Speechless

Well we all know THAT is an exaggeration! However.

Finally had a chance (and the justification) to fit my new 1″ 1.3TPI, TCT resaw blade on the bandsaw today.

Before I get into what I think of the blade, (and as far as bandsaw blades go, it wasn’t particularly cheap), I’ll mention what prompted me to splurge on a replacement blade.

I was trying to resaw some kiln dried hardwood (Tassie Oak), that was around 200mm wide.  I was using a 1″ 1.3TPI blade that came prepackaged from a woodwork supplier.  Not sure if it was a carbon blade, but I strongly suspect so.  I was struggling.  The blade was complaining bitterly, the amount of force needed to push the timber through the blade was getting stupid  (the range of force needed is “butter”, “easy”, “moderate”, “hard”, “difficult”, “impossible”, “dangerous”, “stupid”), and I was blowing the circuit breaker on the bandsaw circuit continuously (it isn’t rated particularly high, so trips way to easily).  To the point that I was oping for the 15A tablesaw to do the resawing, taking a couple of passes to cleave the timber.

So onto today.  More resawing required.  Fitted the TCT blade with a bit of trepidation – what if it isn’t much better?

The blade fitted, tensioned, and finally the timber ready to cut.  I touched the end to the blade (to make a mark to ensure I was centred).  Well I meant to touch the end.  Being so used to the previous blade, I put a little bit of pressure in, and immediately sliced into the timber over 5mm.  Whoa.

Checked I was centred, then fed the timber in, through, and out the other side (1800mm) cleaved in twain without beginning to try.  I need a new category for ease – “Soft butter”  And this was hardwood.  Be very interesting the day I need to resaw some serious Aussie hardwood.  Do not expect this blade to have any trouble – wonder how easy it will be!

It goes to show, the right blade, a quality blade makes it so much easier, safer, enjoyable.  So the blade was $180 or so. After experiencing what it could do, it is worth every cent.  Just a pity I can’t get blades thinner than 1″ with a TCT.  Not that the bimetal 1/2″ blade has been any slouch either.

As mentioned earlier, purchased from Henry Bros Saws if you want your bandsaw to become everything it can be!  Sounds like a sales pitch (perhaps it should be!) but no.

A resaw to put meer mortal efforts to shame

Check out this picture of Chris Vesper with a veneer resawn from a plank of Australian Red Cedar.  The veneer is between 1mm and 1.2mm thick, so also very accurate.  The resulting flexibility gives one all sorts of ideas for potential products. Read the original article here.

Resaw!

The blade in this case was apparently a 2TPI Tungsten Carbide Tipped blade. Unfortunately, according to Chris, you need a bandsaw with good diameter wheels (>2′) to minimise fatigue-initiated breakages.

Thanks to Chris for permission to use this photo – it was too impressive a resaw not to feature it here as well!

Storing Router Bits

Decided to keep tackling the router bit storage issue, and altugh it is rough and ready, the functionality is already showing that I’m on the right path.

Firstly I ran some lengths of Tassie Oak through the thicknesser to get each of the pieces a uniform thickness, then through the tablesaw to get each piece sized to match the existing holders that were part of the original Triton display cabinet (these used to be displayed in various retail outlets). (A slot was also cut along each length using the tablesaw which will engage the lip of each shelf in tha cabinet).

Next a 13mm hole was drilled at one end (partial thickness), using the drillpress fence and flip-stops to get consistent hole placement.  I took a countersink to take the edge off the hole, then started mixing and matching the router bits to get similar types together.  The original ideal of one bit per holder quickly went out the window as there would be no possible way of fitting all the bits in otherwise.  Still plan (at some stage) to tidy the holders up, but it will likely be one of those things that fall in the “functional is good enough” brackets.  I am definitely happy that the CMT router bit storage is getting retired.  It was very frustrating because the bits were way too hard to get in and out.  Either the holder would pop out with the router bit, or you ran the danger of slipping when pulling the bit up and having it slide the length of a finger.  I didn’t sustain any serious cuts over the time I had it, but only because I was particularly wary of it.  It was said to be a 100 bit storage tray, but that only counts if every bit is a simple straight cutter.

