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Is it Time to Replace that Router Collet?

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Forum topic by JBrow posted 02-10-2016 02:19 AM 768 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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JBrow

819 posts in 386 days


02-10-2016 02:19 AM

Topic tags/keywords: router collet

Today I was finishing up the carcase of a base cabinet of a two piece china hutch. I decided to add a subtle detail, a lambs tongue, to the outside corners of the face frame. I grabbed the Dewalt 621 plunge router and chucked up a 45 degree chamfer bit, set the depth just right and began routing.

The first corner looked good. I made a couple of passes on the second corner, and then on the third and final pass something went wrong. The chamber was way too deep. When I looked at the chamfer bit I noticed it dropped out of the collet (coming out), a lot. It left a very deep cut at the beginning of the chamfer. I checked the collet and it was tight and the bit could not be moved up or down in the router by hand.

I checked the shank of the bit for any oil, which was unlikely since when I received the bit, any machining oil was removed with solvent. Additionally I had successfully used the bit in the past. I re-chucked the bit and measured its depth. Then I turned the router for about 30 second under no load. When I re-measured the position of the bit, it indeed was moving out of the collet.

Luckily I had a spare collet, new in fact. I replaced the collet, chucked the bit and repeated the measurements. It held. I then recut the first corner at a much deeper depth than I wanted and cut the second lambs tongue with no further problems. Well except that the subtle detail was now a womping big lambs tongue – but the wife said it was ok, so I guess its ok.

Until now, I never gave a thought to the wear that can occur on a router collet, but apparently (of course) they wear out. Since I grab the Dewalt 621 toward the end of a project when a lot time has been sunk into it, I think I will replace the collet about once a year or so.


15 replies so far

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johnstoneb

2147 posts in 1639 days


#1 posted 02-10-2016 02:32 AM

Clean the collet. You probably have some sawdust built up somewhere it won’t let the collet tighten fully.
I have had this happen before it was always a dirty collet. 1/4” seems to be more prone to it than a 1/2”.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

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JBrow

819 posts in 386 days


#2 posted 02-10-2016 03:13 AM

johnstoneb,

You are right. The collet grooves and inside the collet tend to collect dust. I clean it now and again, but in this instance that did not appear to the problem. Although and in in spite of my inspection, a dirty collet could have been the culprit. However, for the $10, I plan to change out the old collet. I was using a ½” collet, original to the router purchased 15 years ago.

By the way, how do you clean the ½” collet? Maybe I should change my method of cleaning.

View MrUnix's profile (online now)

MrUnix

4234 posts in 1665 days


#3 posted 02-10-2016 03:22 AM

Your Guide to Router Collets

Cheers,
Brad

-- Brad in FL - To be old and wise, you must first be young and stupid

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JBrow

819 posts in 386 days


#4 posted 02-10-2016 04:18 AM

MrUnix,

Thanks.

On the Dewalt 621, the tapered collet and collet nut are one piece and the collet is fairly thin steel. It cannot be disassembled. I can see how over years of use, the collet steel can bend making the grip on the router bit shank tenuous.

I will have to up my game on cleaning the collet. My method was to gently tap the collet on the bench until no dust appeared. Then turn the collet over and tap the opposite end, repeating the process until no more dust dislodged.

While a round brass brush would have limited affect, it probably is better than my tapping method. I am concerned about using any chemical pitch cleaner because I would be worried that it could not be completely removed from the collet assembly.

View rwe2156's profile

rwe2156

2198 posts in 947 days


#5 posted 02-10-2016 01:09 PM

In addition to cleaning it out I periodically use some 400 grit paper on a dowel just enough to get a shiny surface.

I can also be the bit shafts. Check the shaft it may need some cleaning too.
Probably got more to do with a bit sticking but I think its part of maintenance.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View jeffswildwood's profile

jeffswildwood

1330 posts in 1443 days


#6 posted 02-10-2016 01:36 PM

I agree cleaning is the problem. I used a 1/4 in. spiral up cut bit to do a channel once and the bit began rising in my table, actually coming out the top of the wood! Quite a scare. The problem was saw dust and mild corrosion.

-- We all make mistakes, the trick is to fix it in a way thats says "I meant to do that".

