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

Seeing things

For the past year or so, I have been a subscriber to the Toolstoday.com mailer – nice to get something in the inbox that isn’t work related (or trying to sell me viagra!). They have a large collection of router and saw blades on offer, so I’m interested to see what they are wanting to promote.

Got an email tonight, on the Tambour Router bits – that ou may remember I have reviewed, and used, and documented through Stu’s Shed. After a few seconds, I looked a little closer, and thought there was something very familiar about the upper-right image. The router table ring looked very Incra-like, and the more I looked, the more it looked like my table.

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So I went back to my original article, and sure enough – it is one of my photos 🙂

Before you get the wrong impression, it is perfectly fine – Toolstoday.com and I already have an arrangement that means they are welcome to use relevant images of their products, nor do they have to tell me each time they do. If you look around their website, you will start to find articles and reviews I have written.

So rather cool – having an image used in that way, when they would have had heaps of others to choose from.

The Hydra and the Router

The hydra is a mythical beast, with multiple heads, and when one is lost, another grows in its place.  I’ve never imagined I’d speak of the creature, the hydra, and router bits in the same sentence, but there you go.

In the past, router bits are a solid unit, with the sharp edge (tungsten carbide commonly these days) brazed to the body of the router bit.  The science behind the brazing can be quite profound, allowing the brittle tungsten carbide survive significant abuse.  These router bits can be resharpened, but you need to get them done professionally to achieve the best result.  Tungsten carbide on cheap bits is dull, often even painted to disguise the (lack of) quality.  I have also been told in the past that tungsten carbide is tungsten carbide, so cheap bits are the equal of the “overpriced other ones”  Bullsh*t! Sorry, but I have been told that on more than one occasion, and I really wish those who don’t know (or don’t care) wouldn’t continue to spout such crap.  It is like saying all diamonds are the same, and we know that is not true either.

Oh – bit of an aside – you may well ask, if carbide is so wonderful, why are there not diamond router bits?  Might surprise you, but there are!  There is diamond embedded in steel router bits, used to rout glass – such as putting a chamfer on glass.  Even more recently, in the Amana Tool catalogue, there are polycrystalline diamond router bits, with an edge that lasts up to 200 times longer than tungsten carbide.  Not sure why, but for CNC machines only.  The Amana Tool catalogue is scary – sooooo many awesome router bits.  Drool.

Ok, so we have established that some router bits (the most common) are all machined and brazed together.  The cost of replacing the edge requires the replacement of the entire bit.

The next approach has been detachable carbide, held onto the bit with one or two (hex) bolts.  Larger pieces of carbide is often used, thicker, and they can also use harder (and more brittle) pieces due to the thicker section, giving longer edge life.  If something goes wrong, and the carbide breaks (or dulls from use), it is a very cheap replacement.

A few of my bits have replaceable tips, such as my surfacing bits.  The two that have replaceable tips can be rotated to present 4 edges in total, providing significant life expectancy, and the tips are cheap even when they all do wear out.

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Now the point of all this is there is another option. Replace the head!  Its the hydra model for router bits!

It is a fascinating model, and there are some distinct advantages.  I’d never heard of them before, but the guys at Toolstoday.com recommended them, and they haven’t steered me wrong yet 🙂

The tungsten carbide is brazed to the head, so the body of the head does not need to be as ‘chunky’ to support a threaded section to hold the tips on.  The head can be machined so each tip is accurate, and the whole assembly becomes rather cost effective when you start running through the consumables.  Not sure how much it matters, but exchanging the consumables is faster than replaceable carbides, as you don’t have to do each tip individually. They are called the EZ-Change Replacement Head router bits, and you can change the head while it is still attached, and set up in the router.  This is particularly useful if running large jobs and you don’t want to have to recalibrate the setup because you’ve had to change router bits to get a sharp edge again.

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ez2 ez1

There are two types here – whether you require the bearing to be below or above the cutters.  The spare packs come with 3 replacement heads.  The cost won’t kill a budget either – $US18 for the router bit (including a head), and a 3 pack of heads is $27 – less than $10/head.

