Best Jigsaw – Puzzling Out The Jigsaw
A jigsaw is an extremely versatile power tool. It is capable of cross cuts, ripping, straight and curved cuts, plunge cuts, beveling and mitres. The Best Jigsaw will allow you to cut freely and effortlessly through sheets of wood time and time again.
In a pinch it can be used instead of a number of other tools (but won’t give quite the same quality of finish or be as easy); these include a band saw, circular saw, scroll saw and router. They’re also pretty cheap tools so it’s likely you’ll pick one of these up before buying any of the more specialized tools above.
A jigsaw essentially consists of a motor with a reciprocating saw blade attached. The blade is quite possibly the most important part of this tool; different blade types will allow you to cut different materials and achieve differing levels of finish. More information on blades a bit later on.
There are plenty of jigsaw tools on the market to choose from. Luckily they are a pretty cheap power tool in comparison to others like a scroll saw or band saw. When choosing the best jigsaw the two main attributes that need to be considered are price and cutting quality.
The quality of the cut is mostly determined by the quality of the blades that you use. Obviously the quality of the jigsaw that you choose will also have a direct effect on how well it cuts but the blades that you use will probably have a bigger influence.
That said I would personally avoid most cheap power tools. They are cheap for a reason after all. Right now the Bosch JS470E has the best blend of quality, durability and cutting accuracy. Not only that it is one of the most powerful corded jigsaws that you can buy for a reasonable price.
Bosch JS470E 7 Amp
The JS470E is a top handle corded jigsaw from Bosch.
At 7 Amps it packs a powerful punch and should be more than capable of handling the majority of cutting jobs in either a home wood shop or on site at a contracting gig.
- Powerful 7 Amp motor
- Tool-less blade change
- Four different orbital-action settings for different type cuts
- Max speed setting and trigger controlled operating speed
- Heavy die cast foot
- One year warranty
It has an adjustable speed range and a max bevel cut angle of 45 degrees so it's a pretty versatile jigsaw tool. There is also four different settings for the orbital action of the blades. Being able to vary the orbital action can help immensely when it comes to cutting smooth or when you need to be a little more aggressive depending on the material.
The JS470E is one of the heaviest jigsaws here. All that weight makes it extra sturdy and smooth with minimal vibrations. The aluminum die-cast foot with steel insert helps keep the center of gravity low helping to keep the track of the saw true across the cutting surface.
Capable of cutting wood up to 5-7/8 inches thick, aluminum 7/8 inches and mild steel 3/8 inches thick depending on the quality of blades used.
Although the Bosch is a little on the high side for price compared to some of the others in our review it's the kind of power tool that is worth investing in i.e you should need to replace it as often as a cheaper model. It should last many years if looked after correctly.
See how the Bosch JS365 and JS470E compare in our head to head.
The best Jigsaw for the money you'll be making perfect cuts time and time again.
Porter Cable PC600JS 6 Amp
This budget jigsaw from Porter Cable is perfect for those that don't need to use a jigsaw every day. It is more than capable of handling the occasional job about the house.
Paired with a quality jigsaw blade it can comfortably cut to the usual thickness of woods that you'll be using for your woodworking projects at home.
The PC600JS has a 6 Amp motor. The speed from the motor is highly adjustable. There are seven different speed settings built into the trigger. No only is the speed adjustable but so too is the cutting action which is has four different orbital settings.
A cheap yet highly capable tool that can get the job done in a no fuss manner.
- 6 Amp motor
- Lock-on button for constant use
- Tool free blade change
- 3 year limited warranty
Dewalt DW331K 6.5 Amp
The Dewalt has a 6.5 Amp motor and and has a has the same 4-position orbital cutting action as the Bosch and Porter Cable above.
It is priced at a fairly similar price point to the Bosch but with slightly less power the Bosch has it beat.
It also lighter than the Bosch which when compared may give it a slightly less quality feel during usage..
The shoe and blade can be set at a variety of angles to help you gain greater accuracy when looking to make angled cuts. An integrated dust blower also helps keep your line of site clean and clear as you advance the saw forward.
