There is no denying that every woodworker wants to have machines in their shop that have more than one function capable of interchanging those functions to fit any project they have. Routers are no exception, but can router bits be interchanged?
Most routers out there come with two different sized router bits that are easily interchanged, but the router must accommodate both. If you have a smaller router, it likely only accepts ¼-inch collets. Outside of size, you can use a slew of different bits for any job.
For those of you that need more than one router bit size to fit all of your woodworking needs, you are in luck. Many larger routers can accommodate both ¼-inch and ½-inch collets, and they can be changed within seconds.
Continue reading to take a look into universal bits, other high-quality bits you want to include in your set, and why high-quality bits are your best bet in terms of long-term investment in your woodworking craft.
What are the Most Universal Bits for Routers?
Let’s talk about the most common interchangeable sizes before we get into the types of bits available. No matter the size of your router, there will be plenty of different profiles available to fit your needs, but there are only a few sizes (if not only one) that are going to work with the specific router you own.
Universal router bits are the ¼-inch bits, with a ½-inch bit coming in a close second. If you have a smaller router, it is likely that it only accepts ¼-inch bits. Larger routers can usually accept both ¼ and ½ inch bits.
Pay close attention to that last sentence in the previous paragraph. If you want a router with the capabilities of interchanging bit sizes, a larger router is the way to go. I totally understand that some people do not need that type of upgrade.
Still, if you plan on doing projects that require a bit more of your tools, then a larger router will keep you from stopping mid-project and running to grab something that works better for you at the moment.
Beyond the router, universal bit types are ½-inch and ¼-inch router bit shanks. This is the part of the bit that goes into the collet of the router. People are generally talking about this when they speak of the “interchangeability” of a bit.
As mentioned, if you have a small router, it will likely only accept the ¼-inch bit, so this is something to keep in mind in terms of universality and ease of use. Generally, the ¼-inch shank offers less stability than a ½-inch shank, and this can be bad news for your cuts.
You want a shank that is going to be able to withstand the power that comes from your router. The ¼-inch shank tends to be a tad less stable, which means a messier cut and more vibration.
The ½-inch shank, on the other hand, does better at absorbing the power from the router and can make a smooth cut without you having to constantly control the speed at which your router tackles the project.
What are the Different Bit Types for Routers?
Now that you know bit shanks are easily interchangeable with the right router let’s talk about all the different bits’ profiles out there that exist. There are plenty of them, and looking at all the options can easily send someone into a complete panic attack.
Ok, it might not be that bad, but if you are new to the game, choosing the right bit can be completely daunting! Don’t worry though, I’ve got you.
There are many different types of router bits available, including straight router bits, edge forming bits, chamfer router bits, flush-trim router bits, rabbeting router bits, and more. Each has its own unique advantages when it comes to various needs you may have while woodworking.
Let’s take a closer look at what these are and how each of these can support you in your woodworking craft.
Straight Router Bits
These little guys are what every woodshop in every corner of the world is going to have. They are the original, the greatest of all time, the most used pieces for most projects.
Straight router bits cut straight into your material and create a dado that hollows out a point for either mortise or inlay. Straight router bits are an essential component to every amateur and professional woodworker alike.
Edge Forming Bits
Edge forming bits are like the added sprinkles on top of your cupcake. They are used mostly for decorative edges like on a cabinet or a tabletop. There are different types of edge forming bits like round-over bits, ogee bits, cove bits, and even edge-beading bits.
The list could go on and on. Essentially, this type of router bit makes your woodworking project look pretty, and that is the most important piece that you need to know. So, if you are looking to up your woodworking details, edge forming bits can help you perfect those intricate designs.
Chamfer Router Bits
Chamfer router bits are fun looking bits that have two different but essential functions. They can either cut a bevel or an angle or decorate the edges of your project.
I know, so versatile! It’s exciting, really, and they can make all kinds of different types of baskets and boxes with ease. When you think of a chamfer router bit, you can consider yourself lucky for knowing how to use one tool to serve two unique purposes.
Flush-Trim Router Bits
The name is a dead giveaway for these bits. Flush-trim router bits work to trim the edge of one material to fit flush against the edge of another. Short and sweet, these bits can get all your identical needs done in a flash.
So, if you are working to secure the edges of your woodworking piece in bulk or want to do so with one edge, this will be the router bit for you.
Rabbeting Router Bits
Now, rabbeting router bits pack a serious punch. Their design is already a little intimidating, but you will see what all the hype is about once you get them going.
A rabbeting bit has a spinning pilot bearing at the very tip, and they are made to create a shoulder to join different workpieces together. Think of them as the peacemakers of your router bits. Truly, once you learn how to use one of these types of router bits, you will not turn back.
Why Choose a Higher-Quality Bit for Your Router?
We have all been in a position at one point or another where the money is tight, and you do not feel like buying the more expensive tool accessories is going to make that much of a difference.
Even if money is not tight, why pay two or three times more for the same thing that saves you way more cash? It doesn’t seem very reasonable at the time, but opting for lower-quality bits might save you in the short term, but it will cost you more in the long run.
Choosing a higher-quality bit for your router is important because it means a better long-term investment for both your toolset and your projects. High-quality router bits help to ensure safe and accurate results for a greater length of time.
Plain and simple: Cheap bits means buying more over time; higher-end bits mean buying them once and never again. Every bit will get dull at some point, but it is a matter of how long that bit can last and withstand use and sharpening that matters.
Cheaper bits are made of poor quality carbide, are thin, have poor brazing, are somewhat unbalanced, and have bad bearings. All of this adds up to projects that result in tear-outs and janky cuts. No, thank you.
You want to invest in the right bits not only to keep from having to buy them over and over but also to protect your projects from being ruined by low-quality bits.
Look for bits that have a good quality carbide where the carbide is nice and thick, have a great brazing carbide to the shank, are balanced, and whose bearings are good quality. If you can check off these to be true for a bit, this is the bit that is going to give you the most bang for your buck.
I realize that investing in quality tools can sometimes absolutely make you cringe- no one likes to drop a ton of money on something so small!
Here’s the thing, though; investing in your tools and accessories is what will make or break your woodworking experience. Set yourself up for success and buy better quality parts, and you will encounter so many fewer issues than if you were to buy the bottom of the barrel products.