What is a Jigsaw – All You Need to Know

What is a Jigsaw – All You Need to Know
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A jigsaw is a multipurpose and fragile type of electrified saw built to make various types of precision cuts across many materials, especially when the appropriate blade is used. Many refer to it as Sabre saw.

It is a piece of equipment built to make various types of precision cuts across many materials, especially when the appropriate blade is used.

Jigsaws are made up of various parts. They include a handle, the straight and motor, a narrow blade that ascends and descends to help the machine make complex and curved cuts.

Primarily, jigsaws are known as woodworking tools. However, their functionality cuts across various materials like plastic, ceramic tiles and metals. This is possible because of the wide categories of blades a jigsaw can accommodate.

Amateurs in handling heavy-duty machineries would find jigsaw an ideal tool to use because it is usually less frightening and easier to use.

The majority of jigsaws make use of mains electricity. However, there are some wireless jigsaws powered by nickel-cadmium or lithium-ion batteries, sometimes known as NiCad or Li-ion batteries.

So, as we journey through this article, we will answer this prevalent question, What is a Jigsaw?

The Evolution of Jigsaws – Albert Kauffman

In the year 1946, a man known as Albert Kauffman who worked in Scintilla AG, a Swiss machinery producing company observed that the needle present in the sewing machine belonging to his wife produced a rapid oscillatory motion. This made him conclude that it had a woodworking potential.

He moved on to make experiments by using the hacksaw blade in place of the needle. With the machine now being adapted and advanced, he succeeded in making curved cuts on wood and this ushered in the era of the electrified jigsaw.

More advancements have been made such as dust extraction and the inclusion of LED light. toward the end of the1900s, more wireless jigsaws were made available and it came with some changes such as improved mobility, and the enablement of users to apply it on their worksite.

Since its invention, jigsaws have evolved into being more comfortable and ergonomic for usage. Most worthy to note is its obvious decrease in size that has made it easier and lighter to be held in one hand while being used.

Another type of jigsaw called ‘barrel grip’ was introduced. This was to serve as a preference to the conventional top handled jigsaw. The barrel grip, being easier to handle, allows the user to get closer to his workpiece; and this creates a more accurate cut.

The expansion of several jigsaw blades through the decades has further proved the resourcefulness of the saw. Blades made from different metals along with various tooth configurations most times are intended for the cutting of peculiar materials and impeccable finishes.

Like other power tools, jigsaws often contain carbon brushes often used to transfer current between the battery, motor and mains. However, there has been a change. Most jigsaws are now being produced without carbon brushes motors.

In the case of brushless motors, a circuit board which delivers the armature with electricity that in turn powers up the motor has replaced the brushes and commutator, also known as rotating switch. Such jigsaws are usually smaller and easier to use for a long period of time.

Also, because brushless motor jigsaws do not dissipate energy as a result of friction or heat, it usually lasts longer and has proven to be more efficient.

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Uses of Jigsaws

Jigsaws are used in creating intricate and curved cuts on wood. However, it is not limited to woods but can be used on other materials like ceramic tile, sheet metals and even plastic.

Even though its primary function is for making carved cuts, jigsaws can also create cuts which are bevel, straight or plunge.

Curved Cuts

These Jigsaws are way more delicate in comparison to other powered tools and its thin blades that fits into tight places can easily follow through a bent line. Apart from the blade shapes, jigsaws are quite light in weight, and allow for easy maneuver or guide through stencil

Circles of different shapes and sizes can be cut accurately using a jigsaw, whether by freehand or by the help gotten from a circle cutter.

And if a blade that is slightly wider is installed, the jigsaw can make perfect cuts when properly guided through a straightedge.

Plunge Cuts

Part of what makes jigsaws unique is their ability to produce spectacular plunge cuts. Producing plunge cuts entails starting the cut from the middle instead of the borders of the workpiece.

This is a technique useful for creating holes in plasterboards and woods to give room for letter boxes or electrical outlets. However, one common application of the plunge cut is the making of sinkhole cut-out found on a newly set countertop of a kitchen.

