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Thwart router-bit tear-out

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Tear-out -- when a router bit rips chunks of wood from your workpiece instead of cleanly shearing it -- happens more often in porous-grain wood species, such as red oak, ash, and hickory. But even tight-grained woods (maple, cherry, and walnut) can fall victim. A few simple precautions reduce or eliminate tear-out with any type of wood:

  • Keep your router bits clean and sharp. A bit needs attention if it's consistently burning or tearing out wood.
  • Choose the appropriate router speed. (See the chart at right.) Remember that small diameter bits (under 1") perform best at the top speeds, while large-diameter bits, such as panel-raisers, need the slowest speeds.
  • Select wood with straight grain that runs the length of your project parts, especially for door frames. Wavy or figured grain or grain that runs diagonally across a workpiece's width proves more prone to tear-out.
  • Feed tear-out-prone stock at a rate slower than you normally would -- even if it burns the wood slightly. Then make a light final pass removing about 1/32" at a normal feed rate.
  • Resist the temptation to take deep cuts. Instead, rout in 1/8"-deep increments.

Continued on page 2:  Zero-clearance fence


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