Last Updated on May 2, 2023 by Barry Gray
Wood routers and jigsaws are both portable, versatile tools for making elegant designs in wood. But because of how they cut differently, they’re used for very different kinds of cutting.
If you’re deciding between buying a router and a jigsaw, there are a few things you should consider.
First, you should think about which one will be easier to learn how to use. You might find that a jigsaw is more intuitive than a router, so it could be faster to get started with a jigsaw.
You should also think about the cutting mechanism, price, portability, versatility, accuracy, and ease of setting up each tool.
The first difference between a router and a jigsaw is the cutting mechanism. Jigsaws use reciprocating blades that move up and down quickly, in the same way scroll saws do. On the other hand, routers use a quickly rotating bit that cuts with its edges.
If you’ve used a wood shaper, you’re familiar with the basic mechanics of a router–they work the same way. Routers use the edges of rapidly spinning, round bits to cut away at wood and other materials. They use different bits for different kinds of cuts, which helps keep the kinds of cuts they can handle varied.
The router’s cutting mechanism makes it suited for unique ways of cutting. It can also make it more difficult to learn, if you haven’t used a similar tool in the past.
More importantly, the router’s cutting mechanism is a matter of taste. If you know how to do both, you need to decide whether you prefer to use a router or jigsaw for the cuts that both can make.
A jigsaw has a cutting mechanism that more people are likely familiar with. But it’s specialized as well, with its thin blade, straight up-and-down motion, and lack of power. Most jigsaws will struggle to cut through particularly dense or thick wood, let alone tougher materials.
On the other hand, there are routers that can shave down plastics and even metals that are much harder than what a jigsaw could handle. While the cutting mechanism on a jigsaw might be more familiar, it isn’t necessarily perfect for every application.
Routers and jigsaws are both pretty cheap. That’s fortunate–depending on your budget, you might not have to choose between one or the other!
You can get a jigsaw for about $50 and a router for $50-$100. Jigsaws are less expensive because they’re a much simpler tool with a smaller number of uses. There are budget jigsaws well under $50, or you could splurge for a professional-grade jigsaw at up to $300.
Routers, on the other hand, have a few advanced functions that makes them especially valluable. They also have powerful motors and specialized bits that make them expensive to upgrade if you want to expand what yours can do. But the most expensive routers still don’t go far past $400.
Although they’re in similar price ranges, jigsaws are less expensive than routers. For that reason, you could pick one up today for a little more than pocket change. If price is your number one concern, a jigsaw might be right for you.
Fortunately, portability doesn’t need to be a deciding factor between jigsaws and routers. While there are plenty of other differences to take note of, they’re both highly portable tools in the same, light, weight range.
Most jigsaws won’t exceed more than five pounds, which is true for routers as well. You may find that packing up your router is a little more time-consuming because of the number of bits you need to bring with you, but that’s a relatively minor concern with regard to portability.
Many people are used to working with their routers built into tables, and if yours is usually set up with a table, it may be more difficult to remove it and get it ready. But it’s still just a matter of carrying the router to your car after that, so even installation in a table isn’t a major obstacle.
You can take either of these tools with you on the go easily. They’re just as easy to bring to the other side of your shop as across town to a job site. Because of that, they’re both great choices for people who care about portability.
Both routers and jigsaws are highly versatile tools, although routers have an advantage in the number of materials they can cut and the variety of cuts they can make.
While there are certainly cuts that jigsaws can make that routers can’t, there are far more cuts that would be impossible with a jigsaw but simple with a router.
Routers can be used to make grooves, edges, and even curves. By changing the bit on your router, you can drastically change the profiles of the cuts it makes. Usually, you start cutting at the edge of the wood, whether you’re using a router or any other tool. But routers can also handle plunge cuts, where you begin cutting at the board’s center.
Jigsaws, on the other hand, can’t make plunge cuts. But there’s plenty else that jigsaws are great at. They can make complex, curving cuts with their thin and flexible sawblades. That gives you the flexibility to cut complicated designs into your wood, and they also cut much more quickly than routers do.
Unfortunately, jigsaws don’t have the power to handle materials other than thin, lightweight wood. That’s in contrast to the router’s ability to cut through some metals as well as dense woods and other tough materials.
If you want to make very specific cuts and patterns, you’ll probably want a router. You can use a router to create extremely accurate designs, as you can set the depth of the blades very precisely.
Jigsaws, on the other hand, don’t have a way to control the depth of the cut. You can only set the thickness of the wood you’re cutting. Routers are also easier to use for detailed designs, since you can see what you’re doing. If you’re using a jigsaw, you’ll have to guide it with your hand, so you can’t really see what you’re cutting.
Jigsaws can make curved cuts, but they can leave behind rough edges from tearout and their delicate blades are more likely to break under the stress of curving than a router’s bit.
However the thin jigsaw blade does give it an advantage as well. It can be hard to see exactly where the router’s bit will cut and how wide the cut will be. On the other hand, the thin jigsaw blade is easy to direct exactly where it needs to go, and has a thin with that will hardly make a footprint behind.
Last but not least, jigsaws are usually faster to set up than routers. Jigsaws can be used right out of the box, although you may need to change the blades if you’re trying to cut different materials.
Routers, however, require a bit more assembly and setup. You’ll need to assemble the tool and possibly change the bit if you’re trying to cut different materials.
All in all, jigsaws are simpler and less versatile tools than routers. That makes them easy to set up and start going twithl
They’re good for straight, simple cuts, but if you want to do more advanced designs, you’ll probably want to use a router instead.
Routers are heavier, more powerful, and more versatile tools that can be used for a variety of different materials, designs, and applications. They can be a little trickier to set up, but they can make very precise cuts that jigsaws can’t.