How to Sharpen Your Router Bits

According to pro woodworkers, the router bit is one of the most delicate and useful components of your wood router. They have to be kept in proper working condition for the wood worker to get the best results in every project. It is sagacious that the wood worker allows a pro to undertake the resharpening of their router bits. However, they should keep the bits tuned up by carrying out a few strokes in-between trips.

All router bits, including the carbide, tipped ones tend to dull faster than expected when worked on plywood or any resin-filled sheet products. Once the bit requires regrinding, it is time for another trip for a good sharpening service. This is usually expensive and thus you need to understand how to sharpen your router bits and prolong the duration between regrinding your bits.

Maintenance Procedure

Before you undertake any maintenance procedure on your router, whether handheld or table mounted, make sure it is unplugged from the power source. Check whether there are any damages on the power cord. Check the end and assess whether each of the blades is connected firmly. If you realise that any one or more is loose consider replacing it.

For woodworkers who have their routers mounted on an enclosed router table, they should ensure that they connect the router to an ideal dust collector. This is mainly essential since it not only draws dust from around the router bit, but it also eliminates dust from the front door of the router thus keeping the machine cool.

Why Bit Maintenance?

The router’s cutting edge, just as with other workshop tools, is the area where the actual work happens. As the carbide edges of the bits continue to cut wood, pitch and resin tend to build up. Some wood types such as pine are worse than other types of wood with respect to this and they can gum up the bit’s cutting edges. The continued build up of the pitch on the bits eventually results in increased temperature on the bit body and its cutting edge. This has a detrimental effect on the bit resulting in bit degradation. The ultimate effect is that the cutting edge no longer remains cool and the carbide edge is subjected to additional stress resulting in work inefficiency. It even poses a great risk to the woodworker and other users of the tool.

Sharpening Router Bits

Requirements:

Step 1

If your router bit has a pilot bearing, begin by removing it. If it cannot be removed, ensure the file is kept away from it as much as possible. Any minor flat spot will completely ruin the pilot.

Step 2

Remove pitch and tar that normally pile up when working on softwoods. Using the toothbrush, apply oven cleaner or lacquer thinner and scrub the router bit so as to remove the pitch and tar.

Step 3

Using the fine file or paddle, begin honing the cutting edges. You can count the sharpening strokes or after some few strokes alternate the cutting edges so as to ensure they are honed equally. Too little honing is always much better than of too much. Do not take chances; better be cautious and slow than careless and fast. You can be surprised at how fast and easy it is for a diamond file to cut carbide.

Step 4

Using the super-fine file, finish it off. Once more, apply equal strokes on each of the flat faces of the bit and ensure you apply moderate pressure when doing this. Take light oil and lubricate the pilot bearing then replace it. Using oil, wipe the bit as well so as to protect it from rusting.

Points to Note:

  • While sharpening, you can use one hand to hold the bit and use the other to hold the sharpener. Alternatively, you can secure the bit using the collet or a drill chuck attached to the router table or work bench.
  • As you work on the bits, closely examine each flute. It is quite easy to see what you are accomplishing and it is very obvious to notice whether you are achieving what you want or not. It also easy to notice if more pressure has been placed on one part than the other. Spots that have been missed entirely are also easy to see.
  • Do not be surprised if you find out that the flute is not as perfect as it was when purchased. It requires some extra effort to lap the flutes equally flat when doing it for the first time. It is recommended you use fine or extra-fine diamond abrasives when sharpening the bits. However, bits that require intensive sharpening should be taken to a professional grinder.
  • To ascertain whether the bit is sharp enough, feel it with your fingers and examine it with your eyes. You can use strong light when examining it. A bit that is not sharp enough will portray specks of light on its edges and when touched it does not feels sharp or good.

Cleaning of Bits

You should regularly clean the router bits since this just as important as sharpening. Any dirt or gum that collects on the cutting edge blocks chip clearance, escalates frictional heating and leaves the same effect as a dull cutting edge.

Before cleaning the bits, remove the ball bearing pilots.  Brush or apply some moderate amount of cleaner over the cleaning edges. Let it stand for approximately 10 to 15 minutes and while under the steam of warm water, scrub it clean using a toothbrush. Completely dry out the router bit and resume your work. Some experts do not recommend oiling the router bits against corrosion since it is mainly friction that makes the router rust. Proper drying eliminates any potential rust.

Summary

The little time you spend on maintaining your router and the router bit will pay off in the long run. Once you understand the right maintenance practices for your router and its components it becomes so much easier and cheaper to keep your tool in perfect working condition.

Christopher Thomas
 

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