Router bits, a router is a versatile woodworking tool that allows workers to “rout out” or hollow out an area in a piece of wood. It is commonly used for cabinetry and for making cuts for ornamental molding. Much like a standard drill, routers have hundreds of bits that need to be purchased separately to allow it to serve their intended function. In order to use a router, you must also have right router bits.
The router consists of two main parts; a motor with a collet that is mounted on one end of the motor shaft and a base that holds the motor. Without the right bit, a router is useless. Whether you’re simply putting a hole in a piece of wood for a cabinet handle or creating a rounded edge to make a table, the right bit will allow you to accomplish your task.
All You Need to Know About Router Bits
Router bits are available in hundreds of varieties to provide decorative effects or join together pieces of wood. Of these varieties, they are classified into two main types based on the material they are made from high-speed steel (HSS) or carbide tipped. Carbide tips are generally considered superior to HSS, and they must be carefully handled and stored. If properly maintained, they stay sharp for longer and provide cleaner cuts than those of HSS bits.
Although carbide bits are three times the cost of high-speed steel, they are worth the investment because they will stay sharper and will last 10 times as long.
In addition to what they are made of, bits fall into the two main categories of edge bits and non-edge bits, and if they have anti-kickback functionality. Edge bits contain a wheel bearing to create a fence allowing for edge moldings while non-edge bits require the use of a fence to make cuts. Anti-kickback bits have an added safety feature that provides a barrier around the circumference of the bit to prevent the tool from catching the wood too deep and kicking back the material.
Bits also differ by their size and are measured by their shank diameter. Common sizes include 1/2 inch, 12mm, 10mm, 3/8 inch, 8mm and 1/4inch and 6mm shanks. Router bits are available in many profiles and are classified by the shape of their cutting edge.
What Router Bits to Buy:
A must-have for any amateur or an accomplished woodworker, these bits cut straight into the material to make a groove or to hollow out a piece of wood.
Guided by a spinning bearing at its tip, rabbeting bits are designed to cut a rabbet (shoulder) in the edge of a material and is often used to join pieces.
These bits are used to trim the edge of one material to make it flush with another material’s edge
These bits cut beveled edges for decorations or to join multi-sided materials
Edge-forming bits are most commonly employed to cut decorative edges
The dovetail bit is most commonly used creating the tail slots for dovetail joints. They are used to make leg and table extensions, shelf runners, dividers and provide decoration for a wide array of wooden furniture.
Rounding Over Bits
These edge-shaping bits are commonly used to round over the edges on shelves, tabletops, and chair arms. The bit contains a ball-bearing pilot to help control the width of the cut.
The opposite of a rounding-over bit, a cove bit cuts a concave radius out of the edge. It produces a simple, decorative edge that can enhance furniture, cabinets, and bookshelves.
Core Box Bits
These bits make round-bottomed grooves. It’s most commonly used to rout flutes, but it can also rout decorative grooves in door panels and for wood carving.
These bits cut ornamental V-shaped grooves on wooden surfaces such as cabinet doors, drawer faces, table legs, and paneling.
These bits are suited for cutting narrow slots or grooves and is commonly used for floorboards, picture frames, and panel doors.
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.
This category often includes large bits that perform specialized tasks
How Are They Used?
With hundreds of varieties of router bits, there are countless applications they can perform. Here are some of the common cuts that can be made utilizing a router tool and its correct bit:
The right router bit is employed to cut clean and smooth edges on wood used for carpentry and woodworking
A router can be used to create decorative molding for walls or elaborate patterns for wooden surfaces such as doors, windows, and chairs.
A dado is a slot or trench that allows shelves in a bookcase or cabinet to stay in place. A dado is made using a router with a straight bit.
Making a Rabbet
A rabbet is a recess or groove cut into wood edges often on a cabinet or bookcase. They can also be used for door and window jambs.
Routers can be employed to add designs to wood by cutting patterns, grooves, and designs across multiple pieces of wood.
Router Bit Quality
Although it may be difficult to identify a substandard router bit, they vary in quality just as they vary in shapes and functions. A quality router bit can be identified by its firmness and the quality of the carbide. High-quality bits contain carbide cutters that are sharpened to a fine edge and thick enough to be reground multiple times. High-quality bits will include design elements to minimize the risk of kickback, often by having more mass and being enlarged.
Poorly produced bits may slip, and bits should have a firm grip. A router bit should measure no less than .001 of its specified diameter. A deal that seems too good to be true can also indicate a poor quality router bit. Sharpening tools can also be purchased to help extend the life of router bits. Router bits should be purchased from a reputable retailer To help ensure quality.
Using a Router Safely
If used properly, a router is an easy and versatile portable electric tool. As with any electric tool, simple safety precautions must be followed to ensure the best results.
- Read the manual and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- When using a router, only use accessories that are designed for high-speed routers.
- When changing bits, always disconnect the plug form the electrical outlet.
- Secure the bit before starting work.
- Before turning on the power, secure the router motor to the base.
- Before starting the router, ensure the bit is not in contact with the work.
- Hold the router firmly when powering on the router.
- Make sure hands and loose clothing is kept away from revolving bits and cutters.
- Always operate the router in the proper direction.
- Do not overload the speed of the router.
- When a large amount of material is to be removed, do it by making several light cuts.
- Make sure the bit is sharp and don’t ever operate with a dull bit.
- Make sure at least ½” of the router bit shank is in the collets.
- Securely clamp and secure the work that will be routed.
- Always make sure all nuts and bearings are properly tightened.
- Wear proper protective clothing such as eye, hearing, and dust protecting devices. Wear clothing that is tight fitting that will not interfere with the router.
- Make sure children and observers are kept at a safe distance.
Where to Buy Router Bits
A router tool can cost between $$$ and single bits can vary cost from $$ or be purchased in sets in up to 64 pieces for a more economical option. However, if used enough, a router and its bits is a sound investment when compared to the cost associated with hiring a professional. It can also be a soothing hobby with enjoyable results. Happy routing!
Featured Image: CC0 Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons