If you’re going to have one power saw in your tool box, let it be the faithful jig saw. As power tools go, next to your drill/driver, it’s probably one of your most reached for tools. Whether you’re going to be cutting wooden boards in straight lines, or sheet metals in intricate patterns, a good jigsaw is versatile enough for it all. But are you getting the most out of your jigsaw?
Here at SGS we’ve put together the ultimate jigsaw how-to guide. Whether you want to brush up on the basic technique, or you’re looking for the real insider trade secrets - this guide is for you. Curious novice or seasoned DIY-er, we’ve collected all the most useful jigsaw information, and put it in one place. If you follow all the tips and tricks in this guide, your woodworking projects will be sight for saw eyes in no time.
Choosing Your Jigsaw
Ryobi ONE+ R18JS-0 18V Cordless Jigsaw with Flush Cut & LED Light
This innovative 18V cordless jigsaw from the Ryobi ONE+ range offers all the performance, power and reliability of a corded tool, with the convenience and portability of a battery product. This top class tool provides up to 3,000 SPM, and when combined with the 4-stage pendulum stabilisation action you can expect that perfect cut every time.
Makita DJV182Z 18V Brushless Jigsaw
The DJV182Z Jigsaw from Makita features a brushless motor providing up to 50% more runtime, increased power, speed and overall tool life. Thanks to that, this tool provides a maximum of 3500rpm no load speed. An innovative motor system reduces the blade speed when no load is detected, allowing you to easily trace the cutting line.
Milwaukee M18BJS-0 18V Compact Jigsaw
This Jigsaw boasts incredible cutting versatility, with the 5-position orbital setting, you can select the type of speed and cut specific to the application. Fast and easy blade changing is available and ease of use is offered with the tool-free shoe bevel for easy and accurate adjustments.
Still not sure? Check out our Jigsaw buying guide now.
Get to Know Your Jigsaw
Before we get started with any cutting or woodworking projects, it’s worth taking a good look at your jigsaw. Have a good look at what features it actually has, and where they're adjusted. Not every jigsaw is the same, and you may find some missing advanced features such as orbital action or a bevel adjustment.
Variable speed dial - Many saws will have several speed settings for cutting different materials. For example when cutting metals, use a lower blade speed to keep your blades in top shape. You might also choose a slower speed setting when working with plastics, thereby minimising the risk of melting your workpiece.
Orbital action - Some saws are capable of orbital action, meaning your jigsaw provides thrust to the blade as it moves up and down motion. These jigsaw have an impressive cutting speed when compared to a conventional saw. Use the orbital action knob to increase or decrease the jigsaw’s “thrust”.
Bevel Adjustment - Some jigsaws will have a special pivoting baseplate and bevel adjustment setting, so you can cut wood or other materials at angles. Although you probably won't use this feature day-to-day, a jigsaw with bevel function can be incredibly useful for sawing at an angle of up to around 45°.
Trigger & Lock-on switch - Your trigger will start and stop your jigsaw. It can take a moment for the saw to get to speed after pressing the the trigger, so make sure you're working at capacity before your start a cut. A lock-on switch will help you work on a longer cut. While holding the trigger click the lock-on mode and you'll be able to release the trigger while it continues to work.
Blade & Blade clamp - Jigsaws come with a variety locking mechanisms for securing and changing out your blade. The simplest blade changing systems will be tool-less, but many will use a standard hex key for securing your blade in place.
Stay Safe When Using Your Jigsaw
- Jigsaws make dust, and depending on what you’re cutting there might be a lot of it. Use a mask and goggles to keep yourself protected.
- Be wary about where your power cord is when you’re using a corded jigsaw. Keep it clear from the cut line. Make sure you have an extension lead that’s long enough to move around without it being so long you get entangled.
- A jigsaw has a fairly exposed blade, so keep all your appendages away from the business end. Make sure the saw is completely unplugged (or the battery removed) before you try and adjust a blade.
- Make sure your saw blade is sharp and fit for purpose. Old blades go brittle and have a tendency to snap while cutting - causing danger to you and your workpiece.
How to Choose a Jigsaw Blade
The most common mistake when using a jigsaw is picking up the wrong blade for the job at hand. Your jigsaw is probably capable of cutting everything from plyboard to steel. However if you select the wrong blade, you’re not going to get the finish your work piece deserves.
A good jigsaw blade is precision engineered for a specific task, so to get the most out of your tool, it’s worth having an array of different blades at hand. This guide should give you an edge when it comes to choosing the perfect jigsaw blade.
- Shank type - It’s worth remembering that not every jigsaw blade will fit every jigsaw! Double check the shank type of your jigsaw before you invest in a stack of brand new blades. Ryobi jigsaws will take a “T-shank blade”, however “U-shank” blades are very common too.
- Amount and size of teeth - As with every cutting blade, the larger the teeth, the quicker the cut, but rougher the finish. The smaller the teeth, the slower you’ll get through your material, but you’ll get a far finer finish. The amount of teeth on a blade is measured in either "T" - simply meaning total teeth, or "TPI" - teeth per inch. (Use fewer, larger teeth for quicker, rougher cuts and use numerous, smaller teeth for a slower, finer finish.)
