Jigsaws buying guide
A power jigsaw is a great tool to have. Making straight, curved and internal cuts in a wide variety of materials including wood and ceramic tiles is made easy. A jigsaw makes light work of any number of tasks, including holes in worktops and openings for electrical sockets. Unlike heavier circular saws that only cut in straight lines, jigsaws give you the combination of cutting agility and portability along with a lightweight feel.
Jigsaws work via a small vertical blade that moves up and down at a rate of up to 3,000 strokes per minute, making it very precise and easy to manoeuvre.
Features to look out for:
- Corded vs. cordless
You can buy either a corded or cordless jigsaw. See below the uses and benefits of each.
- Cordless or battery operated jigsaws: these jigsaws are incredibly convenient, with the ability to be used where mains powered jigsaws find inaccessible. However, the tougher the material is that you're cutting, the faster the battery will drain, so battery powered jigsaws are recommended mainly for use with softer materials.
- Corded or mains operated jigsaws: these are used to cut through a wide variety of much harder materials. The only down side is that you need to have a power point nearby when you plan to use it.
The more power your jigsaw has, the faster and deeper you will be able to cut. Power is measures in Volts (V) for cordless models and Watts (W) for corded models.
With a jigsaw's blade running up to 3,000 strokes per minute, you may find you need to slow it down for certain tasks, which is where a variable speed function would be useful. Some materials such as wood benefit from higher speeds as it reduces vibration; however other materials may get too hot while cutting so require a slower speed, which also gives you more control.
- Jigsaw blades
As with any saw, the key to getting the best results from your jigsaw is to choose the right blade for the job. Jigsaw blades are classified by the number of teeth they have per inch (tpi). The higher the blade's tpi, the faster it will cut, and the smoother the end result will be.
Jigsaws work better through thinner materials, as blades can easily bend and overheat when cutting through thicker materials. Depending on the material, jigsaws may require fine, medium or coarse cutting blades with a variety of teeth.
- High speed steel and bi-metallic blades: are used for wood and light metals.
- Cobalt steel blades: are also good for use with wood and metal, but they are far more durable.
- Carbide grit blades: are primarily used to cut masonry board.
Some jigsaws have a quick blade release feature, which is handy if you're dealing with lots of different materials and need to change blades simply.
- Pendulum or orbital action
Jigsaw efficiency is optimised by most blades having a back and forth 'pendulum' movement, moving back slightly before making the next cut and bringing it clear from obstructions. This helps the blade to cut a lot quicker and more efficiently. Orbital action blades move from side to side as well as back and forth, helping them to cut even faster, though providing a slightly rougher cut so they're not ideal for very precise work.
- Adjustable base plate
For ease of making angled cuts, the jigsaws base plate can often be adjusted by tilting it to the left or right.
- Dust bag
A dust bag not only helps to keep your workspace clean and tidy, but it collects the sawdust as you cut while preventing it from obscuring the cut line.
- Laser generator
For a clear guide to cut by, a laser generator fires a laser line from the jigsaw along the material.
Using a jigsaw safely
Additional safety features can make your DIY jobs easier and safer, so there are a few extra features to look out for:
- A safety switch or lock off button
- A soft start feature that starts the saw at a slower speed
- A blade guard for protection during use