Bills Bit Case

As your bit collection swells, one of the stickiest problems is being able to identi fy which bit is which. Say you spring for that %-inch straight. Will you be able to tell it from your Winch straight?

1 don't consider myself to be particularly anal, but I did fret about getting the i>k-inch straight mixed up with the Winch straight, the Mtrlnch beading bit confused with the Winch round-over bit. Would I remember which size of Roman ogee 1 had? 1 wanted to be able to label my bits as well as protect them.

My solution was the bit case shown here. The idea is to display both the bit and the label in a reasonably space-efficient way. 1 fit a bit in a hole in one of the bit-holder strips. Then 1 write a label on a strip cut from an index card, bend the label over a bit shank to give it a little bow, then fit it into the label slot. As long as each bit is returned to its spot after every use, there's no reason they should get mixed up.

The key element—the bit-holder strip—is a nominal 2x2, with Winch-diameter holes drilled in one face and a shallow dovetail slot routed in the adjoining face. The back of the bit-holder serip is beveled at 11Vi degrees. Six of these bit-holder strips are screwed to a Winch plywood base. You could screw the unit to the shop wall, but I made a case for it. I designed the basic case as a drawer (so that someday I can put it in a roll-around tool cabinet). Because I needed to carry the case of bits around—from home shop to editors' shop to office—while working on this book, I made three

My bit case design prov ides orderly storage/or router bits. The strips that hold the bits are attached to a false back (or bottom). With this holder assembly oriented one way, the can be attached to a wall, stood on end as shown, or t arried Ijy the handle. If you turn the holder assembly around, the case becomes a drawer, with the handle functioning as a pull. Either way, you can easily see each hit and its label.

sides of the drawer/case Vi inch higher than the fourth. In this "extra" stock. I routed a Winch-wide groove and fitted the unit with a sliding plywood cover. A handle makes the case easy to carry. Whether the case is standing on end like a cabinet or resting fiat like a drawer, the bits are easy to view and identify. (Several people suggested that I use Plexiglas for the covcr, so the bits are always on view. I didn't do it, but you might want to.)

As 1 mentioned, all the bit holes are Vi inch. To accommodate Winch-shank bits, I made reducers from Winch dowel. This lets me intermix the bits, without having to do a lot of preplanning. I also made a few spindles for bearings, interchangeable cutters, and shims that accompany several cutter assemblies in our collection. The spindles are yuv-inch dowel glued into a Winch dowel.

My bit case design prov ides orderly storage/or router bits. The strips that hold the bits are attached to a false back (or bottom). With this holder assembly oriented one way, the can be attached to a wall, stood on end as shown, or t arried Ijy the handle. If you turn the holder assembly around, the case becomes a drawer, with the handle functioning as a pull. Either way, you can easily see each hit and its label.

The bit holders themselves arc easy to make. 1 used redwood, pine, poplar, and even some cherry. The redwood was the least satisfactory; 1 couldn't bore the holes clean enough to accept the '/¿-inch shanks or the reducers. In harder woods, even the pine, the holes were perfectly satisfactory. 1 drilled the holes with a Winch Forstncr bit, making them about Vs inch deep, spacing them about Wi inches apart.


Keeping your bits in good condition starts with appropriate storage. The last thing you want is to have them scattered around the shop or tossed in a drawer. Loose in a drawer, they clatter into one another each time you pull it open. The sound of bits clinking together is also the sound of carbide chipping. A chipped cutter produces a "damaged" profile— like an irregu lar bead where it doesn't belong. Sometimes a skilled sharpener can remove the nick. But that chip can also be the surface indication of a network of internal fractures; that carbide tip can be just waiting to fragment. (And you thought splinters were unappealing!)

It's important. then, to store bits in a way that prevents them from hitting one another. Pred built some drawers that hold a lot of bits and included them in the router table and cabinet he built for American Woodworker magazine. (See the chapter "Cabinet Router Table.") A more elaborate setup that 1 like is shown in "Bill's Bit Case" above. Hither approach will preserve your bits.

Whatever storage method you adopt should not be dead storage. Assuming your bits are being used, they'll get dirty, collecting deposits of pitch and resin. After all. tremendous heat builds up in a bit as it r

Then 1 routed the dovetail slots, using a Vi-inch dovetail bit set about ]A inch high and making two passes to get the slot about Ys inch wide. To bevel the strips. 1 set the gap between the table saw blade and fence to the width of the strips, then tilted the blade to 22Yi degrees.

