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A guide to buying your best router bits

My name is Jack. I am a professional carpenter with 30 years’ experience. I grew up in a woodworking family. My father and his brothers owned and operated a commercial carpentry shop. I have encountered many tools in my 3 decades career but the one which stands out is the router bits set. This tool has become an indispensable part of the modern craftsmen’s arsenal and having the best router bits set is vital in your workshop.


How to choose router bits

A router or a router table is only as good as the router bit which is the business end of this tool. To those new to woodwork router bits are the part that is in contact with the wood. Router bits come in two distinct variations. These are edge forming bits and the non-edge bits. Edge forming bits have a bearing. This functions as a fence when routing. Whereas the non-edge bits need one to use a fence either attached to the work, table or router.

When choosing router bits there are three dimensions that matter. These include collet size, shank length, and shank size. In terms, Collet size can be either 1/2inch or 1/4inch. Through experience, I recommend the 1/2 inch. They are stiffer, bigger, and stronger. Also, they are better to resist vibration, flexing and bending. Jack also would advise you to consider bits with the shortest size to do the work.

With the bit type and size established. Another very important aspect to consider is the material. On the market, they come in either High-Speed Steel (HSS) or carbide. I recommend carbide bits and a good router bit is usually made of carbide. Carbide is carbon and metal powders fused together to form a very strong element. Carbide bits can hold a cutting edge for 15 to 20 times longer than HSS. The fine edges of high-quality bits are sharp and thick enough that they are capable of multiple uses. Also if you need to work on synthetic materials like MDF or Plastic carbide bits are better. They have a longer lifespan provided they are stored well. Storage is so crucial that you should buy a set with a good case. The disadvantages of carbide are the high cost. Carbide comes in four forms from C1(monograde) to C4. Monograde is the highest quality and tends to be costly. Some manufacturers can also temper with the ratio of carbide to steel. This results in a router bit with very little carbide and cheaper steal. Whereas HSS is affordable it can usually cost half the price of carbide. The other advantage is that the bits can be easily sharpened if blunt. Yet, they tend to go blunt quick.

Here are the best router bits with reviews from old Jack


1. Freud 91-100 13-Piece Super Router Bit Set with 1/2-Inch Shank and Freud’s TiCo Hi-Density Carbide | The best router bits set on the market
Freud 91-100 13-Piece Super Router Bit Set | The best router bits set on the market

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The best router bits set on the market is undoubtedly the Freud 91-100 13-Piece Super Router Bit Set. Save your time and buy this one if you are in a hurry, otherwise please keep reading cause you will like it even more. Old Jack personally uses this in his warehouse and I just love it for the smoothness feeling when cutting.

My set consists of:

  • 3 double flute straight bits,
  • 1 mortising bit
  • 1 round nose bit
  • 1V-groove bit,
  • 1 dovetail bit,
  • 1 cove bit,
  • 1 rabbeting bit,
  • 1 rounding over bit,
  • 1 roman ogee bit,
  • 1 chamfer bit,
  • 1 bearing flush trim bit

Things I liked

This range from Freud is made from TiCo high-density carbide. Freud’s permaSheild coating resists dulling from intense heat. More so it has minimal pitch buildup. The computer-balanced bits offer vibration and chatter-free operation. This comes in handy when operating at high speeds, making the work smooth. And each of the router bits come with a high shear angle to produce fewer tear outs and minimal chatter marks. These premium bits have high shear angles for fewer tear-outs and minimal chatter mark. All bits have 1/2″ Shank. Includes attractive wooden storage box. It has enough bits to handle composition materials, plywood, hardwood, softwood and MDF. Joe uses them on hand-held and table-mounted portable routers. Another encouraging thing is that they come with a limited lifetime warranty. This is a testament to the manufacture’s faith in this product.

Things I did not like

Even though I own this set, I have to point out a few grey areas. The biggest letdown is the storage case which is not durable. Many other users are also complaining about this issue. I ended up making my own custom case to store the bits. Remember as I mentioned earlier carbide bits need good and careful storage to last. Another grey area is that the set does not come with extra bearings.

2. Bosch RBS010 1/2inch and ¼ inch shank 10 pieces professional set

Bosch RBS010 1/2inch and ¼ inch shank 10 pieces professional Router bit set.

