Groovin’ on the Dancefloor

A CNC machine may be capable of placing a router in precisely the right place, and follow an exact path, but still a router is just a motor.

The real tool is the router bit – it does the real work.  If you were hand carving an intricate pattern, you’d want your tools to be razor sharp, and have the variety of profiles that you need. Just because a router is a powered version of a chisel, it doesn’t stop the need to have sharp bits and correct profiles.

This is where the Amana Tool In-Groove Engraving bits from Toolstoday.com come into their own.

Normally, if you want a really fine tipped engraving router bit, you either have to go with tool-steel, or a particularly expensive solid carbide bit.  The In-Groove bits have a real point of difference (pun intended).  They have replaceable carbide tips.  And not only that, but a variety of profiles that fit the same router bit body.

Toolstoday.com In-Groove

Toolstoday.com In-Groove

You choose either the 1/2″ or 1/4″ shank, and either just get the components you require, or get the 8 piece set which gives a good sample to start with, that you can then grow as required.  If a tip becomes blunt or is broken, it is a low-cost replacement and not the entire router bit being written off.

There are also a surprising variety of each profile, with different tip widths, allowing you to precisely choose a profile to match the job you are doing.

Profiles

Profiles

There is another real benefit to the In-Groove system that is not immediately apparent.  You can change profile (effectively the same as changing router bits) without removing the bit from the router, or even having to disturb the current location of the CNC machine.

So you can set up a job with multiple paths, and like really expensive CNC machines that can change tools partway through a job, start with one profile to define edges, switch to a second for bulk clearing, then finish with a third profile that refines the design.  All by undoing a single hex bolt on the router bit itself.

Changing tips

Changing tips

As a bit of a test (and only in pine), I quickly threw together a design to test the different profiles out.  It really was simple changing tips on the fly, and matching design to bit.

Different profiles

Different profiles

As much as a V groove bit is the most commonly one used, I really liked the result of the cove tip

Cove Tip

Cove Tip

I also gave a more complicated design a try, with a bit of a Celtic knot, a photo of a saw blade turned into a path, and some text on a curve.

_DSC2485

_DSC2486

This was done with a 30 degree V groove tip mounted.  Forgot to mention, I normally choose 1/2″ shank router bits, but knowing the CNC shark router is 1/4″, that is the way I went here.  The bits don’t get heavily loaded up – it is not bulk material removal after all.

The In-Groove router bits do sound like they are not running true (you develop quite an ear for that sort of thing after a while), but I didn’t see any particular problem at the router bit tip, so I suspect it is more because of some asymmetry caused by the tip retaining plate rather than the bit not running true.  For any bit mounted in the CNC, I made sure they were fully inserted into the collet.  No matter what the size, the router is single speed, and kicking along at 33000RPM.

Finally, I ran the same design onto the laminated board that I did the Mayan calendar and Japanese dragon, to see how well it came out.  I could have refined it further by choosing different bits (and depth of cut) for different portions of the design, but took the simplest option – letting it run from start to finish.

Stu's Shed design

Stu’s Shed design

This isn’t some new design for a Stu’s Shed logo, although I don’t mind the saw blade and text layout, but I’d want to replace the Celtic design with something more applicable.  Perhaps the outline of a Festool Domino, or something!

If you are so inclined, see what you can come up with (Illustrator format preferred!)

So that is the Amana Tool In-Groove CNC Router Bits, from Toolstoday.com.  If you have a CNC router, these are definitely worth some attention.

The Dado Blade of the Router Bit World

The router table has always been particularly good for cutting a groove, particularly in smaller items (such as making boxes).  The orientation of the blade to the timber for one, the diameter of the blade (vs a tablesaw), the speed of the cutter, the accuracy in setup.

The one frustration I have found is having to accept the width of the groove is limited to the width of the cutter of the router bit, or having to take multiple passes.  Unlike a tablesaw, the concept of a dado blade is foreign to the router table.

Well until now that is.

Toolstoday.com have available a really interesting router bit indeed from Amana Tool.  It is an EZ Dial Slot Cutter, and unlike a tablesaw dado blade stack, this router bit does not have shims, or even need to be taken apart and reassembled.

