happens when you hit a hidden nail or screw with a typical
carbide-tipped router bit? Quite likely, a chipped or cracked edge.
You often get the same unfortunate result when a bit takes a tumble
onto a concrete floor ... bunged edges. Then what? You probably kick
yourself out of frustration and debate about sending it off to a
sharpening service for repair. More than likely, though, it ends up
in the trash or in some dark corner of a shop drawer, and you're off
to buy a new bit.
else is a woodworker supposed to do? Well, Amana Tool has an answer
and one that many of us hobbyists may not even know exists: Just
unscrew the damaged cutter or cutters and bolt in a replacement. How
about that for a change? Amana makes this possible, thanks to three
lines of router bits that feature insert tooling. You save the bit,
extend your tool investment and, once the cutter is screwed in place,
are back to routing again. It's just that easy.
McInerney, vice president of sales and marketing at Amana, says
insert tooling of this sort is nothing new. Industry has been using
it for decades, because it makes such simple sense. "You don't
want the downtime that goes along with shutting down a machine to
completely change its tooling and re-adjusting it again, or the
expense of replacing both the bit's tool body and the cutter.
Changing just the knives is the way to go."
has been engineering insert tooling for industry for more than 20
years and quality router bits for professional and home shops for
even longer. The company was founded in 1973 as a cutter manufacturer
for woodworking. "When woodworking started to shift from using
stationary shapers to handheld routers, Amana made that transition as
well. In terms of manufacturing high quality brazed router bits,
we've been a leader in the industry all along. In addition, we've
been an OEM [Original Equipment Manufacturer] bit supplier to many of
the major power tool labels for many years."
company also makes premium saw blades, shaper cutters, boring bits
and planer knives.
suggested several reasons why Amana retains a dominant position among
its router bit competitors. One has to do with material quality. "We
know exactly where all of our raw materials are sourced, so we
control that factor of production very carefully and select from
among the best sources around the world." Then there's bit
design. "We start with a single piece of steel rod and turn it
down to the body you see, as opposed to casting the body from some
other metal. That adds durability, balance and longevity to the bit."
says Amana is also able to maintain levels of inventory that are
larger than some other suppliers, which makes the company better able
to react on short notice. "When we commit to make something new
to expand our product lines, we commit to it wholeheartedly; we make
it in quantities of thousands, not hundreds, so backorders aren't an
issue. We ship immediately and completely to fulfill distributor
orders, and we make our products so that they can be easily
re-sharpened and serviced."
company's decision to bring insert-style router bits to small
production and home woodworking shops happened just a few years ago,
but the reasoning is quite practical. John explains that by
eliminating the brazing process to attach a cutter to the tool body,
Amana is able to use much harder carbide. Harder grades of carbide
already exist that can retain an edge longer than conventional router
bit carbide, but with increased hardness comes more brittleness.
Brazing harder carbide increases the chances of breaking it in the
process. If the cutter simply fastens in place on the bit body,
brazing heat is a nonissue. McInerney says that the carbide of
Amana's inserts is as much as five times harder than conventional
brazed carbide. In addition to improved edge retention, harder
carbide also helps the insert bits retain better balance, because
premature edge wear can introduce vibration. He feels insert bits are
actually safer to use in handheld routers for that reason.
offers three lines of insert router bits. Its In-Tech line most
closely resembles the bits we use already. Nine different bit styles,
including roundovers, coves, straights, flush-trimmers, rabbet and
ogees, are available with 1/4-in. shanks. Either one or two cutters
fasten to the bit body with Torx screws. Those bits with straight
profiles actually have two sharpened edges, for double the life
before the cutter needs to be replaced. While the initial cost for
In-Tech bits is 10 to 20 percent higher than conventional brazed
bits, the replacement cutters are a fraction of the cost of buying a
new bit. An In-Tech flush-trim bit, for instance, lists for $37
complete; the replacement cutter pair costs $15. A rabbeting bit goes
for $39.50; the replacement knives are $12 per pair.
Amana's second line of insert bits, is geared more toward small CNC
machine use. Here, instead of a machined body on the bit that
determines the cutting profile, a 1/4- or 1/2-in. straight shank
accepts up to 40 different knife profiles. A single Allen screw locks
the knife to the shank. The carbide formulation is unique for
In-Groove bits: since the knife profile stands completely unsupported
by a steel body, the carbide must be flexible enough to take a load
on its own without breaking. In-Groove bits are made in various
engraving points, straight and core box edges, as well as corner
round and beading knives. Certain In-Groove knife profiles, McInerney
reports, "can't even be accomplished with brazed bits."
While they are designed for CNC application, In-Groove bits are also
suitable for handheld routing. Packaged 8-piece sets of a tool body
with a selection of cutters is available, as are single shanks with a
specific cutter style. Amana can also mill custom In-Groove profiles
for you with a 10-piece minimum order.
bits, a third insert line, more closely resemble In-Tech bits, with
one big exception: here, pairs of blades lock onto the bit body with
a gap in between them; the empty space facilitates improved chip
clearance and expulsion. John says the empty space is beneficial by
imposing less drag on the bit during cutting, a much more aggressive
rate of stock removal for faster feeding, and a superior cut edge.
Another unique feature of Nova bits is that the bodies of some styles
can accept multiple cutter shapes. You can change the bit's profile
by simply swapping in a different cutter. Amana offers 40 styles of
Nova cutters, which lock in place between top and bottom mounts with
a screw. A notch on the blades and the design of the bit body ensure
perfect knife registration, and the blades can only mount one way.
Profiles include both edge-forming and plunging shapes.
reports that Amana's three insert bit lines are still being used more
by production shops than "Joe and Jane Lunchbucket"
woodworkers, but he says that "serious hobbyists" are also
discovering them and making the switch. And, as small-shop CNC
machines continue to grow in popularity, so should the market for
insert bits. Regardless of how things go from here, though, John
confirms that Amana has no intention of eventually moving away from
conventional router bits. "We're too committed to them, and
change happens very slowly in the tooling business ...We'll always
make brazed bits."
bringing the convenience and cost-saving possibilities of insert
tooling into the hobbyist marketplace was a logical move for Amana.
According to John, you could even say it was an eventual obligation.
"We've got so much hard data from the industrial CNC side that
reinforces the benefits of replaceable cutters...It would be a
mistake for us not to apply these benefits to the hobbyist
woodworking market as well."