As a power tool, a jigsaw is versatile enough to make curved as well as straight cuts, crosscuts, and plunge cuts. It is also capable of beveling, ripping, and making other personal shapes. You can expect it to cut a myriad of materials, such as ceramic tiles, drywall, plastic, metals, and wood. This Guide will help you find the best jigsaw for your needs. wv’ve also provided some short, jigsaw reviews towards the end.
via Mark Hunter
This tool is powerful enough to cater to a number of exclusive applications that other tool cannot. It makes light work such as openings in sockets supplying electricity and holes in worktops. Unlike bulkier circular saws cutting only in straight lines, these tools come with the mix of cutting agility and portability, enough to give you a lightweight feel.
Whether you need to make a table or a step stool, a woodworking career gets a good start with a jigsaw. It can cut on curves or straight as an arrow, and that anyone can manage to handle it even without any experience. Both experienced and hobby woodworkers use jigsaws, as they cut quite faster than a hand saw or a hacksaw, saving your much energy and time.
Jigsaws are perfect for small work areas, as they tend to fit satisfactorily. You can even carry them in a carrying case that fits in a closet or on a shelf. Although they are small, jigsaws can play a role of larger band saw and a circular saw, such for cutting a pine board or plywood. Further, it gives a bonus of cutting in the board’s middle by just drilling a start hole followed by dropping in the blade.
A jigsaw typically comes with the desired flexibility as well as cutting power for several craft and construction and craft applications. Depending on the features, a specific model of this tool is better suited to a few applications, materials, and a few types of cuts than other models.
- 1 Working of a Jigsaw
- 2 Jigsaw versus Circular Saw
- 3 Choosing the Best Jigsaw
- 4 Popular Brands
- 5 Types of Jigsaws
- 6 What to Look for ?
- 7 5 Best Jigsaws of 2016 Reviewed
- 8 Conclusion
Working of a Jigsaw
Jigsaws usually work with the help of a small vertical blade moving up and down at not more than 3,000 strokes per minute (SPM), which makes it easy and precise to maneuver. Reciprocating vertically, the blade is usually narrow and is regulated by the unit’s soft start trigger.
Not so obviously apparent is that all jigsaws employ a variable pendulum action due to which the blade moves not only up and down but also backward and forward. As a result, jigsaws cut into harder as well as thicker materials more swiftly.
This dual pendulum action confers many benefits such as longer blade lifespan, longer motor life, and faster performance. A few models also tend to have a tilting base plate for bevel cuts.
Jigsaw versus Circular Saw
A circular saw typically features a single round blade having pointed teeth rotating at a high speed for handling wood. Of all types, a handheld circular saw is popular for its linear, tidy cuts from large plywood sheets without having a budget and working area required for a bigger table saw.
On the other hand, a jigsaw features a reciprocating saw blade and an electric motor. With a suitable blade, it can perform a variety of cuts chiefly on wood and metal.
A circular saw can easily manage jobs demanding precise, straight cuts on metal or plywood sheets. They are not for making curved cuts. Some models also have an automatic laser line for more accuracy. Further, unlike a jigsaw, this saw leaves behind burrs on the plastic and metal cut edge, which you can remove by using sand paper.
A jigsaw is designed for cutting non-linear patterns that can possess intricate cuts. It is ideal for easy beveling and pivoting on several types of materials. While it can cut straight, short lines, it is not for straight, long cuts in sheets.
Several jobs need both curved and straight cuts for which an expert can rightly suggest to purchase both a jigsaw and circular saw. Nevertheless, it is not always feasible to have both, considering your budget, power usage, and storage capacity. Thus, you need to ask: Which types of cuts am I going to make frequently? While a jigsaw is capable of cutting 2-inch boards easily along with intricate and curved cuts, a circular saw is not that flexible. Nevertheless, a high-quality circular saw is essential for projects related to most home improvement and lumber works.
Choosing the Best Jigsaw
Well, just like other power tools, jigsaws are available in different varieties. Each of them differs in terms of brand, type, blades, price, and other features or specifications. Before you start searching, it is essential to understand that there is no single best jigsaw on this planet. The inference of the term ‘best’ itself is subjective. ‘Best’ means the model that fulfills your requirements within the decided budget in the most effective way.
