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What is most impressive about the jigsaw is that it can be used in so many ways. Many people would agree that this is one of the most versatile types of saw out there, and yet, so many are still unsure about what it is and how it is used.
The good news is that these diverse pieces of equipment are relatively affordable and can be quite easily learned. Once you add one to your toolkit, you will wonder how you ever managed without one.
In this beginners guide, we are going to be looking at everything you need to know about a jigsaw – what it is used for, types of jigsaw and things to keep in mind when purchasing one. If you have been considering getting started with this type of saw, you’re in the right place.
What Is A Jigsaw?
The jigsaw may go by a variety of different names including a scroll saw or a sabre saw but, in the words of Shakespeare ‘a rose by any other name.’
In short, a jigsaw is a handheld device that features a reciprocating blade. This blade moves up and down, and whilst it is quite delicate, it can power through a variety of different materials including wood, metal and plastic.
What’s more, due to the fine nature of the saw, it is ideal for more intricate work – where do you think the jigsaw puzzle came from? These irregular cuts would be extremely difficult with other, more bulky blades but the jigsaw makes light work of them.
This delicate blade is secured in place by what is known as a shoe; this stops the blade from moving around during the cutting process and will effortlessly glide along the cutting surface, making this a very easy to tool handle.
Types Of Jigsaw
Much like other kinds of saw, the jigsaw comes in several types. In the main, this is usually in relation to the size of the tool, its power and how it handles. The type of jigsaw you go for will largely depend on your needs and how you intend to use the equipment.
A regular jigsaw blade will move in an up and down motion; however, there are some modern tools that have a more advanced blade. The pendulum blade will move back and forth in addition to up and down, creating something of a circular motion.
This type of jigsaw is beneficial if you will be using it to cut through far thicker pieces of metal or wood as they will tackle this far more quickly. In addition, these tools tend to be a lot more durable and long-lasting.
Cordless jigsaws, as their name may suggest are tools which do not feature a power cable, and rather are battery-operated. This is a relatively new concept, but we see more and more cordless power tools in modern DIY and trade work.
One thing to keep in mind when considering the best option for you is that a cordless model may not be as powerful as one which takes its power from the mains. However, they are excellent if you do not want to be tethered to the spot.
Unlike a cordless jigsaw, their corded counterparts feature an electric power cable that must be plugged into the mains. These are far more powerful and will not run out of power, meaning they are ideal for longer work if you do not want to keep replacing the battery.
However, it does pay to keep in mind that a corded jigsaw does limit you as to where it can be used.
Orbital And Regular Jigsaws
An orbital jigsaw is similar to a pendulum jigsaw in that the blade moves in a different way. Many regular jigsaws come with an orbital setting which allows the blade to go in a circular manner which makes cutting a straight line far easier and much quicker.
However, this could affect the accuracy of the cut, and as such, if you want a more precise cut, you should be willing to use less orbital power.
Jigsaw Blades -Types
Once you have chosen the type of jigsaw you would like, you must then opt for one of two blade types. This might seem confusing, but the differences between the two are clear, and your intended use will help you to choose the right one for your needs.
- U shank blades have a U shaped fitting – this is where the blade is inserted into the tool.
- T shank blades have a T shaped fitting and are far more common.
The type of tool you have and the manufacturer will depend on which one you go for, and it is important to look at which blade will be compatible with your saw. Makita models are known to have dedicated fittings and require a special type of blade, known as a Makita fitting, so this is worth thinking about when buying these models.
There are other considerations where the blade is concerned, but we will look at this in more detail later on.
How Is A Jigsaw Used?
A jigsaw is one of the easiest tools to get to know, and this makes it a firm favourite, alongside its versatility, it’s ease of use puts it up there as one of the most essential power tools.
This type of tool is used to cut through a variety of materials and is excellent for making curved cuts and those that require more intricate detail. Let’s take a look at how you use a jigsaw.
- One of the most important tips to remember is to keep the shoe flat on the cutting surface.
- As you move the saw along the cut line, you should go slowly so that the blade has the chance to cut without becoming lodged or damaged.
- When you are making several curved cuts, it is a wise idea to make some relief cuts so that the blade isn’t put under great deals of unnecessary pressure.
- You can also make a plunge cut in the centre of the material, and this requires you to tip the tool up so that the tip of the shoe rests on the material. From here, you would use the saw at full power to penetrate the material.
What Is A Jigsaw Good For?
A jigsaw, as we have discussed, is a very versatile piece of equipment that is useful in many applications. They are ideal both in the workplace and for hobby DIY enthusiasts, and once you have added one to your tool collection, you will feel lost without it.
