How to Select the Best Jigsaw?
Choosing the best jigsaw can be challenging because there are so many types out there and they all have different features and technical specifications.
In your search for a jigsaw don’t get confused if you come across the name “scrolling sabre saw”. Jigsaws are sometimes mistakenly called sabre saws, though it’s actually a name for a different tool. With the help of our buying guide it will be easy to select the jigsaw that suits your needs.
Whether you have taken up woodworking as a hobby or you are into DIY home improvement, jigsaw is a must-have tool in your workshop. Jigsaw can be used for cutting complicated shapes in a wide variety of materials like no other power saw can.
Cutting curves is the most common function of a jigsaw, but this tool is versatile enough to also make bevel, plunge, straight cuts and even perfect circles.
- Curved cuts: jigsaw is the only hand held power tool that lets you cut intricate curves in plywood and similar materials.
- Bevel cuts are made simply by pivoting the shoe to the required angle.
- Plunge cuts: it’s not always necessary to drill a hole for the blade before cutting.
- Straight cuts: it’s easy to cut straight with a jigsaw — just make sure that you are using a little wider blade. But the best results are achieved when using a jigsaw cutting guide.
- Circles: circle cuts are easy to do simply by carefully following the marked line. However, you can use circle guides (also known as jigs) to get perfect circle cuts.
Inverted Jigsaw: Another handy method of using a jigsaw is by mounting it upside down on a special bench or a table and using it as a scroll saw.
Coping: attach a coping shoe to the jigsaw and turn it into a power coping saw.
You can cut a wide variety of soft as well as hard materials with a jigsaw, using different types of blades.
- Soft materials like wood, plastic and acrylic as well as metals like aluminum and copper.
- Hard materials like stainless steel, tiles, cement and masonry.
However, jigsaws don’t cut hardened steel, cast iron, concrete and other hardest materials.
Whether you are searching for a small portable jigsaw or a more powerful model, the performance of the tool will depend on the following parameters:
The power of a corded jigsaw is defined by the current of the motor, which is measured in Amperes (amps, A). While for the cordless models manufacturers specify the voltage of the battery, measured in Volts (V). Some manufacturers such as Festool specify the tool’s power directly in Watts.
For the majority of light-duty jobs, lower power corded models of 4.5 amp – 5 amp and cordless of around 12 V should be sufficient.
However, a more powerful tool with the power of 18-20V (cordless) and 6-7 amp (corded) is the most popular choice among buyers.
Models with higher power are usually in demand among professional contractors for a heavy-duty use. In addition, a battery of a higher voltage tool will also hold the charge for a longer period.
For cutting soft materials like wood, plastic and aluminum, you may only need a power of 500W (about 4.2 Amp) whereas for cutting thicker and harder materials such as ceramic tiles and cement, you will need at least 700W (about 6.0 Amp).
Cutting Capacity (Depth)
The cutting capacity, often referred to as the cutting depth, depends on the stroke length and the length of the blade itself.
It can vary depending on the type of material you are cutting.
The maximum cutting depth for a jigsaw is:
- Wood: 1½” – 6″
- Aluminum and Copper: ⅜” – 1½”
- Mild steel: ¼” – ⅝”
You can find jigsaws with higher cutting capacity, but the deeper cutting action can deflect the blade and result in a less accurate cut.
Strokes Per Minute
The cutting speed of the jigsaw refers to how often the blade goes up and down per one minute and is specified as strokes per minute (SPM).
Most models come with a maximum of 2700-3000 SPM. However, you can also find some high-end heavy-duty models that can reach up to 3800 SPM.
It’s simply the distance the blade covers while moving up and down. Its range varies between ¾” to 1″ in different models.
In the case of a longer stroke of 1″, because of the greater number of teeth coming into contact with a thick workpiece, the cut will be easier and much faster.
Longer stroke jigsaws can cut thicker materials as well as better remove sawdust, which results in less load on the blade.
Alternatively, jigsaws with a shorter stroke of ¾” can give a smoother and more accurate cut.
Normally, models of famous brands are more reliable and efficient in comparison to cheap no-name products. Even comparing two tools of the same voltage or amperage, the one made by a leading manufacturer will cut quicker than its cheap competitor. Quality materials and good design allow the energy be transmitted between the moving mechanical units more efficiently, minimizing its loss.
Orbital (Pendulum) Action
Nowadays, most models come equipped with orbital action, also referred to as pendulum or oscillating action.
By default a blade of a jigsaw moves up and down. However, when the orbital action is activated, it moves the blade also forward and backward, so its tip moves along an oval “orbit”. This lets you cut through softer materials, such as wood, more quickly and aggressively, however with less precision. This feature is also included in some reciprocating saws.