Before you find out or explore about available options, it is recommended answering the following queries:
- Are you using a jigsaw for the first time?
- Are portability, compact size, and lightweight design your priorities?
- Will you be able to access power outlets?
- How much liberty of movement is required?
- Will you be using the tool for a prolonged period, such as all eight hours a day?
- What kind of cuts will you make often?
- Will you make precise and slow or fast cuts?
- Is ease of use and convenience more essential than performance and power?
Once you answer these questions, it becomes super easy to look for models and brands that can fulfill what you need. For example, if you know that there are proper power outlets nearby, you will go for a cordless jigsaw. Similarly, if you will be making curved cuts for a prolonged time, a model with an exclusive blade for that cut as well as powerful motor that does not overheat will be the way to go.
Before you start looking for different types of jigsaws, it is worth knowing about the most popular and leading brands. It is recommended buying from those brands instead of choosing an unbranded or any-other tool. For jigsaws, the popular and reliable brands are DeWalt, Bosch, Makita, Black & Decker, Milwaukee, Hitachi, Festool, Porter Cable, and Metabo. These brands are admired for their power, durability, comfort, and convenience. However, this does not mean that all models from these brands have an equal say in each of these fields. Each model even of the same brand differs in terms of comfort level, price, and features. Therefore, you need to analyze thoroughly the features and specifications, if comfort, power, and durability are your top priorities.
Types of Jigsaws
Broadly, keeping in mind the source of power, jigsaws are of two types namely, corded and cordless. Each of the two has its own set of pros and cons usually making the chosen one a personal preference, provided it is not for professional use.
- Corded Jigsaws: These models run electricity due to which they need a power outlet nearby.
They are capable of being much more powerful, which ranges from 3 to 8 amps. As a result, they are ideal medium to heavy-duty tasks such as cutting thicker materials. They are also ideal for long-term and frequent use. So, it is essential to have a corded model if you are a carpentry professional or a construction worker. Moreover, there is no hassle of changing or recharging the batteries, due to incessant power supply, provided there is no power cut. On the con side, these models do not have enough mobility as those cordless ones. Their cords can also get in the middle of your way, which can be a safety risk. A long extension cord might be required for work. The leading brands for corded models are:
- DeWalt: Offers you power and control with an anti-vibration counterbalanced reciprocating mechanism and dust blower for a clear cut line.
- Bosch (Inventor of Jigsaws): Is popular for its ample of power, ideal tool-less blade change, smooth operation, orbital settings, and comfortable design.
- Festool: Is not that popular as Bosch but is reputed for its quality design that encompasses the best blade guidance system for making the exact cuts, distinct changeable base plate mechanism for making cuts that no other jigsaw can.
- Milwaukee: Is admired for best speed jigsaws that are quality units with maximum variable speed control and a tachometer for keeping an eye on speed.
- Makita: Is known for smaller jigsaws than those offered by the aforementioned brands but still packing a lot of more power, most quiet operation, and least vibration.
Porter Cable and Black & Decker are known for their economical corded models.
While buying a corded jigsaw, you need to look for some essential features such as metal gear housing for protecting the gear from all abuses and ensuring its durability. It should also have a rubber cord for easier operation and more flexibility than a plastic one, cord storage for easier transport, and lighted plug to see if there is power and to identify the tool from distance.
- Cordless Jigsaws: These models operate on battery power. However, the biggest advantage of having a cordless model is free range of motion with higher level of portability due to which you can go anywhere. There is no cord to come in the way and be a concern, and that there is no need of searching for a power outlet. If you choose the latest battery type namely the lithium-ion one, the weight you get is also relatively less. Cordless jigsaws usually need a 12, 18, or 20v battery. Consider a cordless jigsaw for light to medium-duty use and for moving from one corner to another in a larger job area. On the con side, these models are comparatively less powerful than those operating through a cord. They also need to stop due to the need to recharge or change the batteries. The leading brands for corded models are:
- Bosch: Is famous for its one-handed blade changing system (no other model has it), lighter and more compact design than corded ones, powerful operation, and ease of use.
