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The Easiest Way To Set Up A Two-Bit Set
By Jim Stuard

If you're one of those people who plunked down your hard-earned dollars on a two-bit set, you may test it out and find that the joint isn't tight or aligned. Some sets require some fine tuning upon arrival. Here's how its done.
Get Familiar With the Parts:

Many two-bit sets work great right out of the box; others make joints that are too loose or too tight. You can fox the problem, but you're going to have to disassemble the bit to adjust the cutters. Plan on this taking an hour or two of your time. Its a pain, but remember you won't have to do this again until you get your bits resharpened.

The easiest way to take these bits apart is to chuck them into a router. Use a wrench on top of the bit to loosen the cutters as you hold the bit in place with one of the router wrenches on the collet. Two-bit sets have a fixed bottom cutter, a bearing and a groove cutter that are separated by thin shims (see photo 1). To get your two-bit set (or your reversible set) working you're going to have to figure out which shims go where for a perfect fit.

Photo 1
Step One: Align the shoulders:
Photo 2

Start by chucking the cope cutter in a router and making a test cut on a scrap. I use MDF for setup because it is made up of small particles that have no grain direction. This gives accurate, highly visible test cuts. Cut the cope leaving about 1/16" on what will be the shoulder of the cut. Next, chuck the stick cutter into the router and remove the grooving cutter, bearing and shims.

Start the alignment process by placing the shoulder cut of the sample cope cut up against the fixed cutter in the stick bit and matching shoulder heights by raising and lowering the router (see photo 2).

Result: Flush Shoulders:
At this point the joint made by these cutters would be pretty sloppy (see photo 3). You can see, however, that the cut is flush on the shoulder (bottom) of the joint, which is the point of this important first step.
Photo 3
Step Two: Tighten the Top of the Tenon:
Photo 4
The next step is to tighten up the joint between the tenon and the cope. Using your test cope piece as a guide, mount the grooving cutter and shim it as best as you can to match the tenon on the test piece (see photo 4).
Result: Top of Tenon is Perfect:
After properly shimming the grooving cutter, you'll get a tight fit on the cope and the top of the tenon (see photo 5). Keep a test cut from the stick cutter. This is the finished, shimmed setup for the stick cutter.
Photo 5
Step Three: Shim the Cope Cutter:
Remove the stick cutter from the router and chuck up the cope cutter. It also has a grooving cutter on top that has to be shimmed to get the bottom of the tenon to fit snugly. Disassemble the bit and shim the grooving cutter so it is flush with the bottom of the tenon on the stick test piece. Now your joints should be tight (see photo 6).
By Jim Stuard
First printed in Popular Woodworking, June 2001, Issue #122
Reproduced by kind permission of Steve Shanesy, Editor & Publisher of Popular Woodworking