Monday, December 24, 2012

Getting your bearings with Festool

I've had the mid-size Festool router, the OF1400, since it was first released. I think I bought it in 2004. Festool's 1400 was the first mid-size router they came out with, and the first in a wave of improvements to their router line, which later saw revamps to the 1000 and 2000 models. In the last couple of weeks the bearings started making that special noise which told me their end was nigh. This goes beyond the end of the Mayan calendar my friends - we're talking about a calamity of epic proportions! Well, let's say I didn't want to wait and see just how far the bearings would go before imploding.

I went on Festool's parts catalog and located the two bearings which are used in that router. More specifically, they are as follows:

Lower bearing (large), part # 400635,  $20.75
Upper bearing (small), part # 401524,  $6.16

I decided to order the bearings direct from Festool rather than take them out of the machine and try and order them from a bearing supply house based on the numbers on the bearing seals. My reasoning here was that the bearings were probably proprietary items, and by ordering directly from Festool I could be sure that I would have the exact replacements needed without hassle.

As it turns, out, I was right and wrong in that supposition. The original bearings in the router are NKS bearings, made in Japan. The replacements I got from Festool are NKS from Poland. Slight difference, probably not amounting to much as the bearings are made on large automated machinery. I did get numbers off the bearing seals and called a bearing supply house in Boston, and sure enough, the bearings are proprietary and unavailable except from the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) side. No surprise. At least Festool carries the parts still!

With bearings in hand, it was time to tackle the replacement, and I thought I'd photo-doc the process in case anyone else out there is contemplating the same task with their Festool router. I imagine the process would be similar for a lot of other routers too.

I hadn't had this router apart before and I do not have official Festool™technical certification to be doing this - not even the right sort of logo-emblazoned baseball cap or t-shirt even - but then again I don't generally care much about certification as a general matter. You have been warned. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread, etc.

To replace both bearings, you will ideally have the following tools:

Torx T-15 screwdriver or insert-driver bit
Torx T-15 socket, 1/4" drive, and 1/4" ratchet
Snap ring pliers
Drift (wooden or brass)
Small bearing puller
Small screwdriver or probe

I say ideally, because I did not have all the right tools, in one case because they were at home instead of my shop (snap ring pliers), and in another because I just didn't have them (small bearing puller). I didn't have the Torx T-15 bits either, but I acquired these at a local hardware store for about $10. Generally speaking, i would always advocate for having the right tools on hand, however I am fairly experienced at working on bearings, both on bicycles and trucks, so I often find a way to get the job done when the right tool is absent. But you have to be careful as using a less-than ideal tool for a task can set you up for making a mess of things sometimes. That's not going to happen here.

First off I flipped the router upside down, which, thanks to Festool's flat upper cover, is an orientation in which the router is quite stable. Remove the collet from the chuck. Then remove the Torx T-15 screws holding the black plastic cover in place:

Four screws undone, and the cover comes off:

Next you'll see a snap ring on the end of the router arbor, just above the ratchet gear. Here's where you get out the snap ring pliers. I had omitted to bring mine, so I carefully pried the ring off using a screwdriver and pair of needle nose pliers:

You want to be careful to remove the snap ring cleanly so as not to scar the outside face of the arbor.

The gear, which is used when you ratchet the collet tight with the collet wrench, simply slides off the arbor:

Then I flipped the router back to the upright position and removed the 4 screws holding the top cover in place:

It's like cranial surgery now, as we glimpse the 'brain':

This next part is a minor sidetrack, and not related to the bearing replacement task. I removed three more screws so I could separate the tool handle:

With the tool handle off, I could blow out dust and crud from the switch area:

Back to the separation anxiety portion of the job - flip the router upside-down again and remove the four long screws, also T-15 size, that ring the lower casting:

As you remove the last of these four screws, the springs in the plunge mechanism (one in each post) will push the motor housing and lower casting apart - lift and separate:

Here's a look at the upper bearing, a little tiddly thing, which is open on the upper side and has a rubber seal on the lower side:

This upper bearing was in decent shape, however my policy in such cases is always to replace it given the fact I have gone to the trouble of taking the dang thing apart. It's a $6 bearing and there's no point in making false economies.