- Makita: Is famous for its efficient motor, ergonomic and lightweight design, blade changing system without requiring any tool, long battery run time, and low vibration operation.
- DeWalt: Is admired for its ready-to-go, heavy-duty kits; fan-cooled faster cutting motor, cool ergonomics, and tool-less blade replacement.
- Metabo: Is known for its great ergonomics and extremely robust design, metal gearbox housing, and quick blade removal system.
- Hitachi: Is known for lightest models and tool-free blade change mechanism.
While buying a cordless model, consider having a convertible grip for switching the handle to and fro, auto-stop brushes to stop the unit when brushes worn out, and a brushless motor for having more power as well as life by reducing friction.
- Pneumatic Jigsaws: These are powerful units that run by air instead of electricity. However, they are not as widely used as corded and cordless ones. Nevertheless, pneumatic models offer many benefits. They are lighter than cordless and corded models and are also relatively safer to use in wet workplaces. Still, you are required to take proper precautions while using the saw although the risk of accidental cord cutting leading to fire does not exist here. Further, these models are highly powerful. Thus, you can consider one such model where there might not be any power, after charging your air compressor. Because an air compressor is required for a pneumatic model to function, the unit is heavier and consequently least portable. Consider it for a workshop but not for daily use at home. At present, Bosch pneumatic models are much reliable.
Which One to Use When?
If you need a jigsaw that will work well for daily-type tasks not done too frequently, it is recommended to go for a cordless model. Its higher portability enables easy and convenient operation to get the job done. Although not robust as pneumatic and corded ones, cordless units are capable of tackling light to medium tasks. Consider investing in at least 18v battery unit or else it can struggle for cutting effectively through thick or hard stuff.
If you need a model for often or prolonged projects, or cutting thicker material; a corded unit is the way to go. They weigh more than pneumatic but less than cordless models due to which they are ideal for those who do not want work fatigue. They also last longer and feature a relatively more durable build than cordless ones. Corded models are best for regularly cutting a variety of materials, especially the ones with powerful motor.
For deciding between the two models, just ask yourself how frequently you shall need the tool at work. Usually, for Do-It-Yourself (DIY) tasks at home, cordless or corded models capable of cutting softwood of up to 2 1/4 inches, aluminium of 1/2 inches, steel of up to 3/16 inches, and hardwood up to 1 3/8 inches are ideal. Similarly, for professional and heavy duty tasks, high-power corded models capable of cutting any wood of up to 3 3/8 inches, aluminium of up to 3/4 inches, and steel of up to 3/8 inches are just reliable.
As with all tools, several manufacturers exist in the market for offering jigsaws. Buying from a lesser known brand is not an indication that you are not getting a high quality model. In reality, the brand is only a matter of choice or preference. However, there are many primary features and functions to consider that governs how the tool runs. These are also the buying factors, which are explained below!
What to Look for ?
Factor 1: Jigsaw Blade Type
Although jigsaw blades cut different soft and hard stuff, they all are not the same. It is indispensable to choose the most apt blades as per the material and the manner in which you want to cut it. An inappropriate blade can lead to poor cutting and damage to both the unit and blade (broken and bent).
Luckily, you get blades as per the material for which it is made for, ensuring easier and quicker selection of blade. Brands such as Bosch have come up with color code for blades to indicate the material category. Usually, you will find jigsaw blades for cutting hard and soft wood, plastic, ceramic and glass, steel and aluminium, masonry items, fiberglass and plexiglass, thicker fabrics like leather, and paper items like cardboard. Keep in mind that it takes time more time to cut harder stuff than softer items.
Each of these blades differs in terms of shank. An apt shank is essential and its type signifies how the blade is secured firmly to the jigsaw. There are two types of shanks to choose:
- T-Shank: Are popular with their ability to be used with units having a quick changing blade facility. These shanks are designed by Bosch whose models hold the blade with the help of a vertical screw system. However, you can hold it even by horizontal fittings due to which you can use it any model. Most jigsaws accept T-shank blades that are also usable in U-shank models.
