A router is a powered cutting tool that uses different bits to cut various grooves, angles, and shapes into wood. These handy tools are excellent for woodworking projects, including cabinet making, cutting molding, and furniture design.
However, a router is useless without a great set of router bits. You want to be sure that you have a variety of options for all the applications you plan to tackle, with the best router bits being made out of durable types of material, like tungsten carbide.
The router bits below are some of the best in their respective categories and would be excellent additions to any tool box.
Routers use a large number of different bits that are each intended for a specific purpose. The most common types of router bits include straight, flush-trim, rabbeting, chamfer, edge-forming, molding, stile and rail, raised panel, and joinery bits. The best choice for you will depend on how you plan to use the router and the material you need to drill through.
The straight router bit is one of the most frequently used of all bits, and it’s available in a variety of diameters from 3/16-inch to 1 ½-inch. A straight bit is primarily used to make a groove or dado straight down into the material. It can also be used to hollow out an area of the material for a mortise or inlay.
Flush-trim router bits have a pilot bearing that guides the bit during cutting. The pilot bearing is the same size as the bit’s cutting radius so that flush-trim bits can be used to trim the edge of one material so that it is flush with that of another. Examples of this bit in use include trimming a veneered surface to sit flush with an underlying layer or to trim shelf edging.
Rabbeting router bits are used specifically to cut a rabbet (notch or shoulder) into the edge of a material. These bits use a pilot bearing to guide them along the material’s side so that the rabbets produced are accurately and equally cut. Most router bit sets will have a range of pilot bearings so that one rabbet bit can cut a variety of rabbet sizes.
Chamfer router bits make angled cuts across a corner to remove a 90-degree edge and create an attractive design or to remove a banged up edge and return the material to a straight edge cut. Chamfer router bits can also form a beveled edge for use in joinery.
Edge-forming router bits come in a variety of profiles, each designed to cut a decorative edge into a material. Popular edge forming bits include:
Molding router bits are a larger version of the edge-forming router bits. They are used to create architectural molding profiles and may incorporate multiple edge-forming profiles into a single bit. Due to their size, they are best used with a table router.
Stile and rail router bits are primarily used for frame and panel construction. The bits feature a decorative edge profile and a straight profile for cutting a slot in the stile (or vertical piece of the frame). They also make a corresponding cut at the end of the rail or horizontal piece of the frame so that the rail can slot into the stile. These bits are sold as a pair to complete both cuts or as a single bit that can be used for both cuts.
Raised panel bits are frequently used with stile and rail bits to create a profiled edge on a door panel. These bits come in either vertical-use or horizontal-use.
Joinery router bits are specialized to produce a precision joint that can easily attach two types of material, such as the joints in a drawer or coffee table. Specialized joinery bits include dovetail router bits, drawer lock router bits, finger joint bits, and lock miter bits.
Before investing in a new product, educate yourself on the essential features. The considerations below will help you decide what router bits are best for you.
The type of project that you’re working on is always going to indicate the kind of bit required. Whether you are building a door frame or giving a new profile to the edge of a wooden table, the bit that you need will either be a stile and rail router bit or an edge-forming router bit.
The type of material will also help determine the bit you need. You can easily tackle softwoods with a high-speed steel or carbide-tipped router bit, but some hardwoods and metals may require a solid carbide bit to provide a clean finish.
For beginners that are new to using a router, expect that you will break your first router bit relatively quickly. The proper pressure to apply will come with experience, but if this is the case, then the project may matter less than the price. Beginners should first try an inexpensive router bit until they become more proficient with the tool.
In general, almost all router bits feature either high-speed steel (HSS) or carbide.
The shank on a router bit is the cylindrical part of the bit that goes into the collet of the router. All router bits come with either a ¼-inch shank or a ½-inch shank, and most routers have interchangeable collets to accept both sizes, though some only accept ¼-inch shanks.
The sharpness of a router bit dictates the ability of the bit to cut through the material easily. A dull bit will reduce your router’s effectiveness, cause burns in the material, and leave you with a poor finish that you’ll need to smooth with sandpaper or a file. A sharp router bit cuts through quickly, operating at optimum efficiency, without leaving scorch marks behind.
All new router bits should be factory-sharpened, but this can be difficult to see when purchasing a new set. However, you can research router bits to find ones you can repeatedly sharpen to maintain a thin cutting edge. This will give you the ability to either sharpen yourself or take them to a professional so that your bits are always sharp and ready for your next project.
Before selecting any product, make sure you know what you are getting. The router bit set should identify the number of bits in the kit, the size of the bits, and the bit types included.
Knowing this information allows you to select a reasonably-priced set for the number of bits that come in the collection. You will also know whether a 24-piece set comes with 20 straight bits and four rabbeting bits, or if it includes a proper variety of router bits so that you can tackle your next project with confidence.
No matter what type of router bits you purchase, you want them to be high-quality products. These router bits are some of the best available, based on the above buying factors such as price, effectiveness, and reputation.
The Hiltex Tungsten Carbide Router Bit Set is excellent for various projects, including edging, trimming, veining, and grooving, making it perfect for door panels and picture frames. The ¼” shank bits are made from precisely machine-cut tungsten carbide that you can sharpen to maintain edges.
