Dremel Chuck

Was having a bit of a peruse of Dremel accessories down at Masters, and came across the keyless Dremel chuck.  Sounded like a pretty convenient idea – instead of having a number of different collets, you can change your Dremel so changing between bits is toolless, and it doesn’t matter if you are changing between different shaft diameters. Also means you can use small drill bits without having to purchase ones specifically for Dremel.

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Original bit securing system

The original system does work, no question about it.  But it could be more convenient, and toolless bit changing has a certain attraction.

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Dremel Toolless Chuck

When you take the chuck out of the packet, don’t expect it to work exactly like a spare chuck for a drill/drill press.  It needs to be mounted on the Dremel to work – as it screws up and down the shaft thread it opens and closes the jaws.  Solid little unit, and doesn’t crush like the aluminium collets of the original system when they get stuck in the shaft of the Dremel.  It may not be for you, but always good to know these sorts of things are out there (and at $20, it isn’t too impacting on the wallet).

Experiencing a Green Router

On the second day of the Alternate Wood Show, I had an opportunity to use the Festool OF1400 for the handheld routing I was doing – cutting inlays using the Whiteside Inlay Kit. After a brief familiarisation (thanks btw!), I started experiencing why owners of the OF1400 like it so much. It was loaned by Ideal Tools, and they were lucky to get it back at the end of the day!

Festool OF1400

Festool OF1400

From the trigger on the handle that doesn’t require you to reposition your hand after turning the router on (and it can be locked in the on position), to the front knob that also locks the plunge height, the micro-adjustable plunge stop, the ratchet mechanism on the collet, the low centre of gravity, dust extraction and so forth.  It was a very pleasant router to use, particularly hand-held.

The Festool collet concept is rather interesting.  I can only describe it to be like using a ratchet drive for a socket set.  You engage the spindle lock whichever direction you want to operate (tighten or loosen), then operate the collet with a spanner, ratcheting back and forth.  Unlike the Triton, you don’t need to be at full extension to engage the spindle lock, but that does then require it to be a 2 handed operation, reaching under the table to do so (if the router was table mounted that is).  The bit change itself can be done above the table.  Shame that Festool don’t take it just a little further, and allow you to remotely operate the spindle lock.  It would then become ideal for use in a router lift.

The micro-adjustable plunge stop made for easy repeat operations.  Once I determined the height I wanted to bit to operate at, I was firstly able to fine-tune that height without starting the whole process over, and importantly, I could dial in and out a known height difference, which was particularly useful for the inlays.  When inlaying, the cavity, or recess needs to be as close as possible to the thickness of the inlay, whereas when routing the inlay you want additional plunge depth to ensure you are cutting all the way through and into the backing board.  With the micro-adjuster, I was dialing that difference in and out in no time, and accurately every single time.

Festool may be well known for having a high price-point, but you sure do get to see where that money has been invested.

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.

Approaching 1/2 Million

As the magic milestone of 1/2 a million visits to this website rapidly approaches, I’ve been giving some thought to how to mark the occasion.  In the past, I’ve given a prize to the visitor who actually hit that milestone, but as the counter only updates every 10 minutes or so, it kept resulting in multiple winners.

So instead, I’m going to take a different approach, which also better recognises all visitors, and not just those who were awake (literally, given the worldwide audience!) at the time the mark was met. So what I propose to do is get a few prizes together and you then enter the draw (once), nominating which prize draw you want to be entered into.

I’ll put up a post in the next week or so with a list of which prizes are being included (have to do it soon – the 1/2 million mark will be passed in 3-4 weeks time max!)

However, I will mention here that one prize will be one of the US style Triton Router Collets (with both the 1/2″ and 1/4″ fittings) This is the self-releasing style collet that I was trying for a long time to get Triton to make available to the Australian community.

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1/4″ fitting pictured here, and it is simplicity itself to switch between the 1/4″ and 1/2″. BTW, the collet in the giveaway is brand new fwiw (and is both natively 1/4″ and 1/2″ – no more adapters and 1/4″ inserts (and bit slippage) with this puppy)! Fits both the 2400W and 1400W Triton routers. And no, I don’t have an external supply of these collets – the one I’m giving away is from my personal stock of Triton spares (and is pretty much the last spare one of these collets I have). Whomever wins it can spuriously gloat to their heart’s content.