If you are thinking about making some home improvements than a jigsaw is a great piece of equipment to have on hand. They are ideally suited to making curved cuts, and due to their handheld design can be used all around the home.
A lot of people would use a scroll saw for this (whilst some might refer to the jigsaw as a scroll saw, this is, in fact, a completely different tool) and whilst they are good for making curved cuts, you will need to do a lot of sanding. This is not the case with a jigsaw.
You might cut out a space for a new sink in your countertops or perhaps make a complex cut in a piece of flooring.
If you enjoy passing the time with woodwork or crafting, a jigsaw can be an invaluable addition to your hobby tool kit. It is important to ensure that the thickness of the material is compatible with a jigsaw, otherwise, you may not achieve what you were hoping, and the blade could become damaged.
In the main, materials with a thickness of 1-2 inches are ideally suited to this type of saw.
In The Workplace
If your job requires power saws, then a jigsaw is a great choice. This is largely down to its diversity but also because of its incredible power. Many people in the trade would agree that a jigsaw delivers the benefits of both a band saw and a reciprocating saw – giving you the best of both worlds.
What Do You Use A Jigsaw Tool For?
A jigsaw is excellent for cutting through a variety of materials, but the most important thing to consider is the thickness. You should also think about the blade you are using since this will have a bearing on the type of material you can cut – some blades are better at tackling wood, whereas others are more suited to metal and so on.
- Can a jigsaw cut metal? – A jigsaw is excellent for cutting metal, but you must remember to go for a fine blade that has 21 to 24 teeth per inch. This will give you a far better cut. You should also think about the thickness of the metal when cutting sheet metal; it should be no thicker than ten gauge.
- Can a jigsaw cut a 4×4? – Jigsaws can handle thinner pieces of wood up to a maximum of 2 inches, anything larger than this is not a good idea.
- Can a jigsaw cut plastic? – A jigsaw is an ideal tool for cutting plastic, although once again you should consider the thickness of the material and the type of blade that you use.
- Can a jigsaw cut tiles? – If you are fitting ceramic tiles, it can be difficult to make more detailed cuts where the tiles need to be installed around obstacles. Fortunately, a jigsaw is a great solution to this problem and will make light work of cutting tiles.
- Can a jigsaw cut MDF? – You can use a jigsaw to cut MDF but you should think about the blade. Something that has more teeth will work better, and you should be mindful not to cut the wood too quickly.
- Can a jigsaw cut plywood? – A jigsaw can be used to cut plywood, but you must use a fine blade as this will prevent splintering.
- Can a jigsaw cut laminate flooring? – Laying laminate flooring poses a similar problem to tiles, but a jigsaw will make this easier. A fine blade is preferable and when making the cut, be sure to have the saw at full power before it touches the material.
- Can a jigsaw cut tree branches? – A jigsaw is designed to cut thinner pieces of wood and most tree branches exceed this. FOr this reason, you would be better to use a different type of saw for this job.
What Is it Not Good For?
A jigsaw is great for many things, but much like any other tool, it is not suitable for everything.
If you want to make fast cuts, a jigsaw will not be suitable. This is because, in order to get a clean, even cut, the jigsaw must be operated at a slower pace. While they can make a straight cut, these tools are designed more for curved cuts, so if you need a very long straight cut, it may not be suitable.
What’s more, if you need to cut materials that are thicker than 2 inches, you may benefit from another tool.
What To Look For In A Jigsaw
When choosing your tool, you should always be mindful of the various features as these will determine whether the saw will meet your needs. It is important to take some time to look over the tool and figure out whether it will be beneficial to you.
Many modern jigsaws boast a variable speed option; this is excellent if you plan on cutting through a variety of different materials, or if you need to make a lot of curved cuts.
A slower speed is perfect for these intricate cuts as going too fast could see you veer off track.
When cutting metal, it is important to use a slow speed. In contrast, wood cutting will require something a little faster. It isn’t difficult to see that having the option of variable speed can make the tool far more versatile.
One of the reasons that the jigsaw is such a popular tool is that it delivers a precise cut, provided that it is used correctly. However, it is important to keep in mind that some of these saws come with handy features that make precision a priority.
For example, a lot of newer models will come with a laser cut line – this essentially projects a guideline onto the materials so that you can achieve a more accurate and precise cut.
Other models may also come with a dust blower. If there are high levels of sawdust across the cutting surface, this can make it far more difficult to stay on track, so a dust blower will help to improve the precision of the cut.
