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HSS v. Carbide Tipped Router Bits

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Forum topic by Floyd Hall posted 10-11-2018 06:11 AM 368 views 0 times favorited 17 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Floyd Hall

124 posts in 417 days


10-11-2018 06:11 AM

Topic tags/keywords: router question

Hi folks,

Been busy with a bunch of stuff, but it looks like the time has finally come to invest in router bits. Til now I’ve mostly used carbide-tipped straight bits from Freud, Bosch and Porter Cable, etc., but the bits seem to dull quickly. And recently I bought a pair of Whiteside brass precision guide bushings, which have nice little centering pins. But again, the new straight bits I bought to go with them seem to dull quickly even on soft pine and mdf.

I’ve been looking at up-pull spiral bits. I know the sizes I need, but one of my router books (I have 3-4 because it’s such a damn hard tool to learn how to use) insists that high speed steel is the way to go. Virtually none of the major manufacturers really produces HHS bits anymore, but one—Onsrud—does. This book argues that you can get a sharper edge on HSS and therefore a better cut. But other people seem to think carbide holds up better.

So which do I choose—HSS or carbide?

Floyd


17 replies so far

View therealSteveN's profile

therealSteveN

1410 posts in 720 days


#1 posted 10-11-2018 07:22 AM

Book is correct that HSS can be sharpened to a finer degree than carbide. BUT, always another side. The carbide will cut far longer than the HSS without need of sharpening/replacement. For that reason most of the higher end companies sell/make a lot more carbide bits than HSS.

For a nice discussion about differences between spiral, and straight bits Pat ROUTER MAN Warner, sadly departed wrote this, and WoodCraft uses it to explain differences.

Personally I would stay away from Onsrud products, they are generally low quality, and Amazon is awash with low end HSS bits from China for much less, and for those times when you know bit life is very quick, or your need for that cutter is probably just on 1 job, I will buy the yellow bits every day. I have been pleasantly surprised with this Yonico flush trim bit I have been using to trim a bunch of cabinets/and tops I am making for the shop.

I have about 230 lineal foot of cutting on one bit. I hardly expected 100 at that price. The bit is still flying through the plywood. Plywood because of the crossed plies, and especially the glue used to keep them together is hot to cut, and hard against the cutters surface. Heat kills a cutting edge as quickly as anything, hard can chip it out, especially if it is real cheap.

I’m not suggesting these over Whiteside, the Whiteside can easily be resharpened, you’ll find the cheaper bits, well not so much.

So which to buy, HSS or Carbide? If your only choice is Onsrud, I’d go carbide, but maybe inexpensive carbide to try, or for that we aren’t coming back this way again project. If you find other HSS that are actually going to look cost effective, give one a try, see what you think.

-- Think safe, be safe

View Tony_S's profile

Tony_S

923 posts in 3229 days


#2 posted 10-11-2018 10:21 AM



For a nice discussion about differences between spiral, and straight bits Pat ROUTER MAN Warner, sadly departed wrote this, and WoodCraft uses it to explain differences.

Be very cautious of this article. While there is some truth scattered throughout, It’s also peppered with B.S.
No idea who “Pat ROUTER MAN Warner” is, but it appears from the article he’s never heard of a carbide tipped plunge router bit??


Personally I would stay away from Onsrud products, they are generally low quality,
- therealSteveN

I can only assume then that you’ve never used an Onsrud product, because that’s B.S. as well.
Onsrud manufactures some of the best tooling in the world.
The only pain I’ve ever suffered with their products(and I’ve got a pile of it) is the cost. They are generally more expensive than other manufacturers. But quite often, depending on the tool vs. application, you get what you pay for.

Floyd
Forget about the high speed steel bits. There’s a reason why most of the major manufacturers don’t make or sell them anymore. For most wood working applications, they’re HUGELY inferior. Any advantages the have in sharpness quickly fall to the wayside in the first 10’ of routing most common materials. High speed steel doesn’t deal well with the high rpm’s and heat generated from the cut of a typical router. Once they start to (quickly) dull, they heat up, temper is lost and they’re junk.

