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School me on jig saws and routers

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by cstar, Jul 27, 2012.

  1. cstar


    Dec 21, 2011
    Hey guys,

    Please pardon me if any of this is stupid. I'm a fairly handy kid but I have absolutely no wood working knowledge. I have only worked with metals in the past.

    I was hoping to buy a jig saw to cut bodies out with.

    First of all: Is that an appropriate use for this tool? I would just want to cut the roughly outlined body out of a 1 and 3/4" blank. I guess a lot of people use band saws to cut bodies out but I don't have the space for that currently.

    Secondly: if a jig saw would work for this purpose, is there any particular saw I should go for? I mean, I wasn't sure how deep you could cut with a given jig saw, or if you could set the depth. I assume they make blades of varying length/depths ...? I was hoping to be able to cut a body out of a blank with one continuous cut... would a jig saw be able to handle a 1 and 3/4 " deep cut like that, or would I have to cut from one side, flip it over, and finish the cut?

    I was thinking about going for this exact jig saw:



    I saw this same router on StewMac's site:

    http://www.homedepot.com/h_d1/N-5yc...&relatedSearch=bosch colt router#.UBMHIfX16tY

    If I would like to rout control cavities, pickup cavities, and neck pockets, would this do the trick? Also, what sort of bit or bits would I need to cut the aforementioned routs?

    Again, please pardon my ignorance and any help would be appreciated. Thanks.
  2. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    For the money you would spend on a jig saw that would cut good enough you could buy a cheap small band saw. Jigsaws are good for cutting out patterns in thin plywood, a thick body blank usually ends up very badly.

    As for a router I would suggest a full sized Porter Cable
  3. BogeyBass

    BogeyBass Suspended

    Sep 14, 2010
    yah cheap tools cost more in the long run cause you have to buy something else in the end. so buying twice is not cheaper.

    depending on the design you could make a body template and
    cut it out with a long router bit removing small amounts for multiple passes. Buy a beefy router 5 amps seems a little weak
    a plunge router in the 12 to 15 amp range or 2.5 to 3.5 horse
  4. Mister Know Not

    Mister Know Not Inactive

    Aug 27, 2011
    Papendrecht, Holland
    I use a Bosch GST 120E, and it can cut 2" easely, done it with some yellow heart,the trouble is that the saw blade, when you make a turn, is not staying in a straigth line down.
    Your cut will not be straight at an 90 degree angle with the wood.
    Need to be carefull when sawing in the turns.
    Sorry, bad english here, not shure how to say it right.
  5. I'll cast my vote against the jig saw. Buy a cheap bench top bandsaw, you won't regret it. A jigsaw just doesn't cut accurately enough.
  6. I agree... having used a jigsaw on my first build I can confirm that the blade can often run out of true when cutting the body, so either you cut out bigger and square it after by removing additional material in some very hard wood or go with the bandsaw.

    I'm a big fan of routers. If needs be, you could probably use it to make the whole guitar given enough planning and forethought. This is THE primary tool and that should be considered when making your purchase.
  7. emor


    May 16, 2004
    Another vote for bandsaw, although I wouldn't cheap out on this either. Proper setup is critical.

    Check out this video on the physics of bandsaw resawing.
  8. Big B.

    Big B.

    Dec 31, 2007
    Austin, TX
    I'm falling on the other other side of the cheap bandsaw > jigsaw crowd. IME (as a professional woodworker) a cheap bandsaw (by this I mean cheap enough to be comparably priced to a reasonable jigsaw) is almost completely worthless. They have small, thin blades that burn easily, bend readily, and break constantly under any strain. The other issue is throat size. Even a 14" bandsaw (which most cheap bandsaws are not) is barely big enough to cut around some bodies. Add a thru neck and it becomes impossible to make some cuts. Throw in a POS little motor and you've got a tool thats worth about as much as a boat anchor to me. A friend gave me one of these benchtop saws a few years ago, a ryobi, for free. It was given to him and he wouldnt even open it. I used it once, broke the crappy little blade on a thin piece of lumber, and never plugged it in again. Too bad, I just threw it in the dumpster last week. You could have had it for shipping. ;)

