there’s so many questions about which beginner router bit set should you buy. What kinds of bits are needed? What shank size to get or does it really matter. Are cheap bits any good if not then why?
Beginner Router Bit Set
What types of router bits does a beginner woodworker really need? That’s a question that a lot of people ask. Like any tool these can get pretty expensive and there’s no point in buying ones that you may not ever use.
The way that I would approach this question is to ask yourself what kind of projects you’re doing and only buy the ones that you know you will get a lot of use out of. I discussed this when buying wood chisels and the same concept applies here.
Roundover bits: This router bit is a common tool that most if not all woodworkers have in the shop. Basically what it does is removes the sharp factory edge and leaves behind a round or radius edge. Decorative picture frames, tables and mouldings are just a few examples that you can use a roundover bit on.
These bits come in a range of sizes but the basic ones to get started are 1/4”, 5/16”, ⅜” and ½”. You can buy larger ones but i wouldn’t unless you think you’ll get use out of them.
Dovetail bits: If you’re into making boxes or drawers the dovetail bit is one that will get a lot of use. With these, you can create half blinds, sliding and through dovetails.
Choosing a dovetail router bit
depends mostly on what you want to achieve when putting two pieces together. Like most router bits, these also come in a set. A common set of dovetails have ¼”, ⅜”, ½”, ⅝”, and ¾”.
Keep in mind that these are all the same degree but just different sizes and depths that they’ll cut. A set like this should be enough for simple wood boxes and just enough to get your feet wet if you’re new to using a router.
Flush Trim Bits: this type of router bit is another basic bit you’ll want to add to your collection.You can do so many neat things with them because there’s so many types and styles to choose from. You can use it to follow a pattern or design on a project.
With the help of a forstner bit and the right flush trim bit it can be used to create a round cavity in a keepsake box. They’re also very useful in cutting out holes in countertops for sinks.
Straight Router Bits: Are also a nice bit to have on hand. These are made to rout from the edge of a piece of wood inward to create a groove. With these you can cut rabbets and grooves. They also work very well for cutting mortises and dados. When used to cut grooves, they leave behind a flat smooth surface.
Another type of straight router bit is the plunge router bit. What makes this type of bit is you don’t have to start at the edge of the wood. Instead with the use of a plunge router, you’ll be able to start in the middle of a work piece and cut things like grooves and mortises.
Like all router bits, these come in a variety of sizes and lengths.
Rabbet Bits: Are another good choice for a beginner. Basically what this one does is it cuts a right angle groove along the edge of a board. If you’re building a case for a mirror and you want the glass to be recessed or flush with the case, the rabbeting bit makes easy work. You just choose the correct size bit that’s the same thickness of the mirror you want to mount inside of the mirror frame.
These also come in different depths. What controls the depth of the cut is a guide bearing which is located at the end of the bit. What this does is serves as a guide so that the grove stays exactly the same depth all the way down the edge of the board.
What’s interesting about these types of bits is you don’t have to buy a set of them. You could if you wanted to, but why not just buy one bit with six different size diameters of bearings that you can just change out? The common bearing diameters are 1/8″, 1/4″, 5/16″, 3/8″, 7/16″ and 1/2″.
Chamfer Bit: Chamfer router bits are similar to round over bits. They do differ in a few ways. One thing that they do differently is it leaves more of a decorative beveled look to your project.
You can use chamfer bits to also create some really unique shapes. Such as an eight sided lid for the box. You can also use it to make miter cuts like a miter saw does.
The chamfer bits come in a bunch of different degrees. So when it comes to purchasing I would just purchase the ones on a per project basis.
Are Cheap Router Bits Any Good?
As a general rule for myself, I try not to buy the cheapest of anything. You know the old saying “you get what you pay for”. However if you’re only working on small projects that are made from softwood then I would say it’s alright to buy cheaper router bits.
If your projects are going to be made from hardwood I would seriously think about buying bits that are better quality. Sometimes router bits have a tendency to shatter which can really be harmful to you and the project.
Good Affordable Router Bits
When it comes to figuring out what brand of bits you should buy could become a challenge. I would suggest buying a cheap set which is something I would normally not recommend.
But if you go in this direction it could save you a ton of money up front since router bits are not cheap. This way when you wear one out or dulls you can replace the ones you use the most with something of better quality that’ll stay sharper longer.
But the way to save even more is to learn how to sharpen your dull router bits. Even if you do replace your cheaper bits with ones of better quality even those will get dull.
Does Router Bit Shank Size Matter?
Most wood routers on the market these days have the capability of using either a ¼” or ½” router bit shank. The size of the bit shank does matter in a few ways.
The half inch size is more durable which means that it’s less likely to break while routing.
Because of its durability it cuts down on the vibration when it cuts through the wood which in turn gives a much cleaner cut. Another added benefit is that the half inch may only cost a few pennies more than the quarter inch shank. In a lot of cases the price is exactly the same.
The collet on the router has better bite on a half inch router bit than the quarter inch bit. This keeps the router bit tight in the collet and won’t come loose when in use.
Are 1/4″ Router Bits OK?
¼” router bits are ok for the every now and then woodworker. The wood router itself is a little cheaper which is good if you only plan on using it here and there. As far as that bits go they still work fine for small jobs. Plus sometimes the size of the bit can only be found with a quarter inch shank.
What are Router Bits Made of?
Router bits are mainly from two different types of steel. HSS or high speed steel and carbide.
The high speed steel router bits are good at resisting heat. Which helps give them a decent life span.
The router bits made out of carbide will stay sharper longer and last longer than the high speed steel. Carbide bits also provide a cleaner cut than the ones made from high speed steel.
However because of the brittleness you have to take a little extra care on how you use them and how they’re stored. As long as you use them the way they were intended, I think you’ll find that they last much longer than the HSS bits.
How Long Does A Router Bit Last?
How long a router bit will last depends on a couple of factors. The first being quality. If the bits you buy are pretty cheap I wouldn’t count on them to last very long.
The material that they’re made from also comes into play for the lifespan of a bit. With high speed steel the bit will last a decent amount of time. You just have to keep them sharp.
Carbide router bits are the way to go if your budget allows. The lifespan of a carbide bit bar far outlasts the ones that are made from high speed steel.