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Tools

Best Jigsaw

If a do-it-yourselfer is only going to have one power saw, it’s going to be a circular saw. However, circular saws are limited, intended only for cutting straight lines (although how straight the lines are depends a lot on the skill of the user). They really aren’t intended for use in cutting curves or circles because one were to try to, the blade would bind up in the wood being cut, causing a lot of splintering and not much accurate cutting.

To cut curves, circles and inside openings into plywood, other sheet goods and hardwood boards, a jigsaw is the preferred tool. Jigsaws, sometimes referred to as saber saws, are designed specifically for these types of cuts. The ¼” to ½” blade width along with the narrow blade thickness make these saws ideal for cutting curves.

With the right sorts of blades, jigsaws can also be used for cutting metal sheeting and straps as well. While they aren’t the most efficient way of cutting through metal, they’ll suffice for those who only have to cut metal occasionally.

There are a wide range of options that you can find on jigsaws, some of which are mere niceties, while others are extremely important to make sure the saw will give you the cut you need. Be sure to check out our jigsaw buyer's guide below, before making your selection.

Craftsman 28223 2 in 1 Handle 6.0 Amp/VS Orbital Scrolling Sabre Saw

I must confess, this saw surprised me. While I have always liked Craftsman tools, it’s been a while since I was willing to call one the best-of-the-best. There’s just too much market competition out there and Craftsman has had trouble keeping up. However, I am truly impressed by this saw.

To start, Craftsman solved the age-old problem of whether you should get a barrel bodied saw or one with a D-handle. This saw can be used either way and has two triggers to accommodate it. The D-handle switch has a constant “on” button, as well as a two-finger trigger. Both handles are also made with a soft-grip for operator comfort.

The 6.0 Amp motor is an all ball-bearing construction and runs from 800-3,000 strokes per minute (SPM). It has a variable speed dial, allowing you to select the right speed for the material you’re cutting. There are four orbital settings to select from along with the option for straight cutting. Blade travel is a massive 15-16 inch. This saw also has a blade which rotates 360 degrees (What we used to call a “scrolling head.”) This is something you almost never see on a jigsaw these days but it makes cutting easier at odd angles and for following your line on complex cuts. You can simply just rotate the blade rather than the whole tool.

The features just keep coming with this tool. There is an on-demand laser cutting guide to help you cut straighter, an oversize shoe cast for flatness with a resin overshoe and a blade support roller keeps the blade straight and free from twisting. There is an integral dust port with a vacuum adapter built-in so all you have to do is connect your shop vac. Like the others, this tool features quick release, tool-free blade changing, and can take either T shank or U shank blades. A very impressive tool for the price you’re paying.

Porter-Cable PC600JS 6 Amp Orbital Jig Saw

This saw gets high ratings for its power. Of all the saws on this list, the PC600JS is the most powerful, with a 6-amp motor provides variable speeds from 0-3200 strokes per minute. They’ve given us four orbital settings on this one along with a soft-grip handle and front end to make it more comfortable to use. Soft-grip handles are now very common, but the Porter-Cable takes it a step further by adding the soft nose where many users put their second hand. The shoe is cast, helping ensure its flatness and comes with an included shoe cover. They’ve also included a LED headlight for improved visibility of the cut line which is always a nice addition to have.

Makita 4329K 3.9 Amp Variable-Speed Top-Handle Jig Saw

I’ve been a fan of Makita for years ever since I bought my first cordless drill from them. It was 7.2 volts giving you an idea how long I’ve been using their tools for. Makita couples a 3.9-amp motor with an 11/16” stroke, and three orbital settings providing plenty of cutting capacity. This is a variable-speed saw, running from 500-3,100 strokes per minute. A through-the-body dust port helps keep the cutting area clear and they’ve put a counterweight balancing system in it to reduce vibration. The overmolded handle, extra-large trigger and a trigger lock all combine to make this a comfortable tool to work with.

