American Woodworker

Free Product Guide >>







Winter 2013-2014

Preview this issue


Question & Answers


Is Wood Dust Bad for My Router?

Q-It gets pretty dusty inside my router table. Is all that dust gradually destroying my router?

A-This seems to be a persistent question, so we contacted just about every router manufacturer on the planet to answer it definitively.
They all said the same thing: Router motors have sealed bearings and won't be damaged by a small amount of dust passing through them. The real problem is a buildup of shavings that can plug the air intake (inset photo), resulting in an overheated router. Keep your cabinet clean! Make it a habit to clean out the chips in your table after each use. The best solution is to add a second dust collection port in the cabinet to supplement collection on the fence. This not only reduces dust build up, it boosts cooling airflow into the cabinet. Check to see where the shavings naturally collect inside your table and put the dust port there. We've found the lower left corner at the back of the cabinet is the best location in most cases.

How Do I Tell the Face From the Back on My Plywood?

Q- I often can't tell the face from the back on my hardwood plywood. Is there an easy way?

A- Here's a simple test: All graded plywood carries an edge stamp. Just lay the plywood on your bench so the lettering is right side up and you'll be looking at the face side. As you cut your plywood, mark the face side with a pencil. If you still get mixed up, take a close look at how the veneers are matched. The face side will always be book matched (each veneer slice is a mirror image of the next) while the back will be slip matched (veneer slices are laid side by side). Finally, face knots can only be 1/4 in. in diameter with a 1/8 in. dark center. Backs can have 3/8-in. knots that are all dark. Most hardwood plywood on the market is graded “A1.” “A” is the second-highest face grade and “1” is the highest back grade. That often makes the face hard to distinguish from the back. Of course, in the end it's all about appearance; if you can't tell the difference it probably doesn't matter. In fact, I have consciously used the back side as the face just because it looked better to me.

Making Traditional Storm Windows


Q- I've got an older house and a couple worn-out storms need replacing. How can I make traditional window sashes with mullions?

Believe it or not, almost all the major router bit manufacturers have a stile and rail set designed for 1-3/8-in.-thick stock used to make window sashes or storm doors. Unlike cabinet doors, storm doors and windows must withstand the ravages of nature. That's why we like the sets designed around time-tested mortise-and-tenon joinery. The tenons are cut first on the tablesaw while a mortising machine or drill press makes quick work of chopping out the mortises. Other sets require a floating tenon with mortises in the ends of rails. This joinery is considerably more complicated. The mortises and tenons are cut first. The routing is done the same way as any stile and rail door cutter where a cope cut is made to match the stile profile. The big difference is they automatically cut a deep rabbet for the glass and glazing putty.

CMT, (888) 228-9268,, #855.801, window sash set, $150. Freud, (800) 472-7307,, #99-050, cope cutter, $43, #99-051, stile cutter, $71. Jesada, (800) 531-5559,, #655-801, $80 (large bit). Oldham, (800) 828-9000,
#1382WF, 2-pc. window sash set, $120.

Safer Ripping

Q-I recently had a thick piece of wood pull apart as it came off the blade of my tablesaw. The spreading wood pushed off the fence and against the spinning blade. Is there a safer way to rip?

A-Wood often has built-in tension due to drying stresses. Ripping the board releases the tension causing the wood to either pull apart or pinch together. A splitter keeps the wood from pinching the blade but it is ineffective when the wood pulls apart. In Europe, tablesaw fences end just past the blade. That way the wood is free to splay apart. In North America, we're used to a fence extending well past the blade but there's really no need for this additional fence length when rip-cutting. You can easily make your own Euro-style fence. Use double-faced tape to add a subfence that ends just past the far end of the blade. Make the subfence exactly 1-in. thick and it'll make direct-read measurements easier.


Filed under: ,