- U-Shank: Are manually secured to a model, typically with a locking screw and an Alley key. They have a U shape at tip and are seen on Black & Decker models wherein the blade is screwed horizontally to the shank. These U-shank blades are popular in North America. However, these shank blades do not fit well into Bosch models.
While these shanks are the most common, a few brands might use their own shanks in their models. Therefore, it is recommended to go through the model specifications for ensuring the use of apt blades. As a rule of thumb, professionals and craftsmen should go with T-shank blades.
Factor 2: Blade Size
The size of a jigsaw blade varies in terms of thickness and length. The length should be minimum an inch longer than the material’s thickness. The blade’s thickness and width indicate the overall maneuverability and flexibility. Thinner and less wide blades are more fragile but are better for making intricate patterns and cutting sharp curves with more accuracy as well as clarity.
Factor 3: Blade Fabric
A jigsaw blade is made up of different metals. The tougher the blade, the harder the material you can cut. However, a few blades are suitable for both soft and hard stuff, especially wood. Below are the common types of blade, categorized as per the composed material type.
- High-Speed Steel (HSS): Are more durable, and harder, but are less flexible than high carbon steel blades. HSS blades are ideal for cutting softer woods like mahogany and cedar, hardwoods, reinforced plastic, along with lighter weight metal. They can be damaged by heat.
- High Carbon Steel (HCS): Are more flexible and economical to cut softer stuff but tend to wear out more swiftly than other types of blade.
- Bi-metal: Are ideal for heavy cutting tasks, hardwoods, and hard-to-cut metal. They are composed of high-speed steel as well as carbon steel. This means you get the best of both the worlds namely flexibility and resistance to wear and tear. These blades usually last 10 times longer than the aforementioned blades.
- Tungsten Carbide: Are ideal for masonry, fiberglass, and ceramic stuff along with any other hardest materials. The steel shaft with a grit edge just as a sandpaper enables smooth cuts. These blades come with the highest heat resistance. These blades are most expensive.
- Cobalt Steel: Are ideal for wood and metal. These blades are tougher and are more durable than steel and bi-metal blades.
- Carbide Grit: Are only for masonry board.
There are a few specialty blades, which are explained below.
- Scrolling: Are thinner than the standard blades and are ideal for making tight turning cuts without breaking or binding.
- Reverse Tooth: Are ideal for cutting stuff that is susceptible to splintering, without damage. These blades point downwards.
- Plunge Cutting: Are ideal for softer materials and feature a sharp tip for cutting at the beginning of plunge cutting.
- Flush Cutting: Are ideal for flush cutting with a wider body for piercing up to a vertical surface.
Factor 4: Blade Teeth
Teeth of a blade are measured as Teeth Per Inch or TPI. This measurement determines the kind of material ideal for the blade, how speedy the cut shall be, and how fine a cut will be. A low TPI or fewer teeth (between 6 and 20) is ideal for softer materials such as cloth, paper, and wood. These materials cut fast, but the output will be rougher that you need to sand later. Harder materials such as ceramic and steel need a higher TPI of 14 to 36 as well as a finer cutting edge but the cut is slower.
Another factor that contributes to the cut’s speed and roughness is the kind of tooth set. The set is either ground or milled. Ground tooth sets are sharper and feature a finer point for slowly making finer cuts. However, they wear out faster than milled ones. Milled tooth sets are blunter and are better for rougher, faster cuts.
Factor 5: Motor’s Power
The more the power, the easier it becomes to cut hard materials. An average power of around 18v or 5 amps/500W is sufficient for most customers, except for those having heavy-duty projects that need around 700W.
Factor 6: Speed
The speed of a jigsaw is measured as Strokes per Minute (SPM), and not Rotations Per Minute (RPM). The stroke rate refers to the count indicating the number of times a blade moves up and down every minute. Usually, the speed ranges from 500 to 3,000 SPM. Kindly note that deep cuts in dense woods need more speed, whereas hard steel needs much slower speed.
