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Can You Router End Grain?- Answered



V Susan
Hi! I'm Susan. I am passionate about woodworking, general DIY and home improvement. If you'd like to connect with me or talk about something you like at mellowpine, drop me a mail at susan@mellowpine.com


Router on end grain of pine

You can router end grain without any tear-out provided you clamp a supporting piece to the side of the piece being routed, use a sharp carbide bit and take light passes (not more than 1/32″ inches in each pass).

Routing an end-grain is problematic due to the tear-out and splitting it can cause to the wood piece.

Almost all woodworkers would have experienced a tear-out when routing an end grain piece at least once.

This is due to the way a router bit spins. There is also the chance of burning when routing an end grain with deep cuts.

When routing an end grain, follow these steps to ensure a successful cut:

  • clamp a scrap piece of wood to the side of the piece of being routed to give support to the edge. This support helps prevent the edge grain from suffering a tear out.
  • Rout end grain first, before routing the edge grains. That way any minor tear outs that occur can be eliminated when routing the edge grain. If the tear out is severe, you also have the option of chopping off a bit of the edge and try the edge grain routing again.
  • Always take multiple light cuts rather than one deep cut.
  • Use a sharp, high quality carbide bit (like these) rather than a steel router bit.

Can You Joint End Grain?

You can joint end grain but it is not recommended and should be attempted by highly skilled woodworkers only.

There is high risk of injury to the hands which could run into the jointer blades if the wood piece tears.

It is best to use a table saw and router combination to achieve this.

If you are attempting to joint an end grain piece, you should make sure of the following:

  • Use new, super sharp carbide blades. If you have the option, use a segmented cutter blade which will give you better results compared to a straight jointer knives.
  • Take only shallow cuts in each pass. Actually, not more than 1/32″ inch in one pass
  • Chamfer the corner of the end of the piece, that is the part that goes in last. This is to prevent the jointer from taking off the cross grain in the corner of the back end of the piece
  • Always use a pushblock for safety. Using a jointer without a push block is extremely dangerous and should be avoided at all costs.

In general, if you can avoid using a jointer on end grain, that would be the best option. Y

ou can accomplish the same things using a much safer tool such as a drum sander or a router sled.

Ok, that was about routing an end grain, now learn if you can plane an end grain piece- Can you plane an end grain?

What Router Speed for Plywood?

Router on plywood piece
router on plywood

The optimal router speed for plywood is to use 16,000 RPM.

Although this speed can vary based on the diameter of the bit, a good thumb rule is to use 16,000 RPM when cutting plywood.

The optimal router speed for plywood is also dependent on the speed at which the plywood piece is fed into the router (if you are using a router table):

Always take care to ensure that the speed of feeding the plywood into the router is within the ability of the router to take off the material.

A good way to assess if your router speed is in excess is to see if the router cut is causing chatter.

If you didn’t know, chatter is a series of ridges caused while routing incorrectly due to the bit being pushed away from the workpiece.

If your feed speed is optimal, then only wood shavings will be produced while routing.

On the other hand, if your feed speed is too slow, it will cause burning.

DiameterRouter Speed (RPM)
1 inch 24,000
1-¼ inch to 2 inch18,000
2-¼ inch to 2-½ inch16,000
3 inch to 3-½ inch12,000
Optimal router speeds for plywood

What Router Speed for Pine?

Router on pinewood
router on pine

In general, router speed for softer woods should be faster compared to hardwoods.

Pine being a softer wood should be run at a speed more than 20,000 RPM unless your bit dia is more than 3 inches.

If your bit dia is more than 3 inches, speed must be decreased to at least 16,000 RPM.

Of course, this speed is also dependent on the feed speed. With pine you should run the router quickly and at fast speed to avoid burning.

Should You Push or Pull a Router?

For optimal results, you should push a router for the initial passes and on the final pass pull the router (climbing cut).

This will avoid the splintering that is common while pulling the router but also give the smooth finish expected when doing a pull movement on the router.

When pushing the router initially, there are two scenarios:

  • When routing the outside of a piece, push the router counter-clockwise. This will give a smoother cut avoiding splintering
  • When using the router inside a piece, push the router clock-wise.

This difference in directions is due to the action of the bit reversing when working on the inside of a piece.

When the bit is working on the outside, a counterclockwise movement will result in the bit pulling the workpiece towards it.

While on the inside of a workpiece, a counter-clockwise movement will result in the bit pushing the workpiece away from it.

To avoid this, the movement inside the piece should be clockwise.

The climbing cut is usually used by experienced woodworkers who have a high amount of control over the router.