Black & Decker JS670V LineFinder Orbital Jigsaw with SmartSelect Technology

Black and Decker have made the problem of selecting the right orbital setting much easier with this saw. Simply select the visual icon for the type of cut you want to make from 7 available options and the saw adjusts automatically to provide you with cut appropriate to your job. The 6 amp motor provides plenty of power as well with a 13-16” stroke length. Like the Craftsman, this one will accept either type of blades (T-shank or U-shank). This saw provides excellent illumination for the cut line, helping you to make a more accurate cut. Blade changes are quick and easy and on-board blade storage is included.

Chicago Electric Power Tools Professional Orbital Jigsaw with Laser Cutting Guide

Chicago Electric Power Tools Professional Orbital Jigsaw with Laser Cutting Guide

Considering the price, The Chicago Electric Orbital Jigsaw gives you a lot for the money. The 5-amp motor provides six speeds from 800-3000 strokes per minute. It’s also an orbital saw, providing three different orbital settings and also features a quick change blade clamp for tool-free blade changes. Like some of the other jigsaws, a laser cutting guide is included which aligns with your cutting line, providing convenient guidance. It also has a blower for removing the sawdust from your cut line, helping to make it easier to see where you are cutting. Finally, there’s a fence, for ripping narrow strips. If you’re looking for a bargain, this one’s the one for you.

Bosch JS572EL 120-Volt Top-Handle Jig Saw

Bosch has upgraded their previous jigsaw which was the most powerful model on the market. It now has a 7.2 amp motor to replace the 7.0 amp motor on the JS470E. The combination of all this power with a one inch stroke length and four orbital action settings ensures rapid cutting of a wide variety of materials (Bosch even claims this saw can cut through 3/8” thick mild steel!) They’ve also added a double roller system, which self-adjusts laterally to minimize blade deflection keeping  your cuts precise.

Constant Response circuitry ensures consistent cutting speed thereby reducing vibration and maintaining accuracy. Speaking of vibration, the precision-machined plunging system is specially designed for low vibration and extremely smooth operation. Coupled with the overmolded handle, this combination makes for great operator comfort. There’s an anti-splinter insert used to protect the wood from the blade, the saw is variable speed (500 to 2,800 strokes per minute), and has a multi-directional, tool-less blade clamp. With an adjustable dust blower to keep the cut line clear as well as a switchable LED headlight, it’s no wonder the JS572EL is a favorite for many people.

Festool 561608 Carvex PSB 420 EBQ Jigsaw

Because they’re a German company, Festool isn’t as well known as other brands on our list but amongst professional woodworkers, they’re a respected name. Although the motor is a little bit smaller than the Bosch, they’ve made up for it in other ways. A carbon insert works together with the four oscillating stroke settings to reduce splintering and the saw has a variable one inch stroke offering 1,000-2,900 strokes per minute.  The tool-free, quick change blade clamp is backed up by a triple support system, including carbide jaws and a backup bearing to keep the blade perpendicular to the shoe at all times. A built-in dust port allows connection to your shop-vac for convenient dust removal. This saw comes standard with a brushless motor, eliminating the biggest possible maintenance issue.

Festool has gone to great extremes to make sure your cuts are exactly where you want them. Four LED headlights are timed to strobe with the blade speed so the blade looks as if it isn’t moving, giving you a more accurate sight of the blade’s relationship to the cut line than any other system. The saws unique baseplate system features replaceable baseplates for cutting into different types of materials and even allows cutting a 45 degree angle right on the corner of a board (Something you really have to see to believe.) The only reason I didn’t give this jigsaw the first place is its hefty price.

Milwaukee 6268-21 6.5 Amp Top Handle Jig Saw

Milwaukee has a great reputation for power tools and this 6.5 amp jigsaw is no exception. The variable-speed motor provides 0 – 3,000 one inch strokes per minute. To help maintain proper speed there’s a variable speed dial and a tachometer along with four separate orbital settings to help reduce the chance of splintering. Like the other jigsaws it has a tool-less blade clamp for quick blade changes and a precision roller blade guide. If your shop doesn’t have good lighting, this saw adds a LED headlight which is a nice option to have. The handle is rubber overmolded for greater comfort and a counter-balanced mechanism reduces vibration.

