Stewmac Ball Bearing Router Bits

surge98

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I've reached the limit of what I can reasonably do with hand tools, so I decided it was finally time to buy a router. I got a Dewalt DW618, now I need to get some router bits for it. I'd like to try a scratch build at some point, but for now I've been working on a restoration project in which someone hacked out space for additional pickups in between the two factory humbucker routes. It appears to have been done with a drill and a flat head screwdriver.

I think the best way to fix it is to use a forstner bit in my drill press to rough-in a Fender-style swimming pool route, then clean it up with the router, fill it with a block of wood, and recut the humbucker routes. It's almost the same thing Stewmac did in one of their trade secrets newsletters when restoring an original '57 Les Paul.

My question is, would the Stewmac ball bearing router bits be a good choice for this work, or is there another type of bit I should look into for working with router templates? I paid more for the router than I did the guitar I'm restoring (1980 MIJ Washburn), so I figure this is a perfect learning project.

http://www.stewmac.com/Luthier_Tools/Types_of_Tools/Routers_and_Bits/Bits/Ball_Bearing_Router_Bits.html

Thanks.
 

WhiteEpiLP

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I wouldnt bother with stewmac for router bits apart from thier binding router bit set. Just about every other bit be it a top bearing or bottom bearing can be had from any good tool supply store. Stewmac is like the evil empire of guitar building, they make good stuff and some very niche things but they rake you over the coals for most of it. Some of thier stuff is soo good you have to have it, like the diamond fret files. But alot of their things can be had elsewhere cheaper or improvised by yourself like the true channel binding router jig. Great idea but way over priced and can be build for 30 bucks and an hours time tops.
 

emoney

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Absolutely I wouldn't purchase my router bits from StewMac. Basically, they're great for
specialty tools that we all can use in building guitars, but for the "generic, wood-working"
stuff, always shop elsewhere. You'll get a better quality tool/bit/part and usually for considerably
less cash outlay.

Having said that, in the world outside all things guitar, the bit is simply called a "FLush Trim Router Bit".
Don't forget to confirm the collet size so that you pick up the correct bit size, i.e. 1/4", 1/2", etc.
 

Marty M.

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I have used 4 to 5 of the Stewmac bits over the years for routing cavities. They used to be the only shank mounted pattern bit available for the hobby. They are a good bang for the buck and long lasting. I usually use 2 bearings for safekeeping. I had one blow one time, leading to template distruction. The stewmac bit has a longer shaft to be able to get down to the bottom of a Fender control cavity. The shorter cutter means you can use thinner templates too. I wouldn't be surprised if whiteside made them for them. It makes sense to order them with other resources, as you'll pay for shipping either way.

You get what you pay for with router bits. You can spend 15 dollars and it'll last half as long as a 30 dollar bit. My favorites are CMT, Freud, and Whiteside. I won't bother with anything else on my workhorse bits. If I have a one time, single purpose task going on, I may go cheap, like from Bosch, Craftsman, Woodcraft, or Vermont American, but I've found some of the really cheap bits ( harbor freight) are duller than my good ones that are spent, right out of the box. As always, YMMV.
 

surge98

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Thanks. The one criticism of the Stewmac bits seems to be that there is no locking mechanism on the bearing, they just provide some tubing. This is all kind of new to me, do the Whiteside bits have some type of locking bearing design? This seems like it would be important.
 

Marty M.

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Yes, the whiteside does have a locking collar. The stewmac bit uses tubing so you can run multiple bearings. The tubing is not a problem, it stays put and doesn't wear out, since it isn't subjected to any contact.
 

mob_radio

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What is the overall length of the SM 3/8 bit?? I can't find this info anywhere.

Is it long enough to do the pickup legs with a 4* angled 1/2" template? If not, can someone share a specific maker and id of a bit that can, please.
 

cmjohnson

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I only use solid carbide high helix end mills (two and three flute) as router bits if I have that option., They are so much better than cemented carbide router bits, even Whitesides, that once you use one of these, you'll toss your Whitesides in the junk box without a second thought.

The only issue is that it can be challenging to both have guide bearings and use the solid carbide end mills at the same time. The end mills are not generally designed for that, but some types will work with some bearings.

Sometimes I have to grit my teeth and tolerate using inferior router bits. But you gotta do what you gotta do to get to where you want to go.

Do try some quality carbide end mills in place of normal router bits. You'll never want to go back.
 

ARandall

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What is the overall length of the SM 3/8 bit?? I can't find this info anywhere.