- Narrow blades vs Wide Blades - Wider blades are best for making longer, straighter cuts, while a narrow blade is fall more useful for cutting curves. You should have at least three or four teeth touching the work piece at all times during your cuts.
- Application specific blades - Many blades are specifically for harder or sorter woods, plastics or metals. Everything from the teeth shape to the material the blade is made from will be customised depending on the intended application.
How to Make a Cut with your Jigsaw
So you've learned where everything is on your jigsaw, you know how to stay safe when using your jigsaw, and you can even select the perfect blade for the project you have in mind - now on to some actual sawing! This how-to guide is pretty universal, regardless of what material you're cutting or how intricate your design is.
As with anything, practice makes perfect, so if you don't get it right on the first attempt, don't be disheartened! Remember, you can always finish off an untidy edge with some sandpaper and a file if the finish is a little rougher than you hoped.
What you'll need;
- Your jigsaw
- The perfect jigsaw blade
- Safety gear; goggles and mask
- Saw horse, workbench or similar
- Some clamps
- A clear work space
- Measuring tools; tape measure, pencil, templates, etc.
1. Mount the correct blade
After choosing an appropriate blade, mount it in your jigsaw while it’s unplugged (or the battery is removed). Release the blade clamp, hold you blade in place. Secure the saw blade and check that it doesn’t move in the clamp.
2. Prepare your workpiece
Measure and mark out your cut line on the workpiece. If you’re cutting out a hole for a specific item like a sink or an electrical socket, you might want to draw round the object itself.
For other shapes you might want to make yourself a template first and draw round that. The more accurate your cut line is, the more potential you have for the perfect cut. Get your material secured to a worktable or sawhorse and use a couple of clamps to minimise movement during the cut. This will leave you with two hands to navigate your jigsaw around a cut line.
3. Set your saws cutting settings
If your saw has orbital adjustments and speed settings, now’s the time to set them. Remember, the higher the orbital action and speed setting, the faster and easier the cut will be.
For metals and ceramics you’ll want the lower speed and orbital action settings. For wood working, choose the higher settings. You can always refine with sand paper later.
4. Lining up and getting to speed
Rest the base plate in a secure position. Slowly pull down the trigger and wait a moment for the jigsaw to get to full speed. The base plate should stay flat throughout the cut.
5. Follow the cut line
Now you’re up to speed, push your jig saw firmly, but slowly, into your workpiece.
Guide the saw blade around its path by gradually twisting the back of he saw in the opposite direction you want the blade to travel. You’ll know if you’re pushing too hard because the saw will feel as if it’s straining. You may also feel a slight kickback. Slow down your forward momentum. Moving too fast is a sure fire way of damaging your saw blade, missing your cut line, splintering the work piece.
TOP TIP: If you’re cutting in a straight line, you might find it useful to clamp a guide piece of wood to your work piece. This is normally a simple length of straight wood clamped parallel to your cut line that the base plate can rest against as you cut. You can see an example of a guide-piece in use above.
6. Complete your cut
Complete the cut by following the cutline to completion. Be careful that any excess material can freely drop away from the workpiece without hitting you, or the saws power cord.
Allowing excess material to drop off before you’ve completed a cut will cause the blade to bind and possibly splinter the workpiece. Now you’ve got your finished piece you can finish it off with a piece of sand paper. To get rid of some of those rougher edges.
Top Tips and Trade Secrets for Getting the Most Out of Your Jigsaw
We've got the basics covered in the how-to guide, but if you're wanting some real trade rated secrets, read on. The jigsaw is the sort of power tool you can pick up and start using almost instantly. However these more advanced tips will have you tackling bigger and more complicated DIY tasks in no time at all.
Not starting from the edge of a material? No problem - drill yourself a starter hole roughly 5-8mm larger than your jigsaw blade. Now you can start in the centre of a workpiece such as a countertop or a flooring board. No need for difficult plunge cuts with this method!
Protect laminated or highly finished materials
By using masking tape on top of a laminated surface, you minimise the risk of damaging the protective top layer. Special down-cutting laminate blades are available for added protection.
Know when to turn the speed down
The variable speed settings aren’t just there for show - they have an important function. Slow down the speed of your jigsaw when your cutting metals. Your cut will take a little longer but your blade will stay in a better condition, it’s worth bringing the speed down for this sort of task - it’s slow work but it’s how you get the perfect finish.
Clamp metals between scrap wood
Clamp sheet metal between two pieces of plywood when you’re working on intricate designs or the finish really counts. This will minimise the risk of you shredding your workpiece as you cut.
Tight corners and curves
If you’re working on a corner or curve that’s too sharp to move the blade, keep backing up and restarting your cut at ever increasing angles. This will create a progressively larger kerf for the blade to turn into.
Super smooth cutting
Jigsaws cut on the upward stroke and therefore splintering is not unusual. If you really want to ensure you’re getting best possible finish, choose a slower blade with more teeth or purchase a specialist downward cutting blade.
Choose the right blade!
I know we’re repeating ourselves, but it can’t be said enough. Choose an appropriate blade for your material and application. If you skipped over the “selecting a jigsaw blade” section,go back and have a quick read.