The case is made like a drawer. It's assembled with box joints, cut as explained in the chapter "Box Joint." The plywood bottom floats in a groove.

All the holes for bits are Y2 inch. You can see the sleeves for Y*-inch-shank bits made from '/2-inch dowels, as well as the spindled sleeves that hold interchangeable cutters, extra bearings, and the like. Each bit can be labeled with whatever information you think pertinent.

spins at 22,000 rpm. The heat transfers to the wood, cooking the oil from it—especially from gummy woods. The oil fuses onto the bit. (Pine, incidentally, is one of the worst woods in this regard—even though you might think it's easy to cut. Working a dry hardwood, such as oak, creates far less resin buildup. But even with hardwoods, pitch and resin can and do build up.)

Now one of the worst things you can do is to leave that buildup on the bit. When you use the bit. its cutting action is impeded. If you pause or even slow the feed rate, the cut can bum. That turns up the heat. Even a tough carbide bit can feel this kind of stress!

To remove the pitch from a router bit, remove the pilot bearing (if it has one), then soak the bit in one of several solvents. I_acquer thinner works fine. If you have gum and pitch re mover. that will work. And oven cleaner, which you may have in the kitchen, works great. Give the solvent a moment or two to work, then wipe off the bit with fine (#0000) steel wool. Polish the shaft with a piece of steel wool or a 3M Scotch-Britc pad. (This polishing will not affect the diameter of the shaft— HSS and other tool materials are a lot harder than steel wool and Scotch-Brite.)

L dovetail groove









Ball bearings arc usually packed with a special grease, and though they are supposed to be sealed, solvents can seep in and break down the grease. This is why you should remove the bearing before solvent-cleaning a bit. Use an air gun to blow dust or dirt off the bearing. Frozen bearings—those that don't spin freely—should be tossed, as should those that are loose. A new bearing is a lot less dear than time wasted on sanding away burn marks. Worn or damaged hardware—the nuts, screws, and/or washers used to assemble the bit or mount the pilot—should be replaced, too.

If you feel the need to lube the bearing—it's sealed, remember—use a dry lubricant like Dry Cote.

Check the shank after each use. If there are any burrs or galling (rough spots) on the shank, sand them smooth with emery cloth. Then immediately check the collet carefully for dust or wear. Burrs and galling are a sure sign that the bit slipped while you were cutting. If the collet is bad, every bit you use can be damaged. And you know now how these things go: The collet damages the shank, then the shank damage exacerbates the collet damage. The

Cleaning a bit is largely a waiter of softening the gunk thai builds up, then rubbing it off. While special pitch sohrnts are sold, ordinary lacfjucr thinner win ks well. Because the thinner is very volatile—more so than gasoline—you should soak the bits, stripped of any bearings, in a closed container. An abrasive pad, like Scotch-Brite, can get the stubborn dirt and tarnish off.

old downward spiral. Replace that collet!

Most manufacturers suggest lightly coating the bit with machine oil to prevent rust. Most new bits, in fact, are so coated. Wipe off the oil before using the bit. of course. Oil left on the bit can stain the wood, as well as attract sawdust and turn it into paste.

Should you hone your bits between uses? We keep saying that carbide tools can be rcsharpened many times. Diamond hones are sold in many of the tool catalogs. And many woodworkers have residual bit-honing skills left from the HSS bit days.

Most manufacturers advise against it. "Always have your cutting tools rcsharpened by a reputable grinding firm only," warns Amana's catalog. "Do not attempt to sharpen your own router bits by means of files, whetstones, etc." When the bit starts getting dull—when it resists, when it burns the wood—take it to a professional shop to have it sharpened. You'll be charged somewhere around $5 to $8 to sharpen a carbide-tipped bit, but the job will be done right. Bits coming off a 400-grit diamond wheel are extremely

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Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

There are a lot of things that either needs to be repaired, or put together when youre a homeowner. If youre a new homeowner, and have just gotten out of apartment style living, you might want to take this list with you to the hardware store. From remolding jobs to putting together furniture you can use these 5 power tools to get your stuff together. Dont forget too that youll need a few extra tools for other jobs around the house.

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