Router Bits Set Buying Guide
Whether you are setting up a woodworking workshop or you are just beginning to learn the trade, there are various tools that you will need. You’ll quickly find (if you haven’t already) that the router is up there on the list as it is one of the handiest and most versatile woodworking tools available.
- Size: Router bits are defined by shank size, either 1/4 inch or 1/2 inch. If you have a 1/4-inch router, you can only use the smaller size. If you have a 1/2-inch model, you can get an adapter so you can use 1/4-inch bits as well, which is useful if you want to do particularly delicate work and a suitable 1/2-inch cutter isn’t readily available.
- Construction: Tool quality is difficult to assess at a glance, and it’s easy to think that a comparatively large cutting edge would be preferred. In fact, the opposite is generally true. A large body and comparatively small cutting surface means there’s lots of stability in the router bit. That means reduced vibration, which in turn results in a better finish. For the occasional home woodworker, that may not be important. For the fastidious enthusiast and the professional, it’s an important difference.
- HSS: Router bits are made of high-speed steel (HSS), which is strong enough to take the considerable stresses and heat buildup that occur when routing. In the past, some cutting edges were also HSS. It’s relatively easy to work, but it dulls quite quickly.
- TCT: Tungsten carbide tips (TCT) have now been adopted on all but the very cheapest tools. The edges stay sharper for much longer; however, they do wear out eventually. Cheap router bits can be as little as a dollar each, so it’s common to simply replace them. Higher-quality, and therefore more expensive, tools can be resharpened, though obviously they’ll wear out eventually.
Types of Router Bits Set
Depending on your needs and the work you do, the router bit set that works best for you can vary. However, there are some router bit sets that hit the mark for most people. These typically include:
- 12-piece and 15-piece router bit sets: These often include straight bits, ogee and Roman ogee bits, chamfer bits, paneling bits, mortising bits, cove bits, V-groove bits and dovetail bits.
- 24-piece and 35-piece sets: Offering more specialized bits, these large sets can come in handy for a variety of applications. They feature standard bits like straight, ogee and mortising bits, but they may also include rabbeting bits, hinge mortising bits, round-over bits, half-round bits and trimming bits. Some larger sets also include multiple sizes of common bits, like 1/4-inch and 1/2-inch radius bits.
- Oversized router bit sets: Offering upwards of 80 pieces, oversized sets provide the basics and a whole lot more. Common additional bits in oversized sets include double Roman bits, classical bits, wave edge bits and more. Extra-large sets usually feature different sizes of common bits like ogee, round-over and chamfer bits as well.
Router Bit Shanks
The solid, cylindrical area of the router bit is called the shank. This is the part that goes into the router’s collet. You will find that there are two common sizes the ½ and ¼ inch shank. Most routers will have collets that are interchangeable so that either of the sizes will fit, but there are some that only use the ¼ inch shank.
They also usually have a longer cutting life and give you a smoother cut. Typically, router bits are found in either of these shank diameters unless they have very large or very small profiles.
Router Bit Cutting Edges
Typically, you will find that most of the router bits have cutting edges with either carbide tips or high-speed steel fused to the bit. Profile bits usually are equipped with carbide cutters that are more durable than steel and hold the edge 10 to 25 times longer, however, they tend to be more brittle. Make sure you store and handle carbide-tipped bits carefully to prevent the cutters from chipping.
Can I use router bits in my power drill or drill press?
Not in a power drill. A router bit is usually designed to cut sideways. Your drill isn’t intended to be moved that way. The chuck will not support the bit like a router does, making it all but impossible to be accurate. It’s also unlikely your drill produces sufficient speed for the bit to cut properly, thus leaving a very poor finish. Technically, a drill press can work (if it has a high enough speed range), but you would need to set up additional fences, and you’re probably taking the guard out of the equation, so it’s not something we would recommend. Use the right tool for the job, either a router for freehand work or a router table.
Can I sharpen the bits?
Yes, but it is way cheaper to get replacements. You can get it sharpened at a shop, but that’ll cost you more than the bit itself. Alternatively, you could learn to sharpen bits by yourself.
What kinds of wood are suitable for routing?
All routers mentioned here can work with softwood really well. Some are a bit fragile and can’t cut harder wood though. Exotic wood isn’t an issue either, as hardness is usually the only factor.