Finding the best router bits or router bit set can be a challenging task – not only is the router itself an intimidating tool (especially for beginners), there is a seemingly endless variety of bits, and it can be confusing deciphering which ones you need, and which ones you don’t.
The difference between router bits ultimately comes down to the different profiles they cut out, and there are thousands of different varieties.
In this article we’ll break the whole thing down like a fraction, and recommend a few of the best router bits and router bit sets to get you off and running with every style and profile that you need.
Our picks will include all the most common bits that you definitely need, as well as some more specialized varieties adding a whole new dimension to your router and woodworking capabilities.
Table of Contents
- Common Types of Router Bits
- Product Summaries: Best Router Bit Sets
- What are the Most Common Router Bits that You’ll Use Most Often?
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Questions to Ask Yourself
- Best Router Bit Set: What’s the Bottom Line?
Common Types of Router Bits
Straight Router Bit
Straight router bits are one of the most frequently used bits. They have a shank in a variety of diameters from 3/16-inch to 1 ½-inch. Straight bits are primarily used to make a dado or groove straight down into whatever material you’re using. They can also be used to hollow out an area of the material for inlay or mortise.
Flush-Trim Router Bit
Flush-trim router bits have a pilot bearing that guides during cutting. The pilot bearing is the same size as the bit’s cutting radius so that it can be used to trim the edge of the material so that said material is flush with another.
Rabbeting Router Bit
Rabbeting router bits are used specifically to cut a rabbet (notch or shoulder) into the edge of a material. A rabbeting bit uses a pilot bearing to guide them along the material’s side, this is so the rabbets produced are equally and accurately cut.
Chamfer Router Bit
Chamfer router bits make angled cuts across a corner to remove a 90-degree edge. This will create an attractive design or can remove a banged up edge. These bits can also form a beveled edge for use in joinery.
Rail and Stile Bit
Rail and Stile bits are primarily used for panel and frame construction. They feature a straight profile for cutting a slot in the stile and a decorative edge profile. They also make a corresponding cut at the end of the rail or horizontal piece of the frame so that the rail can slot into the stile.
Raised Panel Bit
Raised panel bits are frequently used with rail and stile bits to create a profiled edge on a door panel. These bits come in either vertical-use or horizontal-use.
- Vertical-use are considered safer. This is because they are easier to use and have a smaller diameter. With the material on the edge, the bit forms a new, decorative profile.
- Horizontal-use have a large diameter so it should be used with a table router. To cut material, it must be laying flat on the table, giving these bits their orientation-based names.
Joinery router bits were made specifically to produce a precision joint that can easily attach two types of material. For example, the joints in a coffee table or drawer. Specialized joinery bits include drawer lock router bits, dovetail router bits, and lock miter bits.
Product Summaries: Best Router Bit Sets
The MLCS 8000 Series 15 and 30-piece router bit sets represent the best value for those beginners looking to get their first starter set.
These all-purpose sets provide a few of the best router bits. Such as the most common straight, round over, rabbeting, chamfering, and ogee bits, so you can be sure that you’ll have what you need no matter what it is you plan on doing with the router.
In terms of pure quality, the Freud 91-100 13-piece TiCo set represents the finest professional-quality router bits, in our opinion.
These are fantastic woodworking bits that produce a fine, professional-quality finish, and are the perfect step up in quality for DIY’ers looking to perhaps move on from their entry-level set.
Lastly, for those looking for the most wide-ranging, do-it-all set, the Neiko 10115A 80-piece tungsten kit is a quality pick that you can be sure will provide you with a solution for every router situation you might find yourself in.
If you’re trying to save yourself the headache of making sure you’ve got this specific style bit or that one, the Neiko is a great one-stop option.
Best Router Bit Set for Beginners
MLCS 8377 15-piece Carbide-tipped ½” Router Bit Set
You might not find a set like this in Carter Oosterhouse’s woodshop, but for beginner ‘routerers’ looking for the perfect starter set, you really can’t beat the value of the MLCS 8000 Series – the most popular and best-reviewed bits available for the price.