EZ Dial Router Bit

EZ Dial Router Bit

Looking at the anatomy of the router bit, from the top-down.  The top threaded section is the range of adjustment of the router bit, and there are two types available – a 1/8″ – 1/4″, and a 1/4″ – 1/2″.  Next is the locking nut – once the width of the slot is set.  The knurled knob is the adjustment for the router bit, and is then locked in position with the locking nut.

The blade is next – it is a four-flute router bit, but because of the adjustment, each side of the trench is cut with two of the flutes.  As the knurled adjustment knob is turned, two of the flutes move with the knob, and the other two remain fixed.

A bearing then sits under the flutes – useful when following curves, and other times a router fence is not in use.  Just below that is a section with two flats – this is useful if the locking nut is too tight – a spanner can be fit on this section so it can be undone without having to risk damage to the router chuck or shaft lock.

Finally, the shaft is a finely finished, accurate 1/2″ shaft.  (An inaccurate shaft is either difficult to fit the router collet if too large, or at risk of slipping if too small).

Variable slots

Variable slots

I was working with the 1/8-1/4″ router bit, but the concept is the same.  In the above image, the two opposite flutes move, the other two are fixed.  That dial-in adjustment is remarkably liberating.  Being able to set the width of the resulting slot to accurately match the material that will fit in it (whether that be another piece of timber, a sheet of glass etc), and also easy to add an accurate amount of clearance if required.

The quality of the router bit is obvious, as is the finish that is achieved.

55500-cNot only can the width of the slot be set, but it can be adjusted with the router bit fixed in the router. (So long as you intend to remove more material – too hard to put material back!) Rather than trying to work out the range to move the router up and down again, a test cut or two, a dial-in of width, and your accuracy and flexibility of the table is increased dramatically.

Once you experience the convenience of a shim-less, dial in width of slot for a router bit, you’ll be wishing a tablesaw dado blade was as easy, as infinitely adjustable, and as accurate.

Available from Toolstoday.com

 

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

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.

Flai Router Bits

After experiencing what the Flai blades can achieve particularly with respect to finish, and therefore the quality and sharpness of the carbide I was rather interested to see what their router bits could achieve, and I wasn’t disappointed.

They don’t have a particularly large range of profiles sadly, but what they have does work particularly well.

Flai Router Bit

The carbide has quite a leading (shear) angle, so it is slicing rather than just chipping, and that will have some bearing on the result. In addition, the relief angle (back of the carbide) is also pronounced, producing a sharper leading edge. It is a variable-profile grind (at least that is what I’m calling it), where the relief grind is not just at a flat angle off the back of the carbide, but instead changes direction to match the profile, keeping the resulting angle consistent as the profile direction changes.

The shaft has been lasered, including the brand, and also the maximum router speed. (In this case, 18000 RPM)

Hardwood

Running the bit through a typical Australian Hardwood – Jarrah, and the result is shiny without tearout – a “Real Smooth Shave” (noone ever seems to get my movie references, or that there are movie references that get included in some articles, so here’s a hint!!)

The Flai bits have a “FlaiArmor” coating which is an excellent friction reducer, is anti-adherent, diffuses and disperses heat, and is stable in water and solvents.

Imported into Australia by Promac, and available through supplies such as Carrolls Woodcraft Supplies

The Rabbit of Caerbannog

Otherwise known as “The Grand Rabbet” (Probably better known as the “Legendary Black Beast of Aaaaarrrrrggggghhhhh”, but that is another matter).

Grand Rabbet

The kit from CMT (sold in Oz by Carbatec) consists of a 2″ rebate bit, and 16 different sized sleeves to produce a wide range of rebates, with a final sleeve with a matching diameter to the bit itself, turning it into a giant pattern copying bit. There is also a packet of spares for the actual double bearings, spacer sleeve, washer and hex bolt that are used as part of the assembly.

