When it comes to cutting a variety of work pieces – and that too, in different complex forms, I like to think that jigsaws are the ideal combination of versatility and durability. Of course, there are circular saws that work fine in this regard, but jigsaws take perfection to an entirely new level.
The fact that you can hold the jigsaw in your hand and maneuver it around the cutting board in any way you like is what makes it so special. The problem with circular saws is that they are too constricted; the flow of the cut is a little tight around the corners. Plus, you have to move the said circular saw in a very controlled manner.
Jigsaws, on the other hand, are truly a “handheld” companion for a worthy adversary. Of course, wood isn’t the only material that a jigsaw can cut effectively. There are plastic sheets, PVC pipes, ceramic tiles, aluminum and even metal panels. For the latter, you’re going to need a powerful jigsaw combined with a robust stable motor and vice versa.
There is no hard and fast formula to help users buy a solid high performance jigsaw or any other power tool for that matter. The reason as to why many woodworkers fail to conk out full performance from any product is because they don’t know half the things about project requirements, environmental dynamics and many other such aspects.
While it is true that a flashy power tool with a promising list of specifications/ features can lead to finishing a woodworking contract rather quickly, things usually go off track. You may end up buying a jigsaw which is more suited to cutting thinner wood types. Using this specific model on any dense material will lead to inaccurate cuts, alongside long lasting damage to the jigsaw blade and the motor itself.
This is why I decided to write down a detailed jigsaw buying guide for users in 2018 and beyond. The post will be updated from time to time with additional information pertinent to technological advancements and such features etc. Please note that you can find additional online information on your own. Therefore, this buying guide is not conclusive. Most likely, I expect you to take it all in with a grain of salt.
There are several factors to account for. Let alone, pricing and a long list of features are not going to help you if you don’t have a specific idea about the project requirements. The lowest price goes down to $20, where both new and used jigsaws are available from online websites.
Likewise, if you are considering buying a high performance jigsaw, the price can easily spike up north of $450+. There’s no cap to the upper limit as it all depends on compatibility with jigsaw blades, exhaust ports, laser LED guide for cutting and etc. These features are not essential, but there presence and absence can determine how fast and perfectly a woodworking project is completed.
All of the following features were either reviewed independently, or as part of the main jigsaw review that I wrote in detail earlier. You can check out all the jigsaw related posts by scrolling through the jigsaw category at this website. I only select, review and eventually recommend those power tools that I’d use for myself in any isolated case. There’s no point in recommending crap for the sake of making a little money on the side.
When you are considering buying a jigsaw for the first time, the sale rep or the box packaging will tell you a thing or two about the jigsaw motor. The motor is the heart that powers up the entire unit and causes the blade to work flawlessly.
It is already obvious that higher SPM (*Steps Per Minute) is a result of a powerful jigsaw motor. However, there is one another thing which many jigsaw companies “fail” or simply “forget” to mention. It is called a blade speed stabilizer; an important component that keeps the SPM consistent with the motor’s speed.
Those jigsaws that don’t have an SPM stabilizer, they tend to slow down when cutting through dense material. The blade SPM stabilizer can work both in favor and against the jigsaw motor, as it also depends on which material you are cutting through.
If you have decided to use the same jigsaw with blade SPM regulator on dense work pieces, then you should know that the blade and the motor will have to constantly make an effort. Due to high resistance/ frequency, the blade will eventually get blazing hot, and also cause the motor to degrade in performance over time.
At the start of purchasing your very first jigsaw, you will have to choose between cordless or a corded electric jigsaw. The decision eventually boils down to what you are going to use the jigsaw for. If you are an entry level woodworking who wishes to dabble in DIY projects, a cordless jigsaw would be a nice addition to your power tools inventory.
If you are a professional, you will most likely go for a corded electric jigsaw. If you ask my opinion, I will always go for a corded electric jigsaw because these products tend to have higher SPM and more Ampere rating. As a result, there is an abundant supply of electricity going to the jigsaw motor, which can work effortlessly for hours on end – and that too, without causing any worries about battery life etc.
Speaking of battery power, different jigsaws have different battery timings. Likewise, it is not necessary for a jigsaw to last the same amount of time on one full charge, as compared to the other company jigsaws. The manufacturers make each battery in their own way – hence causing the performance to vary over time.
As to how long a cordless jigsaw battery will take to reach full charge, you can consult with the instructions manual. Some jigsaws are sold without battery. Their price may seem to be at an all time low point, but considering the cost of a standalone high quality jigsaw battery, you will most likely end up paying more rather than saving a coin on the side.
A jigsaw with higher blade speed looks and sounds more attractive than a slow SPM counterpart. The steps/ strokes help determine few things in the long run. The first priority is how fast a work piece is cut, as it entirely depends on the blade SPM.
Secondly, as I stated earlier, SPM is not a direct determinant of overall jigsaw performance. You have to see if the company has included a blade speed stabilizer and such other things. Also, the result of the jigsaw will vary whether it is corded or cordless.
In my opinion, most of the advance level jigsaws come with two additional features that impact the SPM. First one is the variable speed model, and the second feature is called the orbital action. I will explain a thing or two about orbital action later, but variable speed is more important in this section of the post.
Variable speed is achieved when a jigsaw comes with a speed dial. Usually, high performance jigsaws have up to 7 setting speed dial. The first position is the slowest speed, and as you go up, the blade speed increases. The best advice is to start with the slowest, or relatively slow blade speed and determine the amount of resistance a work piece has.
