A jigsaw is a power tool that can perform both straight and curved cuts, crosscuts, ripping, beveling, plunge cuts and other custom shapes. Jigsaws can be used to cut a variety of materials, including wood, metals, plastic, ceramic tiles and more. According to professionals, a jigsaw can perform the job of several other power tools, such as a circular saw, scroll saw, band saw and router.
If you’re planning to buy a jigsaw, the following questions & answers will be helpful to get yourself thinking about how you’ll be using your jigsaw and what your needs are.
1. How powerful is the motor?
The two types of jigsaws on the market (corded and cordless) will have different motor speeds ranging from approximately 4-7 Amp or 18-20V (Amp is for corded models, Volt is for cordless).
The more powerful the motor, the easier will be to cut and work on hard materials.
With that said, an average motor power of around 5 amps or 18V will be enough for most users (unless they are engaged in some really heavy-duty projects).
Although the motor power is an important factor, what’s more important will be the presence and quality of other features like variable speed, orbital settings, bevel settings, etc.
2. What’s the maximum speed? How many speed settings are there?
Unlike most other tools, the jigsaw’s speed is expressed in terms of Strokes per Minute (SPM) instead of RPM. Most models on the market will have a maximum speed of 3,000 SPM (which will be more than enough for almost any project).
What’s more important here is the presence and number of variable speed settings. Most advanced models will provide anywhere between 4 and 7 speed settings which offer the user a lot of flexibility and precision.
Deep cuts in dense hardwoods require high speed, while hard steel demands much slower blade reciprocations.
Hint: Multiple variable speed settings are important, but may not always be essential; if you are engaged in simple and repetitive DIY projects, a saw with less variable speed settings will be adequate.
3. How many orbital settings?
Orbital settings are an important part of a quality saw; normal jigsaws move up and down, while orbital settings allow the user to effectively control the saw’s forward, back and sideways movements with a circular motion.
Not only this allows more precision and speed, it also helps tremendously in removing chips.
Here is a quote for the orbital action:
“Orbital action uses an oscillating mechanism to move the blade in a slight circular motion as it reciprocates. The blade moves forward on the up stroke (the direction the teeth cut in), helping it to cut more quickly and aggressively, then moves back on the return stroke, keeping the teeth clear of wear.
Since different kinds of cuts in different types of materials require varying degrees of orbit, decent jigsaws have a selection lever to let you choose the amount of orbit: more for straight, super-fast cuts or energetic cuts in porous materials; less for curved cuts, tight scroll work, or slower cuts in dense materials like metals.”
Hint: The more orbital settings the jigsaw has, the better it will be for the user (especially if they’re cutting different materials). If you are working with the same materials (or very similar materials) all the time, you will not require not many orbital settings.
4. Is it good at bevel cuts? Are there any special features for it?
While a jigsaw’s blade spends much of its time set square to its base, most saws allow the saw to be tilted for bevel cuts. Typically, loosening a single screw allows the base to tilt up to 45° in either direction.
While many saws provide an on-board Allen wrench for base adjustments, some deo even better: they provide a built-in lever that loosens and tightens the base to allow tilting. The bases on these saws slide back and forth and lock at 45° or 90°, eliminating the need for a square or protractor to set these commonly used angles.
And by sliding the bases backward and locking them, you can saw right up to a wall or other vertical surface — handy when working inside a cabinet or closet. Many premium saw models also have a smooth plastic cover or insert on the metal baseplate that won’t scratch delicate surfaces, such as veneers or plastic laminates.
Hint: The more bevel settings there are (some provide increments of 15 and 30 degrees and offer a higher level of precision), the better and more flexible will be the saw.
5. How does it perform on different materials (plastic, hard wood, metal)?
The more speed and orbital settings the saw has, the better it will be in cutting different materials. If the speed and orbital settings are not sufficient, the saw may be too fast for some materials or too slow for others.
Hint: If there is not much information about the cutting performance of the saw, you can look at the orbital and variable speed settings and make an estimation about the saw’s performance with different materials (if you want of course).
6. Is it equally good on making straight and curved cuts?
Most saws perform flawlessly with straight cuts, while some lesser models may have a hard time with curved cuts. The saw’s success with curved cuts will mostly (if not entirely) depend on the orbital settings. Straight cuts will require more orbit, while curved cuts require less.
So, if the saw can provide multiple orbit settings, it will be reasonable to expect to perform equally well with straight and curved cuts.
7. Is it easy to remove/change blades?
The ease of removing/changing blades is an important factor. To make blade swapping quicker and less tedious, the best jigsaws incorporate some kind of quick-release blade-changing device, which does not require any tools to operate. All you have to do to change blades on such advanced models will be to simply press or pull a lever or flange located on the end of the blade carrier itself.
8. Is there a LED light for better visibility?
Seeing the cutting line can be a problem in most cases, and some jigsaws provide a built-in LED light to overcome this problem. In addition, some models solve this problem with dust blowers (see below).
9. Does the dust blower work well? Is there a dust collector?
Getting chips and dust out of the way not only makes using a jigsaw a cleaner proposition — it’s essential if you’re trying to see the line you’re cutting.
Some models solve this problem with a dust blower or dust collector. The dust blower applies an air stream to remove the dust, while the collector sucks the dust in. Collectors are considered superior, since they minimize the risk of chips flying into the user’s eyes. But the downside is that they are almost always sold separately.
10. Does it vibrate too much?
Too much vibration will kill the accuracy and precision. Some advanced models offer special vibration-reducing features. Try to read available user reviews and see if people are complaining about too much vibration.
11. If the saw is cordless, how long does the charge last? How long does it take to recharge?
Most decent cordless models will perform well in both aspects. However, some cordless models are sold as bare-tools (without the battery).
Best Cordless Jigsaw: Makita BJV180 18-Volt LXT Lithium-Ion Cordless Jig Saw Kit
- Fast and efficient cutting, motor delivers 0-2,600 strokes per minute
- Low vibration
- Built-in L.E.D. light to illuminate the work area
- Ergonomic grip
- Tool-less blade change system
- 30-Minute Rapid Optimum Charger
- Long battery run time
- LXT Lithium-Ion batteries which are used in other cordless tools in the Makita’s LXT Series
- Cuts up to 5-5/16″ thick wood and 3/8″ steel
- Learn more
Best Corded Jigsaw: Bosch JS470E 120-Volt 7.0-Amp Top-Handle Jigsaw
- Up to 3,100 SPM
- 4 different orbital-action settings
- Excellent tool-less blade-change system
- Low vibration
- Accurate and extremely smooth operation
- Ambidextrous lock-on button for long stead cuts and user comfort
- Adjustable dust blower to keep the cutting line clear
- Cutting capability: Wood – Up to 5-7/8-inches; Aluminum – Up to 7/8-inch, Mild steel – Up to 3/8-inch
- Footplate arm can withstand force up to 546 pounds
- Learn more
- If you prefer barrel-grip instead of top-handle, click here to find out more.
Best Budget Jigsaw: Black & Decker JS660 Jig Saw with Smart Select Dial
- 5 amp motor
- Tool-free blade changes
- SmartSelect technology optimizes cutting application
- Variable speed dial provides seven speed settings (800 to 3,000 rpm)
- Makes straight and curved cuts
- Cuts wood, metal, and plastic
- Learn more