About Woodworking Router Speeds


Routing at the wrong speed has consequences. These consequences might include damage to the material, the router or even to you. You need to find the appropriate speed when you use a router to avoid any problems. There are even router speed controllers to help you set the appropriate speed. Several different factors create a need to adjust router speeds.


  • Through the ages, many craftsman have been injured while working with wood. Most of the injuries were not life threatening and were a result of a banged finger where the hammer missed the chisel. Today, high speed motors drive the bit on a router hundreds of times faster than any chisel could operate with a high force. The speeds for newer routers are adjustable with the flick of a switch or the addition of a speed controller. The variable speeds allow you to adjust the speed of the bit's rotation.


  • When you use a speed that's too fast for the size of the bit, you create hazards and often damage the router. Even though the faster speed creates more cuts for every inch, which is a smoother cut, it also burns the wood if you have the speed set to fast. When you use too slow of a speed, this creates rough cuts in the wood.

Bit Size

  • The amount of router speed you need varies with the size of bit you use. The larger the bit, the slower the speed needs to be. If the bit diameter is over 3 inches, then you need to use a maximum of 12,000 RPM's. The speed increases to 14,500 for bits that are 2 9/16 to 3 inches. Bits between 2 1/16 inches and 2 1/2 inches require 16,000 RPM's as the maximum speed. You can use 18,000 RPM's for the maximum speed for bits 1 1/16 inch to 2 inches. Any bit 1 inch or smaller can use 24,000 as the maximum RPM's. These vary and some manufacturers suggest you use less RPM's. Remember, the list is the maximum speed, not always the best speed.


  • The bit sharpness also makes a difference in the router speed. If you have a sharp bit, it doesn't create as much heat when it cuts as a dull bit blade. Higher speeds on the router also create heat. When you combine the two, you burn the wood.

Router Quality

  • Consider the quality of your router when you set the speed. Some more inexpensive models don't have the bearings or collet quality to handle as fast a rotation as you select.

Feed Rate

  • If the material feed rate is slow and the router speed is too high, you'll also subject the wood to burn. The reverse is also true. Too fast of a feed rate combined with a low RPM setting makes rough edges. You need to adjust the router speed to one appropriate for you material feed rate.


  • Router speed needs adjustment according to the type of material you're cutting. The density of the material affects how fast you need to set the speed of the router. When you work with router speed you have to take into consideration the combination of not just material density but also the resonance of the material and it's grain to get a good cut and reduce wear and tear on the router.

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