Makita 4350FCT Top Handle Jig Saw with L.E.D. Light

Makita’s entry comes in with a 6.3 amp motor, a little lighter than the other jigsaws we’ve looked at but also has the lowest noise level in its class and 40 percent less tool vibration. The motor is variable speed from 800-2,800 strokes per minute, providing a one inch stroke. An electronic speed control has also been included to maintain cutting speed even under load. To make it easier to see the cut line, Makita has also added an LED headlight  and personally that’s a feature I really appreciate. The blade clamp is tool-less for quick and easy blade changes and the built-in blower works to keep the cutting path clear for accurate cuts. A rubber overmolded handle keeps the user comfortable during operation.

DeWalt DW331K 6.5 Amp Top Handle Jig-Saw

Another quality saw from DeWalt, the powerful 6.5 amp motor on the DW331 delivers plenty of cutting power through any material with a one inch stroke which helps make cuts go faster. This saw is variable speed from 500-3,100 strokes per minute and like the other jigsaws on this list, it incorporates a tool-less blade changing system for faster blade changes. There are four orbital cutting settings coupled with a counter-balanced mechanism for lower vibration during operation. With the overmolded handle, it’s a comfortable saw to work with and an integrated dust blower maintains the cut lines visibility.

Festool 561677 Carvex PSBC 420 EBQ Lithium Ion Cordless Jigsaw

While a bit expensive, Festool clearly wins the cordless jigsaw competition hands down. This jigsaw has so many features, they’re hard to list all at once. While not a very popular brand here in the United States, Festool have a tremendous reputation for quality products. All of their tools are designed to mate up with their dust collection systems, helping to keep both your cut line and workplace free of dust. Another great option included with this saw is the changeable shoe.

The tool-free blade clamp on this saw is backed up by a triple support system to keep the blade straight and perpendicular to the workpiece. While other manufacturers have tried to deal with this problem, Festool has taken the solution one step farther; the tool comes complete with four LED headlights synchronized to the blade speed. These lights literally make the blade look like its holding still, making it much easier to see exactly where the blade is in comparison to the cut line.

This saw has a 1 inch stroke length and has a variable speed up to 3,800 strokes per minute while utilizing T-shank blades for better blade retention. The saws battery is rated at being able to cut 120 feet in 1-9/16’ thick particle board with a brushless motor to reduce maintenance.

Bosch JSH180BL 18-Volt Lithium-Ion Jigsaw

This saw from Bosch is designed for easy and comfortable use with probably the best blade changing system on any jigsaw around. You can actually change blades one-handed, leaving the other hand free to keep your workpiece from falling on the floor. Bosch has made this saw 10 percent smaller than competitor’s saws and 30 percent lighter at 5.3 pounds, pretty impressive for a cordless tool. The open nose design makes it easy to see the blade and cut line with an always-on blower to help to keep the way clear. Like most of today’s jigsaws, this model has four orbital settings with a cast footplate covered in plastic to prevent your workpiece from getting scratched. Stroke length is one inch and the motor powers the saw up to 2,700 strokes per minute. Like all of Bosch’s power tools, it comes with their L-Boxx stackable storage system.

DeWalt DCS3331M1, 20 Volt Max Li-Ion Jigsaw

I’ve liked DeWalt’s jigsaw design ever since they first came out with their tool-free blade changing system. This saw is extremely easy to operate, although it really isn’t a one-handed operation. The lever is conveniently located on the front of the tool for quick and easy T-shank blades changes. The cast shoe bevels tool-free as well, up to 45 degrees with stops at 15 and 30 degrees. Four positions of orbital action match whatever cutting you need to do, with adjustable speeds up to 3,000 strokes per minute with a one inch stroke length. A convenient adjustable blower is included as well.

Porter Cable PCC650B 20-volt MAX Lithium Jigsaw

It’s not often you find a name brand tool at this kind of price point. Porter Cable sells this model without the battery included but even if you add in the cost of the battery and charger, the overall cost is still pretty reasonable. The tool comes with three orbital settings and an open nose making it easy to see the cutting action. An on-board dust blower keeps the cut line clean, so you can see what you are doing. Like the other saws, this one offers tool-free blade changes as well while being very lightweight at only 4.2 pounds. The stroke length is a little shorter at 3/4’ and runs a maximum speed of 2,500 SPM.

