A Complete Guide to Choosing the Best Jigsaw for You
You can’t expect to finish a DIY home project without having the right set of tools. And one tool that you can’t have at home is the jigsaw. There are several good reasons why you should own one.
One, it is a very versatile piece of equipment. It can cut wood, metal, porcelain and plastic in a straight line or a curve. It is basically a scroll saw, band saw, and router in one piece. Its versatility is arguably the reason why it is the tool that any DIYer will likely acquire, with the possible exception of a drill.
Second, it is very easy to use despite its appearance and form. The moment you take it out of the box, you’ll realize that a jigsaw is straightforward to use even if you haven’t used one in your lifetime. To use it, simply insert the blade, plug in the tool, and you’re ready to cut.
Third, a jigsaw can be used in any workshop. Its size won’t also take a lot of space on the shelf.
Lastly, a jigsaw can cut curves fast. It is perhaps the only portable power tool that you can rely upon in cutting curves. This is the reason why any woodworker would rather have a jigsaw than a handheld coping saw for cutting curves quickly.
The tool many professionals and DIYers use today is relatively young, having been invented in 1940 by a Scintilla AG engineer. The said inventor replaced the needle of his wife’s sewing machine with a saw blade so that he can create intricate cuts in wood. That idea turned out to be the inspiration to the modern jigsaws used by craftsmen today.
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So which model can be considered the best jigsaw today? That is a tough question in itself because the word best is relative. What may be best for one DIYer may not be the case for a professional.
Still, I think when it comes to the topic of the top jigsaw models today, the following models should be in the discussion:
Bosch JS470E 120-Volt 7.0-Amp Top Handle
When it comes to power and versatility, only a handful of jigsaw models are at par with this top handle jigsaw from Bosch. It is a beast of a tool that you can count on in producing different cuts of various materials, from oak, cedar, aluminum, and steel.
This jig saw is powered by a 7.0 Amp motor, and it has a maximum bevel cut angle of 45 degrees. It features a Constant Response circuitry that helps maintain the desired speed of the user.
It has four orbital action settings that are easy to adjust. You don’t need to be an experienced jigsaw user to be able to understand how to adjust the orbital action settings to suit your requirements. It can handle low and high speed settings very well, too.
In terms of convenience, this Bosch model has the features that can make it convenient for you to work on your projects.
There’s a low vibration feature that can help you achieve a smooth and steady cut. You also don’t need to hold blades that are hot from friction thanks to the tool-less blade ejection lever. And it has an ambidextrous lock button that is helpful for longer cuts. Plus, it has a vacuum feature that makes getting rid of dust quick and efficient.
There are a couple of things that may disappoint the potential user. One is the absence of a work light and second, the rather high price tag of this unit can make anyone think twice about buying it.
But there is no denying that when it comes to performance, convenience, and overall built quality, the Bosch JS470E is a winner. It’s the right tool for home DIY projects, craft situations, and even large projects undertaken by professionals.
Black & Decker Smart Select 5.0A Orbital
This Black & Decker unit is powered by a five amp, variable speed motor. It can produce up to 3,000 strokes per minute and can cut through hardwood, tiles, PVC, and metal easily. It’s a great tool for home improvement projects and hobby applications.
This jigsaw has a selector dial that automatically sets the orbital settings appropriate with the task at hand. You can choose from seven pre-programmed settings including ones for cutting wood, PVC, and metal. For wood, there are settings such as straight or curved cuts in different depths. There’s also an Accu-Bevel setting that facilitates quick and precise angle adjustments with the simple flicking of a lever.
Using this jigsaw will not frustrate you at all. There’s a dust blower function that can clear dust from the cutting path. And changing and storing the blade won’t be an issue with the blade storage and tool-free blade change features of the JS660. Overall, this Black & Decker model is very easy to operate even for novice users.
It is a reasonably priced unit and its affordability often means that satisfied customers often buy an extra one and gave it to their friends or peers. While it is a great tool that is recommended for hobbyists and DIYers, we don’t think professionals will find this Black & Decker unit ideal for their large projects.
Another thing that Black & Decker could have done better is the integration of a work light. Yet that’s basically a minor chink in the armor of this excellent Black & Decker jigsaw model.
Makita 4329K 3.9 Amp Variable Speed Top Handle
The 3.9 Amp motor is complemented by three orbital settings that make this jig saw useful in cutting different materials.The moment you take it out of the box, you’ll immediately notice how its handle is ergonomically designed. It doesn’t hurt that the unit weighs 4.2 pounds, so handling is really impressive.