    A quality jigsaw on the other hand, when using a quality blade, WILL absolutely cut a thick body blank. The jigsaw also can be used in far more situations than a bandsaw and doesnt limit your range of cut by having a throat to the left of the blade that impedes larger workpieces. I have a very nice bandsaw and I still use my jigsaw to profile my instruments. I think if you want a decent bandsaw it has to have at least a 14" wheel and new is going to cost at least twice what a top quality jigsaw will.

    All this being said I love my bandsaw, and IMO anyone serious about woodwork/luthiery should consider one, but for the needs you specify I think a GOOD jigsaw is right up your alley. The word GOOD is the operative word. A bad jigsaw is just as bad and frustrating as a crappy little benchtop bandsaw. If you want a good jigsaw I will only reccomend the upper end Bosch jigsaws. They are between 140$ and 180$ new. IME only the Festool jigsaw is better, signifigantly better at that, but 2x the price. The Bosch saw is the standard in every woodshop I've worked in and with a new blade cuts a clean line in very difficult materials such as 8/4 wenge.
  9. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    Resawing is a whole different process than cutting out a body. An inexpensive band saw will work just fine for what hes doing.

    I have a 14" delta with a 6" riser block, with a 3/4" blade that I use for resawing.

    I have a cheap 10" bandsaw with a 3/16" blade that I use to cut out bodies and other scroll cutting.
  10. Big B.

    Big B.

    Dec 31, 2007
    Austin, TX
    Regarding your question about depth of cuts: A standard wood blade will cut 1 3/4" thickness but not a lot more. There are also larger blades available.

    Regarding your question on nonthrough cuts: You really cant make a non full depth cut with a jigsaw, if the blade doesnt cut deep enough to exit the material on the opposite side it will jam into the material causing your saw to jump and the blades will bend and/or jam and bind in the wood.
  11. emor


    May 16, 2004
    Oh, I know the difference.
    If I'm spending someone else's money, however, I always buy the best. :D
  12. Praxist


    May 28, 2010
    British Columbia
    I have now re-cut two bodies I've rebuilt and three bodies I have cut out of lumber from scratch and all were done with a jigsaw. After using a 2000 year old craftsman for the two re-cuts, i went a bought a nice quality jigsaw and it has allowed me to carefully and slowly cut out a full 1 3/4" body.

    The problems are talked about above because you must go painfully slow to keep the blade straight up and down, if you speed up it bends and your cut bends. On corners, i learned to go really slow to try to keep the blade straight but even then i need to cut well outside the line to see where the blade bottom goes.

    I also do practice cuts to see which way the blade bends with a particular kind of wood and then orient my blank to make sure the blade bends away from the cutting line not towards it.

    on my last body, I used my neighbour's ryobi, and just like Big B said, the thing was crapola and broke after cutting about a third of a 3/4" thick piece of cedar! I finished it off with my trust jigsaw. All that said though, I'm searching craigslist for a nice used one. I saw and missed a nice delta for only $175 so they are out there, just gotta watch for them!
  13. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Inactive Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products
    But here's the problem with cheap band saws, the throat size is too small. That means you have a limited amount of space between the blade and the support column. So you might not be able to use it to cut out certain things. Might be fine for bodies and necks, but you have to decide if that will work.

    When I started I realized this and got a Delta 14" bandsaw and the riser block kit. It was the cheaper open stand model, but worked well enough. I could re-saw tops on it.
  14. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    Yes you are absolutely right. I should have worded that post better. I wasn't really recommending something as cheap as say a Ryobi or one of those Harbor Freight Jobs.

    I have an older USA Delta 14" with a 6" riser, I got tired of changing out the 3/4 blade to a 3/16" every time I needed to do any scroll cutting so I bought one of these..