What will they think of next?!

Groove is in the Heart(wood)

The dado blade (or dado set) can be a particularly accurate tool when it is understood correctly.  With a combination of spacers and shims, a dado (or groove) of very precise width and depth can be cut in a single pass.  Unlike a router bit producing a groove, the size of the stock to fit that groove does not have to match the router bit, nor do you have to make multiple passes to get to the required width, or depth.

The tablesaw is also much more suitable for processing large amounts of stock, and long lengths.

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Electroblu Dado Blade

The dado set I have been using recently is this one from Amana Tool (through Toolstoday.com)  It is an 8″ dado set, with a 5/8″ bore.  The bore accurately matches the arbor of my tablesaw, so I don’t have to try to juggle washers for each blade and spacer, and means the blade set will produce a more accurate and flat-bottomed groove.  It has most recently also been upgraded to have the environmentally-friendly Electroblu coating, which help mitigate heat buildup during the cut (which has an adverse affect on accuracy – the more heat, the more the blade can warp.  This then results in more runout and therefore a change to the effective width of the cut.)

Click here to see the blade at Toolstoday.com  Don’t worry that the blade is not blue – the photo has not been updated yet to include their latest coating that is now standard on their blades.

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Dado Stack Set

It is a particularly nice set, with four 1/8″ spacers and one 1/16″ spacer (or chippers), and a set of shims of various widths.  The outside blades (which must always be used for every cut) are dedicated left and right (as is normal for dado sets).  The blades are not ATB – they are either bevelled left, or right only (depending on which blade it is), with every 6th tooth being flat ground.  They each have two teeth missing – this allows a place for the chipper blade to rest, so that the carbide teeth can overlap without knocking into each other.  The flat ground teeth result in square corners at the bottom of the groove.  Many other dado sets leave a telltale triangle cutout, where the bevel cuts deeper than the chippers.

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Inner edge of outside blade

An interesting feature of the outside blades is a raised section on the inside, effectively increasing the thickness of the blade, and when not using any chippers or shims means the two outer blades can rest against each other, again without the carbide teeth impacting.

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Chipper Blades

This particular dado set has only 2 tooth chipper blades.  This may seem a disadvantage (the general principle is the more teeth a blade has, the finer the cut), but the chipper blades don’t impact the side of the cut, where smoothness really counts.  Chippers only remove the material in the middle of the groove, so they only touch the bottom of the cut, and with a combination of the quality of the carbide, the angle of the grind and these chippers leave a very smooth finish.  The other really important aspect is the chipper blades have to be exactly the same diameter as each other, and the outside blades.  This leaves a flat-bottomed groove.  If one is over (or under) sized, it leaves a step in the groove base.

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Dado Stack

As you stack the dado set, you stagger the individual blades so that the carbide teeth have no chance of pressing on each other.  Other than risking damage to the teeth, if they are pressing on each other, they will distort the effective width of the dado stack.  When using shims, you need to space them out between each of the blades used.  It is a good idea to put the thinnest ones nearest the arbor washer & nut.  That way it is easier to change the finest shims to fine tune the effective width of the stack.  When measuring the width of the blade stack, you cannot simply add up all the width of the components.  The amount of runout of the two outside blades (in particular) (and to a lesser degree, the runout of the chippers) needs to be added to the final width, as does the runout of the tablesaw itself.

This can be determined by trial and error.  Set up the stack for a certain width of cut (adding together the kerf of the outside blades, the chippers and spacers used).  Perform a cut, and measure the result.  This will give the actual width of the cut, and the difference between the two is the runout of the stack and tablesaw combined.