Another benefit of the orbital action is that it prolongs the life of the blade by keeping it cooler. The pendulum action moves the blade in and out while cutting, which disperses the heat and allows the cool air to get in. Additionally, this also removes sawdust, which speeds up cutting and decreases the mechanical and thermal load on the blade.
Because different types of cuts and materials require a varying rate of oscillating, some jigsaws come with a multi-positional switch that lets you select the aggressiveness of pendulum action.
The downside to this feature is that it may result in rougher cuts, especially on high settings. For a cleaner cut in softwood it is advisable to run the power saw with a low orbital action setting. While working with metals, normally you should turn it off. However, a low setting can be used while cutting copper, aluminum or other mild metals.
Brushless vs. Brushed
Brushless models are not a recent invention but they have been trending in the last few years. Almost all the manufacturers are now selling brushless tools including jigsaws.
In brushed jigsaws, the power, regardless of whether coming from the battery or cord, runs via two brushes located on each side of the motor shaft. The contact of the brushes and the rotating commutator causes friction, which produces heat. The heat, as we know, equals energy loss as well as quicker wear and tear of the motor and the brushes.
In a brushless jigsaw, the motor adjusts itself according to the power demand. When the saw meets more resistance, it draws more power, and vice versa. The brushless motor will not have a voltage drop that a brushed motor deals with. And there are no brushes wearing out and requiring a replacement.
This is a huge benefit that increases battery and motor life and enhances the overall performance of the tool.
The only downside to brushless models is that the parts used in these are more complex and expensive. That’s why you will see a significant jump in price of a brushless jigsaw in comparison to a brushed one.
Brushless jigsaws are more reliable and efficient. However, if you don’t need a heavy duty professional power tool for frequent use, a decent brushed model might work just fine for you.
Most jigsaws nowadays come with a variable speed control. Models with a single speed are also available on the market, but they are restricted in versatility in comparison to variable speed tools.
The single speed jigsaws usually operate at the maximum rate of 2700-3000 spm which may be unsuitable for making precise cuts or working with certain materials.
Almost all high-end jigsaws come with around 5 variable speed settings. This feature is important because you should cut materials such as plywood, pine or fiberboard at a higher speed but you need a slower speed to cut metals, hardwood and others.
Some manufacturers may refer to speed as low, medium and high, but as a general rule, a high speed can be more than 2000 spm and around 750 spm for a lower speed.
While working with materials like plexiglass, the variable speed also helps you to cut slowly at first, and then increase the rate when you are confident to do so.
The speed control on the jigsaw can be represented with a dial or a trigger. But some models have both. The dial can be set to a certain position and will control the top speed. The trigger, on the other hand, will let you increase or decrease the speed during cutting, but will not let you go over the maximum speed you have set on the dial. If you have a tool with dial speed control only, you will need to stop cutting in order to change the speed setting. That’s why for most users models with a trigger speed control seem to be more convenient.
Some jigsaws come equipped with a scrolling action feature. This is a useful function for cutting complicated curves with precision. You simply change the direction of the blade by steering a knob located at the top of the jigsaw body and it lets you rotate the blade up to 360 degrees while cutting.
It is also useful if you are working in a confined space and may not have enough room to move the jigsaw. However, this feature is not commonly available in modern models.
An anti-splinter insert is an attachment which may come with the jigsaw or you can always buy one separately. It helps prevent the workpiece from splintering during cutting. However, using this attachment may also make it difficult to see the cutting line.
Jigsaws that come with a laser guide can help you highlight the cutting line by projecting a beam of light for achieving a better accuracy.
Having an adequate lighting is important to make a precise cut. A LED light in jigsaw illuminates the cutting surface and can be useful if you are experiencing a lack of light in your working space.
T-Shank, U-Shank & Hook/Bayonet Shank
One of the parameters jigsaw blades are categorized by is the type of their shank: U-shank (also called “universal”) and T-shank (tang shank). The shank is the section of the blade which gets locked into the blade holder of the jigsaw.
Between the two types, T-shank blades are the most popular and commonly used. In addition, they are compatible with almost all modern jigsaws. They come with a tang on top that is fixed in the blade clamp of the jigsaw. Most manufacturers have already switched to the T-shank standard, which means a convenient no-tool blade change system.
U-shank blades are recognized by a U-shaped cut on the part that goes into the blade clamp. This type of blades is not so common now because you need a tool to replace them. The term “universal” used in the name does not mean that it will fit all other types of jigsaws. If the mounting mechanism of your jigsaw requires fixing a blade with a screw, then you would need a u-shank blade with a hole or maybe two holes, but that depends on the type of your jigsaw.
Hook or Bayonet shank is another type of blade which is now obsolete, but you can still find it on the market and it is mostly used for Black And Decker old models.
It is recommended that you choose a jigsaw that supports T-Shank blades as they are easy to find and the tool-less blade change makes them more convenient to use.
