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Thanks to everyone who entered our Shortcut contest to win the restored Millers Falls 2A drill from About 100 people entered the contest, and about one-third of those entries will end up in print in the coming year. So even if you didn’t win the drill, you still might will a free one-year subscription to Woodworking Magazine.

The winning Shortcut is what I like to call a “Jedi Mind Trick.” It’s a little way to remember something very important , in this case, the rotation direction of any router bit. As soon as I read this Shortcut I slapped my forehead.

And that’s the sign of a good Shortcut. Here it is from reader Regis de Andrade:

The Right-Hand Thumb Rule

I learned this in engineering school and soon found out it worked for my router. It is called the “right-hand thumb rule.”

When trying to remember which way your router bit is spinning so you can feed the wood in the correct direction, you can use the right-hand thumb rule.

Pretend your right hand is a router and your thumb is the router bit. If you are holding the router with your hands and the bit is pointing down to the floor, then hold your hand in front of you with your thumb pointing to the floor. Then curl your fingers. That’s the direction your router bit is spinning.

If you are using a router table, hold your hand with your thumb pointing to the sky. Curl your fingers, and that’s the direction your router bit is spinning.

That way you will never get confused again and always know the correct feed direction.

And it works for almost anything that spins: faucets, screws (regular thread), changing a tire (if you want to know which way to tighten or loosen the nuts) etc.

– Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 9 comments
  • Ace Karner

    That’s a tip not a shortcut.

  • Jack Camillo

    Here’s a tip. Look at which direction the cutting edges pointing. That’s the direction of the spin. feed into the cutting edges. The otherway for a climb-cut if you want to do that.
    Here’s another similar: which way do you push a saw, if you didn’t know if it was japanese or western? Look at which direction the cutting edges are pointing. Push, or pull into the wood. Tips or basic knowlegde necessary to use cutting tools?

  • Christopher Schwarz


    You need to be aware of the feed direction to know how the router will behave. If you are routing the outside edge of a frame, for example, and push the tool around counterclockwise, you will be working in opposition to the rotation of the cutter. The router will be easier to control. If you pushed the router clockwise, you would be pushing in the same direction that the bit is spinning (this is called climb-cutting) and the router would try to run out of your hands.

    It gets confusing when you work on the inside of a frame or at a router table. That’s what makes it a good trick.

    Hope this explains it.


  • Tony Z

    OK, I’m power tool ignorant. If I use a router, I can now tell which way the bit is spinning. How does that relate to feed direction?

  • Jack Camillo

    Good to know, but that’s a "shortcut"?

  • Ryan

    This is a great tip. Never thought of applying it to woodworking. This only works using your right hand. I know several left handed individuals that didn’t do so well on their statics tests.

  • Woodworker's Guide

    Yep, you’re right. This tip is a winner!

  • William Nordmann

    Thats a great hint. Anytime someone tells me Righty Tighty Lefty Loosy I want to smack them.

  • kees

    a makita the laminate trimmer LOL bought it in 1987.
    a long time ago and and I even don’t know the brand of the plastic countertops ……….. now I have a drawknife and a shavehorse.

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