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.

Air Compressor Health

Do you take enough care of the health of your air compressor?

Do you know what your air compressor is breathing in?

How’s the compressor’s fluids?

3 questions I haven’t given much, if any thought to, at least not in the last 12 months or so, and yes, I should know better.

My air compressor lives in the shed next door to the workshop, to cut down the noise (and to save a little space), but it also then becomes a matter of out of sight, out of mind.  Not a good thing.

Firstly, the oil.  I keep meaning to do an oil change of the compressor, and it is long overdue.  There are moving parts in the compressor, which means that it needs lubrication, and that is obviously important – no lubrication, and the compressor will very quickly become a boat anchor.  However, the other thing that the oil does, is store all the particles that have worn off the components, and that is not cool – do you really want to lubricate the small tolerances in the air compressor with metal shavings?  I’ve no doubt that there is a lot of unnecessary scarring inside mine from just that.

Air quality.  Obviously the air compressor has some form of filter on it, but when was the last time you cleaned / replaced it?  Do you run the air compressor in a dusty environment, or is it getting a good supply of clean, filtered air?  Like the oil, particles in the air will cause significant damage inside the pistons.

Last, but not least, and related to air quality – how dry is that air?  Quality air compressors have drying filters on the air intake, but that is a bit of a luxury for a small air compressor, but perhaps worth considering if making a simple one wouldn’t be worth while?  Moisture in the air (even tiny amounts) will accumulate inside the tank, so venting this tank should be a regular event.  Hasn’t been on mine for quite a while now.

So on the weekend, as I was working on the dust system (and the dust extractor is right next to the air compressor, which probably isn’t the smartest thing, but it is the most practical location in my case), I looked at the air compressor, and it vaguely dawned on me that I switch it on and off from the other shed and it has been just a little while since I last actually considered how it was running and being maintained.
So checked the oil level, and to it’s credit, it was on the low side, but still at a reasonable level.  It definitely needs to be changed, but that is a job for another day.

Had a listen to it, and there is a minor air leak where the flexible tube couples to it – again, I’ll tighten up the connection at some stage, but it is a pretty minor loss.

Thought I’d better vent the tank a bit – there’s only ever been a few drops of water, so I got a bit complacent about it.  Hmm – was this meant to be an air compressor or a water blaster?  I have no idea how much water came out, but it was in the vicinity of 150ml or so – might have been more as it was under pressure, but it seemed to run and run.  Oops.  Was a really interesting red-brown colour too.  Idiot.

So I have probably significantly shortened the life of the compressor, and as I said, to its credit, it has been taking my neglect surprisingly well, but if I want it to keep going, I need to take a little more care of it in future.

FWIW, it is a 40L direct drive GMC air compressor that cost all of $200.  That was about 4 years or so ago, possibly even more but memory is very hazy looking back that far.  I’d say that is pretty impressive for a budget machine, especially given my lack of attention!  But it is well overdue for me to give it a little more maintenance than it has been receiving if I want it to keep chugging away.

Episode 24 Tool Maintenance Cast Iron and Sanders

Episode 24 Tool Maintenance Cast Iron and Sanders
For anyone not living in absolute ideal conditions, cast iron is not only magnetic, but “magnetically” attracts rust to it, and so it is important to both protect against rust, and be able to remove any ‘infection’ as soon as it starts.

Flattening Waterstones

Been doing a little preparation for a video on sharpening (or part of a series on sharpening to be exact).

One of the popular sharpening methods is using Japanese waterstones, sometimes using a jig such as the Veritas MkII covered recently.

I like to think of sharpness of an edge as the interaction of two smooth planes. The smoother the planes, the sharper the edge. However, you can’t get a smooth plane if your sharpening surface isn’t smooth. In the case of waterstones, this means they need to be flat.

You need to keep on top of this – it is very easy to get dishing in your stone (a patch of increased wear), so a regular flattening (before and after each job would be good practice, and therefore would take little time).

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To flatten a waterstone, you can (apparently) rub two together, flattening both, but to my mind this would only really be effective if both stones were the same grade. These are not particularly cheap, so I only have one of each! The stones I have are 1000 grit and 6000 grit. That does not correlate to sandpaper if you were wondering – I will do a separate post about that shortly.

Instead, I prefer to use a known flat surface (in this case 10mm plate glass), and affix some 180 sandpaper to it to flatten the stones. It is prety easy from there – keep rubbing until the stone has a uniform surface. As you can see in the next series of images, I went a bit overboard when first using the stones a few years ago when I got them, and went way too long without reflattening them, which caused significant dishing. I have been using the other side from then on, but for this article, decided to return to the dished side, and get it flat once again.

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The first photo is after quite a lot of sanding, and still the hollow is very apparent. The second photo was with the end in sight – the dishing is almost gone. The final photo shows (finally) a nice uniform surface which means the stone is flat once again.

Triton 15in Planer/Thicknesser/Moulder

I’ve just been out to the shed shooting the final installment of three videos that I will have available very shortly (hopefully by the end of the week for the first). (This doesn’t include a fourth that will be an after-market upgrade of a digital height scale).

The three videos are 1. Using the unit as a planer/thicknesser – as with the 13in thicknesser video, this is more a look at the unit itself than a monologue on the techniques of flattening a board. 2. Installing the moulding blades and 3. using the unit as a moulder.

I had to shoot the videos over a couple of days (evenings), as thicknessers generally rather noisy affairs, and as much as my neighbours have not complained about my noisy pursuits to date, I really don’t want to push my luck!

Talking of noise, (rather loose segue here), for those who have seen the recent video, the intro (and music) is still very much a work in progress, and although this new one will probably be used for the next set of videos, I hope to have a refined one ready pretty soon – just have to master the technologies (and create a more original music track)!

Back to thicknessers for a sec – I’ve been very remiss in keeping up with some of the other quality blogs out there, but I did come across a very relevant post on Sandal Woods that reminded me of a couple of similar experiences I’ve had with thicknessers. Al’s post can be found here, but in brief summary, if you find your thicknesser is having trouble feeding timber through, and the rollers don’t seem to be pulling on the timber properly, the fault is probably NOT the rollers. If you don’t keep the table sufficiently lubricated (waxed), it can quickly develop quite serious feed issues. I’ve had this happen a couple of times, and each time I have forgotten the lessons from the past, and wasted all sorts of time trying to diagnose a machine fault, when a quick clean and wipe with a bit of finishing wax would have (and eventually did) solve the problem! So thanks for the timely reminder Al!

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