Cool Tools: Jigsaw

The Jigsaw

To continue our series on Cool Tools let's talk Jigsaw...  If you only have 1 saw, it should be a jigsaw...


What It Is

The jigsaw is basically a reciprocating saw for cutting curves, which some believe is a must have for furniture building because it can be used more artistically than other saws which can only cut straight lines. It is also the most versatile saw, cutting many different thicknesses and materials!

Jigsaws are great for cutting wood, plastic and metal.  The strongest jigsaws can even cut thin steel.  Jigsaws do come in cordless varieties, but remember that they will be mush less powerful.  Finally, you can even buy an pneumatic jigsaw, one that works with your air compressor (cool!)

Since I don't use one very often, I have an ancient, but perfectly capable *** jigsaw (no fancy bells or whistles, but it is corded - I like my tools to have some power).  It gets the job done, but an orbital jigsaw cuts faster with less effort and wear on the blade.

How to Use

I had a video of my using a jigsaw, but it has mysteriously disappeared :(

Basically, you draw your cut line on the wood, and holding the jigsaw firmly against the wood cut near(ish) this line.  This takes some elbow grease, since I find I have to push the saw along the wood to cut (this is not the way the saw should work, so yes my old saw is probably not working as well as it should anymore).  If I were to start doing intricate or detailed work (jigsaw puzzles), I would likely purchase a new jigsaw.  I always use a sander to take off the last millimeter of wood so my line is perfect and the edge is smooth.

Another cool thing about a jigsaw is that it can be turned into a stationary tool (like a bandsaw) with a table accessory clamped to the edge of a workbench!!  I like this idea, but haven't been able to find out more about it...

Finally a coping foot can allow you to cope crown molding with your jigsaw!  Sounds like a jigsaw is an all-around pretty handy tool!


Helpful Tips

  • The thinner the material the finer toothed the blade should be
  • Use the right blade (high-alloy steel for softer material, high speed steel for metal, tungsten carbide for stainless steel, ceramic or glass)
  • A fence can help with straight (or bevel) cuts
  • To cut very tight curves, use many straight, tangential cuts
  • Cutouts can begin with a drilled hole or you can plunge cut (tilt jigsaw back and into the material). 
  • To prevent the cutout from splintering, fix a C-clamp across the cut
  • For tight cutting (corners, narrow shapes), create room to maneuver by cutting into the "waste area" of the wood
  • The best sharp edges come from two cuts that meet
  • A contour gauge can be used to copy fancy contours from any surface.

Price Range ($20-$150)

A basic single-speed jigsaw can be had for 20-something dollars.  Good quality orbital jigsaws will cost at least twice that (depending on the features).  There are even fancy saws that go for well over $100, though I can't see the rationale there unless you really want the best and will use it often.

When buying a jigsaw, turn it on first!  Low vibrations and a quieter saw will mean a smoother cut


Projects for a Jigsaw

I used a jigsaw to cut the curvy sides of my bankable bookcase.

I also used one for the base of the laundry I have been working on for my sister (coming soon!)

Wheatfield Wanderings cut a beautiful monogram for her wall (skills man, skills!)

Additional Links

Five Tips for Buying a Jigsaw Tool
5 must have power tools

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5 Responses

  1. I bought a variable speed Bosch jigsaw for $150. I bought it for clean cuts in aluminum and steel sheet. With its 7 amp motor, I was able to cut 1/4" steel plate!

  2. A Jigsaw is a such a common tool, yet so many DIYers may be lacking the tool in their possession. As shown in the included photos, one can make gorgeous furniture and home decor with the help of a Jigsaw.

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