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Preventing Tear-Out While Routing – Plywood & Solid Wood

In today's video you're going to learn how to prevent tear out while routing on the edge of plywood or any other solid piece of wood. I've talked a lot on this channel about proper routing direction, and I've always strongly encouraged making push cuts rather than climb cuts. Today however I'm going to demonstrate how to make a climb cut in order to prevent tear out. Now if the terms push cut and climb cut are new to you I'll leave a link to my router's playlist below so you can learn those terms first before moving on. Tear out happens because of two things, the bits rotation and the direction you feed the router through the work. The bit either wants to compress the wood fibers into the wood, which creates a cleaner cut, or the bit wants to lift the fibers away from the surface of the wood creating tear-out. To demonstrate this clearly so that you can understand what's going on, we're going to be routing some profiles into the edge of a piece of plywood. With the router running the safest direction of feed would be from left to right or bottom to top in this example. This would in fact be what's called a push cut, which is going against the bits clockwise rotation. However, when we make a push cut in this plywood look what happens… and that's what bad tear out looks like. Now this is always exaggerated in plywood and that's exactly why I used it for today's example. Again tear out can happen in certain solid woods as well and other materials, so what can we do about this? The first thing that can be done to prevent tear out is to remove less material, that is instead of removing all the material at once, do it in incremental levels. That does two things, first it prevents tear out and it also gives you an idea of how the material is going to react to a push cut, let me explain. Let me bring your attention back to our plywood example. The first pass we made was at full depth and you saw what happened to the plywood. However, this time if we make that same push cut, but make the first pass very light or shallow, we can now inspect the cut to see how the material reacts to that push cut. And on closer inspection even with a shallow cut you can see that the fibers or plies of the wood are showing signs of tear out even with that light pass. In some cases you can move forward anyways, making shallow push cuts until you get to your final depth and then after that a little hand sanding and everything will turn out okay. Making multiple shallow passes until you get to your final depth generally works great for reducing tear out, but sometimes it doesn't, and that brings us to the second method or second way of preventing tear out, and that is to make a climb cut. As a reminder though, climb cuts are when you feed the router in the direction of the bits rotation, that is, clockwise around the outside of the work. Again, what this does is compresses the wood fibers into the wood as it cuts, instead of lifting the fibers away from the surface which of course is what creates tear out. Climb cuts can be a little dangerous, because as you push the router in the direction of the bits rotation, the router does want to pull or climb the material in the same direction, which could lead to losing control of the router. However, if you know you're going to be making a climb cut you can prepare yourself to make sure that you stay safe. And speaking of safety, always make sure that you place your router in a safe spot while the bit is spinning down. If you're anything like me, I'm impatient, and I sometimes don't wait for the bit to stop before I put the router down. There are tools on the market like this router pod which acts as a stand for the router and it works really well to keep your workspace safe. But regardless of what you use please make sure to be aware of this very important safety measure. Moving on, let's look at two ways to make a climb cut. The first way is to make a shallow light pass just as we did before with the push cut, that way the router doesn't have too much material to remove, and therefore will not climb up the edge of the material with much force. As you can already see the climb cut completely eliminated the tear out that we were getting before. The most important thing to always remember when making a climb cut is knowing that the router is always wanting to pull in the direction in which you're feeding it. Therefore, it doesn't require a lot of force on your part to make the cut, slow and steady is important, just as having a good grip on the router at all times. The second way to make a climb cut is more of a freehand style, and i don't always recommend this to those that are new but it works well. With this method instead of adjusting your router multiple times you can set the bit to your finish depth, and then make multiple passes freehand slowly working in to your final depth. And here's what this looks like. As you can see I started by making the first pass light, just scoring the material, then I'll make consecutive passes allowing the bit to go further and further into the wood, all the while keeping the router under control with a firm grip. The little project that gave me the idea for this video was a toy skate ramp that the kids and I made, which required us to make a cove profile so that they could fit the rails on the ramp. Again this freehand method worked really well for the cove bit and for this small project. The last thing to note is that each router bit profile will be different than another so make sure that you practice on a scrap piece before committing to your final project. And once you get to know the materials that you commonly work with you'll start to figure out which ones are prone to tear out and which ones are not. And with that knowledge and the skills you learned in this video, you should feel confident now to make clean cuts in almost any material. If you need help or have questions you can hit me up in the comments section, if you need more detailed help and like to send me photos or videos, find me on instagram and send me a message. Thank you for watching, bye bye.

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