Top Ten Basic Router Bits Every Wood Worker Needs:

Wood Router BitsHow to Choose Router Bits:

You just purchased that new router and it’s the most versatile tool any wood worker can own, but without router bits, its nothing more than a powerful spinning motor.

The trouble is there are so many different router bits out there for a wood crafter to choose from when they start looking for new bits for their router. Not only are there the individual bits, but there are also several router bit sets on the market that range in size from a 5 piece starter set to as much as 64 pieces with cases. All these bits have been designed and perfected over the years to create very specific cutting styles.

There are bits for all types of detailing, rounding over corners, making grooves, dados and notches for joining to pieces of wood together. There are even router bits designed just for writing in wood and the list goes on and on. In fact there are over a hundred different shapes, sizes and styles of router bits available on the market for a wood worker to select from these days. Because of all these different bits this makes the wood router one of the most versatile tools in the work shop.

But with all these bits available, knowing which ones you need or should purchase can be really difficult, especially if you’re new to routing. The first thing you should know before purchasing router bits is that they come in many profiles. Profile is the term for the shape of the cutting edge on the bit.

The second things is what are the top ten basic router bits that every wood worker needs to purchase to get started on any project? I did some research and came up with this list of the top 10 common router bits that every beginning or advanced wood crafter should own.

1. Straight- Bits:Straight bits

If you could only have one bit that would make your router the most versatile tool in the shop, it would be the jack-of-all-trades straight bit. Just the name says it all. The straight bit is designed to cut square bottomed straight grooves in any type of wood and is a work shop staple. This type of bit comes in several different diameters and lengths, but the most valuable ones to start with are the ¼, ½ and ¾ inches in diameter with these three sizes you can tackle a wide range of projects. This bit can be used to cut rabbets, dadoes and grooves in plywood to make cabinet back and drawer bottoms for any piece of furniture. They can also hallow out an area to make a mortise or inlay. Be aware that this is a non-piloted bit which means that you want to use a guide to ensure straight, precise cuts.

Round Over Bits2. Round Over Bits:

The round over is part of the edge-forming bit family that helps with intricate design tasks. Round over bits are normally used to create a smooth, even curve to creates a round edge of a particular radius on a piece of wood, but they also have one sharp cutting edge at the bottom of the radius that creates a 90-degree cut at the top of the round over when the bit is fully extended. This bit is can be used for tabletops, book shelves and other places where you’d like to round off a sharp edge to give it a decorative style. These bits use the router to adjust the cutting depth. Round over bits come in a wide range of radius sizes, but the three most useful sized to own are the ¼, 3/8 and 1/2 inch.

3. 45-Degree Chamfer Bit:45 Degree Chamfer Bit

This router bit is used to cut a bevel at a particular angle called a Chamfer to create a decorate edge on any surface and is also part of the edge forming bit family. The Chamfer bit cuts a 45 degree edge shaping angle on to the side of a board or can also create a beveled edge on several pieces of board that can be glued together to form a V-shaped grooved corner. This is what makes this bit extremely versatile, since the size of the chamfer can be easily varied by adjusting the depth of the cut. These bits come in several sizes and few a few different angles.

Dovetail Bit4. Dovetail Bit:

This bit is most famous for its use in creating the tail slots for dovetail joints. But this bit has more uses then just dovetails slots; it can also be used to make tapered rabbets and dodoes cuts. The profile of a dovetail bit is a flat bottom with angled sides that are wider at the base. This allows you to make sliding dovetail joints for leg and table extensions, shelf runners, dividers and decorative glue joints for all types of fancy boxes, sliding drawers and other types of furniture to get that professional fit. These bit come in several different dimensions and diameters. The smaller diameters can also be used for stair tread stringer mortises or shelf supports. The larger diameter bits will produce some unique finger pulls for drawers in kitchen cabinets.




5. Rabbeting Bit:Rabbiting Bit

The rabbeting bit is designed to cut out square notches or a shoulder in the edge of a piece of wood, along with other materials to create a way to join two pieces of material together. These bits do this with a pilot bearing that spins at the tip and allow you to vary the cutting depth just by changing the bearings. These bits are perfect for joinery applications such as cutting a slot to glue in cabinet backs.


