What Can You Use Instead Of a Wood Router? (Helpful Tips)

Last Updated on August 28, 2022 by Barry Gray

Today, we have access to many power tools that enable us to complete a wide range of woodworking tasks. For most hobby woodworkers, the problem is there are too many products available for their budget to handle. Acquiring only the tools they genuinely need and making do without the rest.

The table saw and the wood router is essential tools in the modern woodworking shop. There are, however, other tools you can use if you do not have a wood router. Joinery planes, hand saws, and chisels are some of the best alternatives to a wood router.

While you are saving up for that wood router you always wanted, check out the sections below, where you will dive deeper into what types of planes are available and how to use them. Some of them you can make yourself in less than two minutes. 

Alternatives To An Electric Wood Router

Before the modern router, artisans used a series of hand planes, hand saws, and chisels to cut dadoes, rabbets, sliding dovetails, and shaping edge profiles. Below we will mention some of the wood-planes you will find and their applications.

  • Router planes are still used today as an alternative to electric models. Router planes come in two types: wooden and metal cast. This type of router creates accurate level recesses for joints. It is frequently used after chiseling and sawing since this type of router excels at bringing a surface close to level to a smooth and accurate final depth rather than removing a bulk of the wood.
  • Radi-Plane is also an option for creating rounded corners. It has two blades and can cut up to a 3/32“ radius.
  • Standard wood planes are also an excellent option for shaving off the edge or chamfering the corner of a wooden board. Wood planes come in a variety of sizes and lengths.  
  • A rabbet plane is a tool for making or fine-tuning rabbets. The iron blade of rabbet planes extends to the sides of the plane body, making them uniquely suited for creating perfect rabbets. The cutting edge forms square corners in joineries like dadoes, grooves, rabbets, tongues, and tenons.
  • Joinery planes: we already mentioned a few joinery panes, but there are many other types like plow planes, tongue-and-groove planes, and combination planes. Be sure to have a look into those as well.

Hand carving tools like a wooden mallet and a chisel would also be an excellent option. Chisels allow you to take out tiny slivers of wood a little at a time, shaping the curve and judging the depth you want to achieve. 

A poor man’s router is easy to create in a few minutes.

Use any wood scrap (1” x 2” x 5”) and a chisel to make a poor man’s router. To make it:

  • Mark a centreline along the length of the scrap wood about 1/3 from either long edge. 
  • Drill the hole at a 40-55-degrees angle from the center of the marked spot to one of the long edges. Ensure there is enough edge left between the hole exit and the side. To ensure a tight fit, the drilled hole diameter should be smaller than the chisel width.
  • The underside of the wood scrap, where the hole is closest to the edge, creates a recess for the wood shavings to escape. 
  • Insert the chisel carefully into the center of the hole. Follow the angle of the hole. The chisel should fit tightly into the hole. Set the required depth by allowing more chisel to protrude out of the hole. Refine the angle and shape for better control and comfort. There you go, you just created a poor man’s router.

Using A Table Saw Instead Of A Router 

Grooves cut into the wood on your table saw are cut using a dado blade. There are two types of dado blades, wobble and stacked. 

  • Wobble blade: this single dado blade does not wobble as the name suggests, but it uses an offset rotation swaying from side to side while cutting an “S-like” pattern in the wood. 
  • Stacked blade: this dado blade is a stack of cutting blades that create a wider cutting surface. These blades can be combined with spacers(washers) to achieve a precise cut. 

Using A Dremel Tool Instead Of A Router

Dremel Tool

Because the rotary bit on a Dremel tool is tiny, it’s perfect for minor cuts. Longer cuts can be time-consuming. Make sure the tool’s bit will go to the correct depth before getting to work. Dremel-type tools are not the best tool for the job, but you can make it work with patience and persistence.

What Is The Purpose Of A Router?

Before we can dive into the various alternatives to routers, we first need to understand the purpose of a router. Routers are high-speed tools with a motor that spin a bit that protrude at a 90-degree angle through a base plate.

The primary use is cutting fancy edges, rounding or chamfering tabletop, or molding edges on wooden, plastic, or another hard surface, excluding metal. Metal routing is called milling and uses a different approach than routing. 

Based on the depth you require, the bit height can be adjusted, affecting how deep the bit cuts on the workpiece. Router bits come in various shapes, sizes, and face-forming(molding) bits. Routers are mounted upside-down in a router table to work on smaller pieces or used freehand on larger projects.  

Cutting edges is by no means the only beneficial function of a router. It also cut flawless carpentry joints like dadoes, rabbets, tongue-an- groove, and mortise-and-tenon. The plunging ability of a router makes hollowing out surfaces or creating beautiful wood patterns easy.

Some woodworkers have multiple routers, allowing them to leave one in their router table while freehanding on other surfaces. While a router can make all these applications easy, alternative tools can achieve similar results.


The wood router is one of the tools you need to buy for your woodshop. While you save up for that router, you can use the available hand saws and chisels you have at your disposal. Before the modern router, wood artisans were very skillful with saws and chisels.

Using some of the available joinery planes on the market, you will also be able to make that perfect cut. If you, however, have access to a table saw, use that for many of the joints, edges, and rabbets you need to perfect your project.

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Barry Gray

Hi, I’m Barry. I’ve loved woodworking and bringing things back to life for more years than I care to remember. I hope my passion for tools comes across loud and clear in everything you read here on The Tool Square.

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