Although jigsaws normally do not throw out so much debris, having some sort of dust extraction system is useful.
Some jigsaws come with an incorporated dust blower which directs a steady air flow onto the blade, blowing away unwanted splinters and dust.
The control switch is usually located on the side of the jigsaw body. The disadvantage of having this system is that it spreads the splinters all over the workshop.
You can also find some models with a port in the rear to fix a workshop vacuum cleaner hose. If your tool does not come with this option, you can always buy a dust collection kit which may cost around $10-$20.
This will allow you to connect the vacuum cleaner to the jigsaw and keep your workshop clean. You just need to make sure that the kit you buy is compatible with your jigsaw model as well as with your vacuum cleaner.
Bevel Cut Setting
Sometimes you need to make a bevel cut for decorative or other purposes. This requires pivoting the shoe of the jigsaw to the desired angle of the cut.
Most models allow you to change the angle between normal 90 and 45 degrees. The higher the number of angles of the shoe, the more flexible you are in your projects.
Usually you need to loosen a screw with a screwdriver or an Allen key. However, for your convenience, there are also models with a toolless shoe adjustment system that come with a built-in lever.
The newer models of jigsaws offer more power than before, which also means stronger vibration. An excessive amount of vibration can easily affect the accuracy of the cuts and even cause hand-arm vibration syndrome.
We recommend you to make sure before purchase that the model you are considering has a good vibration reduction system.
On Board Blade Storage
Having trouble with finding a jigsaw blade can be annoying, so keeping blades in a built-in storage space of the tool is a convenient feature.
You will find models which are efficient and come with great features but if they weigh too much for you it will affect the precision of your cuts. Make sure to consider this parameter if you are limited in physical strength.
The tool is comparatively simple to use, but you still need to keep safety in mind. Here are some basic tips you must follow:
- Make sure the blade is sharp.
- Make sure your workpiece is securely fixed.
- Wear mesh cutting gloves.
- Protect your eyes from splinters and sawdust.
- Use a mask while cutting masonry to prevent inhaling dust.
The efficiency and accuracy of your jigsaw will depend on how you look after your tool.
- Lubricate the blade with oil to make the cutting process smoother, which will reduce the stress on the tool and your hands.
- Keep all the ventilation slots free from any dust to prevent overheating.
- Cleaning the blade guide with a toothbrush every so often will ensure the accuracy of the cut.
- If your jigsaw is cordless, batteries need periodical recharging even if they are not used, and must be stored safely in a case.
- For a cordless jigsaw, examine the power cord condition for any visible damage before using the tool.
Available Jigsaw Types on the Market
Electric Jigsaws: Corded vs. Cordless
When you are looking to purchase a jigsaw, the first thing you need to consider is if you want a corded (powered by plugging into an outlet) or cordless tool (powered by batteries).
Each type has its pros and cons.
Corded: These are lighter in weight because they don’t have a battery, so it is less tiring to work with them, which also results in cutting precision. They are normally more powerful than cordless models for the same price, and provide you with unlimited run time. On the other hand, you are always dependent on access to an electric outlet and limited by the length of the cord.
Cordless: Convenient due to the portability, but heavier and more expensive. Also, you are limited by the remaining charge of the battery.
You can find a small range of pneumatic jigsaws on the market that work on compressed air instead of electricity. It may be a convenient option if you already have an air compressor to power your other tools.
They are like miniature jigsaws which fit in the palm of your hand. Mainly, they are used by hobbyists for modeling and other similar projects. This type requires a transformer or an adapter plugging into an outlet as a source of power.
Jigsaws under $50
For beginners the market offers cheap and simple corded jigsaw models of reliable brands. They are lightweight as well as compact and may even include features like a dust blower, variable speed and orbital action.
Jigsaws under $100
Within $100 there are many options for corded as well as cordless jigsaws. In most cases corded models are sold as a bare tool, so you can power it by a battery from another cordless tool you already own (make sure the battery is compatible). You also can get a full kit for the same price with battery and charger, but these may be cheap models of unknown brands, or certified refurbished sold with a discount.
Heavy-duty corded jigsaws are available in this price range. If you prefer a cordless kit with battery and charger, then you can get that too for prices starting from around $175.
$300 and above
You have a wide variety of professional jigsaws at this price point. Sometimes they will include a few accessories, such as a case or a bag. The top prices for an expensive models are around $600.
Leading Jigsaw Brands and Manufacturers
It is advisable to focus on reputable brands for your tools. The top brands for jigsaws are listed below. If you want a high-end model and ready to pay extra, then Festool is the company that specializes in professional top quality jigsaws.
- Black & Decker
Where to Buy a Jigsaw?
Any power tool store will offer you a few models of this power tool. However, the best deals and the widest choice are always online: on Amazon, Walmart or eBay.
What is a jigsaw and what is it used for?