It’s also compact at around 8 inches long. Of course, there’s a downside to that as the small motor is not the most powerful that you can find on the market.
When you use it for the first time you will experience how easy on the hands its rubberized grip is. There’s also a counterweight balancing system that limits vibrations while you work on your project. And a dust removal system allows your cutting area to be clean all the time. The keyless blade change further makes the unit convenient to use.
The price is another strong selling point for this Makita model. It’s an ideal tool for the casual user. The 3.9 amp motor isn’t the most impressive in terms of speed, so expect to work slower with this one.
This jigsaw is recommended not just for hobbyists but as for professional woodmakers, residential construction workers, and cabinetry makers. It’s a very good example of why Makita is one of the best brands when it comes to power tools.
The Makita 4350FCT features an LED work light, something that the aforementioned models in this list lack. This work light is designed to help the user as he cuts by illuminating the work surface. Aside from that feature, this Makita unit also has an integrated hex wrench that is designed for adjusting the bevel.
It can adjust to different positions with a maximum angle of 45 degrees. It speed control, meanwhile, can be readily accessed with a thumb and can be set to three various positions.
The unit is powered by a 6.3 amp motor, working with three orbital settings as well as a straight cutting setting. It is designed to maintain consistent speed throughout the cut, thanks to its electronic variable speed control.
This Makita model also comes with a 1 year warranty on parts and labor.
Of course, there are some weaknesses in this tool like every item in this list. Perhaps the most annoying is the soft start function, which exhibits a significant lag in start up. You need to be a bit patient with this one. Aside from that drawback, you can’t really find any other disappointing feature of the Makita 4350FCT.
This model is powered by a six amp motor, capable of cutting at speed of up to 3,200SPM. It has a simple bevel adjustment and four orbital setting that lets you adjust the cutting performance depending on the task at hand. You can easily reach for the speed control as it is conveniently placed at the user’s thumb.
Changing blades is quick and easy to do thanks to its fast, keyless blade change mechanism. Installing the blade will not pose any problems, too. To install the blade, push the blade locking lever upward, insert the blade into the holder, and release the lever.
This unit features a LED worklight that illuminates the work surface. There’s also a shoe cover that protects the shoe when not in use, as well as to cover softer surfaces when cutting.
The manufacturer backs it with a three year, limited warranty on defects that can be attributed to poor workmanship or materials. There’s also a one-year free service contract which stipulates that Porter-Cable will replace worn parts and maintain the tool for free.
The Porter-Cable PC600JS is priced nicely. It’s a good buy considering its low price, good features, respectable power, and variable speeds. It also feels compact.
Jigsaws come in different features and capabilities, so you can choose a unit that would suffice for the types of jobs you have in mind. Professionals like carpenters and woodworkers usually have different types for different functions.
There are basically two main styles of jigsaws—the D-handle and the barrel grip handle.
As its name suggest, the D-grip handle has a cut out section in the handle. It’s better suited for home DIY tasks where you might be using it in an awkward angle.
The barrel grip handle, meanwhile, has the hand closer to the cutting surface. This allows the user to have more control over the blade. This is particularly important when cutting curves. Thus a jigsaw with barrel grip handle is more preferred by woodmakers.
However there are many manufacturers that have jigsaw models in both grip styles. This is something you may want to get if you aren’t sure on which type of grip you would prefer when doing a particular task.
There are three kinds of power options in jigsaws—corded, cordless, and pneumatic.
Corded jigsaws are powered by electricity. This kind of jigsaw is powerful and works best when cutting through thicker materials. But it can also be risky to use especially in wet areas as it can cause the user to be electrocuted when it is not handled properly.
Cordless jigsaws are portable as you don’t have to be limited in your movement unlike in a corded jigsaw. However, the main disadvantage of a cordless jigsaw is that it doesn’t have the same power as its corded counterpart. Plus, this is not the type of tool you would want when working on long projects because of its weight.
Another drawback is that when the battery runs out of charge, you will have to go back, charge the battery, and wait for it to be fully recharged before you can resume your tasks. A possible way to manage this is to buy multiple batteries for the cordless jigsaw.
The last type, pneumatic jigsaws, combines the good qualities of the two varieties above. It is not as risky to use as corded jigsaws in damp areas. It is also lighter to handle and control than corded and cordless variants. Power is also not compromised, unlike the cordless type. The only disadvantage of the pneumatic jigsaw is that it is not as widely available as the corded and cordless jigsaws.