15 Piece 1/2″ Shank Set Includes
- 4 straight bits
- round-over bit
- cove bit
- ogee bit
- chamfer bit
- flush trim bit
- rabbeting bit
- dovetail bit
- v-groove bit
- mortising bit
- panel pilot bit
- round nose bit
- 1 bearing to convert the round-over bit to a beading bit
We’re not claiming these to be the best router bits on the planet by any means, but many reviewers (and even plenty of professionals) have commented on how surprisingly nice of a finish they produce.
The bits will dull out and wear down over time more quickly than better-quality bits, but for the novice who doesn’t use their router all too often, this is the perfect economical starter set.
Things we liked
Economical price; easily the cheapest option for setting yourself up with a good, full-ranging entry-level router bit set
Has all the standard bits that you’ll need (including straight, ogee, roundover, and chamfering)
Comes with a nice wood storage case
Things we didn’t like
Overall quality leaves a little to be desired – these will dull out fairly quickly with continued use
Only one bearing size (it’s convenient to have several bearings of different diameters)
Best Router Bit Set for Beginners
MLCS 8369 30-piece ½” Shank Bit Set
These are essentially the same bits that come in the 15-piece MLCS 8377 set, there’s just more of them.
Again, the 8000 Series represents the best entry-level bits in terms of value for the price, and this is a good option if you want a larger range of bits to choose from than the 15-piece, and are willing to spend a few more bucks.
The set basically comes with all the same profile bits as the 15-piece (straight, ogee, chamfering, roundover, dovetail, etc), there’s just a couple more varieties to choose from for each one, giving yourself a much wider range of options in the shop.
Things we liked
- Excellent value for the quality
- Gives a lot more variety than the 15-piece set, for not that much more money
- Includes 6 roundover and 5 straight bits (these are by far the most common profile bits you’ll be using)
- Wood storage box
Things we didn’t like
- Again, not the best router bits in the world
- Only one bearing size
Best Pro-quality Woodworking Router Bit Set
Freud 91-100 13-piece TiCo High-Density Carbide 1/2″ Shank bit set
The MLCS 8000 series bit sets above are great values for beginners and represent the best entry-level router bits for the money, but they can’t be trusted for professional-quality work, and would probably be shunned by most expert woodworkers.
If you’re a skilled hand at the router table, know what you’re doing, and know that you can only get by with the absolute best quality router bits, you need something of fine quality like this Freud set.
What’s Up With The Price?
Sure, it’s expensive, but the best router bits are well-machined, finely-tuned tools that are constructed of only the finest quality materials – drastically superior to anything else we’ve used.
Entry-level sets are fine for beginners who won’t notice a huge difference in performance anyway, but once you learn your way around the router and develop a more skilled hand, you’ll be blown away at how much better quality bits (like these) perform.
The set doesn’t come with a ton of bits (only 13), but they made sure to include at least one each of the most commonly used ones. In fact, the set by itself would serve just fine for 99% of DIY’ers needs – there’d be no need to go out and buy additional bits
Things we liked
Best quality and best-reviewed bits we’ve seen on the market; TiCo construction is built for ‘long life and a flawless finish’
Perfect for woodworking but can be used on any composite materials as well
Freud’s PermaShield coating resists dulling from intense heat
Comes with a padded, hangable or mountable storage box to keep bits safe and protected
Limited Lifetime Guarantee
Things we didn’t like
They are not cheap – this is an investment
Does not come with extra bearings (6 of the 13 bits have included bearings)
Best All-Purpose Router Bit Set
Neiko 10115A Premium 1/2″ Shank Tungsten Carbide 80-piece set
This 80-piece Tungsten Carbide Tip Neiko set won’t be near as good of quality as the Freud set, but if you’re looking to drastically increase the range of your router’s capabilities, or perhaps are wanting to play around with new and unique profiles, this is a good buy at a really good price, considering the amount of bits that come in the kit.
The carbide router bits themselves are constructed of machined YG8 tungsten carbide tipped blades, so they resist heat relatively well and will last long before needing sharpening.
Of course, most buyers simply like the kit because of the sheer amount of solid carbide bits that come with it — like we said, a good choice if you’re looking to drastically broaden your routering capabilities.
