A matter of scale

In Episode 107, I had a look at the Amana Tool miniature inverted copy router bits from Toolstoday.com.

Although you get an idea of the size from the video, I thought I’d give you a closer look, and compare them in size to a Australian 5c, and the USA cent and quarter.

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What I really wanted to show however, is the size of the bearing that is used on the smaller trim bit.  It makes for a smooth copying operation, and so the router bit doesn’t burn at the rub point.  Now when I say it is small, I mean small.  It is in that first photo – have a look at the 1c piece.  However, to make it clearer, here is a real closeup!

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Episode 107 Miniature Copy Bit

 

Super Miniature Bearing Bits and the Baby Hippo

When I first saw the miniature bearing router bits from Toolstoday.com, I immediately knew one job that they would be perfect for – kids’ toys.  They often have many curves and tight sections where a normal router bit fears to tread (and often cannot get anywhere near following the twists and turns).  A typical fine router bit doesn’t have a bearing, and instead has a simple shaft that is part of the bit, and therefore rotates at the same speed (and for such a small diameter router bit, this can be 20,000 – 25,000 RPM).  This quickly leads to heat buildup, and friction burning of the timber.  It isn’t too much of an issue with such a small diameter, but the area in contact with the work is always rotating, where I prefer a bearing where the contact point of the guide is stationary.

Types of small bit

Types of small bit

From right to left, there is the non-bearing bit, a roundover bit with a regular-sized bearing, and the Amana Tool miniature bearing router bit.  This really reveals just how tiny the bearing is.

Amana bearing vs normal

Amana bearing vs normal

Just for a sense of scale, the bearing on the right is a typical 1/2″.

So where it comes to fitting into the smallest of places, this is the bit for the job.

Animal train

Animal train

The hippo here is part of an animal train pull-along, and without rounded edges looks very unfinished.  With all the tight corners, it was going to take something unusual to get in there (or try sanding it by hand). After rounding over each side, it went from ‘roughly cut out’ to basically finished and ready for oiling in a very quick pass on either side.

Getting into the nooks and crannies

Getting into the nooks and crannies

The bit really excelled in this application, and did a great job while doing so.  Smooth cut and finish without tearout, and a fine bearing that glided over the work.

If you reference back to my previous article (linked below), you’ll see there are a number of other bits in the range, so a number of different tasks can be achieved in very restricted spaces. Available from Toolstoday.com

Router Bit Kick

On a bit of a kick at the moment, each router bit is like a new tool because they work so differently one from another – some do edging, some shaping, some copying, rebating etc etc.  And there are so many interesting ones out there 🙂

Some that have recently caught my attention, and will be covered individually shortly are some Flai bits, to see how they perform compared to the brands I am currently useful.

Computer Depiction of a Flai Router Bit

I haven’t tried the Flai bits yet – I have a couple, and will be interested to see if they, and particularly their edges perform as well as their saw blades.

Double Rebate

This bit is one of the new ones in the Carbatec range – a double rebating bit.  It is used for picture framing, as it cuts a rebate for the glass (either 3mm or 6mm depending on which of the 2 you choose), and a second, wider rebate for the backing board.

One very useful addition for bearing guided bits is a set of bearings of different sizes.  This allows fine-tuning of how the bits work, increasing their versatility even further.

You can buy a set of bearings – there is a set in CMTs range for example

791-703-00 Bearing Set

But for the price, there is a better way: a rebate bit that includes a set of bearings.  The CMT bearing set is $77, for $22 more you get the full rebate set.

835-001-11 Rebate Set

However, what really caught my eye (when I was shown it by a friend) is

The Grand Rabbet Set

835-503-11 Grand Rabbet Set

Now it may not look as impressive in the photo here, but that is in part because you don’t have a scale reference.  The rebate (or rabbet in American) bit itself is 2″ in diameter.  What’s more, those are not bearings in the box – they are a kind of sleeve.  And the concept is significantly cool.  Instead of having a whole set of actual bearings in the range of sizes seen here (which would be very expensive), these are solid, machined sleeves that fit a bearing top and bottom so they run exceptionally well. The bearings themselves are replaceable (if it ever is needed) at a comparatively low cost.

With the cutter at 50.8mm (2″), there is also a sleeve that is the same diameter, turning the rabbeting bit into the largest flush-trim bit/pattern copying bit that I have ever come across.

Looking forward to getting to try the kit out – bring on the rabbet stew!

Bearing an Explanation

A bit over a week ago I mentioned a thought I’d had about the copy attachment for the Torque Workcentre.  To provide some extra clarity for what I was talking about, I took some photos to detail the idea.

What I was suggesting was for the copy pin to be adapted to take the standard router bit bearings.  These come in a variety of sizes, allowing patterns to be finetuned to the result, or to compensate for a pattern that was a bit rough, or to start with a roughing pass, then change to a smaller bit that matches the template for the final pass.

Collection of Bearings

This is a couple of sets of bearings I have – obviously a consistent set with the same internal diameter, and a regular increase in size from bearing to bearing.

Current Copy Attachment

What I am proposing is the bearing set is able to be attached (individually of course!) to the bottom of the pin here, on the Torque Workcentre copy attachment.

Bearing Pin Detail

Some close-up shots, showing how the bearings are currently attached to a copy router bit.  The centre pin with an internal thread for a hex bolt.  It may seem flimsy, but this bearing deals with the forces of routing, with rotational speeds up to 22000 RPM (or more).

Fixing the Bearing

The bearing, when fully inserted onto the shaft sits proud.  This is important, because the bolt needs to impact on the centre of the bearing, holding the centre of the bearing solidly, with the outside race free to turn.

