Jigsaw tips

How to use a jigsaw and choose the right blades

A jigsaw, or sabre saw as it is sometimes known is pretty much a powered coping saw, or hand held scroll saw. It is a really versatile tool that's great for cutting curved shapes in wood or anything else that is not straight - when scribing timber to irregular shapes for example. Battery models are available if you need a portable tool but I use a corded and more powerful one. They're cheaper than battery powered tools as well because you don't pay for batteries and a charger. If you work on site in the UK then you'll want a 110v model that you use with a 110v transformer as 240v tools aren't usually allowed.

using a jigsaw

Jigsaws have come a long way over the years. The first one I bought suffered from 'wandering blades' because it had no guide.

Not only that but because these tools are designed to cut on the upward stroke there was a tendency for it to cause 'tearout' on the face side of the workpiece, unless marking/setting out and cutting from the back. This isn't always practical and increases the margin for error.

The final problem it suffered from was burning blades under high loads and when making fast repetitive cuts.

Luckily, all these problems have been addressed by the larger manufacturers with anti-splinter inserts, oscillating blade actions, blade guides and downward cutting blades.

When choosing yours look for one with adjustable speed settings as well as all the functions listed above.

How to use a Jigsaw

Follow these tips to get the most out of your Jigsaw:

  • It's not always easy to cut perfectly straight lines through thick materials with and a circular saw would probably be more suitable.
    Because the jigsaw uses a thin flexible blade it can often try to find the easiest route through the grain of the timber and deviate slightly. Even if you clamp a straight edge on this can still happen. It's a problem i've found when trying to cut letterplates into doors, so I use a router and make a ply jig instead. If you are having trouble keeping it straight and the speed is adjustable, setting the speed higher but pushing the tool slower through the workpiece may help reduce this, along with ensuring you have the right blade for the job (and that it's sharp!).
  • It's the best tool for cutting laminate flooring with because the blades are relatively inexpensive and laminated materials always take the edge off really quickly, meaning you need to change them quite often. Never use a chopsaw on laminate flooring you'll almost instantly blunt the blade and then be burning the motor out soon after!
  • A lot of tools offer an adjustable oscillating function. This means the blade moves forward on the upward stroke in order to cut more aggressively and then moves back out of the way a little on the downward stroke to reduce unnecessary blade wear. Use this function for cutting fast straight lines but not curved or intricate lines. Not a very useful function when using downward cutting blades either!
  • Blades typically cut on the upward stroke causing tearout in some materials. When that happens it makes it difficult to see the line you are trying to follow so sometimes I put masking tape on the workpiece before I mark it. You could score along the line with a stanley knife or even better set out and cut the workpiece from the back/face down to.

    This isn't always practical and so downward cutting blades are available, which save the time of not having to set out on the back of the work piece. Doing that has a little more room for error and so you're much more likely to make a mistake. I normally buy both types of blade so i've got the option on site depending what i'm doing. It is possible on most saws to slide the base backward so you can get the blade closer to a wall for example. They also often allow the base to be tilted up to 45 degrees to cut mitres, though I very rarely use that function and tend to tilt my circular saw over in most situations.

  • When cutting metal always use a slow speed and clamp the workpiece down. This helps ensure that the blade doesn't snag and cause bouncing, bending the workpiece.
  • Changing Jigsaw Blades

    Blades need to be changed regularly, and so many different blades are available that making sure you use the correct one will ensure the best finish and the costs are kept to a minimum.

    Some older tools have an allen key bolt that needs to be loosened in order to remove the blade. Modern tools generally have a quick release mechanism to make changing the blades quick and easy. On new Dewalt tools there is a quick release lever that you pull to drop the blade out. Older Dewalt tools take slightly longer as they have a black plastic button at the front that you lift up and turn anti-clockwise to loosen the blade. Simply reverse the process to put a blade back in.

    There are several different types of jigsaw blades available for various materials and speeds of cut. Choosing the right cutter for the job is essential in order to get the best finish and to prolong the life of your power tool.

    Click here for help choosing the best jigsaw blade for the job.

    There are loads of different carpentry jobs I use my jigsaw for like skirting, kitchen fitting (including cutting worktops, sink/hob holes etc), scribing timber to irregular surfaces, cutting round pipes, roofing and more.

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