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    Buy the Right Router Bits

    With just a few bits you can be ready to tackle the most essential routing tasks.

    If you want to do serious woodworking, you’ll need to buy a router. This tool will open up a lot of doors to the woodworking world. With it you can cut all types of joinery, make your own molding profiles, flush trim parts, and even do inlay work.
    But which bits should you buy? It’s a tough question, especially if you woodwork on a tight budget, as I do. I’d avoid the trap of buying a set at the local big-box home store. You get a good price but often neither the selection nor quality is good. I guarantee there will be two or three bits in the pack that you’ll never use, and the bits just won’t last long, so you’ll be back at the store before you know it.
    It’s best to buy good-quality bits in small quantities—either individually or in small, useful sets. There are some must-haves for general woodworking, though, and these are good starting points for assembling a router-bit kit.

    Straight bits are a must
    The first bits I’d buy are 1/4 in. and 1/2 in. straight bits. These are my workhorse bits.

     Straight bits 


    They make square, uniform cuts such as grooves and dadoes, and are also used to clean up edges and to cut tenons and rabbets. If you plan to router-cut mortises, start with a 3/8 in. spiral fluted bit.

    Next, get a flush-trimming bit, which simply is a straight bit with a bottom bearing.

    The flush bit not only trims parts flush to one another, but its bearing also makes it great for pattern-routing (duplicating parts with a jig). Start with a 1/2-in.-dia. bit that’s at least 1-1/2 in. long, so it can handle thicker stock.

    Create custom edges with molding bits
    A quick way to add punch to your pieces is to make your own edge treatments, whether it’s rounding over or chamfering corners, or creating your own moldings.

     Bits for custom edges 

    With a 45-degree chamfer bit, a 1/4 in. roundover bit, and a 3/8-in. cove bit, you have lots of creative options.

    Buy the rest as you need them
    With the bits mentioned, you can tackle a number of basic woodworking jobs. But as you increase your skills, you’ll need to add bits to do different jobs.

    If you want to make router-cut dovetails, get a 1/2 in. dovetail bit. This is a good starter bit, but as your designs vary, you can get different sizes.

    Dovetail bit

    If you make frames or bookcases or cabinets with rabbets for face frames or backs, get a dedicated rabbeting bit, with a few different size bearings. If you start making your own doors, get a cope-and-stick bit set. The options are limitless.

    But starting small is a great way to stretch your woodworking money, and you’ll be able to buy better quality bits. Before you know it, you’ll have a large collection that will last a long time and will help you do better work, and do it faster.

    This article originally appeared in FWW 110.