What Speed Should My Wood Router Be?

The speed at which your wood router should be depends on the type of job you’re working on as well as the piece of wood. Luckily, the majority of modern woodworking routers will now allow you to change the speed depending on the task at hand.

The general consensus among woodworkers is the larger the bit you’re using, the slower the speed should be. You’ll have a choice of bits to use with your wood router, and the diameter of each one can be very telling as to which speed you need your router to be working at.

For example, a bit with a diameter of up to 1 inch can be used with a maximum speed of 24,000 RPM. If the diameter is between 1 and 2 inches, the speed should be reduced to 18,000 RPM or less.

For larger bits with a diameter of 2 to 2.5 inches, you should only use the wood router at a speed of 16,000 RPM or lower. With extra-large bits with a diameter of 2.5 to 3.5 inches, the RPM should not exceed 12,000.

These are average figures that are not set in stone. As you use your router with different bits and speeds, you’ll find what works best for your materials. Everyone is using slightly different woods with their routers, so the grain can either allow these speeds to be slightly higher or lower.

Trial and error should be used here, but with caution as to not endanger yourself. Use the speeds we have listed above as a good guide that you can experiment with slightly on either side.

What is the RPM of a router?

The RPM of a router stands for Revolutions Per Minute and inform you of how quickly your bit is rotating when in use. The higher the RPM, the quicker the bit will be moving and cutting into the wood.

As we mentioned before, most routers have an adjustable RPM so that you can decide how slowly or quickly you want your router to be. Most routers will have an RPM range between 8,000 and 24,000.

Adjustable speeds on a router is an important feature to have so that you can adjust the RPM to the bit you’re using. Not only will this give your wood the cleanest cut and keep your work of the highest quality, but it will also keep you safe while using it.

RPM is not actually a unit of measurement when it comes to speed. Instead, it shows you how many turns the bit experiences within one minute of use. Physics can tell us that the outside edge of a larger diameter bit will move faster than the outside edge of a smaller diameter bit when moving at the same RPM.

So, you need to decrease the speed of your router in proportion to the diameter of the bit you’re using. This is why you need to reduce the speed when using larger bits. The outside edge will be moving at the same speed as a smaller bit at a higher RPM, keeping you safe.

Using a bit too quickly can lead to your router jumping. If this is done on a router table, the router will try to throw the wood off of the bit, which can be harmful if the wood happens to fly in your direction. If you’re using a palm router with the wood clamped down, the router could fly out of your hand and remain spinning in the wood. When the router is spinning at 18,000 RPM, this can be dangerous and rather scary.

Why is my router burning the wood?

The most common reason why your router is burning your wood is that you’re using it at too high a speed. Bits large in diameter being used at too high an RPM can produce wood-searing heat which will then burn the wood.

To prevent this, follow our guidelines of the maximum speed depending on the bit diameter you’re using. We have created a table below to remind you.

 

Bit Diameter (Inches) Maximum RPM
Less than 1  24,000
1 to 2 18,000
2 to 2.5 16,000
2.5 to 3.5 12,000

Using your bits too quickly can make them dull prematurely. So, if your router is burning the wood even when using it at the correct RPM, it could be due to the fact that mistakes carried out previously have damaged the bits.

Dull bits can burn wood which is why you should either resharpen them or replace them as soon as you see that the edges are not as sharp as they used to be. This shouldn’t cost too much and save you a lot in unburned wood.

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