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Aubuchon Hardware Tip: There are two speed factors to be concerned with when using a router. The first is how quickly you cut from piece to piece. Too much cutting at once will overheat the router bit and shorten its lifespan. The second speed factor is how quickly you feed an individual piece of material to the router bit. Go too fast and you overwhelm the bit's ability to remove the cut material. Conversely, go too slowly and you risk burning the wood. The key is to feed material at just the right speed, and allow enough downtime between cuts, protecting both the router bit, and your wood.
Those new to woodworking will discover that buying a router isn't enough; you will also need a router table. Woodworkers on a budget may not be able to afford a fancy aluminum table with a master control switch, but the good news is that you can build your own, using designs distributed online. This is a good way to save money, increase your woodworking skills, and trick out a new wood shop with a new power tool accessory all at the same time! You may well outgrow a small, home-built router table over time, but you can always pass along the table to another new woodworking enthusiast down the line. You'll need some multi-density fiberboard, plywood, and a few other inexpensive materials. Tools required? A saw, a drill, and a screwdriver in most cases.
A dowel bit, also known as a spur point bit, is one of those drill bits that must be sharpened by hand. A drill bit sharpener won't help. You'll need a fine metal file or a fine grindstone to do the work. You want a 90 degree angle between the center point and the spurs on the sides. The dowel bit should only be used on wood, never on metal. If you drill on a surface harder than wood, you may not be able to re-sharpen the bit to make it good for it's intended purpose - drilling a nice, clean hole in wood.
Aubuchon Hardware Tip: When choosing an electric drill bit sharpener, it's important to check the fine print to make sure the sharpener can handle the bit sizes. While a quality drill bit sharpener can handle bits from 3/32" to 1/2" in 30 to 90 seconds, not all drill bits can be sharpened in some models. Check your drill bit sizes against the sizes listed for the drill bit sharpener before you buy.
Aubuchon Hardware Tip: A twist bit, like other drill bits, can be sharpened many times before it must be thrown away. Depending on the length of the drill bit, you may get as many as 200 sharpenings out of a single bit! That's because sharpening only removes about a twenty-thousandth of an inch from the drill bit. The good thing for casual users is that the coating is probably most effective on metal, so you won't lose much if you need to sharpen these coated twist bits. If you do work with metal, you may wish to replace the bit instead.
If you are a router novice, before you mount that straight router bit there are some important safety issues to keep in mind. Routers are subject to the same kickback problems faced by power saw users. Using a dull bit can increase the kickback potential. Always use a sharp bit, or delay your work until you can purchase a new one. When installing a new router bit, seat it in the router "collet" and tighten the nut, making sure you leave an eight of an inch clearance from the collet bottom. Be sure to unplug your router before changing bits!
A router bit set can offer a wide range of choices. Your set may include edge bits, groove bits, and even a special bit or two for particular woodworking needs. A good rule of thumb when using your router bit set is to select the widest bit possible for your work needs. Another thing to pay close attention to is heat. If you do a large amount of routing, your bits may overheat, which can alter and damage the metal. Don't overdo it with a router bit. Give it time to cool between cuttings and you will extend the life of that bit.
It's said that the router bit is more important than the router itself. After all, the machinery simply provides the force needed to push the bit into the wood. When selecting a router bit, there are two major choices on the market; high speed steel bits, and carbide. High speed steel is durable and cheaper than carbide, but dulls faster. These can come with titanium drill bit coating, but working with hard wood will strip the coating away faster than you might expect. Carbide router bits are longer lasting, but can be brittle. They are more expensive than the high speed steel, but the extra money goes farther over time. You'll most likely replace a high speed steel router bit more often than a single carbide bit.
Drill bits need occasional sharpening to keep them working properly. There are some kinds of bits that can't be sharpened at all, some that can be sharpened but only carefully by hand, and then there are the kind that can be sharpened with a sharpener, such as the twist-style drill bit. The twist bit is one of the most commonly used around the house and shop. A drill bit sharpener is easy to use, and is a simple thing to sharpen your bit before using the drill. Some twist bits have a gold-colored titanium nitride coating to increase hardness; this coating will be damaged by sharpening.
Over time, drill bit sets become dull with use. An electric drill bit sharpener will restore the sharpness of your entire collection and can restore your drilling to it's original efficiency, and some bit sharpeners have additional features you may find well worth the additional expense. One such feature allows you to restore or create "split points". A split point allows the bit to be "self-centering", reducing the tendency for the bit to wander during drilling. That can go a long way toward eliminating some of the frustration encountered with a tricky drilling situation from ladders, odd angles, or overhead work.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|