The 24-piece router bit set comes in a wooden case that labels and shows an image of each bit. Styles included without ball bearings are a mortising bit, combination bevel, dovetail, 90-degree “V” groove, round nose, panel pilot, and a straight bit. The styles with ball bearings include trimming, flush-trim, radius round over bit, cove, 45-degree chamfer, Roman Ogee, slot cutter, and rebating.
This router bit set includes 35 different pieces that allows both beginners and experienced DIYers to benefit from the wide variety of router bits. The ½-inch shank bits are tungsten carbide tipped to hold their edge longer and can be sharpened multiple times so that you don’t need to replace them anytime soon.
The aluminum carrying case has a labeled place for each router bit, including ⅛-inch and ¼-inch core box bit, ½-inch 90-degree “V” groove, ¼-inch round nose, ½-inch mortising, ½-inch, and ¼-inch dovetail, ⅛-inch, ¼-inch, ½-inch, and ¾-inch straight bit, and many others to round out this high-value variety pack.
This affordable router bit set comes packed in a wooden case with helpful index cards for easy bit identification and organization. The ¼-inch shank bits are ideal for new users while the machine-sharpened tungsten carbide-tipped edges will help keep the bits sharper longer. When they dull, take them to a professional sharpener or sharpen them yourself to return the edge to its former cutting ability.
The LU&MN Carbide Tipped Router Bits Set is great for edging, grooving, and trimming, and it comes with 15 different pieces. These include ½-inch, ¼-inch, ⅝-inch, and ⅛-inch straight bits, ⅛-inch and ¼-inch cover box bits, a ½-inch, 90-degree “V” groove bit, a ½-inch mortising bit, a ⅜-inch corner round bit, a ½-inch dovetail bit, a 1 ¼-inch, 45-degree chamfer bit, a ¼-inch panel pilot, a ¼-inch cove bit, a ½-inch flush-trim bit, and a 5/32-inch Roman ogee bit, for a wide variety of applications.
This small router bit set includes only seven bits, but the quality of the bits and the material they are made of make the premium price for this modest set well worth the money. The set contains a ¼-inch and ½-inch straight bits, a ⅜-inch radius round over, a ⅜-inch x ½-inch rabbet, a ⅜-inch radius cove, a 45-degree chamfer, and a ½-inch flush-trim bit in a durable plastic case.
Each of the seven ½-inch shank bits is made completely from carbide, so the edge’s sharpness and hardness of the cut is not based solely on the hardened tip. Instead, the entire bit can be relied on to cut smoothly and cleanly for a long time.
This router bit set is intended for beginners, using more affordable types of material and the most common ¼-inch shank sizes to ensure that just about anyone could pick up a router for the first time and be able to rely on this set. The versatile router bits are great for grooving or trimming, and the high-speed steel keeps them free of impact damage if they are dropped or knocked around in your tool box.
The 24-piece set comes in a labeled wooden box and contains the most common machine-sharpened bits for a variety of beginner projects.
The premium-grade micro-grain tungsten carbide bits will keep the cutting edge sharp throughout a long work week. They can be sharpened repeatedly to prevent material burns and rough finishes. The ½-inch shanks keep the bits from jumping around during use, allowing you to get a professional finish every time, and then you can pack them neatly into the labeled, wooden storage case.
The Yonico Router Bit Set comes with 70 bits, including eight straight bits, four flush-trim bits, a panel pilot bit, five dovetail bits, three round-nose bits, three mortising bits, six round over bits, six cove bits, four chamfer bits, three rabbeting bits, and more that can be viewed in detail here.
If you still aren’t entirely confident about which kind of router bits you need, take a look at these popular questions and their answers below.
To use a router bit, you need to properly attach it to a router and work on the material and project that the bit is intended for to ensure the best results. Using a router requires precision and patience to adequately align the router and slowly feed it through the material, allowing the rotating router bit to operate at its optimal power.
Forcing the router through the material may get the cut done faster, but you risk snapping the router bit off due to excessive force, and you are likely to char the material and give it an uneven edge that will need to be sanded or smoothed. Instead, use shallow, slow passes to get the best cut, working your way deeper into the material with each pass.
Router bits can quickly become coated in resin when working with woods, like pine, that is naturally very resinous. You are also likely to get tar, dust, and other miscellaneous debris baked-on to the bits, interfering with the router’s operation and the finish on the wood.
Regular cleaning of the bits takes care of this issue. Begin by picking up a router bit and resin cleaner online or from your local hardware store. The solution should be properly prepared according to the manufacturer’s recommendations and then sprayed or brushed liberally all over the cutting edges of the router bits. Let the bit stand for 10 to 15 minutes with this coating, then proceed to scrub the bit clean with a toothbrush or brass wire brush under a stream of warm water. After washing, dry the bits properly and consider using oil to coat the bits and protect against corrosion.
To give your router bits the best edge to get the job done, you should take them to a professional sharpener. They will be able to maintain the proper cut and shape of the bit while returning it to like-new sharpness.
However, if you cannot take the bit to a sharpener, you can use diamond hones to remove a thin layer from the cutting blade’s two edges. Lubricate the diamond hone with water and lay the flat side of the bit against it. Stroke the bit back and forth across the hone, removing thin layers of the bit with each pass until the cutting edge is returned. To keep the bit balanced, be sure to stroke both sides of the bit an equal number of times.