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Jigsaws - In the Workshop

Filed Under: Tools, Know-How

Puzzled by jigsaws? These versatile power tools can make cuts through just about any material, plus they're easy to use and high-end models are extremely precise. With so many options, here are tips to keep in mind when buying your jigsaw.

jigsawGetty Images

From construction projects to craft applications, jigsaws are a powerful part of the DIY arsenal of tools. Next to the universal drill and driver, the jigsaw is among the most popular power-tool purchases. With great flexibility and cutting power, it can cut along straight and curved lines, holes, angles, plus it's a nice companion tool for the circular saw.

Depending on your needs and project details, certain jigsaws suit specific applications better than others. So it's important to make sure you're up to speed on what your needs and intended applications are.

D-handle jigsaws are great for those with small hands. Photo: Ace Hardware


There are two different types of jigsaws -- barrel grip and D-style -- that come with several options including variable speed, laser and cordless packages. The difference between the two types is mainly in the shape of the body. D-style models have a handle that arches up out of the back of the tool, while barrel-grip jigsaws require you to grip the motor housing.

There's no functionality difference here, so which one you choose boils down to a matter of preference. Both hands are needed to operate a barrel-grip jigsaw, so those with smaller hands may prefer a D-style handle. Still undecided? You can purchase a convertible grip, which allows you to remove the top portion of the D-style handle, resulting in a barrel grip.

When buying a jigsaw, it's important to think about how you'll be using your jigsaw. Knowing what type of projects you intend to tackle with your jigsaw will help you decipher what type of features you need. Here's a rough guideline:

- Power: If you're going to be doing major home improvement work, you should find a jigsaw that has at least 5 amps of power. If you're going to be making a birdhouse every couple years, a less powerful model will suffice.

- Cordless vs. Corded: If you want to work on projects for extended periods at a time without losing power, then a corded jigsaw is your best option. Since these models don't require a battery back, the jigsaws are lighter to handle compared to cordless models. If you need the flexibility to move around without being limited by an affixed cord, opt for a high-voltage cordless jigsaw.

- Orbital action: On a basic jigsaw, the blade simply moves up and down. Yet on more expensive models, there is usually a switch that allows you to toggle in a slight orbital movement to the blade for a faster and more aggressive cut, enabling you to tackle a variety of materials and applications.

- Laser light: Using your jigsaw primarily for straight cuts? Look for features like a built-in laser, which enhances efficiency on these types of cuts.

- Blades: There is an extremely wide variety of blades available. Manufacturers like Bosch make blades for wood, tile, metal, and even stainless steel. The number and size of teeth correlate with the cut result. Thus, the higher the tpi (teeth per inch) count, the finer the cut.

For more details on applications and jigsaw features, check out Home's Depot's jigsaw breakdown.

So what can you expect to pay for a jigsaw that meets your needs? Well, if you're not worried about power or durability, you can get a jigsaw for about $25. However, it's important to remember you do get what you pay for: less-expensive jigsaws have less precision. With that said, budget jigsaws are usually fine for rough cuts. While you might not need a top of the line saw (around $150), for a quality saw you should begin by looking in the $50 range.

In the Workshop: Drill Bits
In the Workshop: Circular Saws
Jigsaws Buying Guide (Home Depot)
Basic Tools for the DIYer (Centsational Girl)

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