Sunday, June 25, 2006

A Trap Door In Hell

I’ve fallen through a special router bit trap door in hell. Yesterday I started cutting the hole for the sink in the marble slab. There are basically three cuts that need to be made. First I needed to put a finished edge on the outside perimeter of the slab. Next I would use the template I made to cut out the hole for the under-mount sink. Finally, I would put the same finish edge on the sink hole as I did on the perimeter edge.

This saga actually started Friday when I played around in the garage with different router bits trying to find the right finish edge. The one I liked was using a bit called a “Wavy Edge”. It is kind of like if you took a Roman Ogee and stretched it out a little bit. Because of the troubles I had with trying to get a sharp cut on the marble, because of chipping, I was forced to use only the bottom part of the bits. On a standard Ogee bit, using only the bottom, it leaves very little profile. It just doesn’t look right. With the Wavy Edge, because it is stretched out, I can use more of the bit, get more of a profile, and get a better look. The decision was made. Wavy Edge it is.

The Wavy Edge bit I had was well used, and I wanted a brand new bit for the marble, so I went to Sears to buy a new. I also had to get a new template bit, which I would use to cut the sink hole. I went down to Sears and wouldn’t you know it, they were out of the Wavy Edge bit. I’m not going to order one and wait for two weeks only to find out it’s out of stock and on back-order for 6 months. Instead, I went with Plan B, which is to just do a ½-inch round over. Simple. Classic. Elegant. I got a half inch rounder over bit and a half inch template bit. It came to around $45.

I decided to start with the perimeter edge first. I’ve never done this before so I’ll start on the back side and see how it goes. The new router has a vacuum attachment that didn’t fit my vacuum. Of course it didn’t, why would it? So back to the hardware to get an adapter. I get back and got everything hook up and I start in on the edge of the marble with the half inch round over bit. It cuts pretty good. I’m impressed. It is a very smooth, clean cut. The slab of marble is close to 20-feet in circumference. After about 15 feet the cut is not so smooth anymore. It doesn’t look really bad, but you can tell the bit is getting dull. I decided to finish up and I can get a second bit and just go over the last 5 or 6 feet again to clean it up. I would need a new bit so I decided to just move on to the sink hole and do it later.

I positioned the template on the marble which took quite some time. There is little room for error here. I can be off a half inch or so, but anything more than that and it would be noticeable. I should point out at this time that my idea to install the sink from below would not work. I didn’t work with a full-scale mock-up of the sink when I tested this. I only used a plywood cutout that was the size of the top of the sink. I should have made a wooden box that took in to account the entire size of the sink. Live and learn, right. What I was going to have to do was cut the hole for the sink and then slide the marble back. Drop the sink in and then slide the marble back in to position. It’s not the end of the world.

Before I started cutting I decided I wanted to make sure I could move the marble. I had never actually fixed it in place, so there’s no reason it shouldn’t move, but still, I wanted to make sure it would move. I tried to move it and it didn’t budge. I had all of my weight on that thing and it wasn’t moving even a centimeter. I worked at it from all sides and it just wouldn’t move. I then remembered that I had added another piece of trim after the slab was on and I had painted the trim piece. Sure enough there was paint gluing the underside of the slab to the base. It wasn’t much, but it was enough. This was like trying to open a 200 pound painted shut window. I freed it with a utility knife and I was able to move the slab. So it’s time to cut.

I started by drilling a 5/8-inch hole with a masonry bit. This would allow me to slip the router bit in and start cutting. I drilled the hole several inches from the edge because you can get blow-out on the back side as the drill bit exits the hole. Sure enough when the bit exited a chunk of marble the size of a quarter broke away. This was on the waste piece so it didn’t matter. I inserted the router bit in the hole, turned on the vacuum, and started cutting. It was a little bit slower than when I was doing the perimeter, but it was cutting fine.

Here’s what the template bit looks like. You have the cutting blade on the right, then there is a bearing, followed by that black donut thing that holds the bearing in place, and then there is the shank that goes in to the router. The router holds on to the shank and spins everything really fast but the bearing stays stationary. As you cut, the bearing follows the template while the cutting blade cuts the material. The black donut thing has a set screw that screws into the shank and holds it in place. The only purpose of the black donut is to keep the bearing in place.

So anyway, I start cutting. I first ran the bit to the edge of the template. Remember I had drilled the hole several inches from the edge. I worked my way down the edge and after just 3 or 4 inches I started to smell wood burning. Not good at all. This means something has happened to the bearing and the shank is now in contact with the template. The only thing that should ever be hitting the template is the bearing. I quickly turned off the router but the damage was done. When I pulled out the bit from the hole I found out the set screw on the black donut thing was missing and the bearing had moved out of the way and allowed the shank to come in contact with the template. This means that the router bit cut in to the marble where it shouldn’t have. It was a major mistake but not the end of the world.

Because this was the first side to be cut I could reposition the template a ¼-inch or so and recut. If this happened on more than one side I would be screwed. The question was, what happened to the set screw. I couldn’t find it any place but that’s not surprising because it is extremely tiny. I had gotten late start, so I decided to call it a night. The next day I would take the bit back to Sears. I needed to get another half inch round over bit anyway so it was no big deal.

