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I recently bought my first router, and after carefully reading the instructions I began making a few practice cuts. I was using a straight 1/2" bit, cutting 1/8" deep grooves that are about 8" long into some birch plywood. The cuts were coming out fairly smooth. Near the end of the fourth cut, one of the cutting edges broke off of the router bit. Did I do something wrong, or was this a defective (Craftsman) bit?

The router bit you mentioned is designed to trim edges in jointing operations and grooving for dado and rabbet cuts in all grades of wood. Providing it is a carbide tip bit--you should have got plenty of use out of it.

That said, I am not aware of any defect notices on Craftsman bits. But I'd take the bit back to them anyway and see if you can get it replaced. Although don't be surprised if they don't give you a new bit. Bits and blades don't carry the same warranty as mechanics hand tools (lifetime).

Next, look at your plywood--was it new stuff -- any nails, staples, or screws in it? Did you hit a knot?

Here are some basic rules of routing:
  1. Bits – buy the best you can afford – not by Brand name so much – by how they are made. Buy "Carbide" bits. You can get "cheap bits (high speed steel)" at Home Improvement stores, by the box or individually, but they will wear out quickly. Carbide Tipped are far better, although they are significantly more expensive, Carbide Tipped bits last up to 20 times longer than HSS. That works out to be cheaper in the long run. And, nothing is worse than "burning" the edge of your woodworking with a dull bit.

  2. Cut a little at a time. It is often tempting to rout a deep groove in one go but this firstly risks ripping the wood and secondly wears out the router bits quicker. A little patience will go a long way – your 1/8" cuts were more than prudent.

  3. Make sure the stock that you are routing is "clean" hitting a nail with a router bit spinning at 20,000 rpm will wreck your day.

  4. Typically routers rotate in a clockwise direction (when viewing the router from the top). It is best to move the router from the left towards the right (when facing the wood). Routing in the wrong direction will cause the router bit to dig into the wood and may cause splintering of the wood.
Finally, sometimes things just break and you have to accept it. One day I went through 3 taps in 10 minutes trying to re-thread a machine screw hole, only to have the mated galvanized fitting crumble when I cinched the screw down — and this was after the screwdriver separated from its handle when I was tightening it.

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