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Zero Clearance

Despite the fact I have a 10″ tablesaw, an 8″ dado blade set is more than enough.  There are a number of reasons for this: Unlike a normal blade, the dado set is only ever for cutting a groove (and more often than not, no more than 1″ deep).  There is therefore no need to incur the extra expense of a larger blade.  A dado set is already much heavier than a single blade, and can really push the limits of the saw motor just to get it up to speed, let alone maintain that speed during a cut.  A larger blade has significantly more bulk and mass, and can exceed your saw’s capacity to spin it up.  The benefit of this set, is those 2 tooth chippers have a lot less bulk than other chippers, so this also helps deal with the overall bulk of a dado set.  The other thing is that a dado blade really does not need anywhere near the depth of cut of a standard blade.  It is for cutting grooves, not cutting workpieces in twain.

As far as how this blade performs, it is excellent – but you’ll have to see the associated video (which I am working on) to see the result.  Needless to say, I had a precisely cut dado that absolutely matched the board I was inserting, so the friction fit was beautifully tight.

To get that precision, I took the typically supplied notes on the various combinations of blades, chippers and shims to achieve a standard set of widths, and threw them out the window.  Instead, I came up with a comprehensive set of every single combination possible, in order of increasing width, so I can exactly choose what combination to start with to match the board I am inserting into the resulting groove.  Instead of having about 24 combinations that were provided, my list is just over 3000 combinations.  And because I have it in Excel, it is easy for me to add in the runout of the blades and tablesaw to end up with even more precision.

Out of interest, I have attached the full list below (and below the smapshot of part of the table)

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Snapshot of a few rows of the table

Dado Set Combination pdf

The Dado set by Amana Tool, from Toolstoday.com is a worthy version, and well worth considering when looking for a dado set for your workshop.  When the video comes out, you will see just how precise a dado set can be!

Sinking Deeper

Once the initial parts for the sink were glued up (the large U shape sections), it was time to make the actual components.  Ideally, I wouldn’t have had to take the previous step, but I am working with a limited stock size, partly as a bit of an exercise, partly because I have the timber, and don’t feel like buying something else.  The redgum is being salvaged from the ugliest, oldest sleeper you would have seen in a long time.  Always surprising just how much good timber is hidden behind a rough façade.

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Creating the sink template

To cut the individual sections out, I created a template from MDF.  It is easy to draw up and shape to the required profile.

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Template attached

In this case, I didn’t have to worry about screw holes, so it was easier and less problematic to use screws (Kreg square drive).  You may wonder about the amount of timber wasted here inside the sink.  It won’t be going to waste, as I intend to use this again in the same way to produce some other (as yet undecided) kitchen appliances.

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Bandsawing around the template

To remove the bulk of the material, the bandsaw works exceptionally well.  Cutting near to the template reduces the load on the pattern copying router bit.

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Routing to shape

Over to the router table, and with a pattern bit (a straight cutter with a bearing on top), each piece of the sink is routed to shape.  (The photo above has the piece upside down)

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Glued and clamped

Next, each piece is glued and clamped together to form the body of the sink.  The ends have also been cut using the same template, but obviously only the outside is cut and routed.

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Spindle Sanding

The spindle sander is next, and is the perfect tool for this job.  It may not get the full depth, but flipping the workpiece over a few times keeps things pretty even.

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Fine sanding

The size of the sink just allowed me to get the ETS150 inside, but it isn’t ideal for sanding around corners…..except I have a soft sanding pad (from Ideal Tools).  This has hooks on one side, and loops on the other, so it acts as a spacer between the original sanding pad and the sandpaper.  With this, it is really easy to sand all sorts of concave and convex profiles.

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Soft sanding pad

This is the soft sanding pad – a very useful addition for the ROS.

***Update: it is called an interface pad, and can be found here

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Attaching the sides

With the inside done, the sides of the sink can be attached.  This (and the next image) were actually photographed before the glueup, but it gives you the idea.

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Laminated sink

So that is how I make the laminated sink, still ensuring that the entire project can be made from timber.  Not sure if I will be able to maintain that ideal for the entire project, but I am still working towards it.  Very pleased I used contrasting timber this time – might as well make a feature of the laminations!

Enter, the Router Table

Taking the first components off to the next stage of the process involves the router table, and the rail & stile plus raised panel bits.

