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Can one use a router to cut wood in a similar way that a jigsaw would cut wood? What are the upsides and downsides of using a router to cut wood?

It seems simple enough, but then again, I've never used either machine. I would think that you could just set the router to a deeper threshold than you usually would, in order to cut through the full depth of the piece. Or perhaps you could flip the piece over after routing one side and finish the cut by routing on the underside.

I ask because it's of course less costly to have one router than to have one router and one jigsaw, particularly for a sporadic user like myself.

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    A person can find jigsaws at pawn shops and garage sales for $20, or circular saws for $40. You'd spend that buying appropriate bits for your router in short order, and you'd still have the wrong tool for the job. – isherwood Jan 15 '17 at 15:41
  • www.lowes.com lists an entry level B&D variable speed jig saw for $14.97 (Model BDEJS4C) and a similar SKIL variable speed saw for $29.98 (Model 4295-01). Admittedly they are not the same quality some $149 DEWALT or BOSCH but for a few cuts a year they may be good enough. – Michael Karas Jan 15 '17 at 15:55
  • An 1/8th inch bit, such as those made for RotoZip routers: google.com/… will work. Take the bit size up to a more usual 1/4 inch and you will generate a massive amount of very fine sawdust with each cut you make. – Wayfaring Stranger Jan 16 '17 at 0:59
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    Seeing this in the Hot Network questions left me very confused how you would use a (Network)-Router as a saw. – Lennart Jan 16 '17 at 10:23
  • Lennart: Just get it spinning really fast. Sturdy rack ears would help. Kind of a wide kerf, but hey ;-) Wayfaring - note that RotoZip refers to their product as a spiral saw, even though it's kinda like a really light-duty router. Even a laminate trimmer has a better base than those plastic atrocities (and I own one, though I didn't buy it, mind you.) – Ecnerwal Jan 16 '17 at 15:30
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It's entirely possible, and often reasonable. Without going as far as buying a CNC router (handy, but expensive) simple jigs and sleds permit cutting precisely circular holes (eat your heart out, jigsaws) and precisely straight edges (like a tablesaw with no need to use a jointer afterwards - indeed, many people with tablesaws use a router jig to joint boards if they don't also have a giant jointer.) A different sort of sled allows a router to act as a surface planer, as well, and a variant allows use as a curved surface planer.

There are, of course, compromises. You give up more waste in "saw" kerf. You may need to take multiple cuts at increasing depth or you risk overloading, bogging down, and snapping the bit.

From personal experience, you don't want a low-quality router with poor bearings. This is a tool where cheap can be expensive and expensive can be cheap. And it is certainly true that having more money in router bits than even a good router costs is perfectly normal.

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It can be done, but to use a router to cut wood is not optimum. Jigging a router can be more complex and a router will usually cut out a much wider swath and create way more sawdust and wood chips. The router will also cut much slower in thicker materials and has big learning curve issues regarding proper direction of cut.

When you start considering a router for cutting you will want the best quality router bits and even then they will still get dull when removing huge amounts of material. I would venture to guess that the cost of router bits alone would very quickly out pace the cost of an entry level jig saw.

  • Isn't it common to use a router where you would otherwise need to use a chisel, i.e. for openings for door handles, opening in a drawer used as grip, joining wooden parts? Just saying that some seemingly typical sawing or chiseling tasks can be way easier using a router (or chaser) – Abel Jan 15 '17 at 16:55
  • @Abel yes, before routers were invented, one would use chisels, scrapers, files, and various awls. – James Olson Jan 15 '17 at 17:14
  • @Abel: those examples are not the 'typical' sawing or chiseling tasks". – whatsisname Jan 15 '17 at 21:49
  • @whats I know, that's why I said 'some'. I meant that, given you don't have a router, you'd probably use a chisel, saw or both for some of these tasks. Once you have a (pro) router you'd wonder how you'd ever managed without, you can work so precise and beautiful with it :) – Abel Jan 16 '17 at 0:57
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Of course you can use a router to cut through wood! It's done all the time. But, using a router to cut through wood is typically reserved to a CNC router. For humans, a jigsaw would be easier to control.

  • I meant something more along the lines of a plunge router. Still okay to cut wood? – Fil Jan 15 '17 at 19:11
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    Yes. The CNC machines are in-effect plunge routers. Your only problem is that the router is more difficult to control by hand. – Edwin Jan 15 '17 at 20:51
  • Non-CNC routers are used to cut through wood all the time with the assistance of various jigs & patterns. It's a mainstay of woodworking. CNC routers are pretty rare - I wouldn't say that they are typical at all. – CoAstroGeek Jan 16 '17 at 2:45
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    I'm assuming that the OP doesn't have much in the way of jigs, given he doesn't have a jigsaw. I would put a small sum of money that more than 50% of household cabinetry and wooden furniture was cut with a CNC machine. – Edwin Jan 16 '17 at 3:39
  • 50% of household carpentry & furniture was cut with a CNC machine?? If you mean the stuff you buy at Ikea, maybe. If you mean DIY carpentry & furniture, that's ridiculous. In any case, if the OP doesn't have a jig saw, or understand how to use router jigs he's almost certainly not going to have, or be in the market for a CNC router, which starts at about $1K for a hobbyshop unit and multiples of that for something capable of serious work. – CoAstroGeek Jan 16 '17 at 15:45
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The router is primarily used in conjunction with fences, jigs, held in place (router table) but hardly ever freehand. A jigsaw is primarily used freehand following some outline, but hardly ever using a jig or held in place.

Just because you can doesn't mean you should. Using a router freehand is difficult to control and somewhat dangerous - which may be an understatement. I'm not talking about a trim router or Rotozip type tool, but a full size 1.5HP and greater router.

You cannot cut a 3/4 piece of wood in one pass - you will burn your router bit. Not to mention the noise and amount of chips far surpasses that of a jig saw.

For instance, you have a template, you trace the template onto a piece of wood, you rough cut it out with a jig saw or band saw and then you use the template and router to flush trim the rough cut edges in a single pass.

If you only used the router to cut out the templated piece, you would have to make multiple passes with the router, extending the bit a 1/4 or so at a time, cutting the full diameter of the bit each pass. I would rather replace a jig saw blade then a router bit.

The right tool for the right job should be a wood workers mantra.

A router is not a saw and a saw is not a router.

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You can use a router to cut wood, but it's not typically used the same way a jigsaw is. A jigsaw is often used freehand. A router is always used with a jig or pattern, except when doing edge work where the router bit will have a guide bearing, or you'll use a fence.

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