Jigsaw buying guide
Dennis, self-taught DIYer, Bristol18 guides
- Variable speed
- Vacuum attachment
- 45° cuts
- Built-in laser and guide
- Corded or battery-operated
Choosing a jigsaw to suit your needs
If you are an occasional DIYer and the only thing you're going to cut in the space of a year is a sheet of 12 mm plywood, choose a 500 watt jigsaw with a cutting depth of 60 mm. If you're looking for a tool for a one-off job, a basic or an entry-level model is all you need. If possible, choose a model with a 1-year standard exchange warranty.
If you're planning to use your jigsaw for regular jobs such as fitting a kitchen, laying parquet flooring or installing fitted wardrobes, then look for a 700 watt jigsaw with a cutting depth of 90 mm in wood, 30 mm in non-ferrous metals and 10 mm in sheet steel. Orbital or pendulum action, a 45° blade setting and variable speed settings will all prove to be useful. It is also advisable to choose a model with a metal or laser cutting guide and a vacuum attachment. Consider at least a mid-range model with a warranty of 1 or 2 years.
If you are a regular professional user looking for a top-of-the-range tool, choose a jigsaw with a power rating of at least 700 W, ergonomic handles and an extraction system for greater user comfort. High-end tools should offer orbital or pendulum action, a fast blade-change system, a high stroke rate (approx. 2,900 strokes/min), a 45° blade setting and a cutting capacity designed to easily cope with 135 mm of wood, 10 mm of steel and 20 mm of aluminium. Choose a model from a well-known brand, with a 2- or 3-year extended warranty.
Jigsaw performance and components
Jigsaws are hand-held power saws. They are lightweight (less than 3 kg) and are used for cutting wood, non-ferrous metals and composite materials such as chipboard and plywood.
Most jigsaws are corded, although some battery-operated models are available.
Choosing a jigsaw with a power rating suited to the materials you plan to cut
The power rating of a jigsaw determines the type and thickness of the materials it is designed to cut.
Jigsaw power ratings typically range from 350 to 850 watts, allowing you to cut through pieces of wood and parquet boards with a thickness of 130 mm, and steel sheets with a thickness of 10 mm. The higher the power rating, the easier it will be to cut these materials.
As you might expect, the weight of a jigsaw is proportional to its power rating, and ranges from 1.5 to 3 kg.
When choosing a jigsaw, you therefore need to consider what you want to use it for:
- 350 W: small DIY projects, less efficient performance and lower cutting depth;
- 500 W: usually allows for a cutting depth of 60 to 70 mm in wood, 5 mm in steel, and 10 mm in aluminium;
- 700 W: can cut to a depth of 100 mm in wood, 10 mm in steel and 30 mm in aluminium;
- 850 W: offers the same cutting depths as a 700 W model but is more comfortable to use.
Why choose a jigsaw with variable speed control?
Jigsaws with variable speed settings allow you to adjust and regulate the cutting speed of the tool.
This is useful if you need to cut fragile materials or different types of material and/or densities.
For the best results, it is important to choose the right cutting speed for the material in question, and to use the appropriate jigsaw blades.
The cutting speed determines the type of materials that can be cutThere are three broad cutting speed bands:
- Slow – 500 to 1,000 strokes/minute: for ceramics, wall tiles or glass;
- Medium – 1,500 to 2,000 strokes/minute: for plastics and non-ferrous metals;
- Fast – greater than 2,000 strokes/minute: for wood.
What is orbital action?
Orbital action recreates the natural motion of manual sawing.
The blade of the jigsaw swings back and forth, moving forward on the up stroke, and back on the down stroke.
This orbital action allows for better extraction of sawdust, increases cutting accuracy, and reduces blade wear.
The only disadvantage is that orbital action causes splintering and is therefore not recommended if you are sawing fragile materials or using a down-cutting blade.
Additional options to increase user comfort
Depending on how you intend to use your jigsaw, you might want to look for some of the following features to make your job easier:
- Tool-less blade change system – just one click and the blade is mounted. No need for an Allen key!
- A dust extraction system to keep your working area free of sawdust and chips. Some jigsaws have a built-in filter, others connect to a vacuum cleaner.
- Integrated dust blower for improved cutting line visibility;
- LED light to illuminate the cutting area for added convenience;
- Parallel cutting guide or laser guide to reduce blade deviation;
- A lightweight, rigid, smooth-running alloy or steel baseplate;
- Tilting baseplate for accurate cutting at angles up to 45°;
- Chip guard which surrounds the blade to reduce chipping – useful for laminates;
- Top handle or barrel grip handle: most users find the first type more comfortable, but the second allows for more accurate cutting;
- Blade storage compartments on the plastic casing so that your blades are always at hand;
- Cordless model for greater manoeuvrability (but also less power and operating time). The type of battery you choose is also important.
- Pneumatic model: lightweight and powerful, but requires a compressor, and the hose may get in the way.
Choosing the right blades for your jigsaw
The cutting quality of your jigsaw greatly depends on the blade. There are many different types of blade, each designed for a specific job. The factors to take into account include:
- Materials to be cut – metal, wood, plywood, aluminium, ceramic, etc.;
- Type of cut – straight, curved, V-shaped, scroll, etc.;
- Tooth type and cutting speed – large tooth, fine tooth, reverse tooth blades;
- Thickness of materials to be cut – blade length;
- Blade material – steel, carbide, diamond-tipped, bimetallic, High Speed Steel (HSS)
- Mounting type – T-shank, U-shank.
You can also buy sets of jigsaw blades which cover 90% of most users' needs, so this can be a good compromise if you're not sure which blades you need.
Above all, remember to replace your blades as soon as they are worn. A blunt blade will never produce a great cut, no matter how powerful your jigsaw! When cutting chipboard and melamine it is advisable to apply a strip of adhesive tape along the cutting line and – even more importantly – to make sure you select an appropriate speed and type of blade (fine tooth, in this case).
Dennis, self-taught DIYer, Bristol 18 guides écrits
I first got into DIY around ten years ago, when I bought a house in desperate need of a makeover.
After insulating the loft and refurbishing the kitchen, bathrooms and bedrooms, I set about building an extension, installing a gated fence and fitting the house with a solar water heater. I’ve poured tens of tonnes of concrete into slabs and foundations and also renovated a roof. In short, it’s safe to say that I’m no stranger to building work!
I’ve logged hundreds of hours browsing DIY forums and magazines trying to find the best solutions to my specific problems. For that reason, I feel it’s only fair to give back some of my own experience and share my knowledge of tools and building equipment.
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