Cutting the interior profile

After some test cuts, the router table was set up to run the rails and stiles through the first router bit.  I use MagSwitch featherboards to hold the timber against the router table fence. They are so easy to position, and hold fast to the cast iron top of my router table.  Make you think it fortunate my router table is cast iron, but it came about in the reverse order.  I made the router table out of cast iron so that I could use MagSwitches on it.

Woodpeckers Coping Sled

After changing to the complementary router bit, it was time to cut the end grain of the rails.  If you ever wonder how to remember which is which, think about rails being horizontal.  They certainly are for trains! The stile is the other one.

The Woodpeckers Coping Sled is awesome for this task.  It holds the rails perfectly, and perpendicular to the direction of travel.  If I had taken more care, I would have used a sacrificial backing.  Probably should have – hardwood tears out a bit too easily. I’ll make sure I do when cutting the doors for the sink unit.

I just checked – the coping sled is still available from Professional Woodworkers Supplies.  They now have a mini one as well, but given the full sized one is on special, I’d still go with that one (the one pictured above).  There is so much more with this one, it is worth the difference.

Sanding the panels

After removing the panels being glued up in the Frontline clamps, I used the Festool belt sander to do a final flattening (including removing any glue squeezeout).  The large sander weights 7kg, and when coupled with the sled means you can hold the handle, and, well, hang on – letting the tool do all the work.  The work is clamped up using brass dogs on the vice, and dogs in holes in the table.

Panel bit

Once sanded (not the final sand – more a sizing sand than a finishing one), it was back to the router table, this time with a raised panel bit.  I don’t have a raised panel bit with a cutter for the back yet, so have to adjust it manually. This is not the final pass, but an intermediate one to check fit.  Best to do the crossgrain first, then the longgrain.

Panel bit

This is a monster bit – pretty much at the limit that a router can (or rather should) drive.  The run at the slowest speed still gets a decent tip speed.

Test fit

A quick test fit showed I was close, but still needs another pass to get it there.  Looking good though.  Will look even better when I do the 3D routing into each panel!  Once that routing is done (next session), then I can glue the panels up.

Thicknessing undersized stock

One thing I have been surprised with so far, is the lack of waste.  I’d always try to use timber to maximise yield, but there is always waste.  So far I’d not have enough offcuts to fill a 10L bucket – the yield is exceptional.

Even these thin panels that were ripped off the 19-20mm thick boards.  They will be perfect for the back of the units.  I wanted to run them through the thicknesser, but it just doesn’t go thin enough.  To solve that problem, I clamped on a sled.  The boards would not feed initially, but with a quick rubdown with Sibergleit, the boards fed through smoothly and easily.  I wouldn’t do this with any timber, or to go too thin, but it will get you out of trouble.
So a good session.  Progress seems slow, but this is always the slow part of any project.  Once the items are cut, and some preliminary joinery done, it usually flies together.

 

Some good news and bad news.  The good news is that I am documenting sessions on video.  Bad news is I am not planning on releasing the video until the project is complete!

Scratchin’ out a living

When you are used to using power tools and machines for your woodworking, it is easy to forget that sometimes a handtool is the best tool for the job.

They are quieter (much, much quieter), safer (although any sharp thing can cut), and often can get into places denied to power tools.   They also can have a different method for removing material. Where both can slice, only a handtool can scrape.  (Now I’m sure someone will tell me I’m wrong…..)

Scraping has its benefits.  It avoids tearout, as the blade is not parting material ahead of the blade – lifting and cutting.  Think of all the adverts on TV about shavers, where the blade lifts and cuts the hair.  If you are lifting timber, there is a chance more will lift than you intended, and tear out.  Scraping has the blade at a different angle of attack, with the cutting edge trailing behind, rather than leading the way.

Scraping is used in a number of hand tools.  For planing a surface with torturous grain (burls and the like), you can get planes with the blade set vertically for a scraping cut.  You can use scrapers (a piece of steel with a fine burr to perform the actual cut) as an alternative (and superior to) sandpaper.  And you can use a scratch stock as an alternative to a router.

