Vertical raised-panel bits
These cutters have grown increasingly popular in recent years because they don't require a big, variable-speed router (as horizontal raised-panel bits do). But, there are trade-offs that you need to consider.
Because vertical bits don't exceed 1-1/2" in diameter, you can run them at full speed (about 24,000 rpm). So, most single-speed routers with at least 1-1/2 hp will handle them.
You can buy these bits for $45 to $60 each--about the same price as or slightly less than horizontal bits. Vertical bits have 1/2" shanks, and cut the same profiles (ogee, cove, or straight bevel) and the same reveal (about 1-1/2") as full-sized horizontal bits.
As you will see in the next section, vertical bits will cut almost as smoothly as horizontal bits, but only if you take your time and work slowly. You won't find their slow pace a big problem if you're not in a hurry and are making just a few panels.
Finally, vertical bits can only make cuts along straight edges. So, they won't help you make arch-topped panels.
Note: Build the frame that the panel will fit into before you start the following procedures. Then, you can test-fit your first panel and be confident that all of your panels will fit in their frame grooves. These bits are designed to be used with 3/4"-thick stock.
With vertical panel-raising bits, you stand workpieces on edge as you feed them, so you need a tall router-table fence for support. We've had our best success with the fence shown at left. It has a guide bar that holds the bottom of the panel in firm contact with the router bit for a consistent cut. It also helps to keep your hands away from the bit.
After building the fence, clamp the guide bar in place, adjusting it so a panel snugly fits between the bar and fence. The panel should slide smoothly, but without any slop. We positioned the bar, by placing two pieces of scrap panel stock between the fence and bar as shown in Illustration A.
Now, install the bit and adjust its height so that all but 1/16" of its carbide cutting edge is above the table surface. Clamp the fence to the router table so the bit makes a cut about 1/16" deep.
Hold your panel as shown in Illustration B, and make a cut along the end grain. Hold the top of the panel in solid contact with the fence, being careful not to tip the bottom of the panel into the bit. Feed the workpiece slowly to prevent scalloped cuts and grain tearout. (The ends are especially susceptible to tearout.) Don't pause as you feed, or the bits will burn the wood. Make the same cut along the opposite end, and then cut the edge-grain sides.
With a pencil, mark the position of the fence on both ends of the table, as shown in Illustration C. These marks will help you reposition the fence for subsequent panels. Then, readjust the fence for another 1/16"-deep cut. Make the cuts, remembering to cut the ends first, and again mark the position of the fence. Repeat this procedure until you cut the profile to its final depth.
Depending on the wood, you may be able to take deeper cuts without any problem. But, it's best to err on the side of shallow cuts--even when you get smooth results with deeper cuts. Why? Large chunks of wood can unexpectedly break free from hard, open-grained woods, such as red oak, seriously marring the panel.
As you approach the final depth (the panel edges should be about 1/4"-thick), check the panel for fit into the frame groove, according to the guideline in Illustration D. If you're making multiple panels, clamp some stops onto the table in back of the fence, as shown in Illustration E. These will guarantee cuts of uniform depth on all of your pieces.
If you already own a 3-hp variable-speed router, or can afford to buy one, go with horizontal bits for panel raising. They don't require any special jigs, but you may need an auxiliary tabletop if your router-table plate doesn't have insert rings for bits of various diameters. And, you'll get better results in much less time.
Vertical raised-panel bits make sense if you need to make a few panels and don't want to spend $210 or more for a big router. Just remember to be patient and take your time.