How to Avoid Tear-Out?

Article - October 6, 2008

This week’s question comes from Don who writes: “Just discovered the Wood Whisperer and your site and videos are great. Besides we’re neighbors. I have a small shop in Las Vegas and we make Adirondack furniture from Western Red Cedar. My question is this. I round over all parts on a router table using a 3/8’s round over bit. I get a lot of tear out during this process. I read the grain but when you flip over the part to do the other side you are going against the grain. I always use a good sharp bit and I have played with feed rates. It seems no matter what I try I still get a lot of tear out. I have ruined a lot of wood. Others have suggested using a Ã?¼ inch bit but it doesn’t give me the profile I want. Any advice would be appreciated.”

And this was my response: “Hey Don. Glad you found us! Welcome. So what brand bit are you using? Obviously, using a top quality bit is the first step to great results. The second would be to take lighter passes. Don’t bring the bit all the way up. It will take a little longer, but try taking 3-4 passes, raising the bit a little each time. Obviously that’s not an efficient solution, but its much better than losing a whole chair arm because of tear out. Also, you could relieve the sharp corners with a rasp before routing which can sometimes relive tear out. But honestly, the incremental passes is probably your best bet. Whenever I am dealing with a tear out prone wood, that’s exactly what I do. Hope that helps.”

In a follow up e-mail Don writes: “Marc, I tried your suggestion about taking lighter passes and IT WORKED. I take 3 passes and after about 30 or 40 pieces I only lost 4 due to tear-out Thanks so much. You saved me tons of wood not to mention money. Thanks again!”

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