It's tempting to save a little money buying bargain router bits, but it can lead to regrets and spending more in the long run. Below, Woodworker's Journal editor Rob Johnstone offers a useful rule of thumb in his response to a Woodworker's Journal eZine reader.
Q: I see a lot of router bits made in China -- none branded -- which appear to be bargains when it comes to price and appear to be well made. Are they a good buy or should I pass them by?
A: Rob Johnstone: My father used to tell me, “Buy the best you can afford and you will only cry once.” There is indeed a difference in the quality of steel, carbide and machining as you move from bit maker to bit maker. As with most things, the old saw: “you get what you pay for,” is true for router bits. The quality of steel, carbide and machining, along with the geometry of a router bit's design, are all things that are hard for average Joe's like you and me to evaluate. So the way that I make my first quality assessment is by looking at price. Then, when I use a bit, I do my second evaluation.
One question I ask myself with any tool purchase is: Am I going to be using this tool a lot, or just once or twice? If the answer is the former ... I opt to spend more money on the tool; the latter, and I look for a bargain.
From the Woodworker's Journal eZine 2004 archives
Router bits made by manufacturers like Amana and Freud - and our own Rockler Bits - haven't earned their reputation of top quality through sheer luck. The quality of the casting, the tool steel, the pilot bearings and above all, the carbide really do make a difference in the quality of the cut and the longevity of the bit. Rockler router bits are made using K10 and K20 grade carbide and finish-sharpened with 600-800 grit diamond wheels for an ultra-smooth cut. But if you prefer to judge the quality yourself, you can make one of the post-purchase router bit evaluations mentioned above risk-free. Rockler router bits are unconditionally guaranteed - if you don't like a Rockler router bit, send it back for a full refund.