Jigsaws are useful power saws for cutting wood, plastic and metal in a variety of situations and they can often be the only power saw needed in a building project. However, in today’s market they come in all shapes and sizes and with all sorts of added features – some extremely useful, some not so much – so deciding on the best one can be challenging.
Which Jigsaw is right for you?
Deciding on a jigsaw, as with many other power tools, is more about the sort person you are and how you intend to use it rather than whether the jigsaw is a good buy or not. Are you a tradesman or professional who has a power tool in your hand more or less every minute of the day? Or are you the avid DIY-er type that spends all of your free time on building projects with glee? Or are you the reluctant DIY-er that needs to get the job done as quickly as possible so you can get back to doing what you really want to do (which is not DIY!)? Many of the advanced features of more capable jigsaws are really only needed for regular users of the tool (like tradesmen and the wannabe professionals), but most of us are not as active DIY-ers as we would like to think and so usually a more basic tool will often serve us better.
Features of a Jigsaw
Power: Jigsaws today come in a range of different motor power strengths which really only have a bearing on the thickness of material that the jigsaw is able to cut. More power means more muscle to cut through thicker material.
Maximum thickness of cut in wood: Since jigsaws are used most often to cut wood, this is the prime metric that should be considered when purchasing a new jigsaw. What is the thickest piece of stock that you will likely need to cut?
Maximum thickness of cut in steel: Cutting through steel is also an activity many of us need to do on occasion and a jigsaw is often most suited to carrying it out. Even the occasional DIY-er will sometimes find himself or herself in a situation where metal needs to be cut. Installing a new IKEA kitchen wall cabinet yourself? Then you may very well be using their suspension rail system which requires cutting galvanised steel exactly to size. Or perhaps you’re using a nut and bolt to hold your latest invention together but can’t find the perfect length bolt? Your jigsaw is the ideal tool for cutting a longer bolt down to size. Furthermore, many of the same settings and blades that are used for cutting metal are also used for cutting plastic. So next time you have to replace a waste pipe or PVC guttering on your new house and it needs to be cut to size, you will know where to turn.
Tool-free blade change: In the old days, changing a blade on a jigsaw was a laborious process: undoing the retaining mechanism with a screwdriver, replacing the blade, and then tightening it back up again the same way you released it. Today, the process is just as laborious unless you go for a jigsaw with a tool-free blade-change capability. This feature is mostly on the more advanced (and more expensive) models of jigsaw. It may not seem such a big deal to change the blade the old way but it most definitely is even for the occasional DIY-er. Unless you are going to be cutting the exact same thing every time you use your jigsaw, you are most likely going to be needing a different blade. And there are blades for everything. There are multiple different types of blades for wood cutting alone: there are blades for a clean cut, for laminated workpieces, for going quickly through thick two-by-fours….I think you get the drift.
Variable speed control: There are two aspects to speed control: First, there is variable speed control that is controlled via trigger pressure – the harder you press on the trigger the faster the blade moves. Then there is variable MAXIMUM speed control. This is usually controlled via a dial with numbers which sets the maximum speed the jigsaw will go when you FULLY depress the trigger – this feature is useful when cutting different materials. Unfortunately, the difference between the two types of control is not always made clear on jigsaw marketing material so make sure you know which one they are referring to – the more expensive machines have both.
Sawdust blower: The sawdust blower sits on the nose of a jigsaw and essentially blows air over the cutting zone – this has the effect of blowing sawdust out of the way of the blade and gives the user a much clearer view of the cutting line. Although, a simple idea, anyone who has ever used a jigsaw without a blower will recognise how much of a pain it is to have to stop every so often to manually blow the excess chips and sawdust out of the way so that you can continue cutting accurately along your cutting line!
Orbital action: Orbital action, also known as pendulum action, introduces a swinging motion to the blade stroke so that on the down-stroke, the blade moves vertically to cut the wood, but on the return stroke, slopes back slightly so that the blade clears the wood being cut, improving chip ejection and dramatically speeding up cutting. The orbital action also increases saw blade life as the blade is not subjected to as much wear and tear from friction and heat. Jigsaws with orbital action often have different degrees of orbital motion to which they can be set. The less the orbital motion, the cleaner the cut through the wood as less break-out occurs on the top surface, but at the cost of cutting speed and blade wear. Orbital motion is of no use when cutting metals and should be switched off if it is featured on a jigsaw. Orbital action is more for the professional user and the DIY enthusiast rather than for the everyday consumer.
Vacuum port: Attaching a vacuum to the jigsaw can make for a much cleaner work place as much of the sawdust is aspirated away as the tool is doing the cutting. This is a very useful feature but these days almost every jigsaw has a vacuum port!
Adjustable footplate: Almost all of today’s jigsaws come with an adjustable footplate that can be angled up to 45 degrees from the horizontal in order to make bevelled cuts. Most of the time however, only the professionals need to make such cuts and so this feature tends to be unnecessary for the majority of users.
