Sometimes, we just don’t have the right tool for a job. It happens to the best of us and will probably happen to each of us again. However, it is important that we don’t use that as an excuse to be lax about safety.
Using a router to cut plywood can be dangerous. Routers are meant to make short, wide cuts and are not supposed to be used for the long cuts required for plywood. Routers are not as precise as jigsaws and could easily break or pull out of your hands.
In this article, we will explain the various reasons why using a router to cut plywood is not a good idea. Oftentimes, just because something can be done doesn’t mean that it should. There are different tools for different purposes for a reason.
Routers Make Bigger Cuts
Routers tend to make wide cuts instead of thin, precise ones like a jigsaw blade will make. This is why they are not ideal for cutting sheets of plywood. Usually, you want a precise line that will fit together with other cuts.
This is not to say that a router will not cut plywood, of course, it will. However, this is one of the instances where it is always best to have the right tool. Trying to follow a measurement line with a router is near impossible.
Because of the wider cut, a router is usually meant for digging pits into the wood as opposed to cutting it. Think about it like cutting a pizza with a baseball bat instead of a pizza cutter. It will work, but it isn’t the best idea.
They Are Harder to Control
While routers can make precise, even cuts, they need a lot of help. Routers generally have two handles on them as opposed to one on a circular saw or jigsaw. In order to handle a router safely, you must keep your hands on both handles at all times.
This safety requirement means that it will be harder to follow the precise lines that are necessary for cutting plywood. Even the thinnest, sharpest router bits will not be as precise as a run-of-the-mill jigsaw. Not to mention, you will need a more elaborate sawhorse setup.
A jigsaw generally needs you to push down on it, whereas a router needs you to hold it with both hands and push it forward. This seemingly insignificant difference is what makes the router harder to control. A jigsaw almost guides itself, it just needs a little help.
It Can Be Dangerous
Anytime a power tool is difficult to control, it is dangerous. This is especially true with the router. A router bit is spinning incredibly fast and is very sharp since it is meant to eat through wood and granite. It will not hesitate to also eat through your finger.
Should the router get out of your control, it can also easily jump back at you. This means that the bit will propel it backwards and it could catch your hand or finger on the way. The double handle also makes this more likely to happen if you accidentally let go of one.
While a circular saw or jigsaw can also be dangerous, they have safety protocols built-in for this kind of thing. Since routers are not meant for long cuts, they don’t have the same safety latches and fences. This is always a risk you run when using a tool outside of its intended use.
Routers Usually Require Jigs or Patterns
The reason that routers require two hands to operate them is that they are not usually meant to be used exclusively by hand. Routers almost always require some kind of jig or pattern that the machine will automatically follow. Without this, they are difficult to control.
A lack of jig or pattern is a recipe for disaster with your plywood project. It is very easy to accidentally overshoot a measurement line and ruin an entire sheet of raw material. This is why you should always use a circular saw or jigsaw.
Circular saws and jigsaws are meant to use freehand. they do not require any kind of jig or patterns that they can follow. Because of this, it is a lot faster to work with these saws then it would be to try setting up a new jig every time you wanted to make a cut.
Router Bits Wear Out Easily
Router bits have a tendency to wear out much faster than saw blades do. They are also much more expensive. This alone should be a reason to invest in a circular saw or jigsaw instead of blowing through all of your router bits.
Even though a new tool like a circular saw is a fairly big investment, it could save you money in the long run. Oftentimes with tools, expensive is cheap, and cheap is expensive. What this means is that more expensive tools will usually require less maintenance and parts.
It Will Generate More Waste
Your goal as a carpenter is to generate as little waste as possible. This will keep your cost of materials down as well as your general cost of doing work. Material waste is a leading cause of over budget home improvement projects.
The problem with material waste comes from the fact that router bits are so wide. Because of this, they generate a lot of sawdust with the big cuts they make. You are likely to end up with a huge pile of sawdust if you have then ripping plywood with a router.
Extra sawdust can be both a detriment to your project as well as your health. Wood shavings are not ideal to be breathing in, which is why a thin saw blade that generates little dust is ideal. Always remember to wear a respirator when you are dealing with wood dust.
What Is the Best Tool for Cutting Plywood?
The best tool for cutting plywood is a circular saw, table saw or jigsaw. Depending on how precise you need your cuts to be, you can use any of these tools. Each of them has their own level of usability and precision.
A jigsaw is great for doing freehand, precise cuts. The small, sharp blade can be easily turned in the wood and make the kind of tiny adjustments necessary for freehand cutting.
Either a circular saw or table saw are ideal if you have a lot of cuts to make. A table saw can be set up to make many cuts one after the other a process called “ripping.” These long, straight cuts are exactly the opposite of what a router is meant to do.
How do you cut plywood without splintering?
If your plywood is splintering, there are a couple of things you can do. One is to make sure that your blade is as sharp as it can possibly be. The other is to lay a line of masking tape along the cut line on the top and bottom of the plywood. This will hold the splinters into the wood.
Can you cut plywood with scissors?
Believe it or not, there are pairs of scissors that are strong enough to cut 1/8” inch plywood. Scissors can be an overlooked tool when it comes to woodworking. A strong enough pair could come in handy in a pinch.
How deep does a router cut?
A router will cut as deep as the bit will allow. Although, it is not recommended that you use a router to make cuts deeper than two inches. For those types of jobs, there is a special tool called a plunge router.