Cove Bits6. Cove Bit:

The cove bit like the round over bit is in the edge forming family. In fact it is does the opposite of what the round over bit does. This bit’s profile is designed to cut a concave, rounded edge and can be used to match the round over bit shape on a corresponding piece of stock to allow the pieces to fit together. The cove bit features an upward shear angle for more efficient, smoother cutting and often uses a bearing tip to ride along the edge of the wood. This bit is available in radius sizes from 1/16 to 1 inch to fit your application and creates an elegant edge for furniture pieces around the top or base, kitchen cabinet doors, drawer fronts, and molding trim.

7. Roman Ogee Bit:Roman Ogee Bit

This bit is also in the edge forming family and is one of the more popular edge-shaping bits. It is similar to the cove bit, but with a matching round over that has symmetry with a pleasing balance. The distinctive profile on this bit produces an S-curve the creates a classical decorative detail into table tops, vertical stiles and horizontal stair rails. The roman ogee bit is available in several radius and a ball bearing pilot attaches to the end of this bit to control the width of cut. The ¼ inch size will serve most wood crafter needs, but they do come in 5/32 and 3/8 inch radius too.


Flush Trim Bits8. Flush Trim Bit:

As this bit name suggests, these are used for trimming the edge of plastic laminate or wood veneer material flush with the edge of another. Flush trim bits are a piloted straight cutting bit that allows you to trim over hanging surfaces perfectly flush or make a series of identical parts, witch the knowledge that they will all fit together perfectly when you are done. There are several sizes on the market, but the best one seems to be a ½ inch diameter with a 1 inch long cutting flutes as this size can handle most of the work.

9. V-groove Bit:V-groove bit

The V- groove bit name fit it perfect as they are designed to make V shaped grooves in wood stock that is used for paneling, drawer and cabinet door faces. This bit is perfect for a wood crafter that wants to make signs, as the V-groove provides excellent shadow and definition for letters and text. The V-groove is also ideal for fluted columns, or adding a bead-board effect to panels. This one is a non-piloted bit that comes in a wide selection of diameters and angles, but the most useful size is a ½ inch diameter bit with a 90 degree cutting angle.

Slot Cutting Bit10. Slot Cutting Bit:

This specialty bit is ideal for cutting narrow slots or grooves for spline joints. This bit has two to three “wings”, that are equipped with a sharp tungsten-carbide tooth. The slot width is determined by the cutting teeth that range from 1/16 to ¼ inch thick. The depth is based off the distance from the ball-bearing pilot to the cutting teeth. Some slot cutting bits have interchangeable pilots in different diameters that allow you to change the cutting depth by just swapping out the ball bearings. The most useful slot cutting bits are ¼ wide and ½ inch deep.
This bit is used for floorboards, picture frames, glass retainers and panel doors on kitchen cabinets or furniture.




The third thing to consider is the size of the shanks/collet on your router. The two common sizes are ¼ and ½ inches. Many of the mid-size or larger wood routers can accommodate both shank sizes, but the smaller trim routers can only use the ¼ inch shanks. Whenever possible purchase the ½ inch shanks as they provide better stability and less vibration which produces a smoother cut. This keeps the router running smoother and gives the bits a longer life.

The last things to consider are the quality and price. High quality router bit cutting edges are made from high speed steel (HSS) or carbide tips fused to the bit. Carbide is harder than steel and hold an edge longer, but they are also brittle. This means that you must handle and store them carefully to avoid chipping or damaging the cutters. A wood worker should go for carbide bits over high-speed steel. These bits can be more expensive up front, but you’ll get a smoother cut from them and they will last longer, making them a better value in the long run.

Price can be an indicator of quality and the more specialty bits are going to have a higher price, then the basic router bits.

Now that you know the basics, there are a couple more questions you need to ask yourself:

Are you purchasing these bits for a specific project in mind?
Are you just starting out and want to assemble a starter kit. A great way to purchase router bits is in sets. Many of these set included a wide range of types and sizes for the money, along with a place to store them when not in use.
Are you going to use it every day or just occasionally?
Answering these three questions will help you select the right type of router bits for your projects or skill level.

Once your woodworking skills and confidence grow, you can always add more bits.

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