Hitachi CJ18DL 18 Volt Jig Saw with 1 x 3.0 Amp Hour Li-Ion Batteries, Charger and Case

It’s hard to talk about the best cordless saws without including Hitachi. All the great features included in their tools notwithstanding, their lifetime warranty on all their cordless Li-Ion tools puts them ahead of the game. This tool comes with a 3.0Ah battery, meaning it can cut a whole lot farther before recharging compared to the competitions cordless saws. It will work with Ni-Cad and NiMH Hitachi batteries, as well as the preferred Li-Ion ones. This compact saw is capable of getting into places where others might not perform so well and the 4 orbital patterns allow the saw to be used on a variety of materials without the risk of splintering. An included LED light makes it easier to see the cut line along with all the necessary connections to hook directly to a dust collection system. Stroke length is one inch and the variable speed runs up to 2,400 strokes per minute.

Buyer's Guide

 

Jigsaw Buyer's Guide

The jigsaw is a handheld power tool, designed specifically to allow cutting of curves. While it’s not limited to cutting curves, it’s the only handheld power saw specifically designed for that purpose. Other saws, like circular saws, are designed for cutting straight. As a saw for cutting curves, the jigsaw is the handheld equivalent to the scroll saw or some uses of the band saw.

A jigsaw works by an oscillating up and down movement, cutting on the upstroke. Modern jigsaws, especially better quality modern jigsaws, offer a variety of oscillation patterns, intended to reduce chipping and splintering in a variety of materials, especially when cutting across the surface grain of plywood. An additional strategy that can be used to avoid this splitting is to cut through the surface veneer, on the cut line, with a utility knife, before cutting with the jigsaw. This is especially useful for Lauan plywood, which has a very thin surface veneer.

Some jigsaws offer “plunge cutting” capability. This means the saw will cut through wooden sheet goods without a starter hole. For plunge cutting to work, one not only needs a saw which can accomplish it, but a blade that can as well.

Jigsaw blades are not rugged, carbide tipped disks, like circular saw blades so they don’t last anywhere near as long. It is always a good idea to have several spare blades when beginning a project, so that they can be replaced as needed.

If you can afford it, the better quality jigsaws are worth buying. The amount of adjustable blade speeds, stroke lengths, and oscillation styles, more than make up for the cost of the saw. The payback will come in increased efficiency, both in faster cuts and in less damage caused by the saw.

Types of Jigsaws on the Market

While all jigsaws are similar in their operation, they vary considerably in their form, size and power supply. They also cover a considerable range in price, with low-dollar units providing only the most basic operations up to the high dollar units which load on considerable options including the different oscillation patterns I already mentioned.

Just because a jigsaw is low-cost, doesn't mean it's a piece of junk. If you’re not concerned about having the ability to adjust the oscillating pattern, you may very well be able to get by with a low-dollar unit. I used an inexpensive jigsaw for something like 20 years before it finally wore out.

We break jigsaws down into three basic categories:

Corded Jigsaws
These are the higher quality units that need to be connected to house current for use. Specifically, we're referring to the ones with adjustable oscillation patterns. The cord can be an inconvenience at times, but it allows continual cutting, without having to change batteries. If you are going to be doing a lot of cutting with a jigsaw or you are rarely going to use it, a corded model may be your best choice.

Budget Corded Jigsaws
These are the basic units, without a lot of options. They provide basic cutting, but with only one oscillating pattern so they’re more likely to splinter the workpiece. If you are working in plywood or other situations where you don't have to worry about splintering so much, these will be ideal.

Cordless Jigsaws
Contractors and others individuals who use their jigsaw regularly would probably be better off with a cordless saw, simply for convenience sake. While the cordless units are more expensive, they can be used without the need to run an extension cord or worrying about that cord getting in the way of your cut. Today's cordless jigsaws are almost exclusively made with Lithium-Ion batteries for greater capacity and quicker recharge time.

