Router Bit Basics

Types of Router Bits and What to Look For When Buying Router Bits

By Mark J. Donovan

For some of you high tech folks out there, before there was the IP Switching Router, there was the woodworking router. A woodworking router, and it’s ever so important router bit, are used for a variety of woodworking purposes, however in general they are used for rounding edges on wood surfaces. For example, the rounded or smoothed edges on your table or desk were most likely done using a router.

Depending upon the type of router bit, a router can also be used to carve intricate patterns in wood and to make custom trim moulding.

There are at least a few dozen standard types of router bits to choose from, and as a result, it can get complicated to determine which router bit is appropriate for your particular woodworking project.

In addition, custom router bits can also be fabricated out of steel if you can’t find what you’re looking for at the hardware store or home improvement center.

There are four common router bit styles to choose from. They include Edge bits, Grooving bits, Joinery bits, and Specialized bits.

Edge router bits are used for creating different edge styles on wood surfaces, such as round-over, beading, and flush edges.

Grooving router bits are used for carving or writing into wood surfaces. Grooving bits are often used to write names, addresses, or cute sayings into pieces of wood. Within the Grooving bit family there are round-nose bits, straight bits, and V-groove bits.

Joinery router bits are used to help fashion joint for furniture, such as desks, cabinets, and dressers.

Wood Router

Within the joinery router bit family there are finger joint bits, dovetail bits, drawer lock bits, and Rile and Stile router bits.

Lastly there are Specialized router bits that create, for example, raised panels on cabinet doors. In addition, there are other specialized router bits that are used for creating key holes and T-slot bits.

One of the key attributes to look for when buying router bits is their hardness strength. Most router bits purchased at home improvement box stores have tungsten carbide tips. Tungsten carbide, a.k.a. carbide, router bits are extremely hard and are resistant to heat. Thus carbide router bits will stay sharper and last longer than non carbide tipped router bits. The only negative with carbide bits is that they can occasionally chip and when doing so they can damage the wood they are cutting.

They are also more expensive than the alternative router bit made from High Speed Steel (HSS). This said, carbide tipped router bits are preferred by most woodworking carpenters due to their long lifespan and fine cutting edge, compared to an HSS router bit.

When cutting wood with a router always make sure that the router bit is clean and free from pitch. A dirty or pitch coated router bit will cause the router bit to wobble as it cuts, resulting in less than a perfect cut. Also, in order to prevent your router and router bit from overheating always use the widest and shortest bit possible. Using a wider and shorter router bit will ensure cleaner and straighter cuts, as well as prevent the risk of burning the wood as it is cut.

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