Choosing the Best Router Bit for Every Woodworking Application

Written by
Chuck Hancock
Published on
September 18, 2023

Precision and efficiency are essential traits in woodworking. Woodworkers, both professional and hobbyists, tend to be perfectionists, requiring nothing less than the best as they fashion raw material into an object of beauty. But to do this, they need the right tools.

The router is the woodworker's best friend, and every router requires the right bit.

The amount of bits out there seem countless, and choosing the right one is tricky but vital to success. Below, we'll cover the most common router bits, explaining how each is used for a specific purpose in workshop settings to help produce a flawless design.

Understanding Router Bit Anatomy

A router is a tool for shaping, trimming, and edging wood or other materials. These materials are shaped and cut via a series of bits. Bits have different profiles to perform different cuts, edges, and grooves. But before getting into these functions, it's important to understand the fundamental anatomy of every router bit.

There are three key parts to every router bit:

  1. Shank: A cylinder-like piece that fits into the router's collect, where it's gripped and held into place
  2. Body (or flute): The piece of steel to which the shank and blade are welded for support
  3. Edge (or blade): The part that cuts, shapes, and fashions the material

These basic components comprise every bit you'll find for sale.

Common Router Bit Types

There are hundreds of router bit profiles, and this glut of options poses issues for those unaware of the different styles. Thankfully, these options can be categorized, meaning you can quickly determine what type of bit you need to complete your project in the most efficient and detailed way possible.

Straight Router Bits

The straight cut router bit is a staple of any workshop and the most commonly used, meaning they come in the widest range of sizes and diameters. These bits have flat cutting edges running straight across the bottom. As in the name, they're for straight cuts but are excellent for creating dadoes, plunge cuts, grooves, mortise hollows, and rabbets. A straight router bit also makes channels where you can place decorative inlays.

When choosing a straight router bit, always know the diameter and length your project calls for, as these metrics dictate the depth and width of the cut.

Spiral Router Bits

A helical cutting edge is the defining trait of a spiral router bit. This edge provides a shear-cutting action for more efficient cutting, especially with plunge cuts and mortises. Spiral router bits are often paired with CNC routers.

There are different styles of CNC spiral router bits. Up-cut CNC router bits have an up-shear, which pulls the chips upward and leaves a clean bottom edge. Down-cut bits have a down shear. These bits are commonly used for dadoes, leaving smooth edges on the top of the material but rough bottom edges. A compression router bit combines an up-and-down shear to avoid chipping on the top and bottom of the material when cutting along an edge.

Flush Trim Router Bits

A spiral flush trim router bit is ideal for trimming the edges of material flush with another at 360 degrees. A router flush bit features a bearing at the tip that rides along the template or previously cut material. This bit ensures the bearing is high quality, runs smoothly, and eliminates vertical ridges.

Chamfer Router Bits

A chamfer router bit is angled to create beveled edges on the wood, which are excellent for adding delicate, decorative touches and easing exposed edges. The bits come in many angles, but 45 degrees is the most common profile. Always double-check measurements before cutting to ensure you use the appropriate angle according to your design. Also, always test for proper speed when operating a chamfer bit router, as going too fast can burn the stock material.

Round Over Bit for Router

Round-over bits soften sharp edges, providing a smoother, safer finish and rounded edges on a piece of stock. These bits adjust material according to various radii, allowing you to choose the level of roundness. The most common round over bits for router sizes are 1/4- and 1/2-inch bits.

Cove Router Bits

A cove router bit produces concave quarter-circle profiles on the wood's edge, which is great for creating decorative moldings and edging. Typically, these shapes are applied to match a corresponding bead profile, such as with a drop leaf table, so they're also called cove and bead router bits.

Rabbeting Router Bits

A rabbeting router bit cuts steps along the material's edge, known as a rabbet joint. Ultimately, it's similar to a dado, but this cuts the stock's edge rather than the center. Rabbeting bits come with different pilot bearing sizes depending on the cut's depth.

Raised Panel Router Bits

The raised panel router bit is shaped to craft raised panels for cabinets or other large panels. These bits are much larger than the others, often over 3 inches in diameter. Because of this, they require a powerful router and multiple passes for best results. Their size also poses additional safety hazards, meaning they can't be used with hand-held routers and must always be used on a router table with variable speed.

There are horizontal and vertical raised panel bits, with the horizontal bit being larger and more commonly used. Vertical bits, on the other hand, are smaller but work on smaller worktables and help form more decorative and intricate edges.

Get the Best Routing Bits for Your Workshop

Choosing the right router bit is essential for achieving precise, clean, and efficient cuts in your woodworking projects. It's only possible to use your router properly once you've secured the right bits.

Hancock Tool offers a wide range of services and has remained a trusted institution since 1985 for selling the best saw blades for wood, band saw blade repair, saw blade sharpening, and workshop consulting. We also create custom-made router bits and are always ready to help clients obtain the tools necessary to carry out their designs. Contact us today, and let's talk about how a custom router bit could benefit your future woodworking projects.

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