One of the biggest advantages of spiral carbide bits vs. braised/tipped carbide bits is the quality of the carbide in the spiral’s. They’re made of a much higher quality micrograin carbide that can be ground to a far sharper edge than a standard carbide bit edge. They cut cleaner and they also stay sharper, longer.

Disadvantages of carbide spirals
Initial expense (even though for many applications the quality of the cut and longevity of the edge far out ways that pain).

A lot of sharpening facilities don’t/won’t sharpen them, or they do a poor job, and they’re expensive to have sharpened properly.

Limited sharpening life. Typically after about three sharpenings, the cut quality starts to drop off quickly due to the loss of edge geometry. Most weekend warriors wouldn’t suffer this issue often though, simply because the edge does last so long. For most applications, I’d say 10X. Some, even longer.

Due to the much sharper edge, they chip easier than a standard carbide bit. They don’t like knots.

-- It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. Aristotle

View lumbering_on's profile

lumbering_on

362 posts in 636 days


#3 posted 10-11-2018 01:20 PM

I’m a bit surprised to hear the negative opinion about Onsrud. Lee Valley sells them, and I haven’t had any issues with them. Mind you, I only buy the carbide bits, so I can’t comment on the HSS.

View waho6o9's profile

waho6o9

8423 posts in 2723 days


#4 posted 10-11-2018 01:37 PM

Carbide bits are best.

View Markmh1's profile

Markmh1

86 posts in 589 days


#5 posted 10-11-2018 01:47 PM

The reason HSS can be made sharper is cutter geometry. HSS is usually sharpened with a positive rake on the cutting angle, carbide is usually neutral or even negative.

There are exceptions. One that comes to mind is Forrest saw blades. These are generally sharpened with a positive rake. They can get away with that by using micro grain structured carbide and, unofficially, recommending running the blade higher above the workpiece to get rid of the heat. No such luck with a router bit, these are usually buried and heat builds quickly. Ever feel a bit when it has stopped spinning after it comes out of a cut? You won’t grab it a second time.

The big enemy is heat. A spiral bit attempts to get the chips out of the cut so you’re not recutting them 3 or 4 times. Now the trade off becomes expense. Spiral bits are more expensive.

I’ve used Amana bits with good results, but I haven’t used every brand. I’m also a weekend fellow.

I hope this information is of some help. I don’t have a clear solution.

Mark

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TheFridge

10332 posts in 1632 days


#6 posted 10-11-2018 01:48 PM

Ditto on the onsrud and carbide

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View Bill_Steele's profile

Bill_Steele

416 posts in 1878 days


#7 posted 10-11-2018 01:50 PM

You’ve never heard of Pat Warner? I would tread lightly around criticizing this guy. He was widely accepted as a router guru.

View Kirk650's profile

Kirk650

566 posts in 894 days


#8 posted 10-11-2018 02:03 PM

Go with the carbide bits. Seems to me that Whiteside bits are about the best. You don’t really want HSS router bits.

View jbay's profile

jbay

2677 posts in 1045 days


#9 posted 10-11-2018 02:10 PM

I can only assume then that you’ve never used an Onsrud product, because that’s B.S. as well.

Onsrud manufactures some of the best tooling in the world.

Agree!

Any HSS bits I ever used (and it’s been a very long time) have gotten hot and burned up.
They last about minute and a half.

View AHuxley's profile

AHuxley

808 posts in 3467 days


#10 posted 10-11-2018 02:15 PM


Personally I would stay away from Onsrud products, they are generally low quality,

Are you sure you aren’t mixing up Onsrud with some other company? Onsrud is one of the premiere tooling manufacturers in the world. They are a staple in multiple industries.