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This router bit set has:

  •  1/2-Inch Shank: Roundover Bit
  • Roman Ogee Bit
  • Chamfer Bit
  • 2-Flute Flush Trim Bit
  • 2-Flute Straight Bit
  • 2-Flute Straight Bit
  • Dovetail Bit
  • 1/4-Inch Shank: Core Box Bit,
  • V-Groove Bit
  • Hinge Mortising Bit

This set is owned by my co-worker Frank. It is ranked second-best on the list, still an excellent set but there are a few things to note:

Things I liked

It has high-quality Micrograin carbide tips that are precision ground. This provides superior wear resistance and sharp edges for the best finish. The other thing I like is that it has both types of shanks a 1/2 inch.-shank bits give greater stability and LEDs. The 1/2 inch also has reduced vibration during use. Whereas 1/4 inch shank bits are more ideal for the thin profiles.

Things I did not like.

This Bosch set is well-engineered, however, the biggest let down is that I wish it could come with more bits.

Third best is

3. CMT 800.505.11 13-Piece Router Bit Set, 1/2-Inch Shank.

This is my next buy if ever I need to replace my set.

CMT 800.505.11 13-Piece Router Bit Set

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The set is made of:

  • 3 double flute straight bits
  • 1 mortising bit
  • 1 round nose bit
  • 1 V-groove bit
  • 1 dovetail bit
  • 1 cove bit
  • 1 rabbeting bit
  • 1 rounding over bit
  • 1 roman ogee bit
  • 1 chamfer bit
  • 1 bearing flush trim bit

Things I liked

This bit set comes with a hardwood case which is the best case on the market. So you sure that you can store them well.   The bits have 2 SinterHip Hi-Density Industrial Chrome Carbide cutting edges. These features are for long-lasting performance. Some bits feature anti-kickback design for working in a safe way.

Things I did not like

CMT is a great brand and it is a high end set for those who established in the craft. It is not ideal for novices that is why it’s not number 1 and the price is hefty.

The Fifth on our list is:

4. Whiteside 401 Basic Router Bit Set, 1/2-Inch Shank, 7 Pieces.

This set is part of my collection. It comes with only 7 bits which some might find to be too few for the price. Yet it is one of the most popular sets across workshops globally

Whiteside 401 Basic Router Bit Set, 1/2-Inch Shank, 7 Pieces

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The set comprises of

  • 2 straight bits
  • 1 cove bit
  • 1 rabbet bit
  • 1 round over and beading bit
  • 1 chamfer bit
  • 1 flush trim bit

Things I liked

This set has carbide bits for long-lasting service. Secondly, they have precision grinding which ensures excellent balance at high speed. The set comes with a small and durable case for convenient storage. The bits also have a ½ inch shank for vibration-free operation.

Things I did not like

The manufacturer did not label the bits with graphics of the cuts. More so they do not label the bit with dimensions.

Sixth best is the:

5. Neiko 10115A Premium Tungsten Carbide Router Bits | 80-Piece Set | Aluminum Storage Case.

Neiko 10115A Premium Tungsten Carbide Router Bits | 80-Piece Set | Aluminum Storage Case.

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I saw this set last week at a yard sale and was able to get on my hands on it.

 

 

The set includes

  • 10 – Three-blade Router Bits
  •  Which are 3 Straight
  •  3 Flush Trim
  • 4 Slot Cutter
  • 70 -Two-blade Bits:
  •  2 Trimming
  • 2 Flush Trim
  • 9 Corner round
  • 6 Cove
  • 5 Beading
  • 2 Roman Ogee
  • 1 Classical Cove: 1/2″
  • 2 Classical
  • 2 Ogee Flute
  • 2 Double Roman:
  • 1 Wave Edge
  • 1 Horse-Nose
  • 1 Rabbeting
  •  4 chamfer
  • 4 Cove Box
  • 5 V-Grooving: 1/4″, 3/8″, 1/2″ and 5/8″
  • 3 Round Nose
  • 5 Dovetail
  • 1 Panel Pilot
  • 1 Keyhole
  •  1 Cleaning-Bottom
  • 6 Straight
  • 3 Bottom
  • 1 Classical Plunge
  • 1 Bowl Tray

Things I liked.

The reason it ranks so high is because of its affordable and great value for money. It’s good for entry-level, however, it is both entry-level woodworkers and pros favorite choice because it comes with 80 bits. The impressive quantity will give you a lot of nuanced control over your cuts and styles. The set has Precision Ground 1/2″ Shanks. The bits can withstand high-heat and Speeds up to 20, 000 RPM. Storage wise the aluminum carrying case is handy. Another thing I liked is the special dark blue color with gold powder coating.

Things I did not like

The downside is the low-grade carbide used. I would recommend replacing individual bits with stronger bits as they wear out. I also noticed that the storage box was low quality as well. Yet, for the price, it is a very decent set.