    It will cut a 2" board just fine, and I have never had a problem with the throat not being big enough when cutting out a body. Although its not perfect, the adjustments are kind of strange, and the guide bearings are pretty noisy. It will bog down a bit when cutting tight turns in hard wood, but I usually cut those in more than one pass, starting at different angles.

    It can be had for about the same price as a good enough Jig saw for the same task.
  15. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Inactive Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products
    That's a nice looking small bandsaw.
  16. lbridenstine


    Jun 25, 2012
    I just started on this and am using cheap tools, so I guess this might help. I'm borrowing my brother's jigsaw and using it to cut outside the line on templates, then carefully going closer to the line with a router, then sanding to the line. Then, I'm using the templates with a router to cut the shapes on the bass.

    I've been trying to use the jigsaw to cut the actual bass wood where it seems like it'd be more convenient, but honestly, the one I'm using has a very hard time cutting through hardwood. I can get it to go in about maybe 3/4", then the bottom of the blade bends back and doesn't cut in any further.

    This is the router I'm using. http://www.homedepot.com/h_d1/N-5yc...yobi+router&storeId=10051#product_description
    It's cheaper than the one you posted and I didn't really look into that one at all, it's probably better than this, but I haven't had any problem using this one at all. The one you posted didn't look like it had handles, so I could see that possibly being an issue, but I don't have experience with it, so I don't know. I'm thinking about it in the sense of using it for the outer shapes and the inner routes and not just the inner routes.

    For router bits... I'm getting by with a 1/4" upcut spiral bit (I bought it on ebay for $5, it requires a bunch of really shallow passes, you should probably try to find a better one with a cutting length of 1 3/4" or more, mine is only 1"), a 1/2" top bearing flush trim bit (this is what I use the most, it works great, make sure to get one with a top bearing for following templates, it doesn't necessarily have to be 1/2". I bought mine at Home Depot for around $20), and a roundover bit, for whatever size roundover you want on your guitar/bass.
  17. 1958Bassman


    Oct 20, 2007
    Cheap tools are worth every penny- not much. The jigsaw that's usually considered the best is the Bosch 1587 AVSP. Use their Aggressor blades. These cut incredibly well but with any jigsaw, you need to go slow and be careful to follow the line because the end of the blade is unsupported, so it will wander, unlike a band saw. For routers, Porter Cable, Hitacki and Makita are some of the better/best ones.

    If you plan to do more than one instrument or item and will not be making multiples of anything, you just need to be careful when cutting to the line. If you plan to do some operations with repeatable results, learn to make and work with patterns, like the manufacturers. This requires cutting close to the line and fixing the pattern to the piece and using a router to trim it to the pattern. Then, you can route the profile (round-over, or whatever) after routing the cavities, using their own patterns.

    One thing to consider- trim routers aren't as good at routing hard wood and it will take a lot longer because they don't have the necessary power to take a deep cut without slowing, and that's when accidents happen. The cutter needs to rotate at a relatively constant speed for best results.
  18. 1958Bassman


    Oct 20, 2007
    You'll waste a lot of time with cheap router bits. The many cuts and extra cleanup are excessive compared with using good carbide bits. I'm not saying you need to pop for industrial-quality and brands, but with companies like Grizzly and MLCS, there's no reason to use hardened steel.
  19. lbridenstine


    Jun 25, 2012
    All of them have carbide tips. I'm only planning on making one bass and one guitar at this point, so it seems to be getting me through for these. I do wish I would have gotten a better upcut spiral bit, but the flush trim bit gives me no problems and I haven't had to do shallow passes with that one. The only cleanup I've been having to do is from the bits only having a 1" cutting depth, so I've had to route from each side and they don't always line up perfectly.
  20. gbarcus

    gbarcus Commercial User

    Jul 20, 2008
    Minneapolis & St.Paul, MN
    Owner of Barcus Basses barcusbasses.com

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