ROUTING EQUIPMENT MAINTENANCE
Maintain the router collet
The collet is often taken for granted, but is a vital link between motor and cutter and should be kept in good condition. If a collet becomes scratched or corroded, consider replacing it. In the long run collets are a consumable item, and should be replaced at regular intervals as they are susceptible to metal fatigue even if kept scrupulously clean The collet can be cleaned with a rag dampened with solvent followed by PTFE spray to prevent corrosion. Fine wire brushes are available, which can be used to clean the inside of collets; suitable brushes, which look like miniature bottle brushes, are often available from dentists . Whilst cleaning the collet, it is also a good time to clean inside the tapered collet housing on the motor spindle. Do not leave cutters in your router for long periods and never tighten the collet nut without a cutter inserted, or the collet might become distorted. When removing cutters from routers such as Atlas Copco, Bosch, Elu, DeWalt, Trend etc. note that two ‘bites’ of the spanner are required. The first apparently frees the collet nut, which can then be turned by hand for several revolutions, but then further resistance is encountered. A second ‘bite’ of the spanner is required to overcome this, after which the cutter can be removed. This two-stage removal of the cutter causes more trouble for the beginner to routing than anything else.
Keep cutters clean & sharp
Cutters should be kept clean and sharp. Cleaning is half the battle; dirty cutters result in a build-up of heat on the cutting edges which dulls them, resulting in a further build-up, and so on. Two types of cleaner can be used: a solvent to remove resinous deposits and an abrasive household cleaner to remove heavier build-up. One of the best solvents is contact adhesive remover (although WD40 is good both as a solvent and a lubricant, but not to be used on bearings) and the best abrasive cleaner is “Astonish”, obtainable from the local ironmonger. To clean your cutters (first removing the bearings if present), brush off loose dust with an old toothbrush or soft brass suede brush and remove gummy deposits with a rag moistened in solvent. Do not soak the bearings in solvent. For deposits that the solvent cannot cope with, apply the “Astonish ” with a damp rag. Clean all parts of the cutter, minding your fingers when cleaning the flutes. Rub with the paste until the cutter is in its original pristine state. After cleaning, hone the flat faces of the cutter flutes with a diamond lap. The best and most economical type for use on router cutters is the hand lap (see our SL002) and the best all-round grade is ‘Fine’, which is coloured red. Our EZE-LAP hones are designed to be used dry, but note that this does not apply to all manufacturers, with some being used with a few drops of water on the surface. Make certain that the cutter flute is absolutely flat on the hone and rub it firmly backwards and forwards. Give each flute the same number of strokes. Continue until satisfied; a little experience will teach you when to stop. Most types of cutter can be honed but there are a few that cannot. Examples of these include spiral cutters, very narrow straight cutters, V-grooving, and pierce-and-trim cutters. Bearing-guided cutters present no problem once the bearing is removed. After honing, the cutter should be given a squirt of lubricant spray, such as a PTFE spray from the local car-spares shop. The diamond faces on EZE-LAP products benefit from an occasional de-clogging with soap and water and a nail brush. Hone types that are used wet should be dried and the surface cleaned with a plastic eraser.
Maintain a safe electrical supply
The most obvious thing is that your electrical circuits should be adequate for your power requirements and in good condition. Many woodworkers use their garage as a workplace, using the 13 amp sockets that are usually installed as part of the house wiring. This is perfectly adequate as long as you do not overload the sockets with multi-socket adapters carrying a multitude of plugs. A multi-way extension lead is a neater way of providing several sockets and it is a very good idea to label each plug to show which one is for which tool. When you change a router cutter, for example, you should always unplug the router before handling it; the labelled plugs will ensure that you unplug the correct tool. If your main power box does not already have circuit breakers instead of ordinary fuses, residual current circuit breakers (RCBs) will protect you against a fault in the wiring. Make frequent checks on the state of your plugs and their wiring. Plugs tend to get dropped or dragged over the floor, which, if yours is a concrete garage floor, can crack them, or pull the wiring out. Solid rubber plugs are better than plastic, but fortunately appliances sold for domestic use now have a moulded plug on the end of the cable. On the subject of plugs, check that the fuse is the correct value for the particular tool. Moulded plugs should have a fuse to match the tool but if you buy a standard plug it is likely to come with a 13-amp fuse. Many of your power tools will need only a 5 or 10 amp fuse; anything more does not give you the proper level of protection. If you are building a workshop, or having your shed wired for power-tool work, try to arrange for the power box to be located by the door so that you can break the main switch as you go out, if necessary. If you are running a power cable down your garden, make sure that it is of an approved type e.g. armoured, and that it is run in an approved fashion. Get professional advice and installation if in any doubt whatsoever.
Have a good layout
Overcrowded and untidy workshops increase the risk of accidents. Good housekeeping will improve the standard of your work as well as your chances of escaping injury. Make sure there is a clear path to the exit: you might want to leave in a hurry one day.
Maintain a clean workshop
Do not let large quantities of shavings and dust accumulate. They not only present a fire hazard; they also result in the loss of any small items dropped among them. If you have a wood floor, continued walking on the shavings will eventually buff the floor to a very slippery surface. A slippery floor surface can be improved with the use of rubber non-slip matting, often sold commercially for use in machine shops, which also provides a much better surface to stand on.
Locate your fire extinguisher
A fire extinguisher is an essential in the workshop. A type suitable for electrical fires i.e. not water, is required. It should be placed where it can be easily reached, preferably by the exit door to the workshop. Learn how to use it and make sure you have it checked at the specified intervals.
Always ensure the riving knife & guard are fitted
The riving knife of the saw should be fitted and matched to the blade being used. Always adjust the blade guard to cover the maximum part of the blade, leaving just enough clearance for the workpiece.
Select the correct blade for the machine and material
Always select the correct diameter saw specified for your machine. Use of the wrong size will affect the peripheral speed and thus the cutting efficiency. Select the best pitch for the material being cut: at least one tooth should always be in contact with the material to control the hand feed rate. Small pitches (more teeth) are essential for thin materials whilst larger pitches (fewer teeth) are suitable for thicker material. Always ensure the blade is up to full speed before starting to cut.
Always use push sticks
Always use push sticks to keep hands away from the blade. Take time to prepare a selection of sticks for various types of work. Use a push block when deep cutting timber to produce thin offcuts.
Set the blade height correctly
Set the cutting height of TCT blades such that the tips project no more than 10% of the blade diameter above the top surface of the timber being cut. When cutting thin materials this should be reduced so that the blade is barely projecting through.
Maintain a constant feed rate
Whether hand or mechanical feeding the rate should be smooth and continuous. Dwelling in the cut will tend to dull the teeth especially with abrasive material.
Keep teeth sharp
Ensure blades are kept sharp at all times. The teeth should be sharpened as soon as they become dull. As TC tipped saws stay sharp for long periods, blades are sometimes left in machines long after they should have been removed for sharpening. This causes faster wear on the tooth edge, which means more carbide needs to be removed during re-sharpening. Failure to sharpen saws as soon as they become dull is false economy. Keep the blade clean and free from sticky deposits of resin etc.
Protect the teeth from damage
Tungsten Carbide is an extremely hard but brittle material that needs to be handled with care. Never let the teeth come into contact with any metallic or hard surface. Even a slight tap on a metal surface, such as the saw table, can chip or crack a tooth. Store in a cardboard folder or wooden box when not in use, and treat with rust preventative oil. Never store blades together where the teeth can come into contact with each other.