To access the lower bearing, the ratchet mechanism is removed. It simply slides off:

Fortunately it's not one of those sprung mechanisms where things go flying when you pull it off - everything is tied together:

Now to the heavy lifting. I didn't know what sort of fit existed between the router arbor and the bearings, but I hoped it would be, at worst, a light interference fit and not require a press. I set the aluminum casting on a pair of blocks and then used a piece of hardwood as a drift pin to tap the arbor downward:

After a tap or two I could see that the parts would separate without going into an impersonation of Thor with the hammer, and a few moments later the arbor was off the bearing:

Then I set up the base casting again, right side up this time, and used a smaller wooden drift to tap the bearing down and out:

It also came out fairly easily:

You can see in the above photo that I have removed the bakelite base and insert ring from the shoe casting - neither of these steps is required for bearing replacement, I just wanted to clean in all the nooks and crannies.

I wiped the housing clean, got out the new bearing, and carefully tapped it into place in the housing:

The key point with bearing installation is not to bugger it up by getting the bearing going at an angle so that it binds up in the housing. You really want to avoid this! Just some patient tapping around the perimeter of the bearing (never tap against the seals directly), carefully observing what is going on and you should be golden. It doesn't take a lot of force to tap back in.

Now for the upper bearing. I hoped I might simply pull it off with my fingers, but no such luck. I tried putting the bearing in a vise and pulling on the arbor, but it didn't want to budge. I was trying these routes as I lack a small enough bearing puller. Time to improvise - I grabbed a metal plate which is a setting jig on my Makita portable chisel mortiser and clamped it to my planing beam:

I jammed the under side of the bearing into the 90˚ inside corner of the metal jig, and then, holding the arbor tight to the corner, used a drift to tap the arbor down. It took 3 or 4 taps and it was out:

That white plastic thing on top is called a solenoid ring and it has a copper band around it which is an electrical contact. When you reinstall the arbor, you will have to move a pair of spring-loaded contacts in the field assembly outward so as to allow this ring to slide past.

I reinstalled the upper bearing using a Bessey clamp, since it clamps nice and parallel:

Again, not much force needed here - make sure the bearing is fully seated however.

The next step is to slide the arbor back into the lower bearing. First I gave the surface of the arbor a visual inspection for any burrs, then a swipe with some emery cloth just for peace of mind.

Now, nothing keeps the lower bearing in place at this point except for a bit of friction, so you can't just tap the arbor down. If you did, the bearing will pop back out. So, what I did was take a hardwood block about the diameter of the lower bearing, drill a hole in one end that would allow the end of the arbor to slip inside, and then used the Bessey clamp to squeeze the assembly together:

If you look carefully, you will see the yellow hardwood block against the left clamp jaw.

So, the next thing was my camera battery ran out of juice, with its usual inimitable timing. Text alone will have to suffice from here on out. Sorry!

With the arbor re-assembled to the lower bearing, the next order of business is to put the plastic motor housing back on. If you haven't taken a motor out of a housing before, you may run into certain difficulties upon putting the parts together, for they come apart easily but require a bit of trickery to put back as one. Many people can run into all sort of trouble when trying to reassemble things, and often give up here. There's no need - it's all rational, you just have to observe closely and think it through.

