Router Bit Maintenance

I’ve always considered that the real tool when routing is not the table, or the router, but the router bits.  It is the bits that make contact with the timber, and as the collection grows, it is the bits that make up the majority of the cost of a router / router table (although it takes some time to exceed the cost of an Incra fence if you head down that path!)

I haven’t had a chance to finish off the router storage cabinet – just another on a long list of jobs, and part of that is cleaning up the bits themselves.  There is quite an investment in them, so it makes sense to keep them in optimum condition.

The main issue I find with mine is they get quite a buildup of pitch and sawdust on the cutting surfaces, and that can’t make for an optimum cutting condition.  Some of my bits haven’t been cleaned for a while, and they were looking quite the worse for wear.  Unfortunately I didn’t think of photographing the worst one before I started.

Setting Up

Setting Up

Setting up to clean the Toy Train Track bits.  The bits are in a shallow tray, mainly to stop them rolling onto the concrete floor.  I’m sure there are better ways to transport bits around the shop, but that is what I have at the moment.  The other bowl is what I clean the bits in, and we have a cloth, an old toothbrush, Pitch Remover and Bit Lubricant.

Prior to Cleaning

Prior to Cleaning

This isn’t a particularly dirty bit, but it is the worst of the ones that I had when taking the photos!  You can see the pitch builds up to right near the tip of the bit, so I’d be very surprised if it doesn’t affect performance.  It would also cause the bit to heat up a lot more, but I don’t know if that is particularly detrimental to it, but it doesn’t sound like a good thing.

Application of Pitch Remover

Application of Pitch Remover

The Pitch Remover (from Carb-i-tool) is applied liberally over the bits (it’s also for saw blades etc).  I do this over the bowl which collects the excess – once I’ve finished with it, I can return the majority of the remover back to the bottle – no point wasting it!  Only a little that collects at the bottom which also has a majority of the removed pitch is thrown out.  Carb-i-tool also sells a container specifically for router bits, although this seems a reasonable alternative.

After Cleaning

After Cleaning

It doesn’t take much soaking time for the pitch & dust to be loosened, and the majority is removed with the toothbrush, which can get into all the corners etc, and isn’t going to damage the bit itself. the cloth is used to wipe the loosened pitch and the spray off.  The bits are them given a rinse in clean water and allowed to dry.

Bit Lubrication

Bit Lubrication

Next, I do a similar process with the router bit lubricant.  I don’t see why this would be particularly critical for non-bearinged bits, but it can’t hurt.  For bits with a bearing, this gets right into the bearings so they run smoothly. Normally bearings are sealed, but this isn’t always the case, and/or the seal can get damaged over time, so again it is a step that may or may not be particularly critical, but it can’t hurt.

Feeling loved once again

Feeling loved once again

The initial collection of bits after being treated.

Resurrection

Resurrection

This was my worst bit – used on a lot of pine on the Triton Introduction course, and had significant buildup.  Doesn’t look like it now, so it is back to being a bit happy (or is that a happy bit).

So that’s it – a quick job is all it takes to look after a significant asset.

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