Upgrade to the 3 1/4HP Triton Router

The US version at least. I hope this will become available in Australia as well, but from the horses mouth (or Amazon.com to be precise)

From the Manufacturer
World’s best router has just gotten better. Here are the new and improved features that make us #1 in the woodworking shop. Changing from free plunge to rack- and pinion mode as become even easier with just a push of a button. Our switch is now fully sealed in a rubber boot to ensure dust free operation. The plunge handle components have also been updated to metal gears for smoother operation and extended life. Our improved ¼ inch collet reducer makes changing to ¼-inch bit safer and easier……<snip>

I’ve seen the new collet, and they are great. I’ve been petitioning Triton/GMC to have them available in Australia. It will happen sometime I think. I hadn’t heard about the change from the old style of plunge selector (the mechanism on the handle you had to twist to change between height winding and free-plunge mode, which on the 1400W router became a much easier push-button). Looks like they have now changed the big router to have that same method of mode selection. Again, I guess at some stage that will become available here in Oz, but in the meantime, lucky Americans!

Router bit of-the-month (February 08)

This month, I am not highlighting an actual bit, but something that can make the difference between a bit, or a jig etc being usable, and not being able to do the job required.

The bit this month is in fact a router bit extender. I am certainly not condoning the use of router bit extenders for every operation, but in some instances, for some jobs, they are a much better solution than the alternative. (Shown here with a router bit fitted).

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This version of the router bit extender is quite impressive. It is made by CMT (an Italian router bit manufacturer) who are well renowned for the quality of their router bits. Here in Australia, CMT bits are supplied by Carbatec.

The concept is pretty simple – have a shaft the diameter of a normal router bit to mount in the router, then some form of mechanism to hold the router bit itself, and in this case, CMT have opted for quite a traditional style router bit collet, which is reassuring given that it needs to tightly hold the router bit in the extended position.

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This is the extender broken down into its individual components (not all extenders can come apart like this) Working from left to right, we have the collet outer ring, which screws into the collet base (part 3). Inside each of these is a cone which matches the cone on either end of part 2. Part 2 is the split-ring router bit holder. As the collet is tightened, the split-ring is squeezed together, gripping the router bit. The cones facilitate this, as well as ensuring the bit is maintained in the centre of the mechanism. The final part (4) is the 1/2″ shank which is fitted to the router’s collet.

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There are a number of occasions where the extender can be a god-send, and it is useful having one in your collection for if/when it becomes needed. These include, needing some extra plunge length, when using the router with a jig where the router doesn’t have sufficient plunge capacity to expose enough of the bit, and for bits that have too-short a shaft (to name a few). Some people also use them religiously with their table-mounted router because of a combination of too thick a table and/or too short a router bit and/or insufficient plunge capacity of the router and/or because they want to be able to change router bits above the table.

My personal preference is that these extenders are only used when they are justified, and there isn’t another solution (like purchasing a longer shanked router bit if that becomes a regular problem, or getting a router that can inherently do above-table bit changing). There is a reason router bits don’t come with an extra inch or so of shaft length (just for the convenience), and it isn’t because of cost (well that’s not the major reason). They do increase the load on the router bearings – there is a lot of extra leverage caused with the extra length. If you are running a Festool (triple bearing), or a Triton, then the router should cope, but not all routers are as strong. Remember too, we are talking about a high-speed rotary tool here (up to 20000RPM).

So the bottom line is, for a particular job, a router bit extender can be invaluable. I’d rather use an extender, than not properly inserting the router bit fully into the collet for example. However, it is not for every job, and in particular, it is strongly recommended that you don’t use one when the router bit exceeds 40mm diameter. This rules out panel raising bits!

Finally, here’s something a bit exciting for Stu’s Shed (and I’m hoping we can do more of this in the future, but it will depend on how successful it proves!) The CMT Router Bit Extender featured here was generously supplied by Carbatec, and is normally $79 (inc GST). For this month (Feb 08), if you tell Carbatec that you saw it featured on Stu’s Shed, then you will be able to purchase it for $69 (inc GST). (That’s almost 15% off). This offer has been made by Carbatec only for Stu’s Shed viewers. (Cool huh!)

