The jigsaw is perhaps the most versatile type of saw. It serves multiple purposes, from woodworking to cutting metal, pipes, and even masonry materials. Finding the best jigsaw is often harder than it seems.
There are a few objective criteria to consider to make sure the tool will fulfill its purpose. Let’s check them out.
- Types of Jigsaws
- 1. Corded jigsaws
- Straight Reciprocating vs. Orbital Jigsaw
- Barrel Grip vs. D-Handle or Top-Handle
- Jigsaw Features
- Best Jigsaw Brands
- Jigsaw Safety Considerations
Types of Jigsaws
The first thing to consider before buying a jigsaw is the type of tool you need. Like most workshop tools, your choices include corded and cordless machines.
1. Corded jigsaws
These are powered by electricity, and their mobility depends on the length of the power cord.
They plug into a standard wall outlet, or in the receptacle of a power generator, and typically run on 120 alternating current.
The power of these machines, measured in watts, is determined by their amperage. Most corded jigsaws have motors of 5 to 6.5 amperes, although there are some exceptions.
These tools are often more powerful than their cordless counterparts, and you can operate them for as long as you like.
2. Cordless jigsaws
These are powered by a battery, typically an interchangeable lithium-ion model. The power of these tools is determined by the voltage of the battery. Most cordless jigsaws come with 18- or 20-volt batteries that output sufficient power to drive the blade through wood, metal, and masonry.
The runtime depends on the battery, but your mobility is unlimited. These tools are often preferred by contractors, although they are also a great choice for anyone who doesn’t want to rely on a power cord.
However, cordless jigsaws are slightly weaker than corded ones, so they may be unsuitable to use for some heavy-duty jobs.
Straight Reciprocating vs. Orbital Jigsaw
Once you have decided between corded and cordless, it’s time to think of the type of tool you actually need. Most amateurs believe that reciprocating saws and orbital jigsaws are just slightly different types of jigsaws to choose from.
However, the only similarities between the two tools involve the design and the motion of the blade. Aside from these, the machines serve completely different purposes.
The reciprocating saw has a completely exposed blade designed to cut with a push and pull motion. Some reciprocating saws have an orbital action, and this tool is often employed in cutting window frames and pipes.
Due to its design, the reciprocating saw is also a great choice for a demolition project. With the right blade, you’ll be able to cut through masonry, steel, or other hard materials that a jigsaw may be unable to handle.
A reciprocating saw is rarely used for making fine cuts, and most reciprocating saw blades are designed for rip cutting through materials.
The orbital jigsaw is a more appropriate choice for the woodworker or hobbyist who wants to make intricate cuts in wood, soft metals, plastic, or even tile or ceramic.
They use either T-shank or U-shank blades with various tooth densities. You can use a jigsaw to make coarse or fine cuts in a variety of materials, but more often than not, these tools are designed for precision.
The orbital action of the jigsaw allows you to set the blade to perform straight, curved or circle cuts. I recommend this tool for most workshop projects.
How to Choose and Use a Jig Saw By This Old House
Barrel Grip vs. D-Handle or Top-Handle
A quick look at the jigsaw models on the market reveals two types of handles: the barrel grip, and the D or top handle.
My years of practice have helped me identify a few essential features to look for in a jigsaw.
In my opinion, this is the most important feature to check. Some jigsaws come with a fixed speed, typically around 2,500 strokes per minute. However, these machines are usually suitable for woodworking only, because the speed is too high for harder materials.
In fact, metals and harder materials typically require lower speeds. Your best choice is a unit with many speed settings, from 0 to around 3,000 strokes per minute.
Most projects require you to make angled cuts. Therefore, make sure the jigsaw you want can bevel. A bi-sided bevel capability is preferred because it improves the accuracy of the cut.
Another important feature is quick blade changing. Most jigsaws come with tool-less chucks, which allow an effortless switch from one blade to another. It is also important to pick a tool equipped with a lever that can remove a hot blade without requiring you to touch it.
Also, make sure the blade fits securely in its place, to prevent it from slipping out during operation.
Ask any experienced woodworker whether to invest in a tool with a laser guide, and you’ll probably receive a few awkward looks.
However, I confess that I love this feature. The laser guide is a big upgrade to the traditional carpenter’s pencil. Its purpose is to mark the line and guide your cut.
This feature is a nice add-on to have, especially for a beginner, as it improves the accuracy of your cut.
Perhaps more important than the laser guide is the LED light, which allows you to work in poorly illuminated areas.
An essential feature to look for is the dust blower. This component keeps your work surface clean and improves the accuracy of the cut by helping you see the cut line.
Not all jigsaws have a dust blower, and I strongly recommend investing in one that does have one.
