Can a Jigsaw Cut Metal? How?

Jigsaws are awesome, versatile tools. They can make tight, precise cuts, and long straight runs with no distinction from a circular saw’s cut.

But the question is:

Can You Cut Metal With a Jigsaw?

Jigsaw to Cut Metal
You can use a jigsaw to cut sheet metal and metal pipes made of cast iron, steel, copper, aluminum, brass, etc.
Like most saws, jigsaws can also cut through other common building materials, including metal, with the right blade. Use a bi-metal blade with 21-24 TPI on mild steel and softer metals such as aluminum, and use a carbide grit blade on tough alloy steels for best results.

But before jumping in on this project, let’s talk about the safest ways to do it and how you can cut metal efficiently.

Safety First

Working with a jigsaw on metal certainly involves some risk, so here are a few ways to be sure your project is successful and without any “ouch!”

  • Always use your PPE (personal protective equipment). In this case, that means proper eye protection, closed-toe shoes, respiratory protection, sturdy gloves (not just the stretchy thin ones for $10 at the hardware store), and ear protection. You really don’t want to get a hot, sharp metal shard in your eye or embedded in your skin, so be careful, and be smart.
  • To this point, make sure you don’t have any dangling hoodie strings, jewelry, or hair that could potentially get snagged and sucked into the blade. Yikes.
  • Check and then double-check your cutting surface. I’ve seen folks cut right through an aluminum workbench and ruin it because they didn’t take the ten seconds to make sure their cut path was clear for the blade they were using.

Jigsaw Metal Cutting Blades

Is there a jigsaw blade to cut metal?

For cutting metal with a jigsaw, a blade with 21-24 TPI (teeth per inch) is strongly recommended. This will help avoid shredding the material and keep your cut edges smoother.

For durability and precision, a bi-metal blade or tungsten blade is recommended.

Bi-Metal Blade

The body of a bi-metal blade is made with spring steel or flexible carbon steel. But the cutting teeth are made of hardened high-speed steel that is welded or diffusion bonded onto the softer body. So the blade can cut harder materials without wearing down as fast.

This combination of a flexible body and hard cutting teeth makes them last almost ten times longer than blades made from high-carbon steel and 2 to 5 times higher blade life compared to regular HSS blades.

Tungsten Carbide Blade

Tungsten carbide, which is produced by sintering tungsten and carbon atoms, is a much harder material than steel. A tungsten carbide jigsaw blade is made of a steel blade with tungsten carbide grits on the cutting edge.

The hard carbide gits are bonded to a steel shaft by brazing, and usually, the blade has grit like sandpaper but has no cutting teeth that are found on HSS or Bimetal blades. This makes a nice smooth cut on the hardest of materials, but also makes these blades expensive.

How to Cut Metal with a Jigsaw?

How to Cut Metal with a Jigsaw?

Tools and Supplies Needed

Before getting started, make sure you have the following tools and supplies in your workspace:

  • Jigsaw (and batteries or extension cord, depending)
  • Multiple replacement blades
  • Fence or straight-edge material to help ensure straight cuts
  • Aluminum Oxide Sandpaper (for cleaning up rough edges at the end)
  • Worklight or headlamp (if working indoors)
  • Sturdy work surface
  • Clamps
  • PPE – eye protection, ear protection, gloves, closed-toed shoes, mask
  • Possible other options: cutting oil, thin plywood, drill with a metal pilot bit large enough to fit your jigsaw blade for internal profiles.

Cutting Metal with a Jigsaw

  1. Set up your workspace. Use a somewhat high but comfortable working surface. You don’t want to be bent over a short painter’s bench to do this project. If indoors, make sure you have a work light or strong headlamp to illuminate your project while cutting. Move other scraps or project pieces away from your cutting area, and make sure the floor beneath you is clear of cords or tripping hazards.
  2. Mark the cut line on sheet metal

  3. Measure and Mark the Cutline: Measure twice and cut once.
  4. Drill Start Hole: If you aren’t starting from the edge of the metal, use a drill with a metal-specific pilot bit to create a guide hole in the “waste” side of the piece close to your line.
  5. Proper Support for the Workpiece: Keep your intended blade path as close to your work surface as possible while being aware of your depth and the width of the jigsaw shoe. This minimizes the vibration and sway of your piece and ensures a cleaner cut.
  6. Jigsaw Cutting Metal

  7. How do you cut metal straight with a jigsaw? If you are cutting a straight line, consider using a fence or other straight edge (spare 2×4 even) to guide your jigsaw along. Jigsaws are excellent at precise, detailed cuts, but this also means that a small departure from your guideline will be more obvious from a tiny jigsaw blade than with a larger circular saw blade.
    Of course, make sure to clamp your straight edge into place, as free-handing defeats its purpose!
  8. Whether on the edge or in a guide hole, line up your saw, keeping the shoe flat on the surface but the blade edge away from the metal. Start the saw and get the blade up to speed before approaching the metal surface to avoid kickback, damaging your blade, or damaging the surface.
  9. Move slowly, letting the machine dictate the pace. Forcing the saw to go faster will only degrade your blades and tool motor faster.
  10. Cutting Sheet Metal with Jigsaw

  11. If you are not using plywood and instead are using cutting oil to lubricate the surface and blade, make sure you’re only applying it an inch or two at a time. More than that, you risk obscuring your guideline.

Cutting Sheet Metal With a Jigsaw

If you have ever attempted to cut thin sheet metal with a jigsaw, you might have noticed excessive vibration, and in some cases, the sheet may get bent and damaged.

So, How do you cut thin steel with a jigsaw?

With proper technique, you can easily cut thin sheet metal using a jigsaw without damaging it.

Here’s how:

When cutting a flat sheet of steel or other metal, it’s often recommended to sacrifice a few thin sheets of plywood to sandwich the metal. This creates a more controlled and thus smoother cut by minimizing vibration and keeping the material flat.

Metal Cutting Tips

Keep plenty of extra blades on hand, as cutting metal will degrade a blade faster than cutting a softer material like hardwood.

ALWAYS make sure your power source is removed when switching blades. Either unplug your corded saw or remove the battery from your cordless saw. Never replace a blade while power is connected, no matter how confident you are.

When switching your blade to a metal-specific one, make sure that your tool is set for the blade to cut straight and not angled from a previous project. Additionally, make sure your speed is set to slow. You will get the best results from your jigsaw and blades by cutting metal slowly and steadily.

Limitations of Jigsaw

Jigsaws are highly versatile tools, with their own ranges of options and features. However, for this application there are some limitations to keep in mind for your project:

  • Jigsaws cannot be used for plunge-cutting into metal.
  • You definitely need specific, potentially expensive blades for metal, all-purpose blades won’t work.
  • Cutting metal with a jigsaw is a slow-moving process requiring some patience!
  • Jigsaws can only cut to a limited thickness of metal.

How Thick Can a Jigsaw Cut?

As a general rule, you can cut up to ¼-inch (approximately 6mm) thickness for steel and 1/2” (12.7mm) thickness for non-ferrous materials.

You could cut thicker plates, especially softer metals such as aluminum. But it is difficult to get a straight cut edge on thicker workpieces and has a higher risk of blade breakage.

Have fun with this different use for your jigsaw, and let us know if you have any tips!