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What Determines Quality Router Bits and What Are The Basic Types I Should Have?

Courtesy Holbren Inc. at RouterBits.com

So you think you are ready to start your next big project? You have your idea mapped out in your head, the materials are all laid out on the workbench and you've finally set aside time to see it all come to fruition. It is time to get to work, right? Well, not so fast. Before you start any project, it is important to make sure you have the proper tools to complete the job. And the key to any successful project is confirming you are working with quality router bits.

Router bits give shape to your project, so if they are off, so is your project. While there are many features you can look at to determine if you are working with dependable router bits, we narrow it down to three: material, shank diameter and manufacturer.

sample router bits

Router Bit Materials

What are the materials used to make your router bits? Most router bits are made from either high-speed steel (HSS) or carbide. Made from carbon steel, HSS bits have a high heat resistance, which allows the bits to maintain their strength longer. The alternative is carbide tip bit. Carbide tip bits are harder and can hold an edge longer than HSS bits. And when it comes to the lifespan of the bit, HSS bits simply can't compete. According to Router Techniques: A Comprehensive Guide to Using Routers, carbide tips can last 80-90 percent longer than HSS bits.

While the carbide bit trumps HSS in most categories, it should be noted that you must handle and store carbide bits with care. Carbide tips are brittle, so it is important you take care of them accordingly. Handled correctly, you will find they stay sharp for a longer time while also providing a cleaner cut than HSS bits. All of which makes carbide bits the higher quality material and well worth the investment.

Router Bit Shank Diameter

There are two different diameters when it comes to shank size, ¼" and ½". In most cases it is best to use a ½" diameter, because it is stiffer and stronger, which gives you less vibration and a smoother cut. There are some routers that only use ¼", so check your router before getting started. But in most circumstances, you are going to rely on the stability and longevity of the ½".

Router Bit Manufacturer

Where your router bit comes from is of great importance. Whether you are spending $3.00 or $3,000 on your bit, you want to make sure you are getting your money's worth for your purchase. While there are several companies that produce good router bits, go with a name you can trust. Whiteside Router Bits comes up time-and-again. In a test conducted by Fine Woodworking magazine,18 different router bits were compared in an attempt to find the smoothest cutter. In the end, the Whiteside router bit was given an Excellent rating as well as being marked both Best Value and Best Overall. Made in the USA, Whiteside's high quality micro-grain carbide bits have been a staple in the woodworking community for over 40 years, for experts and DIY hobbyists alike.

Router bit set

Quality Router Bits

The expectations for quality router bits have been set. Take a look at the bits you are working with before you start your next project and see if they meet our minimum standards. Are you working with a carbide tip? Is the shank size ½"? And are you working with a reliable manufacturer, such as Whiteside. If you answered "No" to any of these questions, it might be time you visit RouterBits.com and order a new set today.

Beginner Bit Tip Tips - Choosing the Right Bit Style!!

Aspiring woodworkers beginning to learn the science and craft of routing need to get experience and be certain they plan to seriously pursue expertise before they invest money to purchase this tool and the wide range of bits available for use. A person aiming at a career as a racecar driver will most likely begin by racing on small dirt tracks before going onto the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit. However, even at a beginning level, the quality of the tool, be it race car or router, must be top-notch.

The Primary Five Bits You MUST Have In Your Toolbox

The first step for the rookie router is to begin collecting a set of bits, whether steel or carbide. With such a large amount of router bits available with many cutting edge profiles, it can seem somewhat confusing as to which ones you should buy. Here are the five primary bit types preferred by many woodworkers:

Straight Bits:

As the name implies, these bits cut straight into the wood to form a groove or hollow out an inlay area.

straight router bits

Flush & Trim Bits:

For projects that need to trim the edge of one piece of wood to be flush with the edge of another, flush & trim bits are used. A pilot bearing of the same diameter as the cutter guides these bits during routing.

flush router trim bit           trim router bit

Chamfer Bits:

Woodworkers use chamfer bits to form beveled edges that are needed to bring together multi-sided projects. These bits can also cut a bevel at a desired angle to decorate the edges of the wood.

chamfer router bit

 

Rabbeting Bits:

These bits allow the woodworker to cut a shoulder (called a rabbet) on the edge of the wood. A spinning pilot bearing at the tip guides the bit that is often used to join pieces. Typically they are purchased in a set featuring bearings of different diameters.

rabbeting bit    rabbeting bit

Edge Form Bits:

There are several types of these bits that are typically used to cut decorative edges. They include ogee bits used to cut variants of S-shaped profiles to form a rounded edge of a desired radius; edge-beading bits cut a quarter- or half-circle bead in the wood; and cove bits cut a concave quarter-circle. These bits form the final embellishment of a piece after edges have been formed.

edge form bit

 

Once a beginning woodworker has become skilled in the use of the five primary router bits he can then begin to experiment with ones used for more detailed routing. This includes dovetail bits, drawer-lock bits, finger-joint bits and lock-miter bits and molding bits.

Good, Better Or Best? Cost vs. Durability and Long Life

As you learned in the beginning of this article, quality router bits have cutting edges made from high-speed steel or carbide tips fused to the bit. Carbide bits are harder than steel and will hold an edge much longer. However, the higher cost of solid carbide spiral bits may be prohibitive for the beginner. Yes, there are added benefits to using carbide tips, but high-speed steel will suffice when finances dictate the lower cost item.

One possible option would be to buy a starter bit set that would include at least one from each of the Primary Five types. Holbren, Inc. offers several router bit sets designed to give the beginner and the skilled craftsman the quality tools they can use to create impressive pieces of woodwork.