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I am building a ladder similar to the one pictured. I want to cut hand-hold holes like the ones in the image.

I am horrible with a jig-saw, and I don't think I could ever get them looking as nice as those below with a jig-saw.

How did this person achieve the exact same holes? What tool/technique is best to achieve this. I want it to look as clean/professional/consistent as possible.

hand-holds in a ladder

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A 2x4 seems not deep enough for a decent handhold. Also, if you cut more than about 30% of the width (maybe even less), you will seriously compromise the strength. The boards illustrated look to be at least 6 inches wide. – bib Apr 1 '14 at 15:08
Router & Templates are the way to go for perfect duplication, especially if not good with a jigsaw. If you plan on using it often, you can use template bushings with straight bits instead of more expensive bits with bearings. You can also cut out most of the wood with a jigsaw and finish up with the router to extend bit life and make it easier. Also, it looks like 1x6 in that image, not 2x4. – RyanWinchester Apr 1 '14 at 17:20
up vote 9 down vote accepted

The most likely solution is to create a template and use a router with a bit that follows the template. The router would also be used for easing over any sharp edges.

router with template

photo credit, sample image, not a product recommendation

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A router is definitely the way I would do this. Note that you need a flush-cutting bit (as shown in that photo) — the bearing portion goes against the template and the cutting edge goes against the wood to be trimmed. – Henry Jackson Apr 1 '14 at 13:50

I'd suggest simply using a hole saw and a jig saw would be sufficient. The key to using a jig saw for the straight cut is to use a saw guide on the jig saw, or an external guide support to keep the cut straight. You can either use a scrap of plywood clamped to the wood (if the width is sufficient, or make a jig (similar, but smaller, to the one described at http://www.finehomebuilding.com/how-to/departments/building-skills/make-a-saw-guide-for-faster-cleaner-cuts.aspx)

Simply cut the two holes with the hole saw for the radiused ends, and then cut the straight cuts using the jig saw guided by the saw guide or jig.

enter image description here

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And a cheese grater style wood rasp for smoothing the transitions, finished with sandpaper wrapped around a sufficient sized dowel. – Fiasco Labs Apr 1 '14 at 15:23

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