A jigsaw is a versatile power tool that is highly useful in cutting wood, plastic and metal sheets to desired shapes. A Jigsaw utilizes a reciprocating blade to cut along the straight line, curves, and irregular shapes.
When you look into someone’s garage, what tools will you usually expect to find? In pretty much every garage you will find the standard tools, screwdrivers, hammers, cordless drills, etc. If the garage belongs to a serious handyman you might even find a circular saw or table saw.
But one tool you probably will not see in most garages is a jigsaw. This is a shame because jigsaws are great tools to have around. Jigsaws are great for cutting along a straight line, curved profiles, plunge cuts and even circles. Because they are not as a common, it can be more difficult to figure out exactly what you should look for when buying a jigsaw.
To help make the process easier, I have created this comprehensive buying guide for buying jigsaws. This guide will make buying the perfect jigsaw simple and easy.
What is a Jigsaw and what can you do with the jigsaw?
A jigsaw (also sometimes called a bayonet saw or sabre saw) is a handheld power tool made up of two main components, an electric motor, and a saw blade. Jigsaws are useful because they can make a variety of cuts in basically any direction; they offer much more control than a circular saw or handheld saw. They are an ideal tool for making stencils, woodworking and small DIY projects since, you can make regular cuts, crosscuts, plunge cuts, and you can do ripping and beveling with ease,
Jigsaws excel at light to medium cutting duty, but they are not just meant for cutting wood or plastic, a good jigsaw with the right blade can easily cut through ceramic tiles and metals.
Types of jigsaws
There are two types of jigsaws that you will find in your average hardware store, cordless and corded. There is also pneumatic jigsaw that works on compress air. Since they are less popular, we will mainly focus on corded and cordless jigsaws.
I’ll briefly go over the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Corded jigsaws are the best option for people who primarily do all their cutting work in one space without much movement. Corded jigsaws are usually more powerful than their cordless counterparts (this is true for pretty much every corded power tool). But, if you plan on either moving around a lot while working or working in multiple areas around your house, then the cord can be a bit of a hassle. It gets in the way while you are working, it can get caught on things easily, and you can only work near outlets (unless you use an extension cord, but even then, the other problems still apply). If you are a professional carpenter or handyman (or you are buying a jigsaw for one) who is constantly doing heavy-duty jobs, then get a corded jigsaw.
Cordless jigsaws are powered by a rechargeable battery. While cordless jigsaws are less powerful than corded ones, they are more mobile and easier to move around with. They can also work anywhere, even if there is not an outlet around. Because they have a big battery pack in them, cordless jigsaws can be a bit bulkier and heavier than corded jigsaws, but most experienced power tool enthusiasts will not notice a huge difference. Cordless jigsaws are best for do-it-yourself projects at home because they generally lack the power to be used on heavy-duty jobs.
Factors to consider when buying a jigsaw
The power of the jigsaw is probably the most important factor when buying a jigsaw; after all, when you buy a power tool, you want it to be powerful enough to do any job. Trying to do a job, only to find out that your tool is not powerful enough is one of the most annoying things that can happen for a handyman.
Power is measured differently depending on whether you are going for a cordless or corded model. If you are getting a cordless jigsaw, then power is measured in volts. For corded models, power is measured in amps. Generally, you want a cordless jigsaw that is anywhere from 18-20 volts, and a corded jigsaw should be anywhere from 4-7 amps. If you get a jigsaw within those ranges, they will be powerful enough to handle most, if not all, household jobs.
Speed: What are the available speed settings and what is the maximum speed?
The speed of most power tools is measured in rotations per minute (RPM), but jigsaws are measured in strokes per minute (SPM). There is no ideal single speed that is good for a jigsaw, you need different speeds for different jobs; for example, cutting through hardwood requires a high-speed jigsaw, whereas cutting through sheet metal requires a lower speed. So for this reason, when you are looking for a jigsaw, look for one that has a lot of variable speeds. Most jigsaws have a few different speeds, but you ideally want a jigsaw with around 5-6 different speed settings; this will allow you to do most jobs easily.
If you do not know what orbital settings are, they essentially make the jigsaw’s blade move in a “D” shaped pattern as opposed to its usual pattern of up and down. Basically, it is a more aggressive form of cutting. It allows you to cut through materials faster and with more power, but the cuts will be rougher. So, if precision does not matter to you, then orbital settings will be helpful.
Straight Cut vs Curved Cutting
Nearly all jigsaws can do the straight cutting, while some may not be good for cutting curved profiles. The ability to cut curves mainly depends upon the orbital settings and the flexibility of the blade.
If you are going to do a lot of curved cutting buy one with several orbital settings.
There are two types of grips used with jigsaws. D shaped grips and barrel grips. D-grips are obviously shaped like a D, whereas barrel grips are round and do not have any handles. Generally, D-grips are generally more comfortable. On the other hand, barrel grips allow the user to get a better handle on the tool; but are not as comfortable as D-grips. What handle style you want is completely up to you.
Dust Blower or Dust Collector
Woodworking enthusiasts know how much sawdust come out during cutting. If the main purpose of your jigs is to cut wood, you should get one with a dust collector. This will provide more visibility and help you to keep the work area clean. A dust blower or even compressed air supply can also be used to improve your view.
Speaking of visibility, the handheld jigsaw often blocks the view of your cutting line especially if your work area is dimly lit. In such cases, I suggest you to get a saw with built-in LED lamps.
Should I go for Vibration Reduction?
Some of the expensive models offer vibration reduction feature. This will provide more comfort to your hands and can be very useful to control the movement of the blade along the cut line especially if the workpiece is hard and thick.
However, if your primary purpose is to cut soft materials like wood and plastic, then save cost and buy a normal one.
Helpful Jigsaw user tips
Are you a beginner user? If you have never used a jigsaw before, here are some helpful tips:
- If your jigsaw lacks a built-in dust blower, keep a can of compress aid nearby to get rid of sawdust buildup.
- When cutting profiles with varying shapes, start from a hole whenever possible. Drill additional holes just outside the intersection of curves or lines so that you can take your blade into the hole and rotate it comfortably for the next cut.
- Always use eye protection when cutting metal or tough materials.
- If you are using a reverse blade, then you make sure you keep a good handle on the saw to deal with kickback.
- Avoid putting side pressure on a blade while cutting; it creates unnecessary friction, which lowers the lifespan of your blade.
- While cutting wood, use a mask to cover your nose.
- During woodworking, start your jigsaw before you touch the blade on the wood. Otherwise, you may end up with splintered edges.