Your unbiased guide to Router Bits
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Router Bit Information
Router Bits, small cylindrical pieces of metal, often taken for granted, that ultimately can make or break your investment in a router. This is true whether you are running a small inexpensive hand router or a large, expensive CNC router that costs hundreds of thousand of dollars. After all it is this small piece of metal, the router bit with a sharp or dull cutting edge that determines what kind of cutting finish you get on your material. Just like cars, if you run a Ferrari with cheap bald tires you can’t take a hairpin turn at 150 MPH, so don’t expect to get a good quality cut with a dull router bit either.
Router Bits come in all shapes and sizes but they all rotate at high speeds, generally as low as 1,000 RPM up to 30,000 RPM or even higher. Router Bits are used to cut straight edges, profile edges, trim, and plunge cuts. Router Bits usually come in ¼” and ½” shanks, although 3/8”, ¾” and metric sizes may also be available depending on the specific router bit. Some are even custom made depending on the profile or the specific type of machine the router bit will be used on. Typically the larger or heavier the cut; or faster the feed rate the larger the shank diameter needs to be to keep the router bit stable and keep it from breaking or vibrating.
Heat and vibration are the enemies of router bits. Vibration can come from the machine, or the router bit itself if it is poorly made and out of balance or if it has been damaged (chipping or breakage) and the weight has been redistributed so that the router bit is no longer in balance. Heat comes from friction, a router bit running at high RPM’s causes a lot of friction and heat. Heat causes the router bit to get dull; as it gets dull it causes more friction-heat and gets duller, a downward spiral. Bottom line is that to get the best finish you need to keep your router bits sharp and in balance.
Just like router bits there are lots and lots of routers that come in different shapes and sizes. In the hand router category you have Fixed Base Routers, Plunge Routers, Router Tables and Laminate Trimmers. In stationary routers there are CNC Routers, Pin Routers, Inverted Routers, and broken arm routers. All share the same characteristic that the router provides the foundation for the router bit to do its job, cutting. If you have vibration when your router runs without a router bit in it, you’re going to get vibration to the router bit and get chatter on your parts or worse get a router bit that breaks. Not good, especially if it breaks when it is running at high RPM. This is true no matter how good of a router bit you are using. To go back to the car analogy, it’s like running Goodyear’s best tires on a Yugo. The tires might be designed to go 150 MPH around a hairpin turn but the car isn’t.
Router bits are made
up of different materials including carbide tipped, solid carbide, high
speed steel, Polycrystalline diamond (PCD) and other various lower grades
of steel. They can be used to cut various materials; such as solid wood,
particle board, MDF, plastics, aluminum, non ferrous metals, composites
to name a few. You have to have the right material router bit for the
material you are cutting. In most materials high speed steel router bits
get dull quicker than carbide tipped, solid carbide or diamond, but the
bit itself is stronger and more durable. Diamond router bits on the other
hand tend to stay sharper longer than the others but are more brittle
so you only want to use it with an with an automatic feed machine like
a CNC Router where you can come up to speed smoothly so you don’t
jerk and break your expensive diamond router bit.
Router-Bit-World.com is designed to help home woodworkers and industrial woodworkers make educated decisions about buying router bits. The correct router bit is key to getting the proper finish cut on whatever type of router you are using.