March 2006

We’ve all encountered the problem of looking at our router bits and thinking that they’re a bit worse for wear. So here’s the question : do we salvage old router bits or do we just trash them? First thing to do is to take a good hard look at the router bit. Is it salvageable? By that I mean that if you notice chips and bits that are supposed to be there but aren’t then of course the answer to that is to trash it and get a new one. Next thing to do is to find out if it is actually dull – ie is it just dirty and that’s why you’re not getting the finish you require when using it? WD40 is the solution to that – carefully clean the pitch and resin off the router bit and take another look at it. After cleaning it, you need to test it’s sharpness. How do you test the sharpness of the router bit? Some have suggested using your fingernail to test the cutting edge of the bit ie if you manage to take off a bit of the surface of it, it’s probably sharp enough. Ever wonder why woodworker’s fingers and nails are the way they are…well this would explain it to a certain degree :-) If you discover that the router bit is in need of a sharpen, then you’ll need to get yourself a diamond paddle honing stone. There are different grits available (they aren’t going to break the bank – pretty cheap so get yourself at least 2) – ranging from 180 – 1200 grit. Generally the lower the grit number the rougher it is (similar to sandpaper) – so you basically work yourself up the grit numbers. Most woodworkers have a middle of the range diamond honer eg 600 grit paddle is sufficient for most minor touch up sharpens. If you’re diligent in keeping your tools in top nick then that’s probably all you’ll need. Otherwise, if you’re one of the more forgetful woodworkers and leave the touch up jobs till the bit’s in dire need of a sharpen, then you might want to go with something like a 325 grit paddle first and then follow it up with a finishing hone with the 600 grit. In most instances all you need to do is about 5 passes of the carbide cutter on the paddle and that’ll do the job.

See router bits and accessories
See sharpening tools

DON’T forget your eyewear protection! You only have 2 eyes and they are precious. And that goes for your ears as well – any use of power tools on a long term (even short term) basis can and will cause damage to your ears – many a woodworker has ended up with partial hearing loss due to the lack of attention to detail when it comes to protecting themselves. Be safe, not sorry.

Let’s take a look at what options you have for protective eyewear. For a start, get one that meets the ANSI’s Z87.1-1989 for projectiles is a good guide as to what’s good. Look, all it takes is one slip and you could have a nail, or wood chip spin into your eye. Some of the safety glasses out there aren’t meant to protect your eyes from projectiles, all they function to do is to keep the dust out of your eyes. Some of those polycarbonate varieties scratch easily and will become a hazard in themselves as they obscure your vision. And get one that’s comfortable. Not all heads are sized the same, so get an adjustable one. Check out nifty anti-fog ones – if you’re working up a sweat the last thing you want to be doing is to keep having to take them off to clean – the less frustration you have keeping them on, the more likely they are going to stay on in my opinion.

Protective eyewear – what’s on the market

Safety Glasses as protective eyewear

Huge variety out there. Some have detachable side shields. Some are even UV coated. There are even those which you can slip over your prescription glasses. Personally I find that these are okay if performing jobs that don’t require heavy machinery and you’re just trying to keep the dust out of your eyes eg when you’re sanding. You can get prescription ones done for you. However, for them to qualify as safety glasses, the frame and lenses have to carry the ANSI Z87 designation. Your optometrist will be able to show you the range of safety frames.

Goggles as protective eyewear

Fog is the bane of goggles. Some have vent holes on the side or top to minimize fogging – which may not be ideal if you’re working with chemicals as these will allow splashes to get into your eye via the vents. Good for people with glasses (like me) – I slip them over my glasses. You can get ant-fog ones (but I find that even these can fog up in the end when you’re hard at work).

Full-face shields as protective eyewear – the heavy artillery

Really only practical for those who are operating machinery. On their own hinged shields don’t offer full eye protection because they are open at the bottom. It does however protect your WHOLE face, not just your eyes. Most would suggest that you wear goggles or safety glasses even if you are wearing these face shields for added protection.

Welding goggles as protective eyewear

Really only necessary if you’re doing any welding to protect your eyes from being blinded by the light generated from welding.

Look for
Protective eyewear

Plywood is a bugger to cut – so to get it right, here are some handy tips.


Don’t cross cut – in other words, cut along the grain not across it.


Don’t be lazy, use the right blade for cutting the plywood – generally a fine tooth saw blade is better.


Use masking tape over the cut to keep the splintering to a minimum. Better still, attach a backing panel as well to take the brunt of the cut. Then score with your trusty utility knife and then again with your saw (ie just take off a small amount of wood – not the full thickness) before you go through it again with a second full thickness cut.


When using a table saw, cut with the ‘best face’ up and if you’re using a circular saw, cut with the ‘best face’ down. Better still use a router fitted with a straight bit – using a pilot bit with a straight edge will ensure you get that perfect clean line. If you are planning to do a lot of plywood cutting then it may be worthwhile investing in a panel scoring kit which consists of a smaller blade that does the scoring for you before the cutter takes over to make the second full thickness cut.