A jigsaw is a power tool for making cuts in different materials – from plastic and wood to metal and tile. The main function making this power saw so popular is its ability to easily make intricate curved cuts.
While operating the tool is placed onto the surface of the material and is moved along by hands of the operator. However, it can also be used for coping with a special attachment – coping shoe. Jigsaws are often confused with scroll saws and saber (reciprocating) saws, but these are three different types of power saws.
Why is a jigsaw called a jigsaw?
The old definition of the word “jig” is to make a rapid up and down movement. This refers to the blade movement of the tool. The name “jigsaw” was used earlier for scroll saws before being transferred to the power tools that we know today as jigsaws.
The word “jigsaw” is also often used to call jigsaw puzzles. They were named like that because the first puzzle was made using a scroll saw, that was called at that time a jigsaw.
Jigsaw vs scroll saw and saber saw - what’s the difference?
A jigsaw is moved by hands along the surface of the material while cutting it. Unlike the scroll saw that is a stationary tabletop machine. While using a scroll saw you move the material against the blade in different directions, that allows to cut not only straight lines, but also scrolls – intricate curved lines. Jigsaws can cut curves too, but scroll saws allow more precision and finer, more difficult scrolls.
Saber saw (or reciprocating saw/sawzall) is a different tool that also uses the reciprocating action of the blade. That’s why people sometimes confuse their names. Unlike a jigsaw, it is held in hands instead of being placed onto and moved along the surface of the material like a jigsaw. You can’t use a saber saw to cut intricate curved lines – they are made for rough cuts.
What's the best jigsaw on the market?
Jigsaws can be of different types and have different features. The best option for a particular user is the one that meets his particular needs, so there is no advice for one universal model. But in general the most popular manufacturer regarding jigsaws in particular is Bosch – the pioneer in producing electric jigsaws.
What to look for when buying a jigsaw?
Here is a short list of the most important features for your consideration:
- Decide if you need a corded or cordless model. Choose cordless if you need to work away from an electric power source. If you have an easy access to an outlet it’s better to choose a corded one: they are cheaper, lighter (so more precise, easier to operate), more powerful.
- Brand. It shouldn’t be a cheap no name tool. As a rule they are inefficient and unreliable. Moreover, there are good inexpensive models of famous brands.
- Power. You need to make sure it’s enough for your type of projects. On the other hand you will not need a heavy duty tool that costs extra for more power than you need.
- Functions. A good jigsaw has speed control, orbital (pendulum) action with enough settings of aggressiveness, bevel cut function with several angle positions. Preferable blade type is t shank that means tool-less blade change. This standard is actually the most common these days.
- Additional conveniences: dust blower or dust extraction, laser guide for precision or LED for illuminating your cutting line, on-board blade storage. For more complicated curves you will want your jigsaw to have a scrolling function allowing to turn the blade for 360 degrees instead of turning the whole tool.
- Weight. Some models may be really heavy, so depending on your physical strength you should consider the importance of this parameter.
How much does a jigsaw cost?
Budget models with basic features cost from $25 to $100. In this price range cordless models are sold mostly as a bare tool: without battery and charger.
Within $100-$300 you can find heavy duty tools, but offers for cordless with batteries start from around $175.
$300 and over is a range of professional tools, including corded and cordless kits with accessories like cases or bags and other bonuses.
What is a pendulum/orbital jigsaw?
It’s a jigsaw with pendulum (also called orbital) action feature. Orbital action means the movement of the blade not only up and down, but also back and forth (tip is drawing an oval orbit) for a faster, but rougher cut. This function is good for softer materials, while it’s recommended to turn it off while working with harder ones like metals and tile.
Can a jigsaw cut a 2x4 board?
It can, but it will be difficult. It’s much better to use a reciprocating saw for this job. Jigsaws are mostly meant for thin materials. If you necessarily need to cut thick wood with a jigsaw, use orbital action and choose a thicker blade.
Can you use a jigsaw to cut laminate flooring?
Yes, you can. There are specialty blades for laminate. Blades for clean cuts in wood will also work well.
How to cut straight with a jigsaw?
Use a straight edge or parallel guide or just clamp a straight board to the material you are cutting. Don’t apply too much pressure forcing your tool forward. Use a sharp blade, appropriate for your material. Make sure it’s aligned well after being installed. Also, wider blades are more stable for straight cuts.
How thick of wood can a jigsaw cut?
It depends on cutting capacity of a model. This parameter is specified for different materials by manufacturers. Generally jigsaws cut wood from 1.5’’ to 6’’.
Can a jigsaw cut metal?
Sure. There is a wide choice of metal cutting blades for different types and thickness of metal. Maximum thickness will also depend on the cutting capacity of your jigsaw, that is specified by manufacturer. However, cutting the hardest metals like cast iron or hardened steel will be too difficult for a jigsaw.