Today I went back to Sears and exchanged the template bit for another one and bought a new half-inch round over bit. As I was heading out to the car I noticed I bought the wrong round over bit. I won’t bore you with why it was wrong. It just was. I went back in to exchange it and the correct bit was $13.00 cheaper than the one I had just bought. For some reason the new computer system issued me a gift card instead of a cash refund. This took almost 20 minutes to straighten out. It was unbearable. I finally got back home and started cutting again with the new template bit. After about 6-inches I smelled wood burning again. The fucking set screw had come out again. Unbelievable. I was livid. I just couldn’t believe it had happened again. I went back to Sears to get my money back. I’m not going to try another Sears bit, instead I’ll just go down to Pierson’s and buy a bit there. I took the bit back and handed them my receipt and asked for my money back. The new computer system issued me another gift card. AAAGGHHHHHH!

I get to a point where I just go numb. When I’m mildly irritated in a situation like this I can get noisy and demand prompt satisfaction. At some point though, things just begin to shut down. That’s where I was at with this. It took forever for them to straighten it out and get me the $23 for the stupid router bit. I went down to Pierson and bought another ½-inch template bit.

I got home and repositioned the template again. This is it. I can’t have anymore screw ups like this. I haven’t even cut one side and I’ve had to adjust the template twice. I got it adjusted again and started cutting again. I rounded the corner on the first side and was headed up the second side. This new bit was cutting very nicely. Very clean and even faster than the Sears bit. One side is about 12-inches long. I was about 10-inches down the second side and something sounded odd. I quickly killed the motor and moved the router away from the edge. I pulled the bit out of the hole and the bearing was shredded. What little bit of it that was left was just hanging there. It had caused a little damage but it was very minor. I got lucky.

At this point I’ve gone through 3 bits. What is really irritating is that the bits themselves are fine. It’s the set screws and bearings that keep taking a crap on me. I thought, ok Sears is out of the question. Do I head back to Pierson’s and get another Freud bit. I decided to go to Myrtle Town Lumber and get a Vermont bit. They can be less expensive than other bits so I’ll just buy two of them and use one for each of the remaining two side. I go to MTL and wouldn’t you know it they are out of ½-inch template bits. However, they did have replacement bearings. I could get a new bearing to go on the Freud bit. There’s a problem, though. I had already tried to remove the shredded bearing and I didn’t have an Allen Wrench small enough. I have 2 sets of Allen Wrenches, a standard and a metric set, and neither of them had wrenches small enough.

I went over to the tool aisle and found $5 set of wrenches that had several tiny sizes in them. The question was, do I need metric or standard. The bit I bought at Pierson’s was called Freud. That sounds German so I grabbed the metric set. Then I thought, that’s just what those bastards want me to think. I put the metric set back and grabbed the standard. It’s kind of surprising that after all this I’ve only actually paid for one template bit. The new bearing is $6 and the wrenches are $5, so that’s not too bad.

I got back home and tried the new wrenches. It worked! I had bought the right wrenches. It was a small victory, but a Victory none the less. I'll take anything I can get at this point. I looked up at the ceiling and shook my fist as I yelled, “You bastards! You didn’t get me this time!” I then went to put on the new bearing…………and it wouldn’t fit. Of course it wouldn’t fit. Why should it. I have a bit with a ¼-inch shank that fits a router with a ¼-inch collet, so why should a bearing for a ¼-inch router bit fit. It’s because I fell through a trap door in hell. That’s right, I’m in hell.

I decided that the Vermont bits had a different ¼-inch shank that the ¼-inch shank that was on the Freud bits (This is hell logic. It only works in hell.). I got back in my truck and headed back to Pierson. I figured if Vermont had replacement bearings then maybe there were replacement bearings for the Freud bits. I got to Pierson’s and sure enough there were. The case with the router bits is locked so I had to get someone to unlock it. I pointed to the ½-inch template bit and told him I need a replacement bearing for that bit. They had several to chose from. He rummaged through the selection and pulled one out. He grabbed a template bit and held the bearing up. It looked good to me. He then pulled a little caliper measuring device out of his vest pocket and measured it. Everything looked good. I blazed home and tried to put it on my bit………………….and it wouldn’t fit.

That’s where I’m at now. I have two sides cut and a bit with no bearing and a bearing that won’t fit the bit I have. I’ve decided I’m not making another trip back to the hardware store today. I just need to let this day evaporate in to history. Tomorrow I’ll take my bit down and make sure I get the right replacement bearing. I’ll buy two or three of them so if I burn more of them up I can just replace it and move on.

When I was at Sears the second time today waiting for what seemed like an eternity for them to refund my money I was checking out a $1600 backyard BBQ grill. It was as long as my truck and more granite and stainless steel than most kitchens. As I was looking at it a pleasant young woman walks up to me asks, “Did you have any questions sir”. It was all I could do to keep from turning to her and asking, “Yes, I did have a question. Can you tell me, why does my life suck?”


Carol said...

Wow- such angst I thought I was reading the DQ Blog! Since you do not have any female inputs at Petch house, this is what I would say if this was happening to my hubby on a project (who is like you, talented, smart and in over his head sometimes but always convinced that his way is the ONLY way): would it have been cheaper just to pay the installers to cut the marble? Make sure to include a price on mental suffering and travel costs.
After all, we all can't be good at everything.

Greg said...

It definitely would not have been cheaper. Having them cut it and install it would have tripled the cost of the marble. I have to look at it in a larger context, though. Yes, this has caused me problems and taken longer than it should. However, there were 10 other projects that went smoothly and did not cause problems. I guess if I had a crystal ball and could tell in advance which projects were not going to go smoothly then it would be easy to turn those over to pros, but I don’t, so I can’t.

amanda said...

We had a similar weekend. I don't even want to post about it. I'm sorry and I totally feel your pain.

Alicia said...

Sounds like you had trouble getting your bearings.