DIY Basics: Essential Guide to Jigsaws

Versatility and ease of use make this the most popular power tool after a drill for DIY

DIY Basics: Essential Guide to Jigsaws

An introductory guide to jigsaws

A jigsaw makes straight and bevelled cuts, curves and intricate shapes. 

The position of the blade and the plane of its motion make it a relatively safe tool to use, even when operated with one hand.

There are blades for use on timber, stainless steel, fibre cement and even ceramic, with some able to cut material up to 100mm thick.

Features of a jigsaw 

Variable speed 

Adjust the speed control to suit the material and feed rate of the cut. Use a slow speed for dense materials such as hardwood and metal. Use a faster speed on softwood or sheet material.
 
variable speed, essential guide to jigsaw, handyman magazine,
Adjust the speed control to suit the material and feed rate of the cut

Pendulum Action 

This makes the blade swing forwards and back as it moves up and down. Use a low setting for thin material and the neatest cut, increasing for thick, soft timber or when cutting along the grain.

pendulum action, jigsaws, handyman magazine,
Use a low setting for thin material and the neatest cut, increasing for thick, soft timber or when cutting along the grain

Trigger lock 

To reduce hand fatigue, most jigsaws have a trigger lock that keeps the tool switched on without maintaining pressure on the trigger. It’s an especially useful feature when operating a jigsaw one-handed.

close up of a trigger lock on a jigsaw, handyman magazine,
Most jigsaws have a trigger lock that keeps the tool switched on without maintaining pressure on the trigger

How to choose a jigsaw blade

CONSIDER THE MATERIAL and the shapes you are cutting when choosing a blade, using a fine-toothed one for smooth cuts in thin timber and a long, open-toothed blade for thick material. 

Use a laminate blade for clean cuts through laminated material and a scroll blade for tight curves.

choosing a jigsaw blade, handyman magazine,
Use a  fine-toothed blade for smooth cuts in thin timber and a long, open-toothed blade for thick material


MATCH THE SHANK to the blade mount on your jigsaw. Most newer models take the T or bayonet shank, but if you are unsure of which yours is, simply take the old blade with you when buying a new one.

match shank to a jigsaw blade, handyman magazine,
 Most jigsaw models take the T or bayonet shank

Changing blades 

To change the blade, disconnect the power and wait for the blade to cool if you have just been using the jigsaw. 

Depending on the design of your tool, use an Allen key, operate the lever or turn the quick-change mount to release the blade.

Remove the old blade then fit the new one and tighten the mount.

how to change blades on a jigsaw, handyman magazine,
To change the blade, disconnect the power and wait for the blade to cool if you have just been using the jigsaw

Tips for clean cuts 

Jigsaws cut on the up stroke. Follow these guidelines to prevent timber fibres being torn up around the edge of the cut.

POSITION the workpiece face down and cut from the back. 

CLAMP a sacrificial layer of thin board over the material. 

ATTACH the small, clear plastic plate that fits around the blade.

USE a clean-cut blade with teeth shaped to minimise breakout. 
 

tips for clean cuts, handyman magazine,
 Follow these guidelines to prevent timber fibres being torn up around the edge of the cut

 

Making general cuts with a jigsaw 

Step 1. Clamp the workpiece 

Position the clamps so they won’t interfere with the course of the saw and allow clearance for the blade underneath the material being cut

Step 2. Start the cut

With the front of the shoe firmly on the workpiece, align the blade with the waste side of the cut line, select the speed and start the saw.TIP Don’t force the jigsaw, just steer it and let the blade do the work.

Step 3. Make extra cuts 

Don’t try to turn a 90º corner, cut into it from different directions. When making long cuts, periodically saw through the waste area to the cut line for better access.

general cuts with a jigsaw, handyman magazine,
 When making long cuts, periodically saw through the waste area to the cut line for better access

Making special cuts with a jigsaw 

Like circular saws, jigsaws can be used for bevel and plunge cuts, and can deal with unusually thick as well as thin material. Although the depth of cut can’t be adjusted, jigsaws are much more manoeuvrable than circular saws.

Bevel cuts 

Disconnect the power and tilt the shoe to the required angle, up to 45º. Most jigsaws need a screw to be loosened to free the swinging shoe, although some models have a quick-release lever instead.

Clamp a straightedge to the work surface to keep the saw straight. Don’t push too hard but keep downward pressure on the shoe.

make bevel cuts, handyman magazine,
To make bevel cuts first disconnect the power and tilt the shoe to the required angle
 

Negotiate thick material 

Jigsaws work best on hardwood up to 20mm thick and softwood up to 35mm. The blade tends to bend in thicker material, resulting in a bevelled edge instead of a square cut.

For thick material, use a fresh, sharp blade. Set the pendulum action to maximum and make the cut in short runs, backing up frequently to ease the pressure on the blade.

negotiate thick material, handyman magazine,
Jigsaws work best on hardwood up to 20mm thick and softwood up to 35mm
 

Protect thin sheets 

Sandwich thin sheet material such as metal, laminate or plastic between sheets of plywood or MDF about 6mm thick, then cut through all the layers.

Position the layered sheets on a cutting surface with a dedicated channel or keyhole for the blade to pass through while the material is resting on either side.

protect thin sheets, handyman magazine,
Sandwich thin sheet material such as metal, laminate or plastic between sheets of plywood or MDF

Make plunge cuts

It’s best to drill a starter hole but if you can’t, fit a blade suitable for plunge cutting and lean the jigsaw forward, pivoting the front edge of the shoe until the blade is clear of the work surface even at full extension.

Hold the jigsaw firmly, bring it up to full speed then pivot down slowly until the blade penetrates the material. 

how to make plunge cuts, handyman magazine,
Hold the jigsaw firmly, bring it up to full speed then pivot down slowly until the blade penetrates the material

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DIY Basics: Essential Guide to Jigsaws

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