Router Bit-of-the-Month (May 08)

The featured router bit this month is a stunning bit from Carb-i-tool (if you are into that sort of thing!!)

It is a solid carbide, 3 flute, up-spiral bit. These are commonly made from either HSS (high-speed steel) or solid carbide because of the difficulty in producing a carbide tip that fits around the required curve.

Upspiral carbide router bit

As you can guess, it is razor sharp, and significantly heavier than your standard bit because it is solid carbide.

There are a couple of reasons why you would use a bit like this over a standard straight, 2 flute cutter. The first is most definitely finish. A straight cutter chips away like a high speed chisel at the timber, and at 22000 RPM is a lot of chisel cuts over the surface of the material, and the finish is pretty good.

However, some materials don’t like being chipped at (and all would prefer being sliced if possible). This is where this cutter comes into its own. This cutter slices at the fibres, and pares away the material leaving a superb finish. I will hopefully have some time to do a video of this a bit later on (when the shed upgrade is more complete!)

The second function is chip removal, and the up spiral (or down spiral for the other form of the cutter) pulls the material out of the cut zone and away. It is called “up” because of the direction the chips would move if this was mounted in a handheld router. This is good if the finish surface is on the opposite side to the router. If not, then you need the other direction – ie a down-spiral bit. Finally, if both surfaces are important (and prone to chipout or tearout), then you need a compression bit (that I wrote about a number of months ago)

Being solid carbide, these bits are not cheap (around $110), but given the spiral, and the three flutes (ie cutting faces) rather than the standard two, this will produce an excellent machined surface.

Router Bit-of-the-Month (April 08)

This month, (after a short hiatus), the featured router bit is the Surface Planer bit from Carb-i-tool.

This probably doesn’t really do the bit justice, but to give you an idea at least of what it is.  Unlike a 2 flute straight bit that is primarily designed for edge work, but gets used for all sorts of other roles (such as planing and stock removal), this bit has one purpose – surface planing.  It is a 6 cutter bit, capable of rapidly smoothing the surface of everything from bowls to boards.

There are a few aspects to this blade worth mentioning:

1. It is not designed for table mounted work.

2. You require some sort of sled to hold the router above the work you need to have flattened.  There are some commercial versions, and also a number of homemade versions as well.

3. Do not consider trying to handhold this bit!

Tool of-the-Month (April 08)

The tool for this month is the MagSwitch. An Australian invention, the MagSwitch is both a very simple concept, and an ingenious one. The basis of the invention is a switchable magnet – one that can be turned on and off with a quarter turn of the handle. Sure, the ability to switch off a magnetic field has been around for ages with electromagnets, but these are permanent magnets, and with no power requirements, the ability to turn them on and off is pretty cool. They also have significant holding strength, so now we have a strong magnet that can be turned on and off at will.

This leads to all sorts of possibilities!

This is just one application of the MagSwitch, and it came about because one of the engineers was also a keen woodworker, and saw a superb application of the technology. This featherboard (and the vertical attachment) are now part of the range that MagSwitch make for woodworkers.

There are also MagJigs – a MagSwitch magnet in a style that makes it simplicity to incorporate into your own jigs. I’ve had an idea that I will detail further in the near future that includes 2 MagJigs to hold down the Incra fence system, allowing the Incra Fence to be used on the tablesaw. I will document this further, but it might finally be a quick and easy way to fit an Incra fence onto the Triton Workcentre.

There are also MagSquares, which are a jig in themselves. You can use them as stops, as fences, and well, the interesting thing about the technology is trying to think of different ways that it can be used.

In fact MagSwitch run an ongoing competition where you can win a Pro Featherboard by coming up with a useful and unique application of MagSwitch.

My latest idea is I want a MagSwitch broom. I have dropped so many screws etc into the sawdust during my shed upgrade, that being able to ‘sweep’ through with a MagSwitch broom would be great. I’ve tested the MagSwitch on iron shavings, and when switched on will pick up a whole stack, yet holds onto next to nothing when switched off. Even if MagSwitch don’t make one, I might rig one up for myself anyway!

I will cover this cool product further, but they are definitely worth checking out!

So far, I am aware that they are available through Carbatec, Woodworking Warehouse, Professional Woodworker Supplies and Carroll’s Woodcraft Supplies

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!)

Tool of-the-Month (February 08)

The tool for this month is the Veritas MkII Honing Guide. Veritas are well known for producing quality jigs and tools, and the MkII Honing Guide is no exception.

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The MkII is a significant development on the original jig and although it has been available for a while now, it still justifies being highlighted. It is used in setting and maintaining the bevel angle for edge cutting tools (such as chisels and plane blades).

