A serious woodworker can always find some way to accomplish a task, even without the right tool for the job. But for many tasks, the right router bit can be essential to doing it right. Even if you already own all the basic router bits available, you’ll eventually come across a situation where you need one you don’t have in your collection.
That’s when most of us will break out the catalogs, looking for that specialty bit we need for our project. There are hundreds of specialty bits available, not only individual bits, but also many bit sets. Some of those sets contain more than 50 different bits, each crafted to create a very specialized cut.
There are bits for all types of fine, intricate detailing and creative moldings, specialized edgework and even notchwork. Actually, there are more than one hundred different styles, sizes and shapes of router bits on the market. With such a broad selection to choose from, you’re certainly not going to have them all on hand – so you’ll accumulate them one or two at a time. Remember, regardless of the type of router you use, it’s the quality of the pilot bearings and carbide used to make the bit that makes a very real difference in the quality of the cut.
You know what sort of projects you like to work on, so if you’re interested in growing your collection with some advanced bits, here are a few suggestions on the bits that every intermediate crafter should have in his or her workshop.
Edge Forming Router Bits
These bits are useful in cutting decorative edges, just like the name says. Cove, Ogee, edge-beading and round-over bits fall into this class. It’s common for most types of edge-forming bits to include a pilot bearing because they’re the bits used to complete the final decorative work on already established edges.
Core Box Router Bits
These bits are used to cut decorative, half-round or half-moon grooves in Roman columns, fluted moldings, and wooden signs. This is the bit usually used to finish wooden platters, trenchers or for cutting decorative patterns on wooden signs or door panels. This bit can also cut coves if used with an edge guide.
Stile and Rail Router Bits
This bit really does double duty – it’s like having two bits working at the same time. They’re commonly used for constructing frames and kitchen cabinet panels. They instantaneously produce an ornamental edge while cutting a panel slot for frame assembly. The stile and rail bit is also often used for producing passage doors, carving panel slots and decorative profiles into door frames. While this bit is considered specialized, it’s a handy one to have in your collection, especially if you plan to work on furniture or decorative cabinetry.
Tongue and Groove Router Bit Set
This set contains two specialized bits, often used to create flooring inlays and custom tongue and groove flooring. The joint is very useful when you want to fit two or more comparable wooden objects together, stacked evenly along the edges. The router cuts a slot or groove along a single edge and a deep, thin, tongue-shaped ridge on the opposite edge. These bits also produce clean-edged cut outs when working on floorboards that need nail slots. The curved profile on the groove bit works well cutting a joint to stop debris, dust or dirt on the floor from interfering with a secure fit.
Beading Molding Bit
Much like the round over bit, the beading bit creates a smooth, curved profile on the edge of the wood. The most notable variance between the bits is that the beading molding bit also has the capability to cut a square shoulder on both horizontal edges of a round-over profile. This bit cuts rounded shapes bounded by fillets, creating a bead-like curve or silhouette in the wood. Beading molding bits often have a rubber or plastic bearing tip specifically designed to ride the edge of the wood as it cuts the design.
Spiral Mortising Router Bits
Both types of spiral mortising router bits are designed to make dado cuts in wood. The up-cut bit provides faster cutting while pulling wood chips up and out of the work, which is useful when cutting tenon or mortise joints. The down-cut spiral cuts slower and also pushes wood chips away from the router, which eliminates splintering at the top surface. These bits, which work well on both hard and soft woods, plane edges, make plunge cuts and are ideal for tenons and mortising.
Great router bit collections don’t come into being all at once – it’s a process, much like learning the craft of woodworking itself. You pick up the one or two bits you need to complete a particular project, then repeat the process time after time, until one day, you realize you own a truly impressive array of router bits.
Whether you prefer a hand router or a fixed model, each new bit, each addition you make to your bit set, is another step toward becoming a master craftsman. The versatility of a router is only made possible because of its bits – as you add to your collection with new profiles, you also add to your capabilities.