Note: it only accepts T-shank blades so be aware of that before you purchase
- 6.5 Amp motor
- 4-position orbital action
- Variable speed control on the dial and trigger
- Counter balance mechanism to help reduce vibration
Black & Decker BDEJS600C 5 Amp
Another budget model in our line up of best jigsaws is the Black and Decker 5 Amp.
At 5 Amps the motor is probably the least powerful here. Saying that it is sufficient for light cutting and occasional use.
Definetly suitable for someone on a budget, you can spend your money on other tools if you are just starting out and building up your tool box
- 5 Amp motor
- 4 action orbital setting
- Adjustable shoe can be used at 45 degrees
- 2 year limited manufacturers warranty
Makita 4350FCT 6.3 Amp
The Makita has a 6.3 Amp motor and is priced at roughly the same as the Bosch. For the money however it does lack some of the Bosch's features.
There are only 3 orbital settings the SPM(strokes per minute) is also lower at 2800 versus the Bosch's 3100. With higher a higher powered motor and better cutting adjust-ability the Bosch for the money is a clear choice over the Makita.
The only reason you may choose the Matika vs Bosch Jigsaw is that Matika is known for producing some of the best quality tools available. Generally when you choose Matika you are buying a tool that will still be working day after day year after year, a brand you can trust!
- 6.3 Amp motor
- 3 orbital action cutting settings
- Built-in LED
- Tool-less blade change
The best cordless jigsaws are never going to be able to compete with a corded model in terms of raw cutting power. What they lack in power they make up for in convenience as you do not need to rely on having a power outlet available. That being said they still have ample power to get most jobs done.
Best Cordless Jigsaw
Dewalt DCS331Mi Lithium Ion
The DCS331 cordless jigsaw kit is power by a 20V Lithium Ion battery pack. The motor at full charge is capable of 3000 strokes per minute at full speed.
These stats are comparable to a mid-range corded model so it is still a very usable jigsaw with the added convenience of no power cord
- All metal shoe bevel with multi-degree adjustment
- 4-position orbital action
- One 4.0 Ahr battery and charger included
- 3 year limited manufacturers warranty
There are some more powerful cordless jigsaws available however, they require the additional purchase of the battery pack and the charger. These types of jigsaws are sold as "tool only" so be careful if you are searching online or looking at a box in a store.
The best cordless jigsaw for the money that comes with a battery pack and charger.
Matika VJ04R1 12V Lithium Ion
The Makita VJ04R1 12V Lithium-Ion cordless jigsaw kit comes with everything you need to get started right out of the box!
Includes a charger, two batteries and blades all packed in a sturdy carry case. This would make an awesome woodworking gift for a birthday or over the holidays.
Although it's not quite as powerful as the DeWalt you still get are pretty decent jigsaw for the money and given that it comes with practically everything you need blades and all then it's a perfect starter jigsaw.
- 12V motor
- 3 orbital action settings
- Two 12V 2.0Ah batteries included
- One charger, jigsaw blades and carry case included
- 3 year warranty
Jigsaw Buyers Guide
Let’s have a quick history lesson here. The origin of the jigsaw goes back to the 1940s to an engineer called Albert Kaufmann. After seeing the action on his wife’s sewing machine he replaced the needle with a saw blade and suddenly he could make detailed and delicate cuts in wood.
Jigsaw power options
The first decision when buying is whether to go for a pneumatic or electric jigsaw. This will most likely come down to personal preference, but if you think about your usual type of project it’ll probably guide your decision.
Pneumatic jigsaws aren’t as common as electric, but they do have a few advantages. They’re a lot safer to work with under wet/damp conditions as you’re not going to get electrocuted; and they’re quite powerful (more so than battery powered ones at least). Once you’ve charged your air compressor you also don’t need a power outlet. If you’re just working at your home this likely won’t be an issue, but if you’re a professional working on a customer’s drive this could be the single most important point. They’re also quite a bit lighter than either electric variety (excluding the compressor of course).
If you go for an electric jigsaw then you’ve got another decision, corded or battery.