Eventually, variable speed offers woodworkers the freedom and ability to make fluid cuts in whichever pattern they like.
**Caution: You might be inclined to think that metal sheets call for high speed setting on a jigsaw, but it is quite the opposite. As a matter of fact, it is sometimes the dense piece of wood which calls for high SPM combination, rather than a metal work piece. Metal and aluminum are best cut when the jigsaw speed is kept to a slow setting.
This is the most interesting thing about jigsaws. The orbital action is the pendulum like motion; an oscillation of jigsaw blade from one end to another. A lot of companies, such as; Dewalt, Bosch JS470E, Porter Cable PCE345 etc., have released jigsaws with 4 speed orbital action dial. This dial is usually located at one side of the jigsaw.
In Dewalt’s case, the orbital action motion is slapped with a combination of curve cuts. Therefore, whenever you are using a select model of Dewalt DCS331M1 jigsaw on any orbital setting, you can also make beautiful curve cuts of varying dimensions easily.
Do bear in mind that base jigsaw models like the SKIL 4495-02 don’t have an orbital action mechanism. Orbital action allows the jigsaw blade to move forward and backward as if a clock’s pendulum is at work. These movements help to move the jigsaw in a circular motion, which is the most important in maintaining the perfect form of a curved cut.
The biggest benefit of orbital action is that once you have a curved cut design outlined on a work piece, you can select the orbital motion to work that way. One of the co-founder of a jigsaw brand once said the following about the orbital mechanism. I like to think that they’re golden words, and are to be taken into consideration when buying a jigsaw for the first time.
“Orbital action uses an oscillating mechanism to move the blade in a slight circular motion. The blade moves forward on the up stroke, which is the direction where the blade’s teeth are facing. This helps in cutting more quickly and aggressively – then the blade moves back on its return step/ stroke. This keeps the same blade clear of wear n’ tear. “
He further continued, “Since different kinds of blades cut in different style, the materials require varying orbital action settings. This is where the selection dial lets you choose the amount of “orbit” you are going for. Extreme settings are for super-fast cuts, while low settings are for making great curve cuts.”
My personal bit at this point would be to keep the orbital dial at base position to make sure that the blade is not overheating, and also to assess the resistance of the work piece. One thing which most people don’t know about orbital action is that it also keeps the blade cool.
Due to the small size of the blade, things overheat rather quickly. Especially if the motion of the blade is constricted to a limited movement area, it can also make ugly burn marks on any number of wood panels.
I don’t think a jigsaw would be an ideal tool for making bevel cuts when compared to miter saws, but there are some benefits worth looking into. The general assumption is that manufacturers introduce a jigsaw model to tilt at different angles ranging from 22.5 Degrees to 55 Degrees. 45 degrees is the most common bevel cut angle, which is why many jigsaws are compatible with it.
Likewise, there are screws in the base/ shoe of the jigsaws that allow woodworkers to increase the reach of the angle. The base will tilt up to 45 degrees or whatever angle is set for maximum leverage. Tightening the screw, or locking the positive stop will result in keeping the bevel angle maintained in that position.
If your jigsaw came with a hex key, or an Allen wrench, it is most likely meant for bevel angle adjustments. If there is no Allen wrench, then don’t freak out. Your jigsaw model probably integrates a locking level which simplifies the need of having a protractor etc. to set angles.
Blades are not that difficult to change on a jigsaw. In many cases, the jigsaws are made to release the blade at the push of a button. Sometimes, removing a blade requires the use of a small wrench, but 90% jigsaws have eliminated that option. Screws seem like a lot of hassle to deal with – woodworkers don’t want to spend half of their time on changing the blade.
The Makita 4329K jigsaws are a different breed. The last model I tried, its blade had to be kept level with the jigsaws position. A slight misalignment while inserting the blade would cause it to get stuck. In that case, removing the blade would become more of an issue, and will probably cause a flesh wound if you are not wearing any gloves.
Yes, if you are a seasoned woodworker like me, you probably don’t need LED lights. The light, or lights, are a built in feature in modern jigsaws. Their purpose is to assist the user in making cuts without going off track. These days, this is a welcomed feature, but it is not entirely needed.
Don’t panic. Just buy a carpenter pencil and mark down the markings like an old school user. The light is more of an add-on feature whose absence or presence is not really harmful.
I like to think that keeping a work site clean is as much important as owning a high end jigsaw. Also, sawdust can cause serious injury to the eyes, which is why you need to keep your job site spick and span for safety reasons as well. I know, the smell of saw dust is probably the first and last thing you are madly in love with, but a clogged up power tool, or a job site is the most abhorred thing in workers’ community.
Many jigsaws come with a built in dust blower. It keeps the saw dust at bay, while small nozzles spray a jet of constant air on the work piece. If your jigsaw does not have a dust blow, then make sure that it has an exhaust port at least. This port can be used to attach a shop vac to it. Therefore, your vac can suck in all the unwanted debris while you are engaged in back to back cutting.
While the market is brimming with all kinds of jigsaws right now, you should have a clear blueprint set up already. Last but not the least, there is no substitute for hard work and skill. Any woodworker who has 10 years of successful projects piled up, can tell you that you can crunch out almost the same amount of results from a Black and Decker inferior level jigsaw. Make sure that you have done plenty of research before buying a jigsaw from a long term use perspective.