Assembly

Working from left to right, you have the 2″ rebate bit (which is obviously of significant size!!), heavy chunk of carbide on each flute and a decent shear angle as well, so the bit creates a slicing action rather than a straight chipping one (producing a better finish/less tearout).  The first bearing is then added, along with the spacer sleeve (this fits in between the two bearings, and sits in the middle of the rebate sleeve).  You then have one of the range of rebate sleeves to choose, depending on the size rebate required.  A second bearing fits in the top recess of the rebate sleeve producing a very smoothly operating product.  The is capped off with the washer and hex bolt to lock everything onto the router bit.

Rebate Set

One of many different setups, this one produces a rebate (rabbet ;) ) that is 2″ – 1 3/8″ = 5/8″ / 2 = 5/16″

Or if you prefer, 50.8mm – 34.92mm = 15.88mm / 2 = 7.94mm

You need to divide the answer by 2 to get the final rebate depth.

17 different rebate variations, plus the flush trim in the kit as provided.

So in the immortal words of Tim, the enchanter, I give to you “Well, that’s no ordinary rabbit.” The Grand Rabbet from CMT.

Tim, the Enchanter

Channelling my inner Crocodile Dundee

Crocodile “Stu” Dundee: [chuckles] That’s not a router bit.

Crocodile “Stu” Dundee: Now THAT’s a router bit.

Bloody heavy thing too, and it seems as real as you’d imagine.

Still looking for a router to fit it! Or an adapter collet ;)

Rusty

Got out to the shed for the first time in ages (been busy with work, family, and the TWC assembly manual), and even that was a small window.  Decided to tackle (at least start) a small project that I’ve been meaning to do for ages (since June 2008).

Triton Router Bit Cabinet

Getting my router bits into this cabinet.  It may not be the most efficient storage system, but I prefer the concept of each bit having its own holder so it can be lifted out and not roll around the bench until it is needed, and having the front edge of the holder cut with the actual bit to demonstrate its profile.

It is space-wasteful compared to some other storage methods, but hey – I’ve got space to spare (haven’t I?)

Back then I was intending to decommission the CMT 100 bit storage, but still sadly, I haven’t achieved it – perhaps now?

I started by taking some lengths of Tassie Oak (kiln dried) and ran them through the thicknesser to get them down to the thickness of the existing holders.  Although the thicknesser worked, it would have been better if the base was polished and lubricated – the cast iron is showing some (faint) signs of neglect throughout the shed.  Next, I ran the pieces through the tablesaw using the new Flai Ultimate blade, and was a bit surprised with the amount of burning I was getting…on both faces.  So I tried the next bit faster – still burning.  After a few cuts, it started cutting without issue, so I’m wondering if there was some preservative on the blade that was causing an initial problem.

But what was really rusty wasn’t the tools in the shed, but the tool I bought with me…….me.  Not that anything went wrong, or was unsafe, but I just felt rusty.  Need to get those cobwebs blown out with a good, long, successful session (or three) out there.

Another Router Bit Quiz

Click the logo to get to the quiz, and see what logo you can score.  Remember like quiz 1, the names are their US names (that’s a hint!)

Surfacing Bits

Had an interesting revelation tonight about surfacing bits.  While Ivan was visiting, having a look over the Torque Workcentre, the discussion turned to surfacing bits.  I was thinking the 3 interchangeable flute Carbitool bit had its carbide tips misaligned from use or something – they didn’t sit flat on the table.  But when I got out my Granite reference block and placed each of the bits on top, they all had the same issue – the bottom of the teeth were not flush with the table as I expected.

Surfacing Bits

Now for one (particularly with interchangeable tips) to be out I could understand, but not all three, both Carbitool and Whiteside, and particularly the (fixed) 6 flute.  That one if no other should be the perfect form for a surface cutter, so if it has the same angle on the bottom of each tooth, then that is the way it should obviously be.

So then I was left with working out why it is that way, now my belief that the bottoms where flat had been squashed!

What I am thinking now is the tip of each tooth is the part that does the cutting, the rest is actually superfluous and is primarily chip clearing, rather than cutting/flattening.  If the bottoms were flat, then the tips would scrape, rather than cut.

It is surprising how long I’ve had surfacing bits that I have never realised that!

Surfacing Bits

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