Triton Router Template Guides

There has been a bit of confusion about the Triton Router Template guide kit in a number of forum posts, so I thought I’d go through a few of the aspects here for the sake of clarity.

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This is the kit for the MOF001, the 1400W Triton Router.  However, I always recommend that owners buy this kit even if they have the larger 2400W router (although if you are in the US or UK, I would investigate the contents of this kit just to make sure my observations hold true over there).

The reason I strongly recommend this kit is

a. it is cheaper than the one for the TRA001

b. it contains ALL the contents of the TRA001 kit (and more)

c. if you end up with both routers, there is no need to get another kit!

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This is the heart of the system – the template guide base plate.  The Triton routers do not have the ability to fit a template guide in their standard as-sold configuration.  They need the addition of the template guide base plate to allow the guides to be fitted.  There is very little drawback from having the template guide baseplate fitted – you loose a tiny amount of plunge capacity, although there is a huge amount available, so this is unlikely to ever be missed.  The dust collection capacity of the router is maintained.  The only time I’ve felt a need to remove the baseplate was when I wanted to run a monster router bit, with a diameter larger than the hole in the template guide baseplate.  I don’t even rememeber which bit it was, as I’ve not had that problem since.

There are 2 baseplates shown here, and both come with the MOF001 kit.  The left-hand one is specifically for the 2400W router.  It can fit the 1400W router, but with some overlap at the edge. The baseplate for the larger router fits fully underneath the router plastic(?) baseplate.  The second (middle) baseplate shown is for the 1400W router.  This one fits into a recess in the plastic baseplate of the 1400W router (pic of this shown shortly).

The final ring is the baseplate alignment bush.  When you are first fitting the template baseplate, it must be absolutely centred on the collet, and this bush is used to achieve this (again, shown shortly).

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For either router, step one is to remove the four screws holding the plastic baseplate of the router.  There is often quite a bit of dust that has collected here, so worth cleaning out.  You can also see up the plunge tubes, and again, good opportunity to get any dust out of there that has collected, particularly if your router is normally table-mounted.  Another one of those occasions that an air compressor proves invaluable.

If you are fitting the baseplate for the 2400W router, it is placed directly on top of the router here, then the plastic baseplate is put back on top.

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If you are fitting the 1400W router baseplate, it is inserted into the recess of the plastic base.  There are a couple of tags that line up with the plate.  Note here, the recess in the template baseplate goes to the bottom of the router.  The 2 screws seen here are the ones used to hold the templates in position – it is not necessary to have them already screwed in place.

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The assembly is now placed back onto the router, but at this stage is not secured.  You then plunge the router so the collet protrudes through the base, and secure the  baseplate alignment bush into the template baseplate.  The two notches in this, and all the template guides are so you can get it past the screw heads.  Loosen the screws, drop the guide below the screw heads then rotate the guide so the notches are not lined up with the screws, then tighten the screws down.  For the alignment bush, this will, by default, cause the baseplate to be centred on the collet.  To remove, loosen the screws, twist the template guide so the notches are in line, then lift it clear.  Without the notches, you’d have to fully remove the screws every time to fit a new guide.

This centering is absolutely critical for template guides.  If the template guide is offcentre, you can be sure that the template will not work as required.  If it isn’t centered, then as you turn the router, the bit will be too far right, or left of where it should be according to the template you are trying to follow (leigh jig or otherwise).

You only use the alignment bush once – when securing the base plate in position.

You can now use the original screws to secure the baseplate to the router, and fitting the template guide baseplate is complete.

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Here, a template guide is shown fitted, with the router bit protruding through.  I’ll cover actually using template guides another time btw.

In some cases, you want to use the template guide with a router bit that is too large to fit through the hole in the guide.  In this case, you will put the bit through the template guide before actually fitting the guide, then tighten the collet on the bit, and then secure the template guide.

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You do need to ensure that the shaft length of your router bit is long enough to still be fully inserted into the collet.

As you may also see, the Triton template guides have gaps in them – this is so the dust collection system of the Triton router can still operate with the guides fitted.

There are 7 different template guide sizes in the Triton kit, and they are used with different router bits, and templates.  The smaller the template guide, the sharper the corner that can be achieved, but also the smaller the bit itself needs to be to fit.

So hopefully that helps answer any questions you have about fitting the Triton template guides!

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