Best Router Bits For Your Money – Router Bit Buying Guide
You may have recently invested a fair few dollars on a new router, if so congratulations. It’s a very good piece of kit. On the other hand, you may have had a router for a while, but you may have not fully kitted it out. A good router is only the start – getting the best router bits for the job is what separates a good workshop tool from a great workshop tool.
The problem is router bits come in a wide range of styles, functions, qualities and profiles. Picking the right one for your budget isn’t exactly easy as most woodworkers have differing opinions based on their skills and experiences. There are many variations in router bits in the market, depending on the style of cuts woodworkers aim to achieve, in fact, there are companies that create custom routers for those special designs that a creative carpenter may imagine. Tip: Routers do produce a lot of sawdust – so make sure you workshop has a good dust collection system.
So how do you go about picking the ideal cutter for the job?
This router bit choosing guide should hopefully go a long way in helping you buy the best possible router bits for your needs within your budget.
Introduction to Routers
Although most of you may know what a router is, it may still be useful to quickly describe one for the novice that may be reading this. Feel free to skip this section if you already know what one is.
Simply put, a router is the tool that a woodworker would use to hollow wood surfaces. However it’s uses and functions do not end there.
The hollowing out of a surface is typically called “routing” hence the name “router”.
They can be used for
- Creating decorative edges on your projects
- Used as a trimmer for laminate
- Hollow out mortises for hinges
- Cut a range of joints in woodworking
However a router is pretty useless without router bits. Each bit influences the type of cuts you could achieve, and the quality of the cut, though dependent on your skill and router, is also influenced by the type of bits you use.
Factors influencing quality of Router Bits
There are of course a range of general factors that influence the type of bits that you may be interested in buying, however we narrow down on the three main factors that really narrow down the quality and the price of router bits.
Typically the quality, style, material and brand dictate the cost, the lifespan and the usefulness of the perfect router bit.
Router Cutter Bit Materials
First lets understand what router bits are made of. The most common materials used on the market are:
HSS (High Speed Steel). These are carbon steel based bits which are made to resist high temperatures. However several tests over the years have proven that these are nowhere near as long lasting as Carbide Tipped bits.
Carbide Tipped. These are amazingly sharp bits, and certainly superior to HSS bits. However the carbide tips are easy to break as they are brittle. Slated to last nearly twice as long as HSS router bits, carbide tipped bits are slightly more expensive.
Solid Carbide. The most expensive of the lot and not easily available in all brands. However you should consider these especially if you intend on intricate design work.
Bit Shank Diameters
Your router bits shank diameter is a very important factor in the quality of the bit. The two most common diameters are 1/2 inch and 1/4 inch. Most woodworkers recommend the 1/2″ shanks primarily because they tend to be stronger over all. They also handle the vibrations of your router better and as a result produce a better cut. However before buying a bit make sure that your router takes them, some are built only to accept 1/4″ router bits leaving you with limited choice.
Understanding Router Bit Profiles
A profile is the technical term for how the cutting edge of the bit is shaped. And there are a fair few profiles available on the market, here we will cover some of the most popular ones.
Straight (Dado) Router Bits
These are the most common bits you would find in most workshops. They have a profile made to make direct cuts into wood or material of choice to create grooves. These router bits are also used to cut hollow sections for mortises. They can also be used to cut an inlay.
Rabbetting Router Bits
If you are looking to create a groove where another piece of the project is to fit in, then you need a rabbeting router bit. They usually include a pilot bearing that rotates at the tip. The bearings allow control of the diameters that are being carved out, usually by switching bearing sizes.
Flush Trim Router Bits
These are by far the most varied router bits, as they come on many many patterns. The most common is of course the standard straight edge flush bit. These bits are used for flushing or trimming the edge of your projects. They are quite popular for aligning two pieces that need flush edges to fit right.
Flush Trim Router Bit Buying Tip: aim for a good basic Flush Trim Router Bit first. It can be used for a range of surface smoothing or trimming and they would be very handy in the workshop. The cheaper flush bits usually don’t have a bearing, which may reduce the quality and precision of your cuts.
Chamfer (Bevel) Router Bits
If you are looking to create designs such as beveled edges, then you definitely would benefit from acquiring a chamfer router bit. Use them on edges to ease or shape them.
Chamfer Router Bit Buying Tip: these come in degree variations as well as diameters, so make sure you pick the right combination.
Edge Forming Router Bits
There are several types of edge forming router bits, most of which are generally used for cutting finishing decorations. Decent edge forming bits usually include a bearing allowing better control. Round over bits and cove bits are good examples of common router bits.
Edge Forming Router Bit Buying tip: aim for at least a medium quality router bit primarily because these would have a bearing. These bits are for finishing projects and as such you want good quality ones.
Top 12 Router Bit Types Compared
|Router Bit Type||Main Types of Cuts||Example of Cuts|
|Straight Bits||Usually used for dados and grooves.|
|Veining Bits||If you need to make v-shaped grooves then you need this bit|
|Edge Forming Bits||Usually for finishing and come in a range of sub styles.|
|Rabbeting bits||Used to create interlocking grooves|
|Spiral Cut Bits||There are two types of spiral bits. If you want to cut through then you should grab a down it spiral bit, if you would like to create mortises then aim for an uncut router bit.|
|Slotting Bits||These router bits are for slots that can be used to cut a “T” shape. As such they will usually have 3 winged cutting edges .|
|Flush Trim Bits||If you want to cut veneers and laminates, then this is your best possible router bit.|
|Dove Tail Bits||Dove Tails come in a range of degrees and are used for carving out the tail and pin for making dovetail joints. Have cutting Tails and Pins for Dovetail Joints|
|Finger Pull Router Bits||Commonly referred to as door an pull router bits and come in a range of sizes – mostly used to cut grooves to act as a finger handle.|
|Raised Panel Router Bits||These come in two styles, vertical and horizontal, however the horizontal style does take some getting used to.|
|Stile and Rail Router Bits||These are frame and panel cutting bit allowing flush fittings.
Should only be used on Table Mounter Routers
|Molding Router Bits||Most furniture have decorative moldings on them and these router bits allow you to create a range of designs. However note that you may want to make sure you have the right style for the molding type you want to cut.
Should only be used on Table Mounter Routers