Router Bit Cabinet

This isn’t my full collection of router bits, but what I have left out are specific sets of bits – Whiteside Dovetail Set for Incra, Hingecrafter set, a Rabbeting bit w bearing set, and some spare Triton bits.

Sum total: 118 bits (to date).  88 bits in the cabinet (I think) – a couple are slightly hidden, and after finishing, I found one more still mounted in the router! Doh!

The original cabinet could only fit 55, so grouping bits together made a lot of sense.

The lowest 2 rows are the original Triton display blocks – the yellow labels described the bit specifications.  They may get retired as the cabinet capacity continues to need increasing.

Irrespective of the nostalgic reasons behind this cabinet, I’m also finding it to be quite an interesting way to store/display router bits.  The original perspex front isn’t practical as it was designed (given the original cabinet is storage only, not for ready-access), so that will be one of the things I will investigate next – using the front as a shield for the bits, without loosing the access.  Not sure if some of the bits in the cabinet are not too high either (being somewhat bigger than anything Triton originally had on offer!)

It is one of my fundamental concepts for the shed, and many have heard it before.  The real tool is the router bit – the router is only there to turn the bit/present the bit to the timber.  When looking at investing in the router as a tool, the amount of money spent on the router will, over time, be significantly outweighed by the amount spent on router bits, so investing in a decent router is only a small part of the cost.  At the end of the day, a router bit is only a high-speed chisel/plane blade after all.

Of course, you can get cheap bits, but cheap bits give a cheap result, and don’t last to boot.  I do have some somewhere – didn’t even remember to count them in my earlier tally (not that they count anyway!)  They get used occasionally – when I want to rout aluminium.  Can’t be bothered wasting a good bit on that job.

In the collection above are bits from Carbatec (1), Triton (these two are probably the cheapest bits I now have – comparatively), Linbide, Carb-i-tool, CMT, Whiteside.  Most are Tungsten Carbide tipped (TCT), a few are solid carbide.  The cheapest bit is around $35, the most expensive over $500. You can buy an entire set of router bits for $35.  You get what you pay for.

Scraping with Scrapers

These are not cabinet scrapers (which are a skill all of their own), but instead for scraping when you need to remove a surface – such as paint, varnish, stripper etc.

I have had an opportunity to put the Linbide range through some initial trials, and as much as I normally wait until I’ve had a chance to build up a real opinion on a tool, these had me sold straight out of the box (or packaging to be precise).

Linbide Scrapers

Linbide Scrapers

From right to left, are a straight (or flat) scraper, a corner scraper, a profile scraper, and a cutter.  All are sporting Tungsten Carbide blades which makes a lot of difference to the performance of the blade (and the durability of the sharp edge)

They are very utilitarian in their look, but that does not detract from their performance, and the handles are surprisingly comfortable and provide a good grip.  The blades are replaceable (and with the straight and corner scrapers, the blades are reversable).

I took one to my front windows (external) which are increasingly desparate for a repaint.  I had a mind to a couple of years back, but after trying with some sandpaper, decided that job was too big.  I then tried a heat gun, with no success (it might have worked elsewhere, but not on a paint designed to survive the Australian sun).  So I tried a waterblaster, and that stripped the wood apart faster than it did the paint.

So it was with interest that I gave the scrapers a crack at the task, and we had a winner!  Paint came away with ease, and the wood was undamaged.  I don’t need to remove all the paint, just that which is too loose to paint over.  Damn, now I have even less excuses not to paint the house!

To get into corners, and over the different profiles around the windows, we have the profiled scrapers.

Radiused and Corner Scrapers

Radiused and Corner Scrapers

All Tungsten Carbide blades.

Now speaking of Tungsten Carbide, the final tool is called a laminate score and snap knife.  It sports two carbide tips, and is designed to score laminates, and can be used quite successfully as a glass and tile cutter, and will make short work of drywall.  Given its design, it will be easy for it to follow a straight edge.

