I have recently found myself contemplating which power tool to purchase next and going back and forth between a router and jigsaw. If you are anything like me, you understand the plight of not just deciding on a whim: there is research involved. Well, fortunately, I have researched both of us!
Routers and Jigsaws are entirely different tools with very different jobs. A jigsaw uses a blade to cut through wood and has the advantage of being able to cut out different shapes. A router uses a spinning bit to cut grooves, slots and to finish the edges of, for example, a tabletop.
Unlike some power tools such as a drill and impact driver, which are interchangeable to a certain extent, a jigsaw cannot be used as a router, and a router cannot be used as a jigsaw. Therefore, deciding which one to get is going to depend on what job you are needed to do.
The Jigsaw’s Advantages Over The Router
Keeping in mind that jigsaws and routers have two distinctly different functions, it can still be helpful to look at their comparative strong and weak points. As I briefly pointed out above, the jigsaw uses a reciprocating blade to make cuts through wood.
1. A Jigsaw Can Cut Curves
Because of the thin saw blade that moves up and down rapidly, the jigsaw can not only cut in straight lines but cut out curves and patterns as well. Whereas with a circular-, table- or miter saw, you can only cut in straight lines.
In other words, a Jigsaw is a sort of powered coping saw. This allows you to cut out just about any curve and shape, much like a bandsaw. A jigsaw’s advantage over a bandsaw is that it is much easier to cut out very large pieces.
Interestingly, the jigsaw’s name comes from the fact that you can cut out shapes like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
2. A Jigsaw Can Cut Deeper Than A Router
Most standard jigsaw blades are 4 inches long, giving you an effective cut depth of around 3 inches, which means that you can cut through a 3-inch piece of wood using a jigsaw. You can buy even longer blades even if your jigsaw is powerful enough to cope with the extra workload.
While there are pretty long router bits on the market, their cut effectivity cannot compete with a jigsaw. Routers also have the added disadvantage of making very “thick” cuts compared to the thin blade of a jigsaw.
If you need to cut curves through a thick piece of wood, the jigsaw will outperform a router by far.
3. Jigsaws Are Easier To Setup Than Routers
In most cases, jigsaw blades are a lot easier to change than router bits are. Most jigsaws use a simple Allen wrench locking system that has one screw. You simply loosen the screw, pop in the blade, tighten the screw back up, and you’re good to go.
In the case of changing router bits, you are generally required to loosen the collet with a wrench and then very carefully insert the router bit to the correct depth before fastening the collet down again.
4. Jigsaws Are Safer Than Routers
It may come as quite a surprise to learn that the jigsaw is safer to use than a router. Especially if you consider that a jigsaw has a 4-inch exposed saw blade that looks like it can take a finger off with easer. And while it’s true that a jigsaw is still dangerous (as are all woodworking power tools), it is actually less risky than the router.
The router has a razer sharp bit powered by a powerful motor, spinning the bit between 8 000 and 24 000 revolutions per minute. Even the slightest of accidental encounters with a router bit is going to leave you with a nasty wound.
5. Jigsaws Are Cheaper Than Routers
It is worth mentioning that while neither a router nor a jigsaw at the entry-level is going to break the bank, jigsaws are usually considerably cheaper than routers with corded options starting as low as $40.
Routers, on the other hand, come in two primary variations. The palm router is the cheaper and less versatile option that starts at around $60, while the bigger plunge routers start upward of $120.
The Router’s Advantages Over The Jigsaw
After all this talk of how fantastic the jigsaw is, you may think you’ve made up your mind, but wait! The router is a worthy contender and has many benefits over the jigsaw that you need to consider.
1. The Router Is Better At Certain Cuts
Using a router to cut through a piece of wood is kind of like using a hammer to drive a screw; you may very well get the job done, but there’s a better way. This doesn’t mean that a router is terrible at cutting, though. On the contrary, it’s fantastic at cutting as it was designed to cut.
Routers can cut down to a set depth and then maintain that depth for the entirety of the cut. In cutting to a set depth, routers can cut grooves, slots, mortices, or cut out a hollow to fit just about any shape you can imagine.
Cutting these grooves and slots makes the router the ideal tool to use for joinery while being able to hollow out material means you can easily make recesses for those tricky bits in your project.
Another type of cut that routers love is cutting along the edge. While you can set the baseplate of a jigsaw at an angle to give you an angled cut, jigsaws don’t cut as neat, and you’re limited by only having the option of a straight angle.
Routers are famously neater than jigsaws and come with an entire host of bits for different shapes, sizes, and bevels for the perfect edge finish.
Finally, while a jigsaw is great for cutting curves, a router may just be a little better at it, provided you are not trying to cut through a 3-inch board. The spinning mechanics of the router’s bit means that you can make sharp turns and tiny adjustments that aren’t possible with a jigsaw.
2. Routes Have Secret Abilities
Where routers also outshine jigsaws is with their use in specific jigs or machines. One such alternative method of using a router is fixing it upside down to a router table. Using a router table dramatically increases your level of control and mitigates a lot of the safety risks involved.
Furthermore, you can set your router up on a sled jig above a lathe to get super accurate turned workpieces done extremely easily.
Finally, you can fit a router to a jig that turns it into a planer-slash-jointer. This involves typically fitting the router onto a bracket that slides along x- and y-axis rails (kind of like a 3D Printer). This jig allows you to cut the entire surface of a board to a set height.
Here is a video of an example of this type of jig:
Deciding between a jigsaw and a router should likely be an easy option because they differ quite dramatically. Neither one can do the other’s job, which means that your decision between the two will be based on what job you need to do.
If you need to cut curves through large, thick pieces of wood or even cut out something like a hole for a sink in a thick plywood countertop, then the jigsaw has got you covered. However, if you need to cut slots, recesses, joinery, or beautiful bevels on edges, you should instead consider the router.