Router bit of-the-month (January)

The router bit-of-the-month featured in Episode 19 is a raised panel bit from Carb-i-tool and has their typical quality features: low friction coating, high quality carbide, anti-kickback design and importantly, accurate dimensioning of the shaft. I have quite a few Carb-i-tool bits, as you may have gathered from other posts, and I always have a great deal of respect for the quality of the bits (and the subsequent quality in finish they produce), as well as the (for me) very important fact that it is a local manufacturer turning out such a good product.

There are a number of profiles available for the raised panel, it is a matter of choosing which one you feel suits the product you are making (and one that complements the rail and stile profile). This cutter is a horizontal style cutter, as opposed to a vertical raised panel bit. In other words, the panel you are routing is presented to the cutter horizontally, ie resting on the router table. I tend to prefer this type of bit, as it means the workpiece is fully supported by the router table, and I don’t have to balance the panel against the router fence. This is particularly important for large panels. So that is the positive aspect, and I feel this is the preferred orientation. However, it does mean the router bit itself has to be huge (and the raised panel bit is often the largest router bit you’d ever own). It is a huge chunk of steel and carbide that the router needs to spin, and as such, you need a strong, heavy duty router to cope with it, and essentially, one that is variable speed. (Check a post I made recently about matching router bit speed to the size of the bit).

If your router cannot cope with such a large bit, then the vertical raised panel bit is the way to go, as it is nowhere near as large a diameter bit, and the router can cope with it much easier. You do need a good, high fence to support the panel then, so that is the compromise.

I tend to use an unbearinged raised panel bit, as it leaves my options open for exactly where I position the fence, and I can centre the fence on the bit, or have it as far forward as I’d like. If the bit had a bearing, I would be limited to just how much of the profile I could expose with the fence. In any respect, I am always going to use a fence with this bit (and a router table). It is way too large to ever consider handholding the router.

Also, given the amount of material this bit can remove, it is highly advisable to take multiple passes to remove all the material. You can achieve this in 2 ways. Either by moving the fence, starting with only a little of the cutter exposed, then expose more for the second pass, then set the fence close to the final position for a third pass and finally set it for the full depth pass so that one is a very light pass (ie removing very little material) which really improves the quality.

The other method is to set the fence in the final position to start, then raise the router bit each time instead, until it is at the correct depth for the final pass. For some reason this is my preferred method, but either is perfectly valid. Both have the problem that if you want to produce another panel later, you need to reposition the fence and the bit depth exactly, so obviously, ideally, you’d have all the panels ready to go, and do the same pass on all the panels one after another before changing bit depth (or fence position), so each panel is at the same stage when you set up for the final pass. It is worthwhile also running a bit of scrap wood through the process at the same time, so that you can set it aside, and use it to help reset up the fence and bit depth if you ever do need to produce another matching panel at a future date.

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