I want to cut some of those decorative ends in a pergola that I'm making. I know that I can trace a pattern onto wood, cut with a jigsaw, rinse and repeat. I'm looking for a way to speed it up, and make the cuts more uniform. I was thinking perhaps I would make a template, use that template to route a shallow guide line, then quickly saw through all of the rest of it using the jigsaw. Any more suggestions?

  • 2
    could you please post the pattern or a sketch of it? I guess what tools are best suited for this task depends a bit on the pattern.
    – null
    May 19, 2015 at 23:17
  • How thick is the wood you are going to be cutting and do you have an example of the pattern? Other ideas might come based on that.
    – Matt
    May 20, 2015 at 1:48
  • 1
    I had to look up pergola and discovered that it's a flat topped structure with joists and no roof. The joists usually extend beyond the surrounding post and beam structure and typically have some sort of decorative ends.
    – Ast Pace
    May 20, 2015 at 23:37
  • @ASTPace The only reason I know about it is that my wife is insisting that I build one.
    – Matt
    May 22, 2015 at 19:17
  • 1
    A few years back, I was building a pergola and tried to be fancy and cut the ends using only a router pattern bit and a template. Took forever, and the bit really wanted to walk away from me. Ended up just tracing it and using a jigsaw. No one will ever be close enough to it to really scrutinize the cut, so I wouldn't worry about it.
    – grfrazee
    Dec 9, 2015 at 20:14

3 Answers 3


It depends on your pattern

Most of the suggestions on the web refer to using the jigsaw for cutting patterns. It is the ideal choice for this work as some patterns are intricate with arcs and what not.

What you could do with the jigsaw is use your template as a guide. If your arcs or curves are simple enough you can shift the template down from where the cut will be. This might be difficult depending on the plate of your jigsaw and angles in your design.

That does not mean you are limited to just the jigsaw and the hand cramps that might ensue. Depending on your pattern you might be able to use some other tools to do the work as well.

Mitre Saw

Mitre Saw helping the pattern

The jigsaw cuts a full arc across the board and then the mitre saw cuts the 45 degree angle. Yes you could have done this all with the jigsaw but this is cleaner and faster. The pencil mark on the saw is a guide so you don't need to measure every time.

Circular Saw

enter image description here

A simple pattern like that could almost be done just with a circular saw. I doubt that is your pattern but one of the cuts might be.

You could make a simple jig for the saw using another board as a cutting guide.

Pattern Bit on a router

If your boards are thin enough, and you have a appropriately sized bit, you might be able just to use a pattern bit on your router (assuming it's big enough). I have never tried a router as of yet but depending on how many cuts you need to make this might be over-kill for the router.

Even if your bits were long enough you could flip the board and template to cut from both sides. In theory giving you that perfect cut you are looking for.

In conclusion

You didn't show us what you are doing. Hopefully there might be a way of incorporating other tools into your template to help with that repeatable precision you are looking for. Much like Caleb suggested your jigsaw and pencil will be your main tools here.

From the ground though I don't think people are going to be paying attention to the intricacy of your cuts. Using a router I think is wasted effort.


I was thinking perhaps I would make a template, use that template to route a shallow guide line, then quickly saw through all of the rest of it using the jig saw

That sounds like more work than using a template to draw a pencil line and then following with the jigsaw alone.

If the jigsaw-only method gives you satisfactory results, that's probably the fastest. For a cleaner cut, you could cut close to the template with a jig saw and then use a pattern bit in the router for the final cut. That should go pretty quickly and give very good results. The only problem is if there are inside corners in the profile: a router obviously can't get into tight corners.

  • I suppose your right .... I might do a quick test to see if it does indeed take more time, I gotta cut a ton of these things
    – user379468
    May 19, 2015 at 23:28
  • @user379468 Rather than trying to rush through this project you have an opportunity to take your time and show off some craftsmanship.
    – Ast Pace
    May 20, 2015 at 23:40

The best and fastest way to get any such detail is by using a template and a router.

This is nothing that you haven't read or heard already I'm sure. However, the best way to do this is to trace the template and then rough cut to within a 1/4" with a jig or circular saw.

The router bit will not produce a good result cutting through board, but will do best when only trimming it down to the template

router bit
(source: toolstoday.com)

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