If you already have a woodworking router and table, you’re still missing one major component: the bits! Without router bits, the tool doesn’t work. You can buy them one by one, but kits are an easy way to get started.
What to Look for in Router Bits
When you buy a router, all you’re truly getting is a fancy motor. To do anything with it, you’ll also need router bits. It’s a lot like a circular saw and a saw blade. Without the blade, the saw is useless. In the case of routers, though, your bit choices are nearly endless. And what bit you choose makes a big difference in how it performs and what shapes it cuts into your material.
While you can buy bits individually, kits are a more economical option to start. Bits in kits typically aren’t as nice as individually purchased bits, but they also cost far less per bit.
Here are a few things to pay attention to when purchasing router bits:
- Shape: The bit’s shape determines how it will cut wood, whether that’s to create a channel in the center of a piece or to ease over sharp edges to something more rounded. Look for at least a flush cut bit, round over bit, and a Roman OGEE bit.
- Shank size: The shank of a router bit is the long vertical metal piece you insert into the router. These come in two sizes: 1/4 inch and 1/2 inch. While some routers, like trim routers, accept only 1/4-inch bits, most routers can accept either 1/4- or 1/2-inch bits. If that describes your router, then pick 1/2-inch bits whenever possible. 1/2-inch bits make smoother cuts and are less prone to vibration.
- Bit material: Manufacturers make router bits from three different material types: high-speed steel, carbide tipped, and solid carbide. High-speed steel is the cheapest but also breaks down quickly. Carbide tipped will cost you more but lasts longer. Solid carbide tips are very expensive, and appropriate only for specific kinds of cuts. For most bits, pick carbide tipped.
When you start buying expensive individual bits, you’ll want to look at other aspects like hardness, dust protection, and so on. But for your first router bits, shape, shank size, and bit material are most important.
Best Overall: MLCS 8377 15-Piece Router Bit Set
The MLCS 8377 Router Bit Set checks all the right boxes to get you started in routing. For not a lot of money, you get 15 carbide-tipped bits. That includes four straight bits, one round over bit, a Roman OGEE bit, and more. These are 1/2-inch shank bits, so make sure your router is compatible before buying. The kit also includes a box to store the bits in, so you don’t lose them.
MLCS 8377 15-Piece Router Bit Set with Carbide-Tipped 1/2-Inch Shanks
Perfect for your first router bit kit, this set includes all the important bits plus a few more. The chamfer and rabbit are perfect for more advanced cuts and the set includes a box for storage.
Best Premium Bits: Freud 91-100 13-Piece Super Router Bit Set
If you’re looking to step up in quality, Freud’s router bit will satisfy. Freud uses Titanium Cobalt Carbide, which is a harder, more densely packed carbide material than most bits use. That means they stay sharp longer and even last longer. You’ll get flush bits, round over bits, Roman OGEE bits, and more. Again, check that your router accepts 1/2-inch shanks.
The biggest complaint this set receives is the box. For shipping purposes, the holes that hold the bits are extremely tight. That makes getting the bits out to use hard. But, you could use a tool (like your router!) to enlarge the holes slightly.
Freud 91-100 13-Piece Super Router Bit Set with 1/2-Inch Shank and Freud's TiCo Hi-Density Carbide
Made of a hard carbide, these bits should last and last. You'll get all the most common bits, plus a few more to round things out. The storage case looks nice enough to display, too.
Best Budget Pick: Hiltex 10100 Tungsten Carbide Router Bits
If you want more for less, the Hiltex bits fit the bill. The manufacturer chose tungsten carbide, which is stronger than high-speed steel but isn’t as strong as Titanium cobalt carbide. You get everything you need, including flush and straight bits, a Roman OGEE bit, and a round over bit. You even get a workable (though not pretty) storage case. And since these bits have a 1/2-inch shank, they’ll work with nearly any router, even a trim router.
Hiltex 10100 Tungsten Carbide Router Bits | 15-Piece Set , Blue
They won't last as long, but you'll spend less upfront, which makes these a great budget pick. Hiltex's bit kits come with everything you need, even a wood storage case. And thanks to 1/4-inch shanks, they'll fit nearly any router.
The Kitchen Sink Pick: Yonico 17702 70 Bit Router Bit Set
Don’t feel like piecing together a bit kit little by little? The Yonico router bit set has you covered. Similar to our budget pick, the manufacturer used tungsten carbide in the construction of these bits. They won’t break immediately, but they likely won’t last as long as high-end bits. But, what they lack in higher quality they make up for in quantity.
This set includes 70 different router bits. You get several types of round over, flush, straight, and even OGEE bits. You’ll get several dovetail bits, profile groove bits, chamfer bits, and more. There are very few projects you’ll encounter that calls for a bit this set doesn’t have.
As a bonus, you can buy this kit with either 1/2-inch shanks or 1/4-inch shanks.
Yonico 17702 70 Bit Router Bit Set 1/2-Inch Shank
You could buy one router bit at a time until you have everything you need. Or you could pick up this kit with its 70 router bits. That'll cover nearly all your needs. You can pick either 1/2-inch shanks or 1/4-inch shanks.