Bevel Cuts

A jigsaw comes with what is usually called ‘pivoting shoe’ which enables it to make apt bevel cuts on boards and moldings. To ensure the jigsaw makes a bevel cut, this pivoting shoe is positioned at any angle not less than 45 degrees.

what is a jigsaw
Photo credit: Dennis van Zuijlekom, flickr.com

Basic Components of Jigsaws

The shoes

This metal makes the bottom of the jigsaw and can sometimes be referred to as sole or a base plate. This shoe lays flat on the item you want to cut and assists in making sure the blade is maintaining a set angle facing the work piece.


This is what performs the tool’s cutting action. The blade usually protrudes and faces the shoe directly. The blades’ teeth are to be angled upwards to enable them to make a cut upstroke.

These blades are paired with different teeth types. This is done to create varying finishes. The kind of blade you install in your jigsaw determines the type of material it cuts.

Blade clamp

The blade clamp is what keeps the blade stable and in position. In some jigsaws, it contains two screws which are loosened and then tightened using something known as ‘Allen key’. This is done to put the blade in place and more difficult to loosen.

However, this fashion of blade clamps is going extinct and are being replaced with a clamping system known as the ‘keyless blade’. Here, a spring-loaded lever holds the blade in place instead of the screws. The keyless blade clamp method makes it easier and faster to change the blade of your jigsaw.

Roller guide: This is placed above the jigsaw’s shoe; it is used for supporting the blade while cutting. Put in between the roller guide is the blade to avoid bending.

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Handle: One significant feature of the jigsaw is the jigsaw handle. It allows for comfortable usage of the machine and proper guidance while cutting. The two basic types of handles are: top handle and barrel grip.

Trigger: This is used in the operation of the jigsaw. Pressure is applied on the trigger to increase the cutting speed and pressure is released to reduce speed. It is usually below the handle.

Lock-on key: The lock-on key permits you to set speed to the jigsaw, rather than holding the trigger continuously. This characteristic makes it easy to operate with the jigsaw when cutting for long and it helps reduce fatigue for users.

Rotational Action Dial: Upon switching on the action dial of the jigsaw, the blade begins to move to and fro, and at the same time ascend and descend, creating faster aggressive cuts.

There is a shift in the rotational action dial. This shift is so that the forward movements of the blade is put in check during operation. It is set in position four or position five

Power Cable: For certain jigsaws, the cables are removable when the machine is not being used. The ability of the power cable of the jigsaw to be detached makes transportation and storage effortless.

Wireless Jigsaws

As jigsaws with wires have become a household tool, wireless jigsaws also exist. The wireless jigsaws have spaces near the back of the jigsaw where the battery is kept, located towards the back of the designated handgrip.

What is Jigsaw- Related FAQs

What can I use instead of a jigsaw?

You can use a fret saw, coping saw, reciprocating saw, rotary saw, band saw, scroll saw, or a hack saw instead of a jigsaw.

Hand saws like coping saws are known for the thin blades they possess. These blades excellently cut shapes out of wood.

A fret saw, on the other hand, has a similar function to the coping saw. It neatly and perfectly cuts shapes out of wood too.

Even though these saws can be used as alternatives, it is important to know that the jigsaw has its unique properties which cannot be replaced. 

Why is my jigsaw not cutting straight?                       

Your jigsaw is not cutting straight because it lacks a guide bearing. The guide bearing is responsible for eliminating the side movements of the jigsaw blade. It gives the jigsaw blade a second support. This means that once your jigsaw lacks a guide bearing, it becomes impossible to get a straight cut.

This is so because a jigsaw is usually difficult to make fast, accurate, and excellent straight cuts. It is excellent for making curved cuts. 

Also, your jigsaw may not cut straight if the blades are not good enough. The blades you purchase are as important as the guide bearing. The combination of a good jigsaw, a guide bearing, and good blades will do the trick, giving you a clean, straight cut.

