safety

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RogerS

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I wanted to run a Roman Ogee along the top of a lot of skirting board and decided that a router table would do the job nicely. I purchased a 'special' Ryobi (see brief review in a separate post) and set it all up. Being new to this lark I'd read up as much as I thought I needed to, knew all about feeding against the direction of rotation, knew all about machining off wood gradually etc.....or so I thought.

I adjusted the fence to take off a small amount of material and fed in a sample piece of wood. The brand new TCT cutter cut beautifully although somewhat fiercely but I still felt really chuffed. My first router table!! There was a nagging doubt at the back of my mind, however, as I felt that the router wanted to pull the wood from out of my hand. The experts among you will know where this email is going :oops:

I re-adjusted the fence to take a bit more off and fed the wood through again. Cut OK but still that nagging doubt as the tugging sensation increased.

I paused for a while and reassured myself about the direction of the cutter rotation and came to the conclusion that I was feeding the wood in the wrong way. I tried feeding in the wood from the opposite end. The router cut OK-ish and of course it didn't try to pull it out of my hand.

However, the fact that the outfeed was adjustable meant that if I was to feed it in from the opposite way (ie against the direction of rotation) then the outfeed was the infeed and since the outfeed was adjustable it didn't really make any sense to me at all and I was starting to get really confused!

One possible conclusion that I came to was that the router was rotating the wrong way round. How naive could I get!!! :oops: I soon came to the conclusion that that likelihood just wasn't sensible and went back to feeding the wood in the direction that I originally used. I adjusted the fence to take off some more wood and fed the wood in.

In a flash, the wood was ripped out of my hands and fired into the wall at a phenomenal speed. I was well and truly shocked at the sheer violence of it all.

So I went and had a cup of coffee and went back to square one as clearly something was not right. The answer, of course, was simple but not obvious to me. I was feeding the wood in on the wrong side of the router bit. The orientation should be wood, bit, fence and not what I was doing which was bit, wood, fence. The reason why I had got to this point was because the thickness of the fence was not sufficient to allow me to cut a small amount of material off in the early passes. In my muddled thinking, by positioning the wood between the bit and the fence I could adjust the fence to take off the small amount that I wanted to.

The solution was to add some additional thick MDF pieces to the fence (and which I made extra long to assist keeping the skirting board vertical and straight.) and voila...problem solved.

The truly frightening thing is what would have happened to anyone standing in the way of my missile.
 

Adam

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Lesson learnt!

Climb cutting it's called, and sounds like you were pretty lucky that it's only the wall that got hit.

Adam
 

sawdustalley

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Yeah, They can be violent if you do it the wrong way.

I had a problem, not sure why this happened, maybe someone could explain.

I was making a groove across the grain of some pine (maybe 2 inches in from the edge) using the fence to guide my board (which was about 12" wide). The router bit was not wide enough to make the complete width of my desired groove in one pass.

I then adjusted the fence to make the 2nd pass to make up the complete width of my groove. This time, only half of the cutter was in contact with the wood - the other half was in the bit I cut out first time.

I'd don't this process WITH the grain of the timber, no problems.

When I try across the grain - it really didnt like it, violently catching the wood and mucking it all up alot.

What happened, is this "against the rules of the router table"?

BTW - I was not going in the wrong direction.
 

Alf

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Eeek :shock: That could have been a lot nastier. You won't do that again! :)

James, one possibility that occurs to me; on the second pass were you widening the trench on the side furthest away from the fence? That can be a problem. If I'm remembering it the right way round of course... :oops: It can certainly be an issue with fenced planes at any rate.

Cheers, Alf
 

Neil

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Hi James,

Were you making your 2nd cut on the right hand side of the existing groove - i.e. you had moved the fence closer to the bit for the 2nd pass? If so, the cutter would have been cutting on the wrong side, and would be trying to force the work away from the fence... I'm sure you weren't, but I just thought I'd mention it...sorry if this is obvious :oops: - I'm more used to receiving advice on this forum than giving it...

NeilCFD
 

Neil

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Oops, Alf and I crossed over there, and we are saying opposite things! I'd better check the router book quick!

NeilCFD
 

Charley

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I think Alf has hit the nail right on the head.

I did the same sort of thing with a dovetail bit once - never again though :wink:
 

Alf

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Well I'm glad your checking, Neil, 'cos when I automatically went to the bookshelf to look it up I was reminded that I've sold all my routing books! :lol:

Cheers, Alf
 

frank

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is it anti clock on the outside and clock on the inside ? when cutting with the router .get it wrong and it can chew your wood

frank
 

Neil

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Yup, 'Woodworking with the Router' says:

'Always cut on the side of the groove away from the fence'

So make your first groove, then move the fence away from the bit, and make your second pass to widen the groove...

The book says that cutting on the fence side of the groove is a climb cut - yikes! This is all presuming that you are feeding right to left of course...

Wow, have I actually helped someone? :D I guess there is a first time for everything... :wink:

NeilCFD
 

Alf

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Well hell's teeth, in that case it's the direct opposite to hand tools. :roll: Verily these tailed things are the tools of the devil... :shock:

But of course John's put his finger on why I got it totally back to front. With the rodent at my disposal, I just don't need to know :p :wink:

Cheers, Alf

P.S. Of course we still don't know if it's the answer. Too bad if James comes back with "I did that, must be something else" :?
 

sawdustalley

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Yeah that sounds about right, glad I got that one in my head now - I was routing near the fence.