It is a very simple tool – a piece of spring steel with the required profile cut into it.  And a holder.

You can make your own, or check out this one from Hock Tools (Ron Hock being very well known for the quality of his plane blades).

Hock Scratch Stock

This is available from Professional Woodworkers Supplies in Australia, who sell items from the Hock Tools’ range.  The body is made from a laminate of bamboo, which has good water resistance, and shape stability.  Instructions for using the scraper can be found here.

Where noone would consider manufacturing their own router bit, this comes with a second piece of tool steel so you have plenty of opportunity to create just the profile you want.

I came across an interesting concept while looking at these scratch stocks (and especially the supplied profile).  It used to be quite common for this profile to be used on the leading edge of a kitchen bench….underneath.  The purpose was as a drip arrestor.  Any liquid spilling and running over the edge would gather at the bottom of the curve of the profile and drip off, rather than continuing on its journey into one of the drawers (often the cutlery!)  Simple idea – pity it seems to be forgotten by modern kitchen manufacturers.

A very simple concept, a very simple tool, the ability to make your own profiles, and the ability to deliver that profile just where you need it, right out of reach of powered tools.

Ready for the next revolution?

With the addition of the DVR motor to the lathe, it was transformed into a stunning machine, powerful, energy efficient, futuristic even.

So the next revolution? (Sorry about the pun!)

Teknatool are developing a DVR drill press!

No more belts, pulley slippage, belt vibration.  No more bogging down of a drill bit as the bit meets resistance and because of the pulley ratios, the motor is stalled.

The ability to easily tilt the drill head over and angle it to the workpiece which is maintained on a flat surface, rather than having to angle the workpiece to a fixed head.  I know there are some drill presses that can achieve this, but few and far between.

Instead of drilling a hole at whatever speed that the drill press is set for (and just how often do we change the belt speed for a single hole)? you’d have no excuse not to dial in exactly the right speed, each and every time. It is going to be a great drillpress!

 

Thinking about it, with the motor onboard the head (direct drive), then the plunge mechanism moves the whole lot – chuck and motor combined.  There is no limit then to the amount of plunge that is available.

DVR Drillpress

DVR Drillpress

Looking forward to seeing the DVR motor included on other machines – thicknessers, saw tables, bandsaws etc.  Instead of a router mounted under a router table, how about a DVR motor?  Seriously awesome!

Barley Twist

After finding a natural barley twist while holidaying in Queensland, Geoff has sent a couple of photos in of a barley twist lathe that he has acquired (but yet to use).

It is interesting to study, just to see how simple an arrangement it is, and with a little bit of work, pretty easy to duplicate – especially (but not limited to) those with Torque Workcentres.

It would be pretty easy to add this functionality to a real lathe (but NOT switching the lathe on!!!) A lathe with an indexing ring would be excellent for this

Barley Twist Lathe

Barley Twist Lathe

Barley Twist Lathe detail

Barley Twist Lathe detail

I’m not sure the drive mechanism for this lathe – it may be from pushing the router sideways, but I suspect you manually turn the black winder in the second photo.  In that photo, you can also see an indexing ring, which is essential for setting the workpiece to the next start location.  Depending on the combination of how far around the workpiece is indexed, the router bit chosen, and the setting for how fast the router moves relative to each rotation of the workpiece will dictate resulting effect.

A barley twist lathe can be regarded as a glorified Beall Pen Wizard (or is it the other way around – the Beall is a miniature barley twist lathe?!)

Beall Pen Wizard

Beall Pen Wizard

Back to Geoff’s lathe – I can’t see how the gearing is regulated, but I assume it can be changed.

So that is a barley twist lathe.  Do an image-search on Google for Barley Twist will reveal over a million examples of this ornamental feature being used in different projects, with varying degrees of success!  In some instances it is beautifully complementary to the overall object.  In some other cases, it has obviously been included without any understanding of how such an ornate feature should be used.

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

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