How thick can a jigsaw cut?

A jigsaw can cut up to three inches thick material, depending on the length of the jigsaw blade. Subtracting an inch from the total blade length will help determine how thick the jigsaw can cut.

There are factors that determine how thick a jigsaw can cut. First is the jigsaw blade. It is important to note that any material thicker than the length of the jigsaw blade cannot be cut by that jigsaw.

The second factor to consider is the teeth (per inch) of the jigsaw blade, that is the blade teeth. The third factor is the type of material. Usually, it would be more difficult to cut a harder material than a softer material. 

This is due to the amount of heat and friction produced. This implies that a softer material can be cut thicker, compared to a harder material.

Which is better: a jigsaw or a circular saw?

A jigsaw is better than a circular saw. In terms of cost, a jigsaw is less expensive than a circular saw. On the other hand, the power and blade speed of a circular saw is greater and faster respectively, compared to a jigsaw. 

Also, a jigsaw is lighter in weight, and easy to use, compared to a circular saw which is heavier. The circular saw on the other hand, is perfect for perfectly accurate straight cuts, unlike the jigsaw which is difficult to use for straight cuts.

It is advised that you know what you want to do and choose the appropriate tool for it. The jigsaw is 

different from the circular saw, even though there are similarities.

What is the best jigsaw?

Below are the list of the best jigsaws:

Bosch JS470E 120V Top-Handle Jigsaw

DEWALT DCS331M1 20V Max Jigsaw kit


SKIL 4495-02 Orbital Laser Jigsaw

PORTER-CABLE PCE345 6-Amp Jigsaw

Makita 4329K Jigsaw

Bosch JS470EB Barrel-Grip Jigsaw

PORTER CABLE PCC650B 20-Volt Jigsaw

DEWALT Top-Handle Jigsaw

Jigsaws differ in types, ranging from orbital-reciprocating jigsaw, to straight-reciprocating jigsaws, to 

barrel grip, to top handle jigsaws. Jigsaws also differ in amperage, blade type and style, cutting

speed and dust management. 

It is also yours to decide whether you want a corded or battery powered jigsaw. You are at liberty to 

make your choice. Irrespective of your budget, make sure you do not buy a low quality jigsaw. You do not want to

change your jigsaw most often.

How do you cut a plywood with a jigsaw without splintering?

To cut a plywood with a jigsaw without splintering, use a sharp blade, preferably a T-shank thin blade, one that is 

bendable. Also ensure you use the perfect speed rate. This is important because a high speed

will ruin your work, as well as a low speed.

Using a splinter guard will also help prevent splintering. It eliminates the chances of tear-out while 

cutting with the aim of having a clean and smooth cut.

If you do not have a splinter guard, a masking tape can suffice. These can help you cut a plywood with 

little or no fear of having splinters.

When should I change my jigsaw blade?

Change your jigsaw blade when it becomes dull or blunt. Usually, a sharp jigsaw blade will require less 

manual force. This reveals that once you notice that more force is required to cut through a material, 

then your jigsaw blade is due for replacement. 

When you compare the blade in your machine with a new jigsaw blade, a clear indication that it is 

due for change is seen in the cutting edges of the blade. 

A new jigsaw blade has razor-sharp teeth, while an old one has rounded, blunt teeth. With these, 

you can save yourself some stress and replace your blades.

What is the best corded jigsaw?

The best corded jigsaws include:

Bosch JS470E

DeWalt DW317K


Hitachi CJ90VST


While they are all amazingly effective in their own way, the choice of which to purchase is based on

your preference. There are very exceptional features in each of these jigsaws. 

Bosch JS470E is known for its variable speed trigger; DeWalt DW317K has the counterbalance 

Mechanism. PORTER-CABLE PCE345 is outstanding and beautifully designed. Hitachi CJ90VST has 

many features, among which, is a dust blower which keeps dust away from the cutting path. 

BLACK+DECKER BDEJS600C possesses an admirable adjustable shoe which provides a stable 

cutting surface.

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