Router Bit Storage

This is a screenshot from a Highland Woodworker video that the Roving Reporter suggested I look at – given my collection of router bits (and the ever increasing number of Amana Tool bits I have been adding from Toolstoday.com), my original router bit storage is groaning under the load.

A cabinet along the lines of this one seems would be an ideal solution – like a large version of my Triton Routerbit POS display I have been using, this not only openly displays the bits, but also protects them from having too much dust build up.

Seems like a great project for the new woodshop!

Router Bit Storage

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

Flooring the Opposition

How often do you find that you walk on a hardwood floor, to quickly realise that the floor is an illusion, that the wooden surface is nothing more than a thin veneer.  You feel it underfoot – that springy feeling, and the sound, the slap each step of the floating panels hitting the floor underneath.

Another common polished timber floor are full thickness boards, but they are not tongue and grooved together, and each board is nailed down by an enthusiastic builder with a nail gun.  And every nail hole filled with poorly colour-matched knobs of putty.

What if you have found some beautiful pieces of timber, either virgin or reclaimed that you would love to use?  Then the solution is to make your own floorboards, and creating your own tongue and grooves is the way to go.  A tongue and groove in its simplest form can join the boards together, but Toolstoday.com have a much more refined bit set available from Amana Tool, and again a set endorsed by Lonnie Bird.

Router set storage case

Router set storage case

The set of two matched router bits is particularly well made – I don’t normally notice the fit of the shaft in the router, but these bits were particularly well machined.  Many companies ignore the shaft to a large extent, with microridges from the tooling marks on the shaft being acceptable.  These were very fine – a really good fit, and smooth.  You may think that smoothness leads to slippage, but that is not the case.  Lubrication causes slippage, as does a limited contact area, and ridging can cause quite a drop in the contact area between the router shaft and the collet.

A smooth shaft maximises contact area, and therefore grip.  If you don’t quite believe this, ask yourself why (in dry weather) Formula 1 cars perform best on slick tyres.

Onto the rest of the two bits, and the finish remains immaculate.  No rough brazing here, and quality carbide well backed up with the router bit base material.

Immaculate Amana router bit set

Immaculate Amana router bit set

The router bits have to be used in a table-mounted router, and a fence is highly desirable, if not a must.  The router bits have bearings, but for thinner boards, the bearing does not contact the board.  It still is very useful to ensure the fence is set to the right distance for the bit.  Speaking of board thickness, there are two sets available – one for boards 5/8″ – 3/4″ (which is the set I have), and another for boards 1/2″ – 5/8″

Mounted in the router table

Mounted in the router table

One thing that these bits do not do, is cause the groove to be too deep, or the tongue too long. (We do not need a Gene Simmons endorsed router bit!)  Once the boards are interlocked, you don’t need to risk having either portion of the board cracking or breaking off.

There are a number of other subtle developments that have been incorporated in the Amana Tool design.

Interlocking Board Features

Interlocking Board Features

Starting from the top of the joint, the two boards come together completely flat, ensuring the least amount of gap possible between boards.  This is the only contact area between the boards in the horizontal plane, so seasonal change should have minimal impact on the joint.

The next feature is the tiny triangular indent out of the lefthand board.  This is a gap for a hidden nail to be shot at an angle through the board to nail it to the joist that holds the floor up. Having a gap for this hidden nail prevents the head of the nail interfering with the joint.  It also means it is easy to nail the board at an angle through the solid portion of the timber, rather than firing the nail vertically through the much thinner tongue, risking forming a split.

The tongue is short, and rounded, so there is one point of contact at the widest point of the tongue. The corners of the tongue, and the groove in which it engages are all rounded.  This minimises the likelihood that a crack will start in the corner and break off the tongue, or the outer edges of the groove.

Finally, there is the large cavity at the bottom of the joint.  It helps prevent moisture from gathering at the joint, and being wicked up into the joint.

Joined boards

Joined boards

Boards once joined together are seamless, with only the different grain of each board giving away where one finishes, and the next begins.  Having a decent thickness adds to the overall quality of the floor, and being able to make the professional-style tongue and groove boards yourself can save a fortune, and also allow you to specifically choose the timber that the floor will be made from.

Once again, and unsurprisingly, a quality set of router bits from Amana Tool, and Toolstoday.com.

A-well-a bird, bird, b-bird’s the word….

Dangers of Routing

Not sure how I missed hearing about this, or perhaps it vaguely rings a bell, but I hadn’t delved deeper into the situation.

Back in 2006, a 31 worker was killed in a Cabinet-maker shop in East Bentleigh when the router bit she was using disintegrated and hit her in the chest. (Although what I gather is that with the forces involved, the bit acted more like a bullet than a stone). I don’t know what the resulting ruling against the companies was.

From the WorkSafe website, the following Alert has been re-released April 2010 (read PDF for official document)

WorkSafe Alert – Router Safety

Background – Routers are a common item of fixed plant used in wood machining. They are used to cut, trim and shape materials such as wood, metal and plastic.

A worker was operating an industrial router at a cabinet-making factory when the bit disintegrated and a piece of
metal hit her in the chest. Contributing factors may have included:

  • use of an inappropriate bit for the tool—in this case, a bit with wings too large for the shank;
  • use of a bit with a shank not long enough to be properly grasped in the collet;
  • the tool not being marked with the maximum permissible speed;
  • The tool not being balanced before use.
No etching of the maximum speed
on the side of the bit
Router bit’s wings are too large for shank

Control Measures

  • Ensure that the maximum permissible speed is clearly marked on the tool (preferably by etching).
  • Ensure that the bit is properly balanced prior to being put on the market or into use.
  • Tools should only be sharpened by a competent person or organisation and regular checks of collets should be carried out to ensure they hold router bits firmly.
  • Under no circumstances should local modifications be made to bits or collets to allow the use of non-compatible components.   Staff should be trained and supervised in using these pieces of plant.

Some observations of my own:

The router bit is exceptionally ugly – the design is exceptionally poor – sharp internal corners are very bad stress raisers – this bit should never have been made (IMHO)

The shank on this bit is 20mm, so at 150mm outside diameter, it is a significant router bit

There are no anti-kickback features – you could easily overfeed this bit

I never knew router bits were meant to be etched with a maximum usable speed – something to look out for!

Routers are as dangerous tool as any other major one in the workshop, and deserve equal respect.

Without knowing exactly what happened in this instance, I would be surprised if material wasn’t being fed into the router bit at time it broke.

A very unfortunate, tragic industrial accident.

Router Bits in Drill Press

I’ve spoken in the past about whether you can use the drill press as a surrogate router (in general the answer is NO!), but there are some circumstances when it would be rather useful.

I’m not suggesting that I have changed my opinion of the use of the drill press for routing, sometimes though a router bit would be very suitable in a drill press setup.

One of the problems is the drill press chuck is specifically designed to hold a wide variety of shaft diameters, and in doing so, it’s ability to grip is compromised. A router on the other hand has a chuck that can cope with a single shaft diameter, and grips it very tightly (you do not want a router bit coming out at speed!) Also, the drill press jaws does significant damage to the shaft of a router bit which needs tightly maintained parameters to fit the router collet.

My thought is then, that a router collet is threaded onto the shaft of the router, and instead if this was a shaft that could be gripped in the drill press jaws, it would be rather useful, because then you could mount a router collet into your drill press.  Router bits could then be used in the drill press without fear of damage from the drill press jaws.

The only reason this came to mind was I was thinking about how I could use a 1/4″ solid carbide laser tip router bit to create some fine point, tapered holes, precisely placed into a grid.

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