How do I clean a bearing-guided router bit?
After gumming up a bearing-guided bit while routing pine, I soaked it in some blade and bit cleaner before scrubbing it clean. The bit seems to cut better, but now the bearing doesn't spin smoothly. What happened?
—John McCurdy, Boca Raton, Fla.
John, it's likely that the solvent you used to soften and remove the pitch buildup on the bit also leached the lubrication out of the bearing. Discard the bearing and get a replacement from the bit manufacturer.
Next time you need to clean a bearing-guided bit, first remove the bearing and inspect it. If it needs cleaning, don't soak it along with the rest of the bit. Simply wet a shop cloth with your blade and bit cleaner, scrub the bearing's surface clean, and wipe it dry. Apply high-speed, router-bearing lubricant, such as Empire's Router Bit Lube (Woodcraft item no. 829400, 800-225-1153, woodcraft.com), before reinstalling the bearing.
If you notice pitch buildup on your router bit or blades, don't wait to clean it off. Not only does it affect performance, mimicking the effects of a dullling, but the resins could also corrode the body and carbide cutters, hastening actual dulling.