View MrRon's profile

MrRon

5086 posts in 3389 days


#11 posted 10-11-2018 03:23 PM

If your carbide bits dull quickly, HSS bits will dull more so. True a HSS bit can cut cleaner, but will need sharpening more often.Sharpening bits, either carbide or HSS is usually not a DIY job. Onsrud makes some of the best bits, so I’m told. They are the choice for CNC routers. I haven’t used them because I don’t do all that much router work. I’m building a CNC router and when it’s finished, I will try Onsrud bits.

View Floyd Hall's profile

Floyd Hall

124 posts in 417 days


#12 posted 10-11-2018 05:04 PM

Thanks all.

I’ll probably go ahead with the Whiteside carbide bits. I’ve had pretty good experience with Whiteside so far and I like dealing with them. I’m just frustrated with how fast the (not Whiteside) bits I have now go dull. But I’m learning that it’s good to clean these things every few passes rather than just every now and then. I’ve had them sharpened before, but they just don’t seem to hold an edge for long.

Anyway, this has been a hard tool to learn to use properly. I’ve always had a lot of problems with tear-out in particular. But I got a new 3 hp Triton router now and I’m moving on to half-inch bits. Hopefully they’ll hold up better. I also got better dado capacity with my other tools—a dado stack for the table saw and a new (old) DeWalt radial arm saw – so that will help, too. I’ve primarily used my routers for dado work till now. Mostly on a little PC 690. I’m sure that’s most of the problem. Just needed a bigger tool.

At some point in the future I’ll experiment with HSS bits. Other than Onsrud, Amana still sells a few. Anyway, the book I’m talking about is Patrick Spielman’s ‘Router Jigs and Techniques.’ He’s big on HSS and Onsrud. If anyone can recommend a better book, please do. Like I said, I own 3-4 of them. Thinking about taking all of them down to the used book store and selling them.

Floyd

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splintergroup

2304 posts in 1368 days


#13 posted 10-11-2018 05:47 PM

I usually buy carbide when I anticipate using the bit regularly, however recently I have returned buying/using HSS end mill bits in 1/2” shank, 1/2” diameter along with 1/4” shaft end mills. They are exceptionally inexpensive and cut beautifully clean mortices. They also last a good long time. Lately for small boxes I’ve needed 1/4” and 3/16” stopped dados, the short HSS 3-flute bits were perfect.

MSCdriect has good prices and if you sign up for there email you can get free shipping along with large % off discounts.

View rwe2156's profile

rwe2156

3092 posts in 1627 days


#14 posted 10-11-2018 06:06 PM

Try some Whiteside or CMT bits.

I use Freud and MSC but I just don’t think they hold up as well.

I’m pretty sure you’ll see a big difference.

I once build a big kitchen of hickory and never had to sharpen the Whiteside raised panel bits.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View Floyd Hall's profile

Floyd Hall

124 posts in 417 days


#15 posted 10-11-2018 06:41 PM



Try some Whiteside or CMT bits.
I use Freud and MSC but I just don t think they hold up as well.
I m pretty sure you ll see a big difference.
I once build a big kitchen of hickory and never had to sharpen the Whiteside raised panel bits.
- rwe2156

Yeah, I talked to the Whiteside guys once and they insisted that carbide was better. I do have some big CMT bearing bits, but I haven’t used them much because my little PC 690 couldn’t handle them very well. I’m assuming the Triton can. Right now most of my bits are Freud straight bits. I just bought two more of them and they went dull pretty quickly working mostly on pine and mdf. I’m making mortising jigs, among other things. And the glue in the mdf is part of the problem. They gunk up pretty quickly. A lot of heat, too.

Anyway, in the past I’ve sharpened these straight bits, but they don’t seem to hold an edge very long. That’s why I was going to try the Whiteside spiral bits. Anyway, I had them all picked out, then went back to double-check my books and the HSS v. Carbide question came up again. Like I said, I’ll go ahead and get the Whiteside bits and experiment with the HSS bits later.

Floyd

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