Adjustable groove thickness adds versatility to projects. Extra-thick protective coating and longer bit life. Arrive sharp and ready to use. Experienced users rave about this router bit set, noting it is easy to set up and cuts smoothly.
Packaging is problematic as bits don’t stay still in shipping, inviting damage. Going slowly is imperative with these router bits, so they don’t heat up or cause damage. The spacers may need a bit of fiddling, some users noted, as they are not labeled.
Users are happy with the broad assortment of router bits in this set, with some comparing it favorably to sets priced above $100.
Reports of bits shattering or bearings flying off under moderate use. Hardwoods are a no-go with these bits. Carrying case is cheaply made.
Fits the Dremel router table and drill press well; check for fit on other Dremel tools. Works best on inlays and surface detail work, as well as soft woods. Users feel the bits get the job done, if not much more.
Bearing-less bits tend to heat up when working with harder materials, sometimes burning the wood or formica. Bits get dull quickly.
Tungsten carbide bits work reliably with appropriate projects, and cut well. Several experienced users were surprised by how well they held up when properly cared for.
Reports of bits snapping after just a few feet of use. Will burn wood surface if used at too high rpm, which isn’t unusual for router bits. Hardwood can be problematic.
A lot of satisfied buyers of this set, with some reporting they would buy it again. Most liked the packaging, which is attractive and holds the parts well. Carbide-tipped bits stay sharp and fit small routers well.
Customer service was somewhat problematic when trying to get replacement parts, although Amazon return service is satisfactory. Bits get dull quickly and can snap while doing heavier work.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
A router is one of the most versatile of woodworking tools. Add a good router bit set and you can cut, trim, joint, and create an enormous range of decorative shapes in hardwood, softwood, and composites. There are also specialist router sets, making it quick and easy to do jobs like cutting recesses for cabinet and door hinges, or even making the doors themselves.
With so much potential variation, it’s hardly surprising that the choice of router bit sets can be bewildering. There’s size to consider, material and manufacturing quality, profile, bits with bearing guides, and replaceable cutter blades.
It’s just the kind of challenge BestReviews likes to tackle! We’ve been hard at work checking out what’s available and putting together a comprehensive resource to help you pick the right router bit set for your needs. Our recommendations highlight some of the most popular sets in terms of price and performance, and in the following guide, we look at all the elements you need to consider in more detail.
Router bits are defined by shank size, either 1/4 inch or 1/2 inch. If you have a 1/4-inch router, you can only use the smaller size. If you have a 1/2-inch model, you can get an adapter so you can use 1/4-inch bits as well, which is useful if you want to do particularly delicate work and a suitable 1/2-inch cutter isn’t readily available.
Tool quality is difficult to assess at a glance, and it’s easy to think that a comparatively large cutting edge would be preferred. In fact, the opposite is generally true. A large body and comparatively small cutting surface means there’s lots of stability in the router bit. That means reduced vibration, which in turn results in a better finish. For the occasional home woodworker, that may not be important. For the fastidious enthusiast and the professional, it’s an important difference.
HSS: Router bits are made of high-speed steel (HSS), which is strong enough to take the considerable stresses and heat buildup that occur when routing. In the past, some cutting edges were also HSS. It’s relatively easy to work, but it dulls quite quickly.
TCT: Tungsten carbide tips (TCT) have now been adopted on all but the very cheapest tools. The edges stay sharper for much longer; however, they do wear out eventually. Cheap router bits can be as little as a dollar each, so it’s common to simply replace them. Higher-quality, and therefore more expensive, tools can be resharpened, though obviously they’ll wear out eventually.
As you can see from our recommendations, you can also get a variety of router bit sets for a Dremel or other rotary tools. It’s impractical to add carbide tips to these because of their small size, so they’re made of carbide steel alloy and frequently titanium coated for additional hardness.
Replaceable blades. Another alternative is a router bit with replaceable cutting blades. These are more expensive initially, but the blades themselves are comparatively cheap, so they’re popular in high-production environments. However, you won’t find them in general router bit sets.
Bearings: You’ll notice some router bits have bearings on them. These help smooth the path of the cutter, but that’s not their main purpose, which is actually to prevent the bit cutting deeper than intended. They are most often found on bits designed to trim edges or create a particular profile, where going too deep could spoil the job. Some bits come with bearings in a variety of different sizes, so you can use the same tool to cut different-sized rabbets, or channels, for example.
Gold-colored router bits are sometimes coated with titanium nitride for durability, but be careful. On cheap router bits, it might just be a colored coating!