Is it long enough to do the pickup legs with a 4* angled 1/2" template? If not, can someone share a specific maker and id of a bit that can, please.
If you're doing a vintage Les Paul build, typically there would be 2 reasons the 3/8" bit would be unsuitable.....

1. Its way too short........you'll need about twice the length of bit as you need to have 2"+ of bit sticking out below the router base to get through both template and then down to the cut depth.

2. typically vintage templates have that area oversized - and call for a larger bearing than the cutting bit. You still need to cut a fairly tight radius corner, so a 1/4" bit and a 3/8 bearing is about the right combo.
 

mob_radio

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I am aware of the length issues. Bartlett templates are not offset, so there will be no bushings to get the 3/8 radius.

Is anybody aware of a 3/8 bearing bit that is long enough to do this operation?
 

emoney

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I would send an email to SM to ask about the length. I'm pretty sure I bought one so if I can find it this evening when I get home and you haven't gotten your answer by then, I'll try to measure the length.

I listened to StewMac and only use the 3/8 for the corners.
 

mob_radio

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I would send an email to SM to ask about the length. I'm pretty sure I bought one so if I can find it this evening when I get home and you haven't gotten your answer by then, I'll try to measure the length.

I listened to StewMac and only use the 3/8 for the corners.
Thanks. Last time I emailed them, I got a wall of corporate text. So far, the longest 3/8 x 1/4 I have found is Eagle America 102-0672B, with an OAL of 2.75", with two 1.25" tall straight cutters.

I am tempted to just get the Amana 46339 (3/8 shank, spiral upcut, 7/8 tall cutters) and ride the template.

Any thoughts on riding the template with the shank? I would rather not redo my templates with an offset just to get the corners.
 

Brewdude

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I’m away on business so won’t be able to get you a cutting length measurement until later this week, but I am 99% sure I used my 3/8” bit from SM for this very purpose. As mentioned they are not long enough to cut with the template but if you make your initial cut you can then ride that with the bearing to get to your final depth, with the router sitting on the maple top. This will leave 0.010” or whatever witness lines as the cutters aren’t perfectly plush with the bearing, but unless you are going for absolute vintage correct it’s no big deal.

Note I used a combo of bits for this job and think I did a lot of it with a Freud 1/2”x1” bit then did the corners with the 3/8” at the end.
 

pshupe

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Thanks. Last time I emailed them, I got a wall of corporate text. So far, the longest 3/8 x 1/4 I have found is Eagle America 102-0672B, with an OAL of 2.75", with two 1.25" tall straight cutters.

I am tempted to just get the Amana 46339 (3/8 shank, spiral upcut, 7/8 tall cutters) and ride the template.

Any thoughts on riding the template with the shank? I would rather not redo my templates with an offset just to get the corners.
Amana has a solid carbide spiral upcut bit that is 3/8" diameter with 1 1/2" cutter height. Obviously no bearing. Amana Tool - 46323: 3/8” diameter - 1 1/2" DOC double flute - upcut I actually have a couple of 2" cutter height - 3/8" dia spiral carbides for my CNC machine.

I would not ride the shaft on a wood or MDF template. I'm thinking of making a Stainless Steel version for long leg and pup routes. It would be interesting to test the Stainless to see if the shaft would mark the edges.

Regards Peter.
 

mob_radio

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I’m away on business so won’t be able to get you a cutting length measurement until later this week, but I am 99% sure I used my 3/8” bit from SM for this very purpose.
The cutting length is 1/2. That's on their website. It's the overall length that's a mystery. I emailed them. I will post what I find out.

Amana has a solid carbide spiral upcut bit that is 3/8" diameter with 1 1/2" cutter height. Obviously no bearing.
Definitely the way to go it seems. The more robust 3/8 shank really opens up the bit options.

I think 3" overall length will work for 4* angled pickup routes, where the 1/2 template is placed on the neck plane. This is what I measured:

Minimum bit seating in chuck: 20mm
Depth of leg (average between both) 30mm
Template plus incline gap at highest point (bridge pickup legs): 18mm

That's 2.6"
 

pinefd

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The cutting length is 1/2. That's on their website. It's the overall length that's a mystery. I emailed them. I will post what I find out.


Definitely the way to go it seems. The more robust 3/8 shank really opens up the bit options.

I think 3" overall length will work for 4* angled pickup routes, where the 1/2 template is placed on the neck plane. This is what I measured:

Minimum bit seating in chuck: 20mm
Depth of leg (average between both) 30mm
Template plus incline gap at highest point (bridge pickup legs): 18mm

That's 2.6"
I just measured both my 1/2" and 3/8" SM bits, and the overall length of each is 2"...if that's what you're asking. Hope that helps.


Frank
 




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