As Charley said valuable lesson learn't - won't do that one again.

See, the problem is Norm - my home-made router table doesnt come with safety instructions :(
 

Neil

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I was looking through http://www.woodworking2.org/AccidentSurvey/search.htm this morning and found this description of an accident when widening a groove on the wrong side using the router table. It sounds as though James was very lucky just to muck up his wood...

Sorry about the length of the post, but I thought it was useful to read. The last bit of the post is particularly traumatic!

I apologize for the length of my post, but I wanted to be thorough so everybody understood what happened.

I had read a thread the other day about climb routing and thought I was fully aware of what climb cutting was. Unfortunately, I didn't understand the concept fully as it relates to the router table.

I was building some coasters for my wife. The plan (WOOD February 2002) calls for 5 pieces of 6" x 6" x ?" maple to have intersecting dados (like a plus sign) of Ê" wide by *" deep cut into each piece. I set my fence 2 ?" from the ?" straight bit and proceeded to make my cuts. I took shallow passes (1/8") with each cut, until I had reached the full *" depth (it took 4 passes). So far, so good.

I wanted to make sure each dado was the same width. ?" wide strips of walnut are laid into the grooves, and if some grooves aren't the right size, there could be some slop or the fit may be too tight. I checked the dados with my dial calipers, and wouldn't you know it, some grooves were measuring .02" larger than others. I'm thinking that the fence may have slipped 1/64" or so during the routing. In order to clean up the dados so they were all equal, I moved the fence closer to the bit by about 1/32". That was my fateful mistake, although it didn't occur to me until it was too late. I proceeded to push the wood through the bit (fully exposed at *" height since all of the cut was pretty much completed), with my right hand pushing along the fence and my left hand guiding the wood so it didn't come off the fence. The split second the wood made contact with the bit (powered by a PC 7518 at 21,000 rpm), the wood was thrown from my hands, and it felt like my left hand punch a cement wall. I should have been so fortunate. I looked down at my left hand and almost lost consciousness. All I could see was a bloody mess all over my fingers and blood all over the fence and table. I immediately put pressure on my fingers by pressing the back of my hand into my shirt near my stomach area. When I pulled them away so I could get a better look, I could see that my ring finger and middle finger were severely damaged. My ring finger could not stay straight without the support of my right hand (undamaged), and there was a chunk of flesh missing right where one would wear a ring. The nickel size cut was so deep, I could clearly see the bone (about *" worth of length). My middle finger didn't appear to have any bone damage, but was very chewed up on the palm side and the side that touches the ring finger.

My wife drove me to the ER while I continued to keep pressure on the wound. 4 hours and an unknown number of stitches later, I was released. The nurse that did my stitching had a difficult time finding where to attach the skin since it wasn't cut but was more like ground up. Sorry for the graphic explanation, but there is really no other way to describe it. The x-rays showed no bone damage, but they do know that the tendon in my ring finger is "gone". Not sliced, not torn, but gone. The ER doctor spoke to a hand surgeon on the phone, who was out of town. If he had been in town they would have operated immediately on it. So, tomorrow, I'm to call the hand specialist to see about surgery that day. The ER doctor explained that what they'll need to do is remove an unnecessary tendon from my thumb (apparently, it's not used), and use that to repair my finger. My wife could overhear the doctor explaining the surgery to the nurses (nearly every nurse and doctor on the floor had to come into the room to see what happened). He said that I'll be able to move my finger but it will always be "tight" when I try to make a fist or grip something, or release my hand from a fist position. I guess my future on the PGA Tour is zero. Also, I have a guitar that may become a nice coat rack.

How did this mishap happen? Climb routing. But, I wasn't pushing the wood from left to right. So how was this a climb cut? Since, the dado was already cut, if I wanted to rout it out a little more to make it wider, I should have moved the fence a hair further from the bit. This would keep the wood pushing against the spinning bit. What I did was the opposite. I moved the fence slightly closer, so that when I pushed the wood through the bit, I was pushing along with the bit. Before I could even feel the wood leave my hands, it was too late. Another mistake I made was not using a push block (like the jointer type) to hold the wood. I'm not sure that would have totally prevented this accident, but my left hand probably wouldn't have even been on the wood. One thing that is difficult to envision is that when using a router table the bit is spinning counter-clockwise, as opposed to clockwise when routing handheld. It's always best to think each cut through and know the pitfalls before they can happen. It just goes to show, that no matter how careful you are, accidents can still happen. I found that out the hard way.

I'll keep you posted and let you know how I make out tomorrow.

Oh yeah, now LOML wants me to sell all my tools before I do even more damage.
NeilCFD
 

Keith Smith

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sawdustalley, is your router table equipped with a sliding mitre gauge? When cutting small pieces especially across the grain the gauge keeps the wood at exactly 90 degrees or whatever angle required and prevents the cutter from climbing into the wood, with all sorts of dire consequences.
 
A

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Another good router book imho is "The Router Workshop" by Carol Reed aka the Routerlady. Not only is it a good read (albeit American), but the author will actually answer emails if you have any questions. :shock:
 

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