Carbide Round Over Bit to work Brass

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Forum topic by Bill Berklich posted 08-04-2018 01:33 AM 1334 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Bill Berklich

977 posts in 989 days

08-04-2018 01:33 AM

I’ve been thinking of using 1/4”x 1/2” brass trim on a project then rounding with a Carbide bit. I know the carbide will cut the brass but anyone have experience routing brass? Any precautions? Is chatter a possibility?

-- Bill - Rochester MI

9 replies so far

View TheFridge's profile


10859 posts in 2087 days

#1 posted 08-04-2018 01:47 AM

Secured well, maybe slowed down a bit, and definitely not climb cutting I’m pretty sure it would work. I wouldn’t expect a finished surface though and brass shavings and dust will work themselves into a woods pores while filing/sanding/polishing which really sucks.

I’ve also had brass ferrules I’ve glued on to handles come loose from heat when turning them down on a lathe. So just be aware of that as well.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View Bill Berklich's profile

Bill Berklich

977 posts in 989 days

#2 posted 08-04-2018 02:32 AM

Great things to know. I was trying to avoid brass dust in the wood. Maybe tape?

-- Bill - Rochester MI

View TheFridge's profile


10859 posts in 2087 days

#3 posted 08-04-2018 04:22 AM

Ehh. I had a tool where I needed little plates flush with the surrounding wood. If it doesn’t need to be you could get away with using tape.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View CaptainKlutz's profile


2203 posts in 2095 days

#4 posted 08-04-2018 10:35 AM

use a router on brass? Sure, why not?

Never done it, but have cut aluminum with router and brass on lathe/mill?
CNC folks brag all time about cutting non-ferrous metals with carbide router bits, and it cuts like butter?

Soft brass and aluminum chips tend to transfer material to cutting edge. Tool fouling can be reduced with different relief angle on the cutting tool. With standard router bits, you are at mercy of wood tool grind angle and will likely want to have spare(s) on hand if you need to machine a lot of material. Several of tooling companies (Amana, Osrud, etc) sell special non-ferrous router bits with optimized angles. Cleaning soft metal from steel/carbide takes special cleaning methods (ask google about cleaning lead/copper from gun barrel, wink).

Brass machining feed rates are about 60-80% of aluminum, which are compatible with lower speeds of most variable speed routers. (depending on diameter of cutter)

High conductivity for these metals makes dry machining a challenge. One trick is make sure chips are large enough for given feed rate, that they help remove heat, while not sacrificing surface quality.

Keep your cut depth small (compared to wood). Cutting depth of 0.030-0.040 inch are normal for brass on metal tools, but this same ~1/32 inch per pass is very small for router table, or manual routing an edge? If your brass is glued into wood, where you are machining a compound material that is mostly wood; then 1/16” deep passes might work.

Doing this by hand you will need some testing to find happy place between cut depth and feed speed. Suggest you want to practice on some extra stock. If your feed rate is too slow (or cut depth is too shallow), run risk of heating the brass and creating all kinds of issues? Go too fast (or cut too deep), and you probably see skip/chatter.

Be prepared for a giant mess! You must have good dust collection at router bit while machining metal. Most hand held routers are open and draw air through motor for cooling. Without good dust collection (motor up), or without fantastic dust collection on router table (motor down); you can get metal chips inside your router motor brushes, or brass dust adhering to the rotor and/or stator. DAMHIK

Best Luck.

-- I'm an engineer not a woodworker, but I can randomly find useful tools and furniture inside a pile of lumber!

View pontic's profile


706 posts in 1209 days

#5 posted 08-04-2018 12:01 PM

Slow it down.

-- Illigitimii non carburundum sum

View John Smith's profile

John Smith

2125 posts in 763 days

#6 posted 08-04-2018 12:07 PM

brass dust ??
brass does not “float” in the air – it is small chips that fall to the floor
in the near vicinity. just worry about the hot chips going into your collar or shoes.
quick thin strokes will prevent any kind of heating. small bites will prevent chatter.
be advised that the brass piece must be firmly clamped to the table. (if using a handheld router).
I have routed a lot of aluminum (and some brass) stock with zero issues to the bits or router.
(even the cast iron top of my table saw once – but that’s another lesson).
like Klutz said – practice first.
if you are going to be creating a lot of brass chips, put clean paper or plastic under
the workpiece and save the chips in a small jar or zip-top bag for possible use down the road.
but when you say you have a 1/4” x 1/2” piece of trim to do, how long is the piece ?
a small project like that will probably only generate maybe a teaspoon of chips.
a belt sander is also an option for small projects.

-- I am a painter. That's what I do. I paint things --

View therealSteveN's profile


4588 posts in 1175 days

#7 posted 08-04-2018 12:35 PM

Yes, as said, well clamped, slow rate of speed on the router, and take your time on the movement of the router, let the bit do the work, don’t force it. I’m 50/50 on the chips thing, I will only use a router for metals, and it won’t do woodworking, because the stuff is insidious, and will get into the wood, and it usually doesn’t end well. I generally also do it on a crapppppy router table that just gets junk work, or on a bench that doesn’t see wood, clamped into a vise.

This is just from my experience, and others may not see it this way, but I have had 2 smallish dust vacs go DEAD while sucking up metal chips, dust. I am not going to try to stretch that luck, so I clean up with a hand brush, and then sweep with a broom to a dust pan. YMMV, and perhaps both of those vacs were gonna die right then anyhow, but 2 times, and I wonder. That is my biggest concern about working with metal, clean up.

-- Think safe, be safe

View John Smith's profile

John Smith

2125 posts in 763 days

#8 posted 08-04-2018 01:13 PM

one more thing – “personally” I do not rout any kind of metal on the router table
simply because I can not see the bit that is doing the work.
I like to SEE what the bit is doing and how it is acting in the material being cut.
then, if there are any issues, you can make the adjustments as you go.
other work that is not so sensitive to the style or material, goes to the router table.
and it goes without saying about the full face and eye protection !!

-- I am a painter. That's what I do. I paint things --

View builtinbkyn's profile


2999 posts in 1541 days

#9 posted 08-04-2018 01:27 PM

File to the approximate profile before passing it over a bit on your table. That will eliminate a lot of the work the router will have to do. Also sneak up on your profile just as you would have to do with a deep profile in wood. My experience is you will get a rough, scalloped finish and then have to sand/file the rest of the way to a good finish.

-- Bill, Yo! Brooklyn & Steel City :)

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