An economical way to expand your bit collection is to buy from a manufacturer offering interchangeable cutters. The bits are assembled, meaning that the cutter is a separate piece from the arbor. You can buy a complete bit. but you can also buy just the cutters and use them interchangeably on a single arbor.
You save roughly $7 per profile by buying the cutter but not the arbor. Doesn't seem like a lot of money, but think of it this way: "Buy three and get the fourth free!" (Jeez, I could be a marketing consultant!)
In the system offered by Paso Robles Carbide (marketed under the Ocemco name), you can buy Winch- and Vi-ineh-shank arbors with and without plots. All the profile cuttcrs—rabbet cutters, coves, ogees, round-overs, and others—can be purchased separately. Budget considerations aside, this can be a marvelously flexible system. You can use a cutter on a Winch shank with a pilot in your 1-horsepower router, then switch it onto a '/¿-inch shank without a pilot to use in a 3-horsepower table-mounted router.
Paso Robles doesn't have the most extensive catalog, but it docs have some unique cutters. Chamfer cutters arc available with 25-, 30-, 45-, 60-, and 67-degree bevels. Rabbet cutters range in four steps from Vinch to Yi inch; switching pilot bearings both expands that range and provides additional steps. The ogee profiles range not only in radii of the profiles, which is typical of other lines, but also in the proportions. (Look for Paso Robles in "Sources" on page 337.)
The other interchangeable cutter lines that I know of are more limited.
The Byrom line, for example, includes a small assortment of interchangeable cutters—two round-overs that can also bead, a Roman ogee, a chamfer, a cove, a rabbet, and two laminate trimmers. A Winch-shank arbor, which comes with two different pilot bearings. Ls available.
The two beefs I've heard regarding interchangeable cuttcr systems are that "keeping track of all these small parts" is a hassle and that the pilots have come loose in use. Both are bogus to me. Keeping track of two or three arbors and a dozen cutters is no more taxing than keeping track of a dozen separate bits. If you lose cutters, you probably lose your router's second collet, the extra bearings for your rabbeting bit, maybe your drill bits, and any other small tools you have in your shop. With an interchangeable cutter system, all you have to do is set up your bit storage with spindles for the cutters, instead of holes for bit shanks.
As for pilots coming loose, I would
The hub of the interchangeable cutter sy stem is the arbor. Paso Robles makes arbors in Winch and '/2-inch shank configurations, with and without pilots, all of which accept the same cutters. To keep it from spinning on the arbor, the Paso Robles cutter has a hex recess. It fits over a matching hex formed on the shank of the arbor. A stop nut with a ny lon insert secures the cutter and pilot on the arbor's spindle. The nylon insert resists the rotational forces that would loosen a regular nut. To free the cutter from the arbor,you usually have to rap the end of the spindle onto the workbench (after removing the nut and hearing, of course).
think the potential for this exists with every bit that has a detachable pilot— and that's eveiy bit with a bearing as a pilot. This is all a matter of router and bit maintenance. You have to tighten the collet properly, and you have to keep after nuts or screws on your bits.
did 1 buy this router for? What jobs will I do with it?" You have to buy the bits that will do those jobs. If you're asking my opinion on what you should start with. I'd recommend as a minimum the first four bits I bought in carbide:
• Winch straight bit
• Winch straight bit
• Winch round-over bit
In writing this. I nosed around in back issues of magazines, a cou-plc of books, and a half-dozen bit catalogs. There's considerable accord on what to start with. Two bits were on everyone's list: the Winch rabbeting bit and the Winch straight bit (well, this wasn't on my list, was it?). Straights and round-over bits were on all lists, though not everyone agreed on the sizes to buy.
Round-over bits? Choose from lA inch. Y& inch, and Vi inch.
Straights? Select V* inch, V* inch. Yi inch, and Y* inch.
Beyond these, recommendations included a chamfcr bit, a Winch dovetail, a Winch Roman ogee, and a flush-trimmer. I wouldn't dispute the value of any of these bits. If yours is a bare-bones start-up in router woodworking, if your budget restricts you to the router and three or four individual bits, any of these choices would be good.
But if you can manage it. try to match your dollar investment in a router with a dollar investment in bits. Put $ 130 into a router and $ 150 into bits.
Very often, a woodworker new to router use will do what I did— spring for a "set." Nearly every bit source has a few sets. A dozen or 15 different bits in a nice box or case, at a price somewhat below the aggregate cost of the individual bits. Good way to get started.
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