A cordless jigsaw has some benefits over its corded brother; you don’t need to worry about whether you’ll have a power outlet available. If you don’t have a cord you also don’t need to worry about cutting through it while you’re focussing on your cut. Of course a drawback to not having a cord is that you are reliant on batteries, so you need to keep them charged and maybe have a couple so you can be charging one while using the other. This can be expensive though as batteries aren’t cheap. Disadvantages include being the heaviest type (blame the battery), and having less power than corded/pneumatic so you’re going to be restricting your maximum cut depth straight away.
Corded jigsaws have more power than cordless, but you’re going to have to work within a maximum distance from your power outlet. You’ll also need to be very safety conscious; it’s easy to lose track of where your power cord is and you could get a nasty shock if you cut it.
Now that you’ve decided on your power choice lets start going through some other features that you might be interested in.
Orbital or pendulum
This just describes the way the blade moves. Regular jigsaws move the blade in an up/down motion. An orbital jigsaw also moves the blade forward/backward at an (adjustable) angle. You can change the angle to match the material that you are cutting. The benefit of this is threefold.
- You’ll be able to cut more aggressively through thicker or harder materials.
- As the blade moves backwards, away from the material, it will momentarily be able to cool. Combining this with not having to push as hard when you’re cutting, means that the blade will be less likely to overheat and scorch your project. This could mean a longer life for your blades, saving you some money.
- If you’re cutting wood this also allows the sawdust to drop away from the cutting line, when the blade moves backwards, which gives you a better line of sight to the cut.
Variable speed control
Most jigsaws will allow you to control the speed of the blade. This can be very important depending on the types of materials that you’ll be cutting. As a general rule, the harder the material (e.g. metal), the slower the blade needs to be moving; and the softer (e.g. wood), the faster the blade should be going.
This simply allows angled cuts in both directions. The benefit here is that you won’t have to move either your work piece or yourself to bevel on both sides.
This can really make seeing your cutting line a lot easier. Don’t rule it out just because you’ve got lights in your shop!
Quite a simple thing but, again, this can help you follow your cutting line by projecting a line showing where your jigsaw is pointing. This can help if you have trouble wandering off your cut line.
The same as any tool used for woodworking, if you’re collecting your dust as you go then it’s not flying around in your face (or lungs) and there’s less to clean up afterwards which is always a bonus!
Jigsaw blades types
Jigsaw blades come in several varieties depending on the type of material they are designed to cut. You’ll probably get an all-rounder blade with your jigsaw, which will give ok performance in a few different materials; but you’ll most likely want to buy a specialised blade almost straight away.
There are a few things to consider when selecting a new blade – check out my article on band saw blades too, as they’re quite similar.
- Blade material
- Teeth per inch
- Tooth set
- Blade width
Most blades are made from one of three types or material.
Tungsten carbide: These work best for cutting masonry or ceramics.
High-speed steel: These are good for lighter metals of soft woods such as pine.
Bi-metal: Use these for heaving jobs, such as harder metals and hardwoods like oak.
Teeth per inch
Shortened to TPI, this measures how many teeth are in each inch of the blade. This will determine the type of material the blade can be used for along with both the speed and quality of the cut. A low TPI (6-20) is suitable for soft materials. This will result in a fast cut that needs some sanding to smooth it off. Harder materials need a higher TPI (14-36) and will be slower to cut.
The tooth set will be either ground or milled. Ground sets have a fine point, will cut slowly but result in a higher quality cut. Milled sets are good for fast, rough cuts and are blunter. Milled sets tend to last longer than ground sets.
Blade width is measured from the back of the blade to the tips of the teeth; this has the biggest impact on the radius of a cut that you’ll be able to make. A thinner blade will make a tighter radius cut. If you’re doing a straight cut then use the widest blade your jigsaw can accommodate as this will result in less wandering.
So you’ve got your jigsaw and an appropriate blade, before you go and have some fun you’ll need just a few more things to keep you safe and get a decent finish.
- Eye protection
- Ear defenders (depending how loud your saw is)
- A face mask to reduce your dust inhalation
- Saw horses, a jigsaw table or a workbench to hold your work-piece
- A few clamps to hold it securely
So there you have it, all the information you need to help you choose the best jigsaw for your projects. Just make sure you use an appropriate blade or you’ll risk damage to the blade and maybe even your new saw. And, of course, remember to play safe!