The woodworking router is a simple tool, consisting of two main parts, a base plate and a motor that spins a bit. But despite the simplicity, the router is a very versatile tool. Unlike most other portable power tools, the router has no stationary counterpart that outperforms it. The first routers were developed during the First World War. It quickly became popular. It is the easiest and fastest way of shaping the edge of a workpiece.
Due to the high speed of the routers, you need good well balanced bits. The more bits you have, the more different jobs you can do with your router. For every new bit you expand the capabilities of your router.
Most router bits are carbide-tipped. Carbide is an extremely hard material and is relatively insensitive to heat. But carbide has two main weaknesses, it is brittle and fairly expensive. That’s why most bits have a carbide tip. Most of the bit is made of steel. The thickness of the carbide suggests the life span of the bit. A thin strip of carbide will disappear after a couple of sharpenings. Often the carbide used for router bits is graded into a four–level hardness scale, from the soft C1 to the hard C4. Soft carbide dulls quicker and will not last as long. But the grading is only part of the story, even the hardest carbide bit can be poorly made.
Router bits used to be made of steel, high-speed steel. But they are not as durable as carbide and carbide-tipped bits. HSS bits are cheap but seldom used today. HSS bits can be made razor-sharp but they dull quickly. Generally carbide-tipped bits will last at least ten times longer than HSS bits.
Most routers have either quarter-inch or half-inch shanks. Many routers accept both sizes. But you also have a third size, 3/8 inch. The half-inch shank size means less vibration and the bits are stronger. The price difference between ¼-inch and ½ inch bits is small. So in most cases, you want a router that accepts ½-inch bits and you stick to ½-inch bits.
You have an enormous amount of bits on the market, many of them cheap but some of them are very expensive. The ½-inch straight bit is very popular, generally the most used bit. But the 1/4-inch and 3/4 –inch straight bits are very useful as well. The3/8 inch rabbit bit is another bit you should buy early. The ¼ round-over bit is also worth considering.
Always use the bit with the shortest cutting edge that will do the job. The longer the bit, the greater the risk of it breaking.