Congratulations! You finally saved up for the router that you’ve always wanted! But doesn’t matter how powerful your new router is, it’s worthless without bits. If you are new to routing, there are thousands of options out there in the market and dozens of categories, each priced differently.
So what types of router bits do I need? What router bits do I need? Here are our router bits buying guide that will tell you what you need to know:
Router Bit Shank Size
The router bit shank is the solid, cylindrical base part of a router bit, the part that goes into the collet of your router. There are two common sizes for router bit shanks: 1/4″ and 1/2″. Many routers come with interchangeable 1/4″ and 1/2″ collets so that either size bit can be used, but some models accept only 1/4″ shank bits. Whenever possible, use bits with 1/2″ shanks. They offer better stability with less vibration and they generally produce smoother cuts and longer life.
Router Bit Materials
When choosing router bits, the first thing to look at is the material.
There are 3 different materials from which Router Bits are made: High Speed Steel, Carbide Tipped, and Solid Carbide. Choosing a carbide Router Bit over a high steel router bit is usually your best bet to get the most for your money.
High Speed Steel (HSS) Router Bits are generally the least expensive and are fine for softwood and light plastics, but tend to dull much faster than carbide, some of them might even break apart after the first use. When bits become dull, HSS bits cost as low as $2 to $5,
Carbide Tipped Router Bits are usually more expensive than the HSS router bits, but they can keep sharpness longer and work better in hardwoods and other harder materials. They have durability at the tip, but are also equipped with the lower cost of a steel base. Although they might be a tidbit more expensive than HSS, they may save you money in the long run. A decent carbide-tipped bit can cost around $15 to $30.
Solid Carbide Router Bits are the most expensive, but perform the best and are the most durable. They are typically meant for specific applications where other router bits may not perform as well. Compared to the other two types of bits, a solid carbide router bit can provide cleaner cuts, reduced wear and tear, increasing your shop’s overall efficiency. We believe that it’s definitely worth it to get a solid carbide router bit in most scenarios, as we explain further in our article here.
Common Types of Router Bits
1. Straight Router Bits
One of the most commonly used router bits is the straight router bit. With the aid of these bits, you can easily make straight cuts and can make hollow areas on your workpiece with ease. When shopping for this router bit, you will find varied diameters from 3/16 inch to 1.5 inches and so you can choose according to your preference and requirement of the job.
Spiral Cutter Bits are used to make grooves and notches in almost any kind of wood, including tropical hardwoods and various kinds of wood products. The advantage of spiral cutters over normal straight cutter router bits is that the spiral form of the cutter helps to produce a smoother and more regular groove, and clears the chips far better. There are three major types of spiral router bits:
Up cutting bits pull chips (and the material) upward. When using them, your material will need to be securely held down. The bit cuts clean and the chips do not clog up the groove. This makes for a very sharply cut and clean bottom of the groove and prevents overheating of the material. But, depending on the wood’s grain structure, one can sometimes have problems with tear-out and chipping at the top of the groove, as the spiral tends to tear up on the wood as it cuts.
Downcutting bits press the chips and the material back into the cut. Their down shear action is excellent for preserving the top surface of your material. These bits are preferable for cutting thin, flexible material but are not the best for drilling holes because the bottom layer of the workpiece will be pushed away from the bit by chips. Down cut bits leave a clean cut at the top of the workpiece but may fray the bottom edge.
Compression bits (up-down bits) offer the benefits of both up and down cut bits. The bit is a standard down cut, but its tip is an up cutter. Therefore, when cutting materials like plywood, you will end up with a clean edge on both sides because the top is pushed down while the bottom is pulled up. Combining both geometries eliminates chipping and reduces the risk of damaging the workpiece.
Here we have a detailed explanation of the differences between each of these types of spiral router bits, and what you need to know before choosing these.
3. Flush Trim Router Bits
These router bits include a ball bearing having a size similar to the cutting radius of this router bit. These router bits prove best for edging and trimming of material and you can give multiple identical shapes with the use of this bit.
4. Rabbeting Router Bit
With the use of this router bit, you can easily cut material placed in either vertical or horizontal positions. Edging of material is easier with the use of this tool and it includes ball bearings that are offered in various diameters/sizes. With this feature, you can make different dimensions of rabbet without having the need of buying different routers of varied sizes.
5. Edge Forming Router Bits
If you would need to make varied creative and decorative edging on your wood piece, this could be achieved with edge-forming router bits. You will find a different variety of edge-forming router bits and choosing one would really depend upon your task. For example, Round-Over bits cut a rounded edge of a particular radius (such as 1/8″ or 1/4″); Ogee bits cut variations of an S-shaped profile; Edge-beading bits cut a quarter- or half-circle profile (called a bead); Cove bits cut a concave quarter-circle. Many edge-forming bits include a pilot bearing.
6. Chamfer Router Bits
For bevel cuts at a specific angle, this router bit is considered the most appropriate one. Chamfer bits can be used to produce multi-sided boxes, planters, waste baskets, and other decorative pieces.
7. Stile and Rails Router Bits
For construction work related to panel cutting and for combining horizontal layering of material with its vertical layer. Stile and Rail bits come in a package and you can combine these bits for making horizontal rail and vertical stile profiles.
If you are still having trouble choosing a reliable wood router that’s perfect for you, you can read about it here
Furthur watch: What Router Bits Should You Buy?