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johnstoneb

2147 posts in 1639 days


#7 posted 02-10-2016 02:10 PM

I use compressed air and a brass brush. If you can get a collet for $10 and it is 15yr old I would replace it just for the piece of mind.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View 716's profile

716

502 posts in 383 days


#8 posted 02-10-2016 04:01 PM


johnstoneb,

By the way, how do you clean the ½” collet? Maybe I should change my method of cleaning.

- JBrow

-- It's nice!

View bigblockyeti's profile

bigblockyeti

3668 posts in 1187 days


#9 posted 02-10-2016 05:00 PM

Glad to hear the collets for your router aren’t very expensive. I have a couple Makita routers and the collet is over $35 and the collet nut is over $5.

View 716's profile

716

502 posts in 383 days


#10 posted 02-10-2016 07:38 PM



Glad to hear the collets for your router aren t very expensive. I have a couple Makita routers and the collet is over $35 and the collet nut is over $5.

- bigblockyeti

Unless you are willing to search.

-- It's nice!

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bigblockyeti

3668 posts in 1187 days


#11 posted 02-10-2016 08:22 PM

Wrong number.

View BurlyBob's profile

BurlyBob

3695 posts in 1732 days


#12 posted 02-10-2016 10:59 PM

I had a similar problem with a dovetail router bit. I called whiteside about it and if I was doing something wrong. They offered a few suggestions and if they didn’t work to return the bit and collet. I’m pretty sure they sandblasted the bit and collet. It was shipped back to me at no charge. I’ve never had a problem with it since. You might need to do something similar.

View Kazooman's profile

Kazooman

628 posts in 1418 days


#13 posted 02-10-2016 11:22 PM

I have had another issue with a router collet and nut that I thought I would mention in case anyone else runs into the same issue. I have a (Black and Decker) ELU 3338 plunge router. It is a terrific tool. After several years of use I found that when I loosened the collet nut the collet would stick in the router. I had to take the nut all the way off and then tap (bang) on the collet to get it to release. I cleaned the collet and the socket it seats in many times and there were no burrs or nicks causing the problem.

It turned out that what I needed was a new collet nut. The nut has a ridge in it that engages a lip around the top of the collet. As you loosen the nut this ridge compresses the collet to loosen it and pulls the collet out of the socket. The nut had gotten worn to the point where it no longer grabbed on the collet. New nut, problem solved. I don’t recall just what I paid for the replacement, but I do recall that I thought it was a lot.

View teejk02's profile

teejk02

424 posts in 591 days


#14 posted 02-11-2016 12:10 AM

PC 690’s use the 2 piece collet. Never thought that the collet should influence the buying decision but I’ll note it for future reference!

View JBrow's profile

JBrow

819 posts in 386 days


#15 posted 02-11-2016 03:22 PM

Thanks for all the replies.

Router and bit maintenance are indeed critical to ensure the machine performs well. Cleaning the collet and shanks of the router bit, as well as the cutting surfaces of the bits are required – as many have pointed out. I appreciate the cleaning tips and will probably get a round brass gun cleaning a brush and add it to my tapping method of collet cleaning along with some compressed air.

I am firmly convinced that a piece of dirt or debris lodged in the collet was not my problem. This is because I cleaned the collet and bit shank, visually inspected both, re-chucked, and continued having the problem. However, and due largely to the posts herein, I wanted to understand the cause of the failure a little better.

I removed the offending collet and nut assembly (a one piece assembly) from the trash and gave it a closer inspection. I found the inside of the collet was clean and shiny and the collet slots clear of debris. I also noted that there was a pair of radial score marks on the collet. My conclusion is that 1) the scored grooves perhaps rendered the collet ineffective and/or 2) over 15 years, the spring steel in the collet lost some of its temper allowing it to deform just enough to allow the bit to slip.

That peace of mind mentioned by johnstoneb is what I am after. I spent a 100 hours and a lot of money to get my current project to the point where it was ready for the router. If the dirty or defective collet failed to grip the bit as well as it did, I would be stating over – not good! Spending $25 (not the $10 I mentioned above) to avoid a catastrophe in the future is cheap peace of mind.

So what do I think I learned? 1) Keep the collet clean and regularly inspect for damage, 2) Remove bits from the router immediately after use, reducing the stresses on the collet spring steel 3) Replace the collet, maybe not every year, but certainly within 5 years – these do wear out.

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