As noted a few pictures previously, the white solenoid ring is meant to fit between a pair of sprung contacts, called 'brushes'. These brushes actually rub against the portion of the armature below the solenoid ring, an area referred to as the commutator. When the arbor was removed, these brushes sprung inward all by themselves, quite furtively if you ask me, and now block the path of the solenoid ring and commutator when they are pushed back into the same location. What you'll find happening during the reinstall is that the small bearing on the end of the arbor will readily slide in between the two brushes, and then the solenoid ring will bump into the lower surfaces of the brushes. At that point the arbor can enter no further - but it needs to! Bringing out the BFH or having a fit of rage here and throwing the works across the shop floor will do no good. What you have to do at this point is keep a light pressure on the arbor, holding the solenoid ring against the brushes, and then reach in with a small screwdriver or probe from the top of the housing and carefully push each brush back (outwards). By keeping light pressure with the arbor and solenoid ring, you hold the brushes from springing inward again. When you have them backed away far enough, the arbor will then slide all the way up - tah-dah!! I'll add that it's a little tricky, a bit of a juggling act, because the two main plunge springs are working against you the whole time. Don't be shy to recruit an extra pair of hands if you feel the need. Locking the router plunge mechanism is also helpful here.

*One additional caution: on this router there is a small wavy shim atop the upper bearing. When I removed the arbor it stayed in place against the plastic of the motor housing. I noticed it later on, pulled it out, and put a blob of grease on it so that it could adhere to the top of the upper bearing during the re-installation of the arbor.  I mention this because if it wasn't noticed there is a chance it could crash the party, so to speak, when trying to wiggle that solenoid ring past the brushes.

With the arbor all the way up, the four long screws are reinserted and tightened. Check now that the arbor spins freely. Slide the ratchet mechanism back in place, using a screwdriver to push the sprung bits back so it will drop all the way down. Replace the ratchet gear and the snap ring. Replace the plastic lower cover and the router collet. Test the pluge action to confirm it is smooth. If it isn't you'll be taking things apart again. It should be fine though, so next plug the router in and give it a test run, working the speed control up and down. All should be good. you'll be a new man or woman and feel like standing under a waterfall in Ireland and washing yourself all over with scented soap

My router sounds like new again with the new bearings so I am very pleased with the outcome. It's a fairly straightforward job requiring basic tools. Next time this job come up I'll make sure to have those snap ring pliers on hand.

Thanks for coming by the Carpentry Way. Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate pagan rituals. Remember, according to ancient Roman law, during this period gambling and dice-playing are permitted for all, even slaves.


  1. Merry Christmas, Chris!

    Thanks for documenting the process. I found it interesting to see what was under the hood of the OF1400.


    1. Hi Chris,

      glad you enjoyed it - I hope I made the process more approachable for those out there who might not otherwise consider doing their own repair.


  2. I think its very useful for carpenter to do repairs yourself. For me it talks a lot about capabilities of maschiney. I get familiar with tools/maschines if i have dissasembled,repaired and adjusted them. After that its completely different feeling. Last week I finished overhauling of my REX shaper, including replacement of spindle bearings(original ones were running about 40 years)
    About bearings. It looks me a bit strange, that Festtool bearing needs change so short time. But if I dont know how many working hours You have spent with it, it is difficult to say.I remember similar trouble with my Dewalt 621 router. And I know the reason. That was, because first bearing got some overheating (if You make long cuts, router bit gets very hot and beaing is not far away).
    Anyway, repair is half of the fun for me.
    Merry Christmas


    1. Priit,

      I appreciate your comment, and I agree it is very useful for woodworkers to be able to tune up and repair their equipment. Unfortunately, a fair share of people who do woodwork seem 'allergic' to their equipment for some reason and often let it deteriorate in condition, and run in poor adjustment, rather than get in there and fix things.

      I use my router a lot, though generally in short bursts, and never take deep cuts with it. As to working hours I would have no idea. The router I have in the router table (a Porter Cable) tends to see longer cutting cycles. I thought that 8 years before needing to change bearings was reasonable, and no other parts have failed in that interval. I used to have a Bosch 1617 router that needed constant switch replacement and cleaning, which got annoying after a while, so I got rid of it.


  3. 13085AA010 деталь от subaru ролик обводной. Был бу у меня. подшипник от туда подошел к моему фрезеру Festool 1400. он такой же.


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