Beginner’s Guide to Router Bits

You might ask yourself what a wood router is used for and why you need one. Wood routers are an excellent tool for cutting joints, making duplicates from patterns, making decorative surface cuts, and much more. The wood router is one of the most valuable and versatile woodworking tools to have in your collection. However, the router itself won’t do much good without router bits

Router Bit Anatomy

Router bits have four main components: the shank, the body, the finish, and the blades, sometimes called the cutters.

The shank is the cylinder-shaped bottom end of the router bit inserted into the router. The most common shank widths are 1/2-inch and 1/4-inch. 1/4-inch shanks are used for smaller routers and lighter-duty jobs, while 1/2-inch shanks are for higher horsepower routers and heavy-duty jobs with significant cuts. 

The body is a piece of steel to which the blade is welded. The body provides weight and torque to the blades, or cutters, as they cut through the material. The finish is the coating baked onto the router bit to protect it from build-up from the wood. The Blade, or Cutter, is the part of the router bit that comes in contact with the material. 

Router Bit Materials

Router bits are typically made up of either carbide or high-speed steel (HSS). High-speed steel router bits are made from carbon steel and have a high heat resistance, which allows them to maintain their strength longer. Carbide tip bits are harder and hold their sharpness longer than HSS, meaning they have a longer lifespan. 

There are hundreds of options for router bits; if you’re just starting, it can be pretty confusing. Below are ten router bits every do-it-yourselfer should own.

Grooving Bits

Grooving bits are some of the most useful and common router bits. Below are two of the most important bits to have when you get started. 

Straight router bit

Straight bits are exactly what they sound like – a bit that cuts straight, square-bottomed grooves. These bits cut right into the material to create a groove or dado, a groove across the wood grain. They are also typically used to hollow out areas for a mortise, essentially a hole, groove, or slot into which another piece of material fits. Aside from basic joinery, straight bits can be used to create a channel where decorative inlay, a design or a pattern carved into a material, can be placed. 

Suggestion: Bosch 1/2-inch Carbide Tipped Straight Bit


V-Groove bits groove out V-shaped profiles in the material, often used for a decorative effect. They come in various diameters and v-groove angles that determine the width and depth of the groove. Some even have flat bottoms rather than sharp tips. V-groove bits can carve designs into flat surfaces like signs, create shallow grooves, and even make ridges in panels. 

Suggestion: Freud 1/2-inch V-Grooving Bit

Joinery bits

Joinery bits are mainly used for cutting adjoining notches into a material to create solid and durable joints. 

Rabbet router bit

Rabbet router bits are designed to form an L-shaped shoulder on the edge of the piece of material to form a rabbet joint. This is used a lot when making drawers and cabinets. While these joints can be created using a straight bit, however, the rabbet router bit is ideal for the job as it has a circular pilot bearing that acts as a guide riding along the edge of the material being cut. 

Suggestion: CMT Rabbeting set

This allows you to get seven different rabbets from one bit.

Dovetail router bits

Dovetail router bits are another type of bit that creates strong, long-lasting dovetail joints. The joints work by cutting a series of pins along one piece of material and matching tails on the other. They are called dovetail cuts/joints as they resemble a dove’s tail feathers. These joints are used for boxes, drawers, and furniture without needing fasteners. 

Suggestion: Freud 3/8-inch Dovetail Bit with 1/2-inch Shank

Flush Trim router bit

Flush Trim bits are a lot like straight bits except that they have a pilot bearing that is the same diameter as the flute, which is the cutting arm. These bits are perfect for cutting around a surface’s edge and allowing you to trim overhanging material. They’re also great for duplicating patterns from a template. 

Suggestion: CMT Flush Trim Bit

Glue Joint router bits

Glue joint router bits join two pieces of material by creating identical, adjoining tongues on the edge of both pieces of a material. Glue joints are available in two varieties: standard and mitered. Standard glue joint bits join squared edges, while the mitered bit is made with a 45-degree angle to join two mitered edges. The router bits are ideal for creating two joints with a higher surface area for gluing. It’s important to note these are meant to be used exclusively in a router table. 

Suggestion: Freud Reversible Glue Joint Bit with 1/2-inch Shank

Edge-Forming Bits

Edge-Forming bits are designed to shape the edges of wood. 

Rounding-Over router bits

Rounding-over router bits can create a rounded profile and give the material a more finished look. These bits come in two styles: single and double. Single rounding-over bits create just one rounded edge, while a double rounding-over bit cuts the top and bottom of the material simultaneously.

Suggestion: CMT Round Over Bit

Molding router bits

Molding router bits do exactly what the name implies: make molding. Molding is a decorative trim piece that runs along the top and bottom of walls and around windows and doors. There are several different styles of molding router bits to create whatever design you have in mind for your project.

Roman Ogee router bits

Roman Ogee bits create decorative S-shaped profiles, especially for molding, furniture, and signs. There is also a double ogee design, which creates two s-shaped profiles simultaneously. 

Suggestion: Bosch 1-inch Roman Ogee Router Bit

Chamfer routing bits

Chamfer routing bits are designed to create bevel cuts on the edge of material to provide a professional finished look to a project with flat edges, such as counters and tabletops. Using a chamfer bit in a router table also makes clean miter cuts. 

Suggestion: Dremel Trio Chamfer Bit

Cove Router Bits

Cove router bits create an inverse profile of the single rounding-over bit. Cove bits make a concave quarter-circle shape. Typically these bits are used for decorative purposes such as stools and tables. It can be used with the round-over bit to make adjoining edges for a rule joint, a joint between two hinged surfaces, like a folding leaf table.

Suggestion: Freud 1/2-inch Cove bit with 1/2-inch Shank

Router Bit Kits

Many companies have router bit kits with many of the previously mentioned bits. One example is the Freud 15 Piece Advanced Bit Set. The set includes all of the router bits mentioned above and five additional bits. It comes in a shadow box case, so you can easily see the router bits inside, which can be mounted on a wall or bench. All of the bits in this set have 1/4-inch shanks. Router bit kits are great for just getting started and can help lessen the confusion when starting out. 

Final Thoughts

Planning and understanding what equipment you’ll need is crucial for the success of your project. Router bits are long-term investments, so it’s important to weigh quality versus cost. Keep in mind the difference between the material of your router bits. Lastly, store and handle your router bits with care to increase their lifespan. Explore our router bit options at Acme Tools

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