These are all sealed bearings, given the environment they are expected to operate in.

Some Torque Details

Some more views of the Torque, now that it is all assembled and functional. Looking forward to a chance to really start putting the machine through its paces, but even the first 2 jobs (both for the recent toy kitchens), had me approaching traditional problems from a brand new direction (and no, that isn’t a reference to “overhead”, but of course that is the literal truth!)

Rear View of Y-Axis Rail

The machine is built heavy – at no stage do you feel any component has been scaled down to save on materials cost. The castings are heavy, the bearings are large, the members are solid and have no chance to incur sag, twist, or bend. The horizontal (Y-axis) beam has the tool carriage mounted on it, running on 8 substantial bearings on an electroplated arm. The black knob locks the carriage, so only x-axis travel will then occur (or rotation around the z-axis, if that is what the job requires). (Also, not counting the router plunge, which is obviously a movement in the z-axis) The z-axis movement is primarily the rack gearing that can be seen, and it is locked in position with the twist of the plunge arm. There is also a major movement of the z-axis with the threaded raising and lowering of the main arm, but that is not a movement that will be done during a cut, whereas the x, y and on-carriage z-axis movements are all directions that can be utilised during a cut.

Main Tool Control Mechanism

This is the y-axis arm from the other side, and here you can see the z-axis mechanism – the plate and bearings. One thing that strikes you is bearings everywhere on this tool – if something is designed to move, it is running on bearings, and few bearings are mounted flat – most are angled to the direction of load, so controlling and locking movement, and not just providing a smooth ride. The router mount specifically for Triton is still being manufactured which is why the Triton is still sitting on the original mounting plate, held in the circular saw attachment.

Z-Axis Mechanism

The z-axis beam is even heavier than the y-axis – it has to resist a significant bending moment. Still has the solid cast components, and electroplated beam. You can also see in this image the lock that allows the y-axis beam to rotate, setting the tool to angles other than just straight up and down. This is normal for radial arm saws and some drill presses, and now also for routers as well.

Critical Arm Balance Mechanism

Under the table is the main support arm. It serves a couple of purposes, carrying the beam that supports the end of the y-axis beam, but also the bearings are carrying a load to ensure the upright remains upright, despite the significant bending moment caused by having a heavy tool operate at the end of the y-axis beam. The knob and rod are actually the x-axis brake.

Copy Attachment and Pin Routing Point

An optional addition is the copy attachment. In many situations this provides significant control over the tool – with two hand grips, and will be very useful whether the copy rod is deployed or not. It is still quickly and easily removed if not required. It also provides a convenient allen key storage (a Lazy Larry solution)

In the MDF, you can just see the metal sleeve inserted that takes the pin routing guide. Again, very easy to deploy when required.

Router Table Section with Incra Positioner and MagSwitch

At the right-end of the table, I have still retained a traditional router table…….. cast iron, inset router lift with digital height readout, Incra fence with 1/1000th inch positioning. And MagSwitch of course. If it wasn’t for MagSwitch, I wouldn’t have bothered retaining a cast iron top. But the MagSwitch technology is just too good to pass up, and I want it’s ease of placement anywhere I want it, the safety of featherboards for horizontal and vertical material restraint, and of course any other jig I decide to create, with the use of MagJigs to hold them in place. One such example is the commercially available Woodpeckers Freehand Router Guard, which I have added an additional base to with 40mm holes to take a couple of MagJigs. So easy to place when needed, it actually gets used. Safety equipment is only useful when you use it, and having a method of making using it as painless as possible is never a bad thing.

Freehand Router Table Guard w MagJigs

Is this it? Have I finally achieved (through an amalgamation of quality products) The Ultimate Router Table? It certainly can’t compete with some out there for aesthetics, but where it comes to functionality, I think I am pretty safe to say there would be few tables out there that have more than one with the overhead capabilities afforded by the Torque Workcentre, a solid cast-iron router table that has an Incra LS Positioner and Wonderfence, a Woodpeckers Router Lift, and because of the cast iron, can utilise the awesome MagSwitch technology. It is going to be really interesting over the next while, really putting this machine through its paces. About the only thing it seems to be missing is CNC, and with the potential future edition of Wixey positioning readouts, even that will close the gap significantly.

Whiteside Template Bit

I’ve found in the past that Whiteside make a very tidy router bit, and this template bit is no exception.

They don’t seem to go in for the coatings of some companies, and appear to concentrate on the manufacturing of router bits which look very precise, from the clean look of the bit, and its carbide grinding, to how tidy the carbide is attached (brazed) to the body of the router bit.

Whiteside Template Bit

Whiteside Template Bit

This particular router bit is a 1/4″ shaft template bit, with a bearing guide.  The benefit of the bearing for template work is you don’t have to be concerned whether your guide bushing is accurately centred on the router or not affecting the result.  It also means the template can be made to the same size as the desired recess – you don’t have to take into account the thickness of the template, or the distance between the template and the cutter. (That is not to say that guide bushings don’t have a very valid place for many routing activities).

Carbide Detail

Carbide Detail

You can see from this second image what I mean about the precision used in brazing the carbide to the router bit – that is about the cleanest job I have seen by any manufacturer.

In that photo, from top to bottom are the carbide cutters, the bearing, and the bearing retainer ring (secured by grub screw)

The cutting length is either 1/4″ or 1/8″ depending on which model you choose – both available from Professional Woodworkers Supplies for around $40-$42.

Both are suitable for small inlay work and setting small hinges.  Their benefit over a traditional pattern copying bit is the short cutting length, so you don’t need either a tall template, or to cut through the workpiece (obviously rather undesirable when doing inlay work!)

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