I’d like to rout an edge on a solid wood round table top. What direction do I travel to avoid tear out as the grain changes?
Richard Jones: It can be tricky, especially if you are using a bearing guided bit to cut a profile. However, if you are using a handheld router and sneak up on the final depth of cut in several passes, leaving just the lightest trim for the last cut, you’ll go a long way towards minimizing tearout. There is also the technique of climb cutting; i.e., cutting the “wrong way.” It can also reduce tearout, but the technique, although well-known and commonly used, is one an inexperienced worker needs to approach with a great deal of caution as, done incorrectly, it could lead to severe injury. I strongly urge you to find an experienced and competent router user to demonstrate this technique and supervise your early attempts using it, should you decide you want to learn it.
Editor’s note: The point Richard is making about climb cutting assumes that you will rout the top in four quadrants, changing the direction you move the router for each quadrant. In other words, you start at the point where the grain is flat and not running out, and travel down the grain from there to the point where the bit is at the center of the end grain. Stop, go back to the flat and go the other way, then do the same on the opposite side, always running the router so it is going downhill relative to the grain. Thus, you will be climb cutting on two of the four quadrants.