Jigsaw Style

There are two basic styles of jigsaws; barrel and D handle. Many manufacturers build the same saw models in both styles. This provides the user with their choice. While the D handle is the more traditional style, users of barrel style jigsaws rave that they are easier to control. Since good control over the blade and the cut is a major consideration when using a jigsaw, these models are well worth your consideration.

There are a few models on the market, like the Craftsman corded model which was chosen as number one for our budget corded jigsaw list, which can be used in either configuration. Simply remove the D handle and grasp the barrel. Power switches for both configurations are included on the saw.

Options to Consider in the Purchase of Your Jigsaw

The biggest consideration in these saws is how well they cut; specifically, how well they cut without splintering. That's why the option of having different stroke patterns is so important. Pretty much all of the more expensive units have this option, as well as most cordless units.

Shoe
Take a good look at the shoe construction on the saw. Inexpensive saws will often have a stamped sheet-metal shoe. There is no way that a stamped shoe is going to be flat, so if you need accuracy, I'd avoid them. The better ones have cast and then machined shoes. Cast shoes stay much flatter, as well as resisting bending and other damage. Some of you may overlay this with a molded plastic pad for reduced friction.

Power
Power is not as important in a jigsaw as it is in other saws. However, if it comes down to a choice between two saws, and the only difference is power, go for the more powerful one. There may be a time when you have to cut through thicker wood where that extra power will be useful. That more powerful saw will probably also have a longer stroke, which helps the saw to be more efficient.

Plunge Cutting
Some saws offer plunge cutting capability. This means that you can start cutting in the middle of a sheet of plywood, without drilling a starter hole. This is not a common option, but it can be handy. However, when using it, you need to be very careful. Plunge cutting is very likely to mess up the surface of your board if you are not careful.

Variable Speed
Variable speed is very handy, especially when you need to do fine cuts in thin or soft material. If you’re cutting with the blade moving at high speed, it is extremely easy to overshoot a cut or go off the line. Slowing down the cut provides greater control.

Blade Supports
The thing that makes the blade go off line the most isn't speed, but pressure. As you press on the handle of the tool trying to turn it, you could actually push the tool sideways as well thus causing the blade to cut at an angle. The jigsaw blade is only held on one end making this a very real risk. Some of the better saws offer supports for the blade to prevent it from being able to tilt like this and to prevent the blade from ending up bent. This is very useful, especially for the novice user.

Additional Options

Most of the higher end saws will add other options, such as on-board blade storage and blowers to clean off the line of cut. Some come pre-equipped for connection to a dust-collection system. These conveniences make the saw easier to work with, although they are not necessary. Some of these units come with LED “headlights” or laser guides. These are great options to have, making it easier to cut straight and follow the line you’ve laid out. While I’m strongly in favor of these features, I wouldn’t make them the top priority when choosing a jig saw. However, if it comes down to a choice between two, this could be the deciding factor.

Rich the Tool Man

Before embarking on the current stage of my life, I spent 15 years as a Manufacturing Engineer in both the medical equipment field (medical electronics) and automotive engineering (city transit buses). After that, I owned a small construction company, mostly doing residential remodeling and commercial tenant finishes. I am no longer in either of these fields, but still get my hands plenty dirty as a consummate do-it-yourselfer; working on everything from remodeling my own home to rebuilding my car’s engines. My hobby (when I can find the time) is woodworking; making everything from toilet paper holders, to shelves, to music stands for my own home. My wife long ago gave up the idea that a two car garage is for parking two cars; it is my workshop.

While I cannot claim to having worked professionally with all types of tools, I have worked professionally with some. This comes from my previous careers, where I had to specify, buy and at times live with those decisions. Additionally, I would have to say that my engineering background has given me a thorough understanding of the construction of such tools. So, while I may not have used a particular type of tool personally, I have the knowledge to cut through all the advertising hype and statistics; in order to get at the truth of how well a tool will operate and last.

In my current career as a writer, I've written over 90 books. This includes my own titles and those I've written on contract. I've also written a complete website on how to build your own home.

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