Top Jigsaws in the UK
|Jigsaw||Motor||Max cut in wood (mm)||Max cut in steel (mm)||Orbital Action||Weight (kg)|
|Bosch PST 700E||500W||No||1.7|
|Black & Decker KS600E||450W||No||1.9|
Bosch PST 700 E
The PST 700 E is one of a group of top quality jigsaws available in the UK made by the world-renowned power tool maker, Bosch. The German company makes all sorts of power tools for both professionals and consumers alike and quality is often second to none. The PST 700 E jigsaw is one of those top-ranked power tools and has been very popular with consumers as of late. With its 500W motor, it is capable of cutting wood up to 7cm in thickness, 1cm in aluminium and 4mm of steel, more than adequate for most DIY and professional jobs. It also has a number of well thought-out features such as the ability to change the blade at the ‘touch of a button’ with no extra tools or keys required. It also has a user-switchable air blow feature that can be turned on to blow away debris ensuring a clear line of sight of the line being cut. A sawdust extraction port is also incorporated at the rear of the device so that a vacuum can be attached and excess debris can also be neatly aspirated away. As with most jigsaws these days, The PST 700 E is able to angle its footplate up to 45 degrees from the horizontal so that angled cuts can be made but take note that adjusting the footplate on this model requires a flathead screwdriver. Bosch has recently upgraded their line of jigsaws, making them even lighter and more user-friendly than their predecessors, and the latest models are indeed very compelling for anyone looking to procure a top quality jigsaw. One thing to keep in mind with this Bosch model is that it does NOT have the orbital motion feature, but by not including it, the price of the PST 700 E has been kept to a minimum. In addition, there is no variable speed control dial through which the maximum speed can be controlled, although the blade speed is responsive to trigger pressure, which is ideal for slow starting. Importantly, the PST 700 E can accept both U- and T-shanked blades making it ideal for anyone who is replacing an older jigsaw model and has a stock of the older U-shanked blades.
DeWalt DW331 (Our favourite)
DeWalt is another top-brand for power tools that every tradesman and DIY-er of any experience will almost certainly have heard of. However, it is not common knowledge that DeWalt is actually owned by Black & Decker. The DeWalt brand is used to differentiate its professional tool line from the Black & Decker brand that is more associated with lighter weight and less capable tools for the everyday consumer who usually does not need the higher power, higher durability of professional-grade tools. The DeWalt DW331 is one of those tools designed for the professional and has a price to match! It incorporates all the latest features of professional jigsaws including the much sought after tool-free blade change system. In addition, the footplate can be adjusted without any tools. It also incorporates a 3-position orbital motion switch for faster timber cuts, and a dust blower in the nose of the device. One of the more powerful jigsaws discussed here, it has a 701 watt motor whose maximum speed can be varied at the touch of a dial. An important point to note is that the DW331 only accepts T-shank blades which, these days, has become the dominant type of jigsaw blade types used. This is our favourite jigsaw from the top-ranked ones discussed here.
Makita is yet another top-of-the-line power tool manufacturer that makes high precision equipment and more often than not incorporates all the latest technology in their machines. The Makita 4329 jigsaw is one of those high-precision tools. In addition to straight cutting, it also has 3 orbital motion settings to give faster more aggressive cutting in wood and better blade life. It also has a variable speed dial to adjust the maximum blade stroke rate to fit the material being cut. Unfortunately, it is let down by the absence of two features. Firstly, changing the blade is achieved via loosening of a hex screw using a wrench (that is stored in the handle), followed by re-tightening of it when the new blade has been inserted. This can be particularly annoying if blade changes are required on a regular basis (as in if different materials need cutting). Secondly, it does NOT have a dust blower system to remove freshly cut sawdust from the immediate vicinity of the cut. This means that the jigsaw may need to be halted every so often to clear the cutting zone so that one’s cutting line can be observed. Fortunately, Makita have chosen an alternative method to ensure clear visibility of the cutting line but it means using accessory equipment to do so. The Makita 4329 has an integrated chip cover over the blade which prevents chips from flying all over the place and working together with a vacuum attached to the integrated sawdust extraction port at the rear effectively clears debris from the cutting line. It also reduces the overall amount of mess in the working area. However, if the vacuum and chip cover are not used, or worse, only the chip cover is used, then without a dust blower system, the cutting line rapidly becomes obscured by cutting debris and needs manually clearing every few centimetres of the cut.
Ryobi is another player in the top-brand power tools space and the RJS750-G jigsaw easily fits the bill. It is a very compact machine with a very slim profile. Like other good jigsaws, it has an integrated dust blower to clear chips and sawdust from the cutting area for better line following. In addition, a small transparent plastic insert with a central mark has been incorporated into the very front of the jigsaw and flips down onto the cutting surface to aid in making yet straighter cuts (Line Assist). The blade can be easily changed without using any keys or wrenches and uses the now-dominant T-shank blade type. It also has a vacuum port for improved work area cleanliness. One let down with the tool is the lack of a carry case – but then if this is kept permanently in a workshop, you don’t really need one. Being one of the more basic jigsaw models that Ryobi makes, the RJS750 does NOT have orbital action nor can you control the maximum speed as you can with some of their more advanced models.
Black & Decker KS600E
The Black & Decker KS600E may at first glance appear a very basic model jigsaw but that would be unjustified as it incorporates features that are often seen in more advanced (and more expensive) jigsaws. For starters, the KS600E has variable speed control on the trigger switch: increasing the pressure on the trigger increases the speed of the blade (it lacks, however, variable maximum speed control). Like more expensive models, a dust blower is integrated into the front of the jigsaw to keep the cutting line clear of debris and visible to the operator, and it also includes a vacuum port to remove excess sawdust and chips to keep the work area as clean as possible. This jigsaw also incorporates a plastic extrusion on the front of the device that acts as both a rudimentary blade guard and an aid in keeping true to the cutting line. Important to experienced jigsaw users who may already own blades for a different saw, the KS600E can hold either U or T-shanked blades, but be aware that blade changes require the use of a tool which can at times be inconvenient especially if you need to cut different materials or make different kinds of cuts often.