We’ve discussed the quality of tool available, but what kinds of cutters are most used, and therefore offer the best value in a router bit set?
The following are the most common profiles you’ll find in a router bit set, and they will handle the majority of routing tasks. Larger collections may have two or more different sizes of each profile, and using them in various combinations can provide an enormous range of different decorative edges to your work. With a comprehensive router bit set, you may never need specialist cutters, but the bits can always be bought individually if the need arises.
Straight bits: These are great for trimming, particularly end grain (which is difficult to do with a planer). It’s common for the cutting edge to be straight, but spiral cutters also exist. These are more expensive to make, but they cut more smoothly because the edge is always in contact with the material, whereas straight cutters can judder. Flat-bottomed versions (also called a mortising bit) can also be used for rabbeting and, with patience, cutting finger joints. You’ll often find more than one size straight bit, and possibly a separate flush trimming bit, which always has a bearing guide.
Chamfer bits: These are used to create a beveled edge and often have a bearing guide to regulate the width of the chamfer.
V bits: These look very similar to chamfer bits, but they don’t have the guide, so the grooves can be cut through the wood as well as chamfer the edge.
Roundover bits: These are much like chamfer bits, but the intent is to create a curved edge rather than a flat bevel.
Cove bits: These produce the opposite shape to roundover bits: a curved recess.
Dovetail bits: Along with straight bits, these are the most common cutter for creating joints, and they can be used with dovetail jigs.
Roman ogee bit: This is the most common of the decorative router bits, creating a gentle S-shaped profile.
Tongue and groove bits: These are another common combination for making joints, but they usually come in self-contained sets rather than larger kits.
Router bit sets aren’t just for wood. They are also available to cut soft metals like brass, aluminum, and copper, and diamond-encrusted versions can cut stone or ceramics.
Inexpensive: You’ll pay $10 to $15 for a decent range of router bits for your Dremel (or other rotary tool), and you can find cheap router bit sets with 1/4-inch or 1/2-inch shanks for around $30. Many woodworkers find them satisfactory for occasional use.
Mid-range: If you want better-quality tools, a beginner’s set of 12 or 15 costs around $45 to $60, with prices rising pretty much in line with the number of bits. These sets won’t include bits with replaceable cutters, but it’s easy to find individual bits if you have a specific need.
Expensive: If you’re buying router bits from the top names like Freud or Whiteside, you can pay $100 or more for what seems to be a very basic set of four or five tools. However, these are the ultimate in quality and precision for the professional, and it’s not unusual to pay over $150 for a single bit.
Store your router bits carefully. Carbide edges, in particular, are prone to chipping if knocked together or against other steel tools.
A 12- or 15-piece router bit set will cover all the basics, but if you’re doing a lot of routing, particularly decorative work, you’ll soon want more. The 35-piece EDMBG Router Bit Set is the next step up. It’s a good collection of 1/2-inch-shank TCT tools organized in a nice aluminum case.
If that’s not enough for your creative endeavors, take a look at the 80-piece Neiko Router Bit Set. Again, you have 1/2-inch shanks and TCT edges, but now you have just about every profile imaginable. The production quality of cheaper router bits almost invariably shows up in the finish.
If your work is going to be on display, and you’ve spent a lot on expensive hardwoods, you’ll probably want to invest in something like the 10-piece Bosch Professional Router Bit Set with precision-made 1/4-inch and 1/2-inch-shank tools in all the most popular profiles.
Q. Can I use router bits in my power drill or drill press?
A. Not in a power drill. A router bit is usually designed to cut sideways. Your drill isn’t intended to be moved that way. The chuck will not support the bit like a router does, making it all but impossible to be accurate. It’s also unlikely your drill produces sufficient speed for the bit to cut properly, thus leaving a very poor finish. Technically, a drill press can work (if it has a high enough speed range), but you would need to set up additional fences, and you’re probably taking the guard out of the equation, so it’s not something we would recommend. Use the right tool for the job, either a router for freehand work or a router table.
Q. Are router bits easy to sharpen?
A. Unfortunately, no, especially those with complex profiles. You can use a flat or round diamond hone for a light touch-up if you’re careful, but eventually they’ll either need to be professionally reground (some local hardware stores can do it) or replaced. Before you do that, give them a wipe with spirit or rubbing alcohol in case there’s a buildup of sap or resin. It can make the bit seem blunt when it isn’t.
Q. Can I use my router bits in a wood shaper?
A. Although a wood shaper performs a very similar task, it’s on a much larger scale and the difference in cutter size and construction means they’re not typically compatible. Adapters are available for 1/2-inch router bits, though using small bits on a shaper is not easy.
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