Besides the D-handle, you should also check if the tool you like comes with vibration reduction features. Cutting harder materials and performing fine cuts often generates vibrations, which can cause fatigue after prolonged operation.
However, a unit with vibration reduction features is comfortable to maneuver for a longer time.
Another nice optional feature to check for is the trigger lock. This is designed to lock the trigger at the desired speed for easier operation, so you won’t have to keep pressing it manually while cutting the material.
Best Jigsaw Brands
Now that you know the features, you’re perhaps wondering which are the best brands to consider. I’ve put up a list of the most popular power tool manufacturers. Keep in mind that a brand isn’t always a guarantee of quality.
That said, here are the best jigsaw brands.
This is perhaps the most popular manufacturer of power tools. Its range includes multiple saw models, including both corded and cordless jigsaws. The main advantage of this brand is the affordable price range and the quality.
DeWalt’s tools are built to last, but the brand uses lower-cost materials when possible in order to reduce the overall cost of the tool.
Nevertheless, the DeWalt name is reliable, and its tools are generally in the mid to higher price range.
Out of all of the jigsaw brands, Makita is the brand. The company is renowned for its innovative tools that employ the latest technologies. Despite the higher price range, Makita is one of the favorites, especially among professionals.
Their tools are known for their durability and precision. Powerful motors ensure suitability for heavy-duty applications, while the components of these jigsaws deliver reliability.
Bosch is one of those brands that is almost ignored in the American market, but is very popular in Europe. The reason is simple; Bosch produces eternal power tools that will stand by you for years to come.
Reliability, cutting precision, dependability, and versatility are just some of the features that define this brand.
The medium-high price range reflects the quality of these tools, which appeal to passionate DIYers and professionals.
Black & Decker
One of the best power tool manufacturers in the U.S., Black & Decker offers different product lines for residential and commercial use. Its amateur range of power tools is dedicated to occasional users and includes a wide range of corded and cordless tools.
Their jigsaws are dependable and durable, built with quality components, but affordable. Most of these tools don’t withstand high-volume or heavy-duty applications, but they are ideal for your backyard workshop.
Another manufacturer renowned for its affordable tools, PORTER-CABLE offers reliable corded jigsaws intended for amateurs. These tools attract with a low price point, but the mid-range quality is well worth the money.
At the higher end of the spectrum, there is Hitachi. This manufacturer offers both corded and cordless jigsaws designed to withstand years of dependable use. The quality is reflected in the price, which is often high, but just like Makita, Hitachi is well worth the investment if you’re looking for a tool designed to withstand professional use.
Jigsaw Safety Considerations
A jigsaw is a dangerous tool. If maneuvered or used improperly, it can cause injuries or even kill you. It is, therefore, essential to learn how to use your jigsaw safely before engaging in a project.
1. Operate the tool in the right environment
Like all power tools, a jigsaw runs on electricity. You must only plug in your jigsaw in a dry environment. By dry, I don’t just mean free of water puddles. Airborne moisture can be equally dangerous, as the tool can shock you.
2. Use a dedicated circuit
Many beginners believe that just because a jigsaw uses the standard 120V circuit, it can be plugged in the same outlet as other power tools or devices, but the truth is that you can’t. A circuit overload can damage the motor and even set the tool on fire.
Always plug your jigsaw into a dedicated outlet. Avoid sharing the circuit with other power tools and don’t use extension cords, which can also cause overheating. A groundbreaker on the circuit is also essential.
3. Wear protective equipment
Protective equipment must include goggles, suitable gloves, and a shirt with long sleeves. Pick slim-fit clothes and tie your hair if it is long.
As for the gloves, make sure they fit perfectly, and that they are thick enough to prevent the blade from lacerating your skin should you lose control of the tool.
4. Learn how to operate the tool
You may have years of experience, but each power tool is different. If the jigsaw is new, take the time to read the manual and learn how to operate it. Just because it looks like your old one doesn’t mean it operates in the same mode.
5. Use the right blades and speed
Manufacturers produce various blades and tools with multiple speeds because they are a must, not optional. Cutting steel with a wood blade can cause you to lose control over the machine. The same could happen if you cut at a speed that is too high.
In general, you should set the speed at around 1,500 strokes per minute for cutting hard materials and up to 3,000 strokes per minute for softer materials.
6. Lubricate the components
Also, pay attention to the maintenance of the tool. The blade and chuck system will require constant lubrication, which is essential for smooth operation.
Picking the right jigsaw doesn’t have to be complicated, and I hope this guide can help you decide which is the best tool for you. Now all you have to do is to check the various models available and pick the one most suitable for your purpose.