Router vs Jigsaw

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Getting started in woodworking is exciting, and there are many basic tools to choose from. Either a router or a jigsaw can be used to complete a satisfying project. If you’re trying to decide which tool to get first, look no further. We’ll explain the similarities and differences of these tools, tell you when to use each tool, and give an opinion about which is better.

wood cutting

What Is a Router?

A router is a handheld, portable power tool used to shape wood and other materials.

Routers for home/consumer use have a circular base, usually with handles on either side to control the path of the machine. A router bit is inserted into the base of the router. The router’s motor spins the bit, and sharp knives on the surface provide the cutting or carving action.

There are four main types of routers. They are fixed base, plunge base, multi-base, and CNC. Each has its unique benefits, but woodworking enthusiasts from Sawshub tell us that fixed-based and plunge routers are the most common in woodshops.

What Is a Jigsaw?

A jigsaw is a handheld, portable power tool. The body of the jigsaw contains a motor, powered by a rechargeable battery or electrical cord. Various blades are available for purchase and are inserted into the base of the jigsaw.

When the power is turned on, the motor moves the blade up and down in a reciprocating motion, allowing the tool to saw through the material.

A jigsaw can cut in a straight line. Unlike other handheld power tools, they can also cut curves. The ability of a jigsaw to cut curves is due to the fact that it has a very thin blade.

Jigsaw blades are purchased separately from the tool itself. Many different blades are available, varying in size, shape, cutting action, and material.

Changing the blade on a jigsaw is easy, and enables you to switch back and forth between cutting varied surfaces such as drywall, tile, laminate countertops, and wood.

Router vs Jigsaw

Now that we’ve covered the basics of these two essential woodworking tools, let’s compare and contrast them.

Similarities

The similarities between routers and jigsaws include their source of power, portability, ease of use, and plunge capacity.

Power Source

Routers and jigsaws are powered by electricity, either by connecting them to an outlet or using a rechargeable battery pack. Cordless, battery-operated jigsaws and routers are easier to maneuver than corded varieties.  If you purchase your router and jigsaw from the same maker, the batteries are likely interchangeable.

Portability

Jigsaws and routers are highly portable tools. Jigsaws generally weigh less than ten pounds. Routers are usually a bit heavier and can weigh around 20 pounds.

Ease of Use

Both routers and jigsaws rest on the surface of the material. In the case of a jigsaw, a metal plate called the foot sandwiches the blade, and the weight of the tool can rest on the foot. Routers have circular bases, and the depth of the cut is changed by adjusting the bit.

While some effort is required to control the movement of the tool, the user does not have to support the weight of the tool during use.

Plunge Capability

Both routers and jigsaws can be plunged into the surface of material, rather than needing to enter the material from the edge.

Differences

The differences between routers and jigsaws include the motion of the accessory, the type of accessory, and the depth of cut they can make.

Motion

The blade of a jigsaw moves in a reciprocating, up and down motion. Most jigsaw blades cut on the upstroke. Blades designed for cutting laminate cut on the downstroke.

A router bit rotates or spins in place.

Accessories

While both routers and jigsaws use attachments or accessories to accomplish their purpose, the accessories they use are quite different.

Jigsaws use blades, usually with teeth, although abrasive/grinding blades are sometimes used to cut through metal. The blades are long and thin.

Routers do not have a blade. Instead, they use bits to carve and shape wood. There are many different kinds of router bits, each with a specific purpose.

Depth of Cut

On a jigsaw, the only way to alter or change the depth of the cut is to change blades. Router bits can often be adjusted up and down to control how deep into the material they go.

Major Differentiating Factor

The major differentiating factor between routers and jigsaws is their primary purpose.

Jigsaws are intended to separate one piece of material from another. They are often used for cutting out stenciled designs and making plunge cuts in laminate countertops.

A router is intended to change the surface or shape of the material, rather than cutting it. Routers carve depressions or profiles into wood and can be used to smooth and shape material edges.

When to Use a Router

Use a router to smooth and shape wood, and to create various kinds of joints. Routers can also be used on plastic and acrylic.

Bits larger than one inch in diameter should be used only on a router table, as large bits are difficult to control with a handheld router.

When used on flat wood, routers can carve grooves or designs into the wood’s surface. Sign lettering is popularly done with a router. With a router, you can make your own molding and trim.

One of the most basic uses for a router is to drill a clean, large, flat-bottomed hole.

A router can be plunged into wood to create a hollow or depression. This is useful when making mortise and tenon joints.  When you need to cut a mortise into a piece of wood, such as when installing a door lock or kitchen cabinets, you can use a router.

Mortise and tenon joints aren’t the only joints that can be created with a router.

A router is useful for making dovetail joints eliminating the time-intensive process of chiseling out tails and pins.

A straight bit can be used to carve flat-bottomed grooves into the side of a bookcase or cabinet, These grooves are known as dados. A rabbet bit trims the edges of shelves into a step-like formation. The shelves can then slide into the dados, where they are invisibly supported.

If you want to attempt inlays, a template can be used to guide the router, hollowing out an area in the shape of your choice.

There are even special jigs available that can be used with a router to carve threads into the wood.

When to Use a Jigsaw

Use a jigsaw to cut wood, fiberglass, drywall, plastic, laminate, tile, and soft metal. Jigsaws can even cut through the carpet. (Make sure to flip it over first.) When Halloween rolls around, a jigsaw is the perfect pumpkin-carving tool. When you need to start a cut in the middle of a piece of wood, rather than on the end, a jigsaw is the right tool for the job.

National Electronic Injury Surveillance System data indicates that the most significant cause of woodworking injuries was improper use. Despite the fact that jigsaws are designed for more intricate or precise cuts, there is still the possibility of losing a finger or suffering another debilitating injury when using a jigsaw. Make sure your jigsaw blades are sharp to avoid kickback and other safety hazards.

Jigsaws are extremely versatile, provided you have the right blade. They can be used to make almost any cut, although they lack in precision.

Which Is Better, a Router or a Jigsaw?

Even if you’ve just started woodworking, before long you’re going to want to invest in both a jigsaw and a router. These multi-purpose tools have a bit of overlap, but neither is a replacement for the other.

Jigsaws are best at cutting curves into the wood. Routers are better for making grooves, slots, trenches, and other carved designs. Either a jigsaw or a router can be used to start a plunge cut in the middle of the material.

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