Things we liked
80 bits with tons of different profiles to play around with
Nice quality padded aluminum storage box
Plenty of different bearing sizes
Things we didn’t like
Warranty is not great (1-year limited, 90-day return guarantee plus restocking fee)
What are the Most Common Router Bits that You’ll Use Most Often?
If you’re asking yourself “what router bits do i need to get started”, you’re certainly not alone — the #1 thing that new router owners want to know is what the most commonly used bits are, which ones they’ll be using most often, and the best router bits for the money.
Most Common Bits
There are literally thousands of different router bit profiles out there, but by far the two that you’ll use the most are straight bits and roundover bits.
The straight bit is an absolute woodworking staple, and is used to cut grooves and dados (a dado is just a groove that’s cut across the grain), as well as hollowing out mortices and inlays of different depths.
Roundover and rabbeting bits are guided by a bearing that rolls along the edge of the wood, and cuts a smooth, finished curve into the edge or cuts a shoulder (rabbet) for joinery.
Other popular bits include flush trim bits that are used to trim the edge of one material flush with another (like veneers glued onto a substrate), chamfering bits that are used to smooth or bevel 90-degree edges, and edge-forming bits that can be used to create elegant designs in a range of material (trim, molding, etc).
Most Common Sizes
Like we mentioned earlier, the most common router bit size is ½”. ¼” bits are also common and popular, but ½ inch shank is the more recommended size for standard use – they provide much better stability, performance, and a lot less vibration which is crucial for obtaining desirable results.
If you’re wondering what size bits your router takes, most all that we know of will accept both ¼ inch shank and ½ inch shank. The only time that ¼ inch shank bits are preferable is when you need a really slight or minimal edge formed.
Final Things to Consider
Lastly, before you decide on what the best router bit set for you and your needs will be, consider the following:
Look for carbide-tipped blades
These will last up to 50% longer than standard hardened steel (HSS) bits, which is important because router bits are very prone to dulling from excess heat and friction.
Price is often the best indication of quality
Keeping this in mind, it’s very easy to find super cheap router bit sets online, or even in your local hardware store. Unfortunately, the hard truth is, the vast majority of them are garbage bits that are borderline useless.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you clean router bits?
To clean router bits, mix a generous amount of water and detergent together in a small container and soak the bits for 10 minutes. Once the 10 minutes are up, take the bits out and brush them with an old toothbrush to get rid of any debris. Dry them off with a rag and put them away.
Are router bits interchangeable?
They are two kinds of router bits, ½ inch and ¼ inch. These router bits come with interchangeable collections which can be switched out at any time but some wood routers only accept the ¼ inch shank.
How do you sharpen router bits?
Sharpening router bits may seem easy but they may require you to chip their cutting edges with materials like diamond stones. When carving people will often apply water so excessive particles can be washed away. However, I would like to mention while you can sharpen the bits yourself I recommend you take your router bits to a sharpening service that has all the right tools to have your bits professionally sharpened. If you find that it’s difficult to sharpen your router bits, then consider buying new ones. Sharpening usually costs around half the price of new router bits.
How long do router bits last?
This depends. Most people have been able to use some bits for years while others have reported that theirs became dull within a few hours. The lifespan of your bits is going to depend on how you use them, the brand you use, the speed etc.
Questions to Ask Yourself
In this Ultimate Best Router Bits Guide, we made it a point to recommend only the best router bits available, that have consistently proven to perform well at an inexpensive price.
Make sure and ask yourself these questions:
- Do you have a specific job or woodworking projects in mind? Or are you just looking for an all-purpose set?
- Are you going to be using your router a lot, or only occasionally?
- What’s your budget? How much are you willing to spend?
Taking all of these things into consideration will no doubt help you pick out the best router bits or router bit set for you and your specific needs.
Best Router Bit Set: What’s the Bottom Line?
Bottom line is, if we had to recommend one all-purpose starter set containing some of the best router bits for beginners, we’d go with the 30-piece MLCS 8369 kit.
This kit will set you up with every single profile that you’ll need at the router table, and it also has all the things you’ll want in a quality set that’ll perform well and last long, including ½” shank and carbide-tipped blades on all bits.