It consists of 2 main components – the black component is the blade holder, and once the blade position is set, holds it in that position during the grinding/honing process. The other component (silver) (the registration jig) is used to set the blade position so it is honed to the correct angle. Once the blade position is set, this component is removed.

There are a number of advantages of the MkII. First and foremost is the accuracy and repeatability of setting the honing angle. The guide can be used on waterstones, oilstones, diamond stones, and sandpaper (commonly called the “Scary Sharp” technique). It has a large brass eccentric roller which can be set to a secondary position for creating a microbevel.

The setting jig not only controls the amount of protrusion of the blade (ie distance from the roller, which dictates the angle of the bevel), but also keeps the blade square so that an undesired skew is not created.

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Here you can see the stop which is dictating the blade protrusion, but also the far side has a fence which the blade is resting against, ensuring that it is square to the roller. The blade in this case is one of my HNT Gordon plane blades (which as you might be able to see, already has a mirror finish).

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Once the blade position is set, the registration jig is removed, and you are ready to start honing the blade. I’m going to be doing a separate article/video on various sharpening techniques in the near future, so won’t go into details here.

More recently, extra jigs and modifications have become available for the MkII guide, including a Skew Registration Jig for deliberately (accurately and repeatably) setting a skew angle if so desired.

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The Veritas MkII Honing Guide and Skew Registration Jig has been supplied by Carbatec, and continues to prove to be their most popular honing guide.  I’ve had my MkII Guide for quite a while now, and it has proven to be an invaluable tool where it comes to sharpening.  I had the MkI before it, and although it was a good jig, the MkII has proven to be exceptional, and I’ve never regretted upgrading.

Router bit of-the-month (January)

The router bit-of-the-month featured in Episode 19 is a raised panel bit from Carb-i-tool and has their typical quality features: low friction coating, high quality carbide, anti-kickback design and importantly, accurate dimensioning of the shaft. I have quite a few Carb-i-tool bits, as you may have gathered from other posts, and I always have a great deal of respect for the quality of the bits (and the subsequent quality in finish they produce), as well as the (for me) very important fact that it is a local manufacturer turning out such a good product.

There are a number of profiles available for the raised panel, it is a matter of choosing which one you feel suits the product you are making (and one that complements the rail and stile profile). This cutter is a horizontal style cutter, as opposed to a vertical raised panel bit. In other words, the panel you are routing is presented to the cutter horizontally, ie resting on the router table. I tend to prefer this type of bit, as it means the workpiece is fully supported by the router table, and I don’t have to balance the panel against the router fence. This is particularly important for large panels. So that is the positive aspect, and I feel this is the preferred orientation. However, it does mean the router bit itself has to be huge (and the raised panel bit is often the largest router bit you’d ever own). It is a huge chunk of steel and carbide that the router needs to spin, and as such, you need a strong, heavy duty router to cope with it, and essentially, one that is variable speed. (Check a post I made recently about matching router bit speed to the size of the bit).

If your router cannot cope with such a large bit, then the vertical raised panel bit is the way to go, as it is nowhere near as large a diameter bit, and the router can cope with it much easier. You do need a good, high fence to support the panel then, so that is the compromise.

I tend to use an unbearinged raised panel bit, as it leaves my options open for exactly where I position the fence, and I can centre the fence on the bit, or have it as far forward as I’d like. If the bit had a bearing, I would be limited to just how much of the profile I could expose with the fence. In any respect, I am always going to use a fence with this bit (and a router table). It is way too large to ever consider handholding the router.

Also, given the amount of material this bit can remove, it is highly advisable to take multiple passes to remove all the material. You can achieve this in 2 ways. Either by moving the fence, starting with only a little of the cutter exposed, then expose more for the second pass, then set the fence close to the final position for a third pass and finally set it for the full depth pass so that one is a very light pass (ie removing very little material) which really improves the quality.

The other method is to set the fence in the final position to start, then raise the router bit each time instead, until it is at the correct depth for the final pass. For some reason this is my preferred method, but either is perfectly valid. Both have the problem that if you want to produce another panel later, you need to reposition the fence and the bit depth exactly, so obviously, ideally, you’d have all the panels ready to go, and do the same pass on all the panels one after another before changing bit depth (or fence position), so each panel is at the same stage when you set up for the final pass. It is worthwhile also running a bit of scrap wood through the process at the same time, so that you can set it aside, and use it to help reset up the fence and bit depth if you ever do need to produce another matching panel at a future date.

Episode 19 Router Bit Review Raised Panel Bit

Raised Panel Bit. To complement the rail and stile bit featured last month, the raised panel bit is used to produce the panel that fits into the frame created by the rail and stile. The result is a very traditionally styled raised panel, used for cupboard doors, drawer fronts, and even the sides of some types of furniture.

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