Use-by Dates

There is one thing that I find extremely refreshing about this passion / obsession.  (Well there is more than one thing, but for the sake of this conversation…..)

Unlike many, many other pursuits, you can buy something today, and so long as you bought well, it will last you years without mysteriously becoming obsolete in 6 months (or 6 days) time.  As much as I like new tools, new inventions etc, I also love the fact that I can walk into my workshop, and use a tool that I bought years ago that does exactly the job it was intended to do as well now as the day it was purchased.

I have in my office an old Apple ][e – the first computer I got serious with – teaching myself machine language (at the tender age of 14).  The computer still works, still runs the old software, can still write a letter, manage a database, play a game (and they are still good games!), all with 64kb of memory, and booting from a floppy disk (pretty modern machine actually).  Boy, 25 years is a LONG time in the IT world.

I’m sure many of you will have tools that get regular use that are much older than that, be that a tablesaw, bandsaw, jointer, plane, chisel etc.  And as good today as they were back then, and in 25 years time, I fully expect that many of the tools in my workshop will still be chugging along, perhaps a bit dustier than they are now, perhaps missing a bit more paint, but still good tools.

Router Bit Sortout

For a significantly long time, I have been rather embarrassed by the state of my router bits, and so with the arrival of the new cabinet, I have used it to motivate me to do something about it. Plus, by the time I was able to get out to the shed, it was way too late to turn any of the tools on, so it was a good opportunity to do so other maintenance tasks.

It took some time, despite that many were suffering no more than a bit of a build up of dust. The dust has attracted moisture, which then results in corrosion. It wasn’t too bad, but still, I’d rather them look as pristine as possible. With over 80 router bits in the collection, the old toothbrush still got quite a workout. I really need to be more fastidious about cleaning the bit immediately after using it, and before it gets put away. A router without a good bit is no better than a blunt chisel.

One thing I’d add, is the bits with a surface treatment were in significantly better shape than those without. The Carb-i-tool bits with their black coating required nothing more than a 5 second dust off for them to look like new, whereas the Linbides which have nothing needed some real elbow grease to get them back to a reasonable state. In the end, the quality of the bit comes down to the quality of the carbide, and so long as that portion of the bit is kept in good condition, the bit will pretty much do as expected, but having the body of the bit protected as well makes the job a lot easier.

One thing I’ll add – the bits that for whatever reason I kept in their original packaging were still in perfect condition (other than where I’d used them and put them away dirty 😦 ), so I’m hoping the new cabinet will afford all of them a much better level of protection than the old (and I’ll admit it – intended to be temporary, but temporary solutions have a habit of becoming long-term) storage solution.

What I was using (and will hopefully be able to decommission soon) was the 100 bit storage tray from CMT, which uses 1/2″ and 1/4″ inserts that can be positioned, and repositioned as required.  The main problem I found was the bits were held so tightly that they were (and are) very difficult to remove, and often the whole insert comes out with the bit.  Putting the bits away was also a dangerous affair, again given how tight the fit was, you had to place a lot of pressure down on the bit, and given they have very sharp edges, you didn’t want to slip.  So I started not putting them away, or just dropping them into holes that didn’t have inserts, and so the mess began.  They look like an adequate solution in the images, the reality is something else entirely.

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