Forstner Bit vs. Router: Which One to Use?

Forstner Bit vs. Router: Which One to Use?

Handyman's World is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

If you’re planning to get into the world of woodworking, one of the things that you need to know about is all of the different tools that you may need to use. This is also true for all the different bits and accessories for each of these tools.

Two things in woodworking that you will most definitely have use for include Forstner bits and wood routers. What we’re here to do today is to figure out the difference between them, what each is ideal for, and which one you need.

Forstner Bits and Routers: The Basics

Before we get into talking about what the main differences between Forstner bits and routers are, it is important to cover what each of these things is and what they are used for. What we do have to make clear here is that Forstner bits are accessories, or in other words, drill bits that can be used with drill presses and handheld drills.

Routers, on the other hand, are not accessories or drill bits but are their own tools, wood routers. The wood router is a wholly separate tool that can handle a whole lot of different attachments on its own.

What Is a Forstner Bit?

Forstner Bit First off, we have the Forstner bit which is defined as a spurless wood drilling bit, designed especially for the drilling of blind holes. One of the defining features of a Forstner drill bit is that it has the ability to drill flat-bottomed counterbored holes, as opposed to normal drill bits which create pointed holes.

Moreover, Forstner bits can also be used to create angled holes, holes that slightly overlap with one another, or holes that appear on the edges of materials. One of the most common applications for the Forstner drill bit is for hardware installation, particularly where achieving a precise mortise depth is important. Keep in mind that Forstner drill bits also create a very small hole in the center, thus making it much easier to find the center of the hole when you are installing various pieces of hardware.

Unlike regular drill bits, Forstner drill bits do not really have a thread along the shank. Only the head of the Forstner drill bit is designed to cut, with the rest of it not doing anything. The result here is a hole that is perfectly flat, straight, and smooth without any kind of threading on the inside, thus not being ideal for screwing, at least not in most cases.

Do keep in mind that Forstner drill bits have a tendency to move or to walk away from the center of the cut, especially at the beginning as the cut is being made. The reason for this is because the shape of this drill bit requires a whole lot of force to make that initial cut. I wrote about how to use this bit properly here.

What Is a Router?

Wood Router Unlike a Forstner drill bit, a router is its own tool, not just a bit, and yes, routers do come with many different kinds of bits in themselves. Routers can use many different bits such as straight cutting bits, rounding over bits, cove bits, rabbeting bits, flush-trim bits, core box bits, and many others.

To be clear, a router is a powered handheld tool with four primary functions. The four primary functions of routers and router bits are to create joints, to plunge into the center of a piece of wood, to create grooves and inlays, as well as to shape the edges of wood.

They can also be used to cut a variety of designs, grooves, and patterns into pieces of wood. Keep in mind that handheld routers are usually the ones used for patterns and for cutting small grooves in wood, whereas plunge routers are used to cut deep and straight holes.

There are numerous types of routers. I wrote about how to use these tools here.

Forstner Bit vs. Router: What Are the Differences?

Now that we have figured out what Forster bits and routers are, let’s take a look at what the main differences between them are. This will help you figure out which one of the two is best for you.

1. Tool vs. Accessory

The number one main difference for you to take note of here is that a router is, of course, a whole power tool in itself, whereas a Forstner bit is nothing more than a drill bit designed for use within drill presses and handheld drills. One of these is a whole tool, whereas the other is just an accessory.

Wood Router

2. One Job vs. Many Jobs

Forstner drill bits are of course very convenient if you need flat-bottom holes with straight, flat, and smooth interiors. In terms of the applications, Forstner bits are used to drill flat-bottomed holes for the installation, mounting, and connecting of hardware or various pieces of wood.

Wood routers, on the other hand, can serve very many different jobs, and it’s all thanks to the literally dozens of different drill bits that they can be used with. Routers are designed to create joints, to plunge into the center of a piece of wood (plunge router), to create grooves and inlays, as well as to shape the edges of wood.

As you may have noticed, Forstner bits are ideal for drilling, whereas drilling is one of the few things that handheld routers are not ideal for.

3. Handheld vs. Stationary

Another difference to consider is that Forstner bits are very hard to use in regular handheld drills, and are therefore usually used in stationary drill presses. They can be difficult to use.

Routers, on the other hand, are generally handheld. That is unless you work with a router table.

4. Workable Materials

Routers are generally only used for wood, with some exceptions, whereas Forstner bits, depending on the specific type, can be used for wood, metal, plastic, tile, masonry, and more.

Which of the Two Should You Use?

The choice here is very simple.

If you need a drill bit that can drill holes that are flat-bottomed and have no thread in them, then the Forstner bit is the way to go. On the other hand, if you need to plunge into wood, create joints, create grooves, patterns, and inlays, or you need to work on the edge of a piece of wood, it’s the router that you need.

Forstner Bit Set

Can You Use a Forstner Bit in a Router?

No, you cannot use a Forstner bit in a router. Forstner bits are designed to move at relatively low speeds, whereas routers move much faster. Routers spin far too fast to be used with Forstner bits.


There you have it people, everything you need to know about Forstner bits and routers. As you can see, these are two very different things with completely different applications.

When it comes down to it, it’s not really a choice between one or the other, because they don’t do the same things at all. I wrote about my recommended Forstner bits, so if you need those, make sure to check the article out.

How Do Forstner Bits and Routers Compare with Other Tools?

See how Forstner bits compare with: auger bits | spade bits and hole saws

See how routers compare with: Dremels | jigsaws | table saws | wood shapers