Not having had a decent scraper before (the last one I had came from a $2 shop), it is quite enlightening to see what difference a quality blade can make!

These scrapers are imported in Australia by the Woodworking Warehouse: www.wwwh.com.au and cost around $20 each.  You can get them from their store in Braeside, or order over the phone 03 9587 3999, or via email sales@wwwh.com.au

Carb-i-tool Rosette Cutter

Rosettes are not a feature found on most items, or in most rooms these days, but sometimes they are the ideal feature to set a piece apart. In more elaborate pieces, rosettes are hand-carved, but simpler ones can be machined with a rotary cutter.

Carb-i-tool Rosette Cutter

Carb-i-tool Rosette Cutter

This bit is dual fluted, tungsten carbide tipped, but it is not a router bit, despite looking like one. Mount this in a high speed router is asking for serious problems, and likely injury.  Like the wheel cutting bits, these need to be mounted in a drill press.  They operate at a much lower RPM, and have an easily controlled plunge.

Setting up for the milling operation

Setting up for the milling operation

Here you can see the bit mounted, with the table up close and a piece of KD hardwood solidly held down on the table.

Performing the Cut

Performing the Cut

I still operate these bits at a pretty high speed (for a drill press), and control the load on the drill and bit with the rate of the plunge. You are able to easily watch the rosette forming and stop once you see it fully formed.

Continuing the Machining

Continuing the Machining

Drilling the next rosette

Carb-i-tool Rosette Cutter

Carb-i-tool Rosette Cutter

The final product.  This is just one of a number of different profiles available.  You can buy ready-made rosettes, but you are then restricted to only work with the material that they have been made from, and having to incorporate that part into your design, rather than cutting the rosette where you want it, and into the component itself.

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.

Linbide Flush Trim Panel Bit

The Router bit-of-the-Month is the Linbide Flush Trim Panel Bit, with twin flutes and interchangeable cutters.

The bit is 1/2″ shank, 19mm diameter and 63mm cutter length.

Linbide Flush Trim Panel Bit

Linbide Flush Trim Panel Bit

This bit is certainly a significant step up from previous flush-trim bits I have used in the past.  It has a twin bearing at the top, which gives a large contact area which is an asset when using a material like MDF as a pattern to follow.  MDF is a great pattern-making material, but it can be compressed slightly if overloaded, causing the bearing to imprint into the surface, resulting in a (very slight) change in size between the template and the resulting object.  Normally not an issue, but sometimes you want it to be exact, and having two bearings to spread the load is an advantage.

There is also an additional, thin bearing at the bottom of the bit, so this is unusual in having one at either end, and makes the bit a lot more versatile for different trimming situations.  It does mean the bit cannot do a plunge into material for internal pattern-following, but it is easy to predrill a starting hole when required.  The bit is not designed to scoop material out of an area where it is not going the full material depth (such as box making), but that is a job for a different router bit – horses for courses.

The other, very noticeable aspect of this router bit is the interchangeable (and reversable) cutters.

Linbide Flush Trim Panel Bit

Linbide Flush Trim Panel Bit

With a concept very similar (if not identical) to many planer blades, when the cutters become blunt / worn / chipped, they can be removed and reversed, exposing a new cutting edge.  Once the second edge is gone, new (tungsten carbide) cutters can be purchased surprisingly cheaply, so there is no need to go down the path of resharpening (and the resulting reduction in cutter diameter).  For a business situation these are ideal to have the machine staying in production for the maximum amount of time.

These bits are often using in a production workshop setting permanently mounted on a router table off to one side so they are ready to go at any time to do a quick trimming job etc.

I’m also seriously considering how I can incorporate the same concept into my workshop, with a second router mounted beneath a router wing on the tablesaw, so it would be ready to go at a moment’s notice, rather than even having to change router bits etc on the main router table.  It doesn’t even need to have a fence, as pattern following only needs a starting pin to rest the work on before engaging the cutter.

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