6. MLCS 8377 15-Piece Router Bit Set with Carbide-Tipped 1/2-Inch Shanks.

MLCS 8377 15-Piece Router Bit Set with Carbide-Tipped 1/2-Inch Shanks.

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One of the best-valued router bit set. I saw this advertised in a catalog and I did research on them due to the surprisingly low price.

 

 

This economical set contains:

  • 4 straight bits
  • 1 round-over
  • 1 bit cove bit
  • 1 ogee bit
  • 1chamfer bit
  • 1flush trim bit
  • 1rabbeting bit
  • 1 dovetail bit
  • 1 v-groove bit
  • 1mortising bit
  • 1 panel pilot bit
  • 1 round nose bit
  • 1 bearing to convert the round-over bit to a beading bit.

Things I liked

For an all-purpose starter set for your woodworking hobby with a cheap price, you get a decent set with 15 bits. Quality, carbide-tipped bits, wood storage box Included. The package also includes an Allen wrench.

Things I did not like

The blades do not last sharp for long. Another grey area is that the bits are not durable you will have to replace them one by one as time goes. The set has only one bearing size.

7. Yonico 17702 70 Bits Professional Quality Router Bit Set Carbide.

Yonico 17702 70 Bits Professional Quality Router Bit Set Carbide

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The best-valued router bit set, retailing on Amazon at a good price for 70 bits. This is a good professional set with many bits to choose from. I encountered this set while giving tutorials to a certain guy.

 

Included bits

  • 1 Bottom Cleaning
  • 8 Straight bits
  • 4 Flush Trim
  • 1 Panel Pilot
  • 1 Ovolo Plunge
  • 5 Dovetail
  • 3 Core Box
  • 3 Round Nose
  • 5 V Groove
  • 1 Plunge Bevel Cutter
  • 3 Mortising Bit
  • 1 Flush Bevel Trim
  • 6 Round Over Bits
  • 2 T-Track/Keyhole
  • 1 Bowl Cutter
  • 1 Plunge Round Over
  • 1 Classic Plunge Panel
  • 6 Cove Bits
  • 1 Triple Bead Bit
  • 2 Corner Bullnose
  • 1 Ogee Fillet
  • 1 French Baroque
  • 4 Chamfer Bits
  • 1 Double Round-Over
  • 1 Double Roman Ogee
  • 1 Cove & Bead Bit
  • 2 Roman Ogee
  • 3 Rabbeting Bits

Having 70 bits with different styles opens up a world of more creativity. The bits are made from micro-grain carbide tips. During use, there are very low vibrations due to precession balancing. Moreover, the fully enclosed bearings provide smooth operation during use. I like that the carbide is thick, well sharpened and the finish is good on Yonico bits.

Things I did not like

I noticed that the quality of the bits is well-made but not superb. Many users have complained about blunt and chipped bits from the factory. Another complaint has been of the bearings burning out. I guess the manufacturers emphasized quantity over quality on this set. It could be an old problem as it seemed that Yonico has improved the quality of their bits quite significantly.

Point Note: For the US market this set uses Metric units so have that in mind when purchasing them.

Bonus: video unboxing Yonico 17702 


5 Essential Router bit types that you should have

Now that we have given you a brief background on router bits. It is worth noting that a workshop needs a set of router bits. You might have realized that router bit sets come in many sizes from 5 bits, 10, 15 and upwards of 70-80 router bits. This often becomes very confusing to beginners. Experience has shown me five router bits used the most in a workshop.

The essential five types of router bits are Straight bits, Round over bits, Ogee bits, Rabbeting bits, and Chamfer bits.

  • Straight bits are in the class of a field or surface cutting bit. This is because it has side and bottom cutting edge for cutting into the work surfaces and then be moved horizontally. The bits have straight or spiral flutes. The straight bit is used to make either functional or decorative cuts. The cuts include rabbeting, tenons, mortises, inlays, dadoes, box joints and spine joints. Straight bits are more important bits if you already have a router table. Diameter range from 1/16” to 1 ¾”.
  • Whereas Round-over bit is an Edging-forming bit. This class of bits is for cutting decorative profiles along the edge of the workpiece or cut one or both parts of an interlocking joint. The uses include tables, shelves, and stair treads.
  • Ogee-bit is also an Edge-forming bit. Its uses include decorative edges on furniture, shelving, and molding.
  • Rabbeting-bit is another an Edge-forming bit used for cutting rabbets and lap joints. Rabbeting bits are useful if you need to work on a number of identical rabbets. Rabbeting bits can be used in a router table or a handheld router. If you need to make a picture frame, rabbeting bits are what you need.
  • The fifth essential bit is the Chamfer-bit this is also an Edge forming bit. It is used for making beveled edges on boards and laminates. A chamfer bit is good when we want to make a less-rounded appearance edge softer, or something similar. Tip: Raising the bit can increase the depth of the chamfer.

