The many bits available make the router one of the most useful portable power tools for woodworkers. If you're just starting out with your first router, the array of bits that is available can be bewildering, so check out this list of the most often-used bits in my collection as a starting point.
Good bits are expensive, but last for a long time and stay sharp. Be wary of inexpensive bits without carbide cutting surfaces, for unless this is a one-time use, such bits are often a false economy. Although a set of quality bits may seem like a bargain, you may find that you end up paying for unusual bits that never get used.
Straight Bits for Grooves and Dadoes
Spiral bits are more expensive than fluted straight bits, but deliver a cleaner cut. Spirals are available in up-cut and down-cut designs; down-cut bits deliver a very clean edge but cut slowly and cannot make deep cuts in a single pass.
Rabbets aren't Furry Little Animals
Rabbet bits mount on an arbor - a spindle that fits into the router's chuck or collet, and has a nut and washer to hold the bit in place. The other part of the setup is a bearing that also mounts on the arbor: the bearing rolls along the edge of the board and keeps the depth of the cut constant. The width of the cut is controlled by a combination of the length of the "wings" on the bit and the diameter of the bearing.
A starter kit should have an arbor and two or more bearings of different sizes, plus a straight-sided rabbeting bit.
Shaping the Edges
A roundover bit creates a smooth, rounded edge on a board for a softer look. Roundover bits also have a bearing to control depth of cut. The profile can either be a quarter circle or you can raise the bit slightly to cut a bullnose profile such as one might see on a stair tread.
Slot Cutters are Groovy
Slot cutters mount in an arbor like rabbet bits; the same arbor will most likely work for both. The width of the cutting teeth sets the width of the slot or groove cut by the bit. The combination of the slot cutter's diameter and the diameter of the bearing determines the depth of the slot.
A pair of slot cutters with a spacer between them is used to cut tongues on boards
Your Next Generation of Bits
For fancy detail work, you may find yourself wanting a cove bit and / or an ogee bit. Cove bits cut the edge of wood in a concave rounded profile, the opposite of the convex rounded profile cut by the roundover bit. Ogee bits have both a rounded profile and a square shoulder, and are available in a variety of profiles to add detail to any edge.
A dovetail joint is both secure and attractive. Pair a dovetail bit with a dovetail jig to make this joint almost effortlessly.
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