Types Of Blade
As we mentioned earlier, there are two main types of blade for your jigsaw, and this is related to the blade fitting. A U shank is far less common, and this is largely because a T shank is much easier to fit. You should also consider whether you will need any additional tools to attach the blade. While this was common many years ago, a lot of modern tools feature toolless blade fitting, which is extremely convenient.
The material from which the blade is crafted is also an important consideration as this will affect how and what you can cut.
- High carbon steel is often used for jigsaw blades, and this offers a variety of benefits. They are much thinner than other types and quite often, the most affordable. However, you should also keep in mind that they are more liable to break thanks to their flexible nature and so should not be used with more dense material. In the main, you would use these blades for cutting softwood.
- High-speed steel blades are slightly thicker but are often better for cutting harder materials such as plastic and hardwood. This is because they heat up far more quickly and are flexible but not to the point that they will warp.
- Tungsten carbide blades are very strong. They are great for cutting through extremely tough materials such as ceramic tiles. They will deliver a very precise cut and will not cause any splintering.
- Bi-metal blades are somewhere between high-speed steel and high carbon steel and are great if you want to access the benefits of each of these blade types. They will heat up quickly and offer a decent amount of flexibility. What’s more, they are very durable and will last you through many jobs.
The blade choices are wide, but they do not end here. It may be surprising to learn that there are even more things to think about when choosing your blade. It is easy to see that this is one of the most important factors to look at when buying a jigsaw, especially if you need it for a specific purpose. Of course, you could invest in several interchangeable blades if you want to tackle a wide variety of jobs.
The blade teeth are important, and there are several different types to think about. Once again, how you intend to use the tool will have an impact on the type you will need.
- Wavy teeth are excellent for straight cuts. In this design, the teeth are laid out in an alternating long and short pattern.
- Tapered teeth are in a straight line and are best used for cuts that have a fine edge and will be done slowly.
- Side teeth are great for faster cuts and those that are rough. If you aren’t concerned with rough edges, these teeth are ideal. They are offset by design.
- Reverse teeth are similar to tapered, but they run in the opposite direction. If you are cutting through delicate material, these teeth will be far more gentle. The cutting occurs on the way down, as opposed to on the way up like other blades and this means that the material will stand less chance of chipping or sustaining other types of damage.
The final thing that you must think about when choosing your blade is the TPI – teeth per inch. This relates to the number of teeth that are set per inch of the blade. Blades that have more TPI will deliver a much finer cut than those that have fewer.
If you are going to be cutting mostly wood, a blade that features a TPI of up to 20 will be sufficient. However, if you need to cut other types of material such as metal or plastic, you will need something with a higher TPI.
The stroke length refers to how far the blade will travel on each stroke. The higher the stroke length, the better the jigsaw. This is because a jigsaw that has a higher stroke length will be able to cut far more deeply and quickly than one with a shorter stroke length. To achieve this, you should look for products that have a stroke length greater than one inch.
It stands to reason that you will want a jigsaw that will be powerful enough to handle everything that you throw at it as well as looking at how this power is delivered.
It pays to look at the amps of the motor as this will give you a good idea as to the device’s power. In the main, you would expect the motor to have 7 amps, although you should be careful as some cheaper models could go as low as 4 amps.
Battery Power vs Electric
Furthermore, you will need to think about how and where you plan to use the saw. If you are going to be using it for long periods of time, it might be better to go for a corded model as this will give you unlimited power.
In contrast, if you need to use the tool in a location that is not close to a power source, a cordless model might be more suitable.
It is clear that the jigsaw is a very versatile piece of equipment that can be used in a variety of ways. But what makes it even more diverse is having additional features.
This might include a splinter control shoe that can be attached to the tool to prevent splintering or a trigger lock. This add-on will allow you to lock the saw to a particular speed.
Some jigsaws come with lights so that you get much better visibility, this is particularly useful if you are going to be using the tool in a darker location. You might also find battery lights on cordless models which will alert you when the saw needs to be charged.
A jigsaw is a type of handheld saw that features a thin blade with teeth that can be used to cut through many different materials, including wood, metal and ceramics, amongst others.
They are relatively easy tools to use and as such, are favoured by a lot of people both in the workplace and for DIY purposes.
If you have never purchased a jigsaw before, you will likely find the choices overwhelming. Our beginner’s guide gives you all of the information you will need to think about before buying one of these versatile and useful tools.
If you would like to know which is the best Jigsaw to buy, see my Buyers Guide to Jigsaws