With these five I promise you that you can do most of the work needed in the workshop. Buying a good router bit set with more specialized bits is good if you want to be more creative.

Other Types of Router Bits

Decorative Router Bits

  • Round Nose Bit

We use round nose bit to give a good radius groove, often used in making fluted millwork, signs and decorative designs in cabinet doors.

  • Beading Bit

Beading Bits are used to make decorative edges and can be used on one side or two sides to make a double bead. Can be used to cut plywood, hardwood, and softwoods.

  • V-Groove Bit

Another decorative bit that gives you the ability to cut deep or shallow grooves just by adjusting the cutting depth. It is specialized for signs making and adding decorative traits to furniture.

  • Keyhole Bit

A decorative bit that can cut keyhole openings, useful when making hanging pictures and plaques. I love to use this bit with a good plunge router as it makes the task much more enjoyable.

Router Bits for Router Tables

  • Crown molding Bit

Specialized to make complicated profile shapes, I like to use crown molding bit when working with a good router table because of the heavy workload involved.

  • Table-edge Bit

Another bit that is perfect for router tables use because of the size and heavy workload. I like to do a bunch of similar edge profiles with this bit in one go with my router table as it is able to provide required power and control.

  • Raised-panel Router Bits

I talked about raised-panel router bits with great detail here. It is good to use with router tables to make door and frame and panel cabinetry.

  • Table Top Bit

We use table top bits to make strong and uplifting edges to create bold effects.

Router Bits for joinery work

  • Rabbeting Bit

We use rabbeting bits to cut rabbets of various depths. Come with different size bearings.

  • Cope and Stick Bit

Check my small guide for cope and stick technique with this bit. We use cope and stick bits to make frame and panel parts.

  • Spline-cutting Bit

Mainly used to make grooves in edges, now we can easily change the size of the groove with shims or simply adjust the cutters.

Router Bits for making boxes and drawers

  • Lock-miter router bit

When you need to make a strong gluing surface and locking strength, look for a lock-miter bit. Being able to create perfect joints for mitered drawers, this bit can also make joining edges easier by giving you the ability to cut one board vertically and the other horizontally with the same set-up.

  • Dovetail Bit

A classic bit for decorative purpose, this bit also provides great locking strength. Being able to use in both softwoods and hardwoods with various angles make it a must-have bit for its versatility.

  • Drawer-lock Bit

Another bit that is good to use with a router table. When we want to make a strong rabbet joint between the sides and front of a drawer, look for drawer-lock bits. A drawer-lock bit cut the drawer fronts horizontally while the drawer sides are cut vertically against the fence of a router table.

Specialized Router Bits

  • Multi-profile Bit

As its name indicated, this bit is able to do everything. You will need to learn to adjust the height and distance to the fence, mix and match the shapes so that this bit can cut different profiles. Get used to it after some practice and you will love this little guy for its versatility.

  • Upspiral Bit

The main job of this bit is to plow grooves, help remove the waste from grooves and keeping the cut clean.


Tip: Want to improve planing? Look into purchasing a bottom-cleaning router bit set

When the majority of your works involved a lot of planning, do yourself a favor and buy a bottom-cleaning bit as it will make your planning much easier. The size of a bottom cleaning bit diameter is up to 1 ½”, it is often used to smooth the bottom of mortises and it is able to cut a larger swath than normal straight bit.

Router Bit Shank Size: 1/2″ vs 1/4″

Your routers could have ¼ inch or ½ inch collets, some routers can have both. With an adapter, a router that has ½” collet can work with both ½” shanks and ¼” shanks while a ¼” collet can only accept ¼” shanks.

Most professional woodworkers like ½ “ shank bits because a ½ “ shank bit is able to give you stronger and steadier cuts, especially in heavy or deep cuts compared to a ¼” shank. ½” shanks are also more durable, better at resisting breaking and vibration. Note: when choosing shank length, get the one that has the shortest shank.

Tip: The bigger your router bits are, the harder they work

One thing you need to remember when you are new to routing, just because it fits doesn’t mean it is going to work well. Common sense is the larger the diameter of the bit, the more the router has to work to turn it. Before putting your 3 ½” diameter panel-raising bit into your router, you need to check if the motor has the proper torque to use that bit efficiently. If the router isn’t able to handle the torque load for a router bit of that size, the motor could heat up and burn out.