A climbing cut can be dangerous and can result in splintering if not done carefully.

However, it is ideal to take the last pass as a climbing cut, this will give a smooth finish.

Actually, the advantage of a climbing cut is that it gives a smooth polished finish if done well.

Also when you are buying a router, buy one with the highest Horsepower you can afford.

The noise that a router makes is directly related to its horsepower.

The more horsepower it has, the less sound/noise the router makes.

All the information above pertains only to wood and plywood.

If you are using a manufactured board such as MDF or particleboard, there is no difference in pushing or pulling the router as the material doesn’t have any natural grains.

How Deep can a Router Cut?

Deep router bit on plywood
never run a router at this depth

A router can cut up to 1 inch in one pass, but it is unsafe to do so. As a general rule, it is unsafe to cut beyond ½” while routing.

The depth of cut also depends on the diameter of the bit, length of the shank, and the material being cut.

The depth of cut should be reduced for bits that are long to avoid bending and breakage.

A router bit that’s rotating at 12,000 RPM, breaking can be catastrophic and can cause serious injury to the user.

Also, longer bits are generally considered unsafe compared to shorter bits.

A deep cut removes a lot of material but it usually burns the wood, producing undesirable results.

It is a much better idea to take lighter passes with 1/8″- 1/16″ when using a router.

Also, a deep cut causes wobbling in the router which produces shaky results.

Another factor is that a deep cut produces a lot more wood chips while routing and these chips need to be constantly removed to avoid extra friction and heat.

A solution to this would be to use a continuous stream of compressed air to clear the wood and cool the workpiece simultaneously.

Lastly, a deep cut can cause the motor of the router to get burned out due to the high amps it draws to the router.

Why is my router bit burning the wood?

Your router bit is burning the wood because either the depth of cut is too high or the feed speed is too slow.

If the router is moved too slowly, or if the workpiece is fed too slowly into a router (in the case of a router table), there is a chance of burning.

The second probable reason is that the depth of cut is too high (possibly higher than 3/16″). If the depth of cut is too high, the workpiece will most likely get burnt.

Can you use a trim router as a plunge router?

Trim router on wood
Trim router on wood

A trim router can be used as a plunge router by fixing an additional plunge base to the trim router.

But it should not be used for heavy work as trim routers are smaller and lightweight, being meant for edge trimming work.

Trim routers are generally used for routing the edges of a piece, usually after laminating with a veneer.

They have a lower power rating. A trim router usually takes in router bits with shank length 1/8″ to 1/4″.

While a plunge router is capable of taking in bits with shank length greater than 1/2″.

A trim router usually has a power rating of less than 1 HP while a plunge router has a power rating between 2-3 HP.

The conclusion is that the conversion of a trim router to a plunge router can be done but it would be inadvisable.

A much better and safer option would be to buy an actual plunge router.

If you want to learn how to make a plunge base for your trim router, check out this guide- Plunge router base for a regular router.

Can I use a Router Bit in a Dremel?

router bit and dremel
only some router bits are compatible with Dremel

Router bits that are specifically manufactured to be compatible with Dremel can be used in a Dremel tool. Any other general router bit cannot be used in a Dremel.

There are router bits manufactured specifically to fit into a Dremel.

Check it here- Router bits for Dremel. Only these bits can and should be used in a Dremel.

Using any other type of bit, even if it fits inside, could be dangerous.

Router bits that fit Dremel are generally smaller and have shaft lengths of 1/8″ which are usually incompatible with a regular router.

These bits should be used only on softer woods and for cutting depths less than 1/16″.

Using the Dremel for routing on hardwoods such as maple and walnut can cause the wood to burn.

It is best to use these bits for routing soft pinewood and for small hobby crafting applications.

Can you use router on plywood?

A router can be used on plywood and it is very common to use a router on plywood.

When using a router on plywood, take light passes, use a sharp router bit and avoid running the router too slow through the plywood (to avoid burning).

Can you use a router on MDF board?

A router can be used on the MDF board without any issues.

A router can produce very clean results on an MDF board as there are no natural grains in the MDF board, which gives a splinter-free and tear-out-free result.

Can you use a router on particle board?

A router can be used on particle board as well.

A router can produce very clean results on a particle board as there is no grain direction in particleboard, just like that of an MDF board.

If you are new to woodworking, you should learn how to use a table saw safely. Check out my detailed guide for using a table saw safely- Using a table saw safely

V Susan
Hi! I'm Susan. I am passionate about woodworking, general DIY and home improvement. If you'd like to connect with me or talk about something you like at mellowpine, drop me a mail at susan@mellowpine.com