While the jigsaw can cut through various types of materials from ceramic tile, wood, and metal, its blade is the one responsible for the versatility of the tool. Naturally, the jigsaw you buy will have its own blade. But you can also buy an extra pair of blades for other projects. When you buy a blade package, you’ll see a label or indication on what type of material the blade is best suited for.
Most blades are made of carbon steel, with length ranging from two to three and a half inches long and width of around 1.4 inches for creating tight radius cuts. For general purpose cutting, the blade’s width is around 3/8 inches.
There are also blades made of bi-metal and suited for heavy cutting. These blades can also be used for metal and hardwoods like walnut and oak. Then there are blades made of tungsten carbide which are appropriate for ceramic tile cutting.
Changing the blades can be done in various ways. Most jigsaws have quick release feature for fast and easy changing of the blades. The quick release option is more popular because it allows for an easier operation of the jigsaw. There are also other types that require tools for fastening the blade with a screw.
The two most common types of blades are the T-shank and U-shank. The former is used more often, designed for a quick-release style. U-shanks require to be secured to the saw with a retaining screw for safety purposes. Remember that these blades aren’t interchangeable.
The teeth of the blade will also determine which type of material it can cut through. Usually the fewer teeth that a blade has, the more appropriate or suited it is for softer materials like wood. Teeth of the blade are expressed as ‘teeth per inch’ (TPI). Low TPI is usually from 6 to 12.
For cutting harder materials like steel and ceramic, you will need blades with higher TPI of 14 to 36. But you should expect a slower cut when cutting harder materials.
Pinpointing the best jigsaw for you may be difficult with the many variations of jigsaws. Still, it would be better if you know other features that are typically found in jigsaw models such as:
Variable speed option: This function enables you to adjust the speed of the blade to adapt to the type of material being cute. The rule of thumb is that the harder the material to be cut, the slower the blade’s movement is. The softer the material is, the faster that the blade cuts through.
Precision roller guide: With this feature, it is much easier to achieve accurate cuts. You’d want a jigsaw with this feature when tackling on projects where you need to be precise.
Guide light: A guide or work light is usually of LED and makes cutting straight lines and creating intricate designs easier and more precise. Although you may not cut in the dark very often, you’d still want to have a unit that can illuminate your work especially when it’s getting late.
Dust blower: This can prevent sawdust from making your cut marks and stencils less visible. The blower can also collect and remove dust which may build up in the path of the jigsaw.
Airstop brusher: This is a feature that keeps the motor from being damaged.
Laser line: Like the guide line, this one allows for more precise cuts by projecting a red lighted line onto your project.
Other Things to Keep in Mind When Shopping for a Jigsaw
Aside from being familiar with the features of a jigsaw, there are other things that you should consider when looking for the best jigsaw for you.
One is the warranty which can protect you in case something goes wrong with the tool, like a product defect. With a warranty in place, you can have the unit replaced or repaired. You’d also want to buy a tool with a money back guarantee that often runs for 30 days. With this guarantee, you’re basically trying out the jigsaw. You can then return it just in case you are not impressed with it.
Like most power tools, jigsaws can be dangerous. If you’re a novice user, better to look for a unit with a safety switch or lock button. You’d also want one with a blade guard and a soft start feature that has the saw starting at a slower pace.
Finally, the price of the jigsaw may well be the deal breaker for many prospective buyers. How much would you spend for a jigsaw? The price ranges are quite broad. You should also not overlook the fact that blades are a recurring expense.
You can’t go wrong with models that come from reputable brands. While you may have to pay more for a branded product, at least you have the peace of mind knowing that you were able to snag a high quality jigsaw. Also, the best brands of jigsaws offer longer warranty which you would appreciate should something wrong happens to the tool that you bought.
Some of the brands that can be considered as among the best makers of jigsaws are Makita, Bosch, Porter Cable, Black & Decker, Milwaukee, and Festool.
For instance, if you’ve never used a jigsaw before, it is better to buy an entry-level unit than an advanced model. A less expensive jigsaw should suffice for hobbyists as well. The right jigsaw for you does not always mean the most expensive jigsaw that you can buy.
If you’re buying one online, read customers' and experts' jigsaw reviews first because you can get a lot of insights from people who have actually bought and used the jigsaw.
And once you’ve bought and received a jigsaw, remember to watch a few video tutorials to learn how to properly use one as well as the basic safety procedures in using the tool.