Beginners, do you need an expensive router bit set?

As a professional woodworker, I like to buy high-quality bits even though I knew that I have to pay a premium price to get the best router bit set. I already know what I needed in mind and what I am going to do with it. But what about beginners? Everybody has to start somewhere, should you buy an inexpensive router bit set? Now, a reasonable price(not cheap, do not buy cheap) router bit set that comes with a good variety of bits can be a good starting kit. They are not going to be your life-long best friend as they are not the highest quality bits, but they can offer you good learning experiences by having choices to pick what you do use and what you need, not just what you want.

After getting used to your starting kit, depending on your projects and your experiences, you might need to purchase different types of router bits later, which you already know what you want(and what you need) by then. You also don’t want to ruin your expensive bits when you just starting out due to lack of experience. A small note: a more specialized bit often costs more, so think again if you have a moment of getting something “fancy”. My advice: when you are on a budget, only buy an expensive bit if you are going to use it daily, otherwise Yonico and MLCS bits are good for the money.

However, a higher quality bit gives you better results, durability, saves you hours of headaches and is much safer as they could have anti-kickback designs, which provide an extra margin of safety. You’ll be surprised at how smooth a Freud router bit can cut compare to other bits. If you already know what you want for your project, go with the highest quality bits and you’ll be sleeping better at nights.

Now that we have given you enough background knowledge on the subject of router bits. The first part of my article is a guide and product reviews of 7 router bit sets. These are some of the best router bit sets I have encountered and are popular on the market these days, I hope I have given enough insights for you to decide what router bits set is best for you.

Best router bit brand

When buying a product, we often care about brands. I tell my students not to go with cheap bits, you get what you pay for. You could end up looking to buy new bits soon to replace bits that are dulled prematurely, broke or chipped. So don’t cheap out on router bits as good quality bits are not only better in terms of durability but also safer as they can also minimize the risk of kickback due to their special designs.

Good brands give you a better quality router bit set while they also offer good customer services. I talked to some friends and we agreed that the top brands are Freud, Whiteside, Bosch. They are known to be trusted in woodworking communities for their quality and also for their superb supports/warranties. Although Yonico and MCLS  gave the impression that they are on the cheaper side, their products are well-made. I especially like their customer service when my guy told me they had sent him a replacement for his bits with no questions asked.

#Fact:

Where are bits manufactured?

  • Freud products are made in Italy and Switzerland
  • Whiteside and Bosch made their products in America
  • CMT bits are Italy made
  • Yonico and MCLS bits are made in Taiwan and China

Honorable mention to Infinity, Amana, Eagle America as well, they are also well-known names in our community.

Anti-kickback design for safety

A good router bit usually has anti-kickback design. Anti-kickback bits provide an extra margin of safety. The design limits the depth of cut at each pass to about 1/16inch. Limiting the bite is beneficial on large diameter bits that take wide cuts since it decreases the risk of the bit grabbing a workpiece or throwing it. The router bit’s additional body mass help dissipate heat quicker, and it sometimes seems to make them run smoother than normal bits.

Parting words from Jack

In conclusion, for beginners, I recommend buying a set with many bits. This gives you a chance to explore many designs. So, for entry-level woodworkers, I recommend MLCS 8377, the most affordable set with many bits for a very good price, it’s actually the best router bits set for the money.

For professionals, I recommend the top 3 the Freud 91-100 13 bit set, the Bosch RBS010 or the CMT 800. Another parting word is that make sure you use a router with adjustable speed. This will increase the lifespan of the bits. I hope this router bit set reviews guide will help you in your quest to buy a router bit set. See you next time and enjoy the craft.

September 2019. Updated:

We added more information on kickback design on router bits and more than 10 types of router bits.

Old Jack has received some emails saying that I’ve got the numbers wrong for our product list. Please excuse me for old age, give a minute to make sure I got it right this time. Some of you asked me to write a guide on how to take care of your router bits. Here it is, how to install new router bits, how to sharpen your router bits and How to clean router bits and maximize router bit life. Consider reading this small guide to know how to use your router bits, I hope it’ll be helpful to you.

Router lifts and wood routers are important tools when working with a router table. Check out these guides to buy the best router lift, best trim router and best plunge router in the market.

Top rail and stile router bit here.

More details of Yonico router bit review in this guide.

Sources: Rockler, PopularMechanic, thefamilyhandyman.