• Joseph

Top 10 DIY Router Bits

The router is arguably the most versatile portable power woodworking tool you can own. With this single tool you can shape decorative edges, trim laminates and veneers, rout hinge mortises, and cut a wide variety of woodworking joints, including dado, dovetail, rabbet, mortise-and-tenon, and tongue-and-groove, to name a few.

However, a router without a router bit is a bit like a Ferrari without an engine: nice to have, but not much use. Fortunately there are literally hundreds of different sizes and styles of router bits available. But all those choices can make it difficult to know which router bits to buy, especially if you’re new to routing. Below is a list of 10 carbide-tipped router bits that every do-it-yourselfer should own. And once your woodworking skills and confidence grow, you can add more bits to your collection. Happy routing!

1 Straight-Cutting Bit—As its name-implies, this bit cuts straight, square-bottomed grooves. It’s available in various diameters, but the three most valuable sizes include: ¼-, ½-, and ¾-inch diameter. Use this bit to cut rabbets, dadoes, and grooves for accepting plywood cabinet backs and drawer bottoms. And since this is a non-piloted bit, be sure to guide the router along a straightedge to ensure straight, accurate cuts.

It's worth noting that there are also specially designed straight bits called, plywood bits, which are used to cut grooves and dadoes for parts cut from hardwood-veneer plywood. These bits exist because ¾-in.-thick plywood is slightly less than ¾-in.; the same goes for ¼- and ½-in. plywood. Therefore, if you rout a groove or dado with a standard straight-cutting bit, the joint will be a little too wide and parts won’t fit tightly together.

2 Rounding-Over Bit—This edge-shaping bit is used to radius or, “round over,” the edge of a board. The bit is fitted with a ball-bearing pilot that controls the width of the cut. The cutting depth is set by adjusting the router base. Rounding-over bits come in a wide range of sizes, designated by the radius of the cut. The two most useful bit sizes are ¼- and 3/8-inch radius. Use this bit to shape the edges of shelves, tabletops, chair arms, and other places where you’d like to round over a sharp edge.

3 Roman Ogee Bit—Perhaps the most popular of all edge-shaping bits, Roman ogee router bits have a distinctive profile for cutting classical decorative detailing into the edges of tabletops, picture frames, vertical stiles, and horizontal rails. A ball-bearing pilot attached to the end of the bit controls the width of the cut. Roman ogee bits are commonly available in three sizes: 5/32-, ¼- and 3/8-inch radius. The ¼-inch size will serve most needs.

4 Cove Bit—A cove bit is essentially the opposite of a rounding-over bit. Instead of rounding the edge, a cove bit cuts a concave radius out of the edge. The result is a simple, decorative edge that adds visual interest to furniture legs, cabinet doors, and bookshelves. Designated by the size of the radius they cut, cove bits range in size from 1/16 to 1 inch radius. However, most DIYers could get by nicely with a ¼- or 3/8-inch-radius cove bit.

5 Rabbeting Bit—A rabbet is simply an L-shaped notch cut along the edge of a board or panel. A rabbet is cut to accept another board or panel at a right angle, forming a rabbet joint. One of the easiest ways to cut rabbets is with a rabbeting router bit equipped with a ball-bearing pilot. Rabbeting bits are identified by the width and depth of cut they produce. The most valuable bit is one that cuts 3/8 inch wide and ½ inch deep. Rabbet joints are most often used in cabinetmaking to build drawers and to join cabinet sides to cabinet tops, and to install cabinet backs.

6 Flush-Trim Bit—If you work with plastic laminate or wood veneer, then definitely get a flush-trim router bit. This straight-cutting bit has a ball-bearing pilot that permits you to trim overhanging surfaces perfectly flush with the substrate. Use this bit when building plastic-laminate counters, tabletops, cabinets, and cabinet doors and drawer faces. It’s also useful for flush-trimming wood veneer. There are many sizes of flush-trim bits available, but one that’s ½ inch in diameter with 1-inch-long cutting flutes will suffice for most work.

7 45° Chamfer Bit—This edge-shaping router bit cuts a 45° angle, called a chamfer, into the edge of a board or panel. It’s commonly used to remove square, sharp corners from shelves, picture frames, countertops, and vertical posts. A chamfer bit is also used to create V-shaped grooves between boards; when two chamfers meet edge to edge they form a V-groove. Chamfer bits come various sizes and a few different angles, but a 45° bit with a 1¼ inch overall diameter will serve most woodworkers well.

8 Core Box Bit—A core box bit is a non-piloted router bit that cuts round-bottomed grooves. It’s most often used to rout flutes in columns and vertical stiles, but is also useful for routing decorative grooves in door panels and for carving wooden plates and platters. The bit is available in a wide range of cutting diameters, ranging from 1/8 to 1½ inches, but most DIYers could get by with a ¼- or 3/8-inch-diameter core box bit.

9 V-Groove Bit—The aptly named V-groove bit does just that, it cuts decorative V-shaped grooves in cabinet doors, drawer faces, table legs and wall paneling. This non-piloted bit comes in a wide variety of diameters and V-groove angles, but the most useful size would be a ½-inch-diameter bit with a 90° cutting angle.

10 Slot-Cutting Bit—This specialty bit provides a quick, accurate way to cut narrow slots or grooves into the edges of cabinet-door frames, floorboards, picture frames and drawer parts. It’s also ideal for cutting spline grooves for spline joints. The bit has two

cutting “wings” that are each equipped with a super-sharp tungsten-carbide tooth. The width of the slot is determined by the thickness of the cutting teeth, which range from 1/16 inch thick to ¼ inch thick. The slot depth depends on the distance from the ball-bearing pilot to the cutting teeth. The most popular slot-cutting bit mills slots that are ¼ inch wide and ½ inch deep. Note that some slot-cutting bits have interchangeable pilots of different diameters, allowing you to alter the cutting depth by simply changing out the ball-bearing pilot.

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