More than the SPM, it is the presence of variable speed setting that matters. Majority of advanced models come with 4 to 7 speed settings, which is sufficient for precision and flexibility. However, in case of easy and repetitive DIY tasks, a less variable speed setting is fine.
Factor 7: Orbital Settings
Consider this feature if you wish to control the unit’s backward, forward, and sideways movements effectively, while in a circular action. It facilitates more speed and precision, and also aids exceedingly in discarding chips. Jigsaw reviews from experts recommend having more orbital settings for handling different materials. If you will be dealing with only kind of material, this feature is not necessary.
Models with orbital settings come with different degrees of orbit for giving different cuts in various materials. They possess a selection lever for selecting the degree of orbit: less for tight scroll task and curved cuts and more for super fast, straight cuts. Straight cuts need more orbit than curved cuts.
Factor 8: Handle Grip
The type of handle grip helps in identifying the style of jigsaw. There are two types of handle grips: Barrel and D-style (Top handle). The name itself discloses the handle’s look and feel. The D-style grip has D shape and allows proper grasping of only one hand around the grip. This ensures professional feel, more intricate cuts, and higher control.
On the other hand, a barrel grip is less comfortable but enables grasping the bottom area for a stronger hold. This is recommended for reverse cuts. If there is any confusion in selection, consider a convertible handle with a removable D-style handle.
Factor 9: Other Features
There are some more features to consider for more comfort and convenience:
- Tilting up to 45 to 90 degrees for bevel cuts (the more the settings, the better and more flexible is the unit)
- Tool-less blade changing system
- LED light for visibility
- Dust collector
- Anti-vibration mechanism
5 Best Jigsaws of 2016 Reviewed
Black & Decker Smart Select
This is famous for its SmartSelect dial setting optimal orbital position automatically by using one of the seven settings for cutting wood, plastic, and metal as well as for making curved and straight cuts. It features 800 to 3,000 rpm speed, tool-free blade changes, U and T-shank blades, and Accu-Bevel lever for more accurate and faster bevel angle adjustments.
Amazon Customer: “I am so happy that I chose this jigsaw I’m a beginner and as a woman it was very easy to control.”
This one oozes precision, durability, and power with its 3,100 SPM, four orbital settings, low vibration mechanism, and foot plate arm for sustaining even in high force. It also has a tool-less blade-change system, superior grip, T-shank blade, dust blower, variable speed dial, up to 45 degree bevel cut, and precision plunging system.
TSFixer: “The design of this jigsaw makes cutting a breeze. In my work, I have to cut a lot of curves, it has never been easier.”
DEWALT Bare-Tool DC330B
This is a heavy-duty cordless tool with universal and t-shank blades as well as keyless blade change system. It also features tool-less adjustable shoe, beveling capacity from 0 to 45 degrees, 3-position orbital action, variable speed up to 2000 SPM, and a dust blower.
Oldbaldyvt: “Plenty of power in this unit, and far less “jump” while going through sheet wood than with other saws.”
PORTER CABLE PCC650B
PORTER CABLE PCC650B 20-volt MAX Lithium Bare JigsawWith three orbital settings and 0 to 2,500 SPM, this cordless unit can adjust the aggressiveness of cut across applications with proper control for accurate cuts. It is a part of high performance 20V max system. The tool comes with a wood blade, tool-free blade release, dust blower, beveling shoe for 0 to 45 degree cuts, and overmolded handle.
William Bennett: “I can happily report that this is the best jigsaw I’ve ever owned. It’s light. Has plenty of power. Cuts smoothly.”
This one blends compact design with power and ease-of-use features for working a variety of materials. It has straight cutting functions, three orbital settings, variable speed of 500 to 3100 RPM, only T-shank blade, dust Blower, and beveling mechanism up to 45 left or right. It is not noisy and has low vibration mechanism as well.
Fox:“This is a jig saw for those of us who want a simple, sensible sized jig saw with plenty of power and accuracy.”
So, have you found your best jigsaw? Well, if not, you can go through some of the jigsaw reviews featured on our site. We strongly recommend comparing the different models as per your needs for choosing the most suitable one.