Q: What is the best way, or perhaps I should say, the safest way, to rout a profile on the edge of a small round piece such as a pedestal base on a router table? With a square or rectangular piece you maintain a straight push, but, as you’re constantly re-orienting your fingers on a round piece, one that’s less than six inches or so can put your digits in danger.
A: I have a healthy respect that borders on fear when it comes to routing really small objects on a router table. So, in order to protect both my fingers and my sanity, I take three lines of defense when routing the small, circular sorts of shapes you suggest.
First, I get my fingers well clear of the bit by attaching a two-handled fixture on top of the workpiece — something made from scrap that keeps my hands far enough up and out of harm’s way but not so tall as to limit my control of the work. I attach it to the workpiece with a few dabs of hot-melt glue or a strip of heavy-duty double sided tape.
Second, I always begin each routing pass with the workpiece held against a starter pin that’s fixed in the table. It gives me a fulcrum to pivot the wood safely into the cutter and bearing. And third, I cut the profile in a series of deepening passes to remove material a little at a time. That reduces stress on the bit and router and leaves a cleaner final cut.
I recommend that you not be overly concerned about trying to cut all the way around the circle in one continuous pass. Rout a third of it or so, pull the workpiece away to rearrange your grip on the handles, if necessary, and resume. There’s no need to be a contortionist and risk throwing yourself off balance.