Buying a jigsaw

A jigsaw is likely to be be your first purchase if you decide you’re in the market for a power saw. Why? Simply because it’s the most multipurpose of the electric saw family, and has the other attraction of being the cheapest. Jigsaws can cut a variety of materials using a range of different blades, but they are most commonly used for wood, and wood based boards. At the bottom of this guide, I’ve detailed what I believe to be the best jigsaw for DIY. However, before your final decision on buying a jigsaw, this guide provides a few  further details on jigsaw terminology, and the different types of jigsaw available.

Orbital or pendulum jigsaws?

Some of the buzz words with jigsaws these days include terms like ‘pendulum’ and ‘orbital’ action. These simply refer to the way in which the blade moves, other than the straightforward up and down motion. The terms are in fact rather more dramatic than they are in practice, so don’t expect a pendulum jigsaw to have the blade moving about like the pendulum in a grandfather clock, but this very slight extra movement of the blade does generally improve the cut, and in fact make blades last longer. However, of at least equal importance for me, is whether a jigsaw has the following two features:-

1. A variable speed trigger 

Buying a jigsaw

The quick blade release on a jigsaw is essential in my opinion. A simple shift of the release button ejects the blade, and another can be simply slotted into the socket.

Having a jigsaw with a variable speed trigger means that you have a lot more control when cutting, making it much easier to develop a good technique, and far easier to use when doing intricate cuts. With single speed options you just don’t get this flexibility.

2. Quick blade release 

There’s nothing more annoying than getting an Allen key out or some other tightening tool when changing over blades. The quick release options, sometimes referred to as SDS are much more user friendly, and you know that when the blade is locked in place, it’s locked in place correctly.

Corded or cordless jigsaws?

Well, yes you can get cordless jigsaws, but is it vital to be cable free? No, not in my opinion. With a cordless drill you’re continually on the move – up here, down there, next room etc etc. and so being cordless is essential as constantly plugging and unplugging would, quite simply, drive you mad. With a jigsaw, this sort of flexibility is not necessary – you have your little workstation set up, and you bring bits of wood to it. Don’t get me wrong, a cordless jigsaw is a really nice (and pricey!) option, but certainly not essential.

Jigsaw cutting depths and bevels

Most manufacturers will bang on about huge cutting depth specifications and bevel cut options, but quite frankly the vast majority of jobs you’ll use a jigsaw for, do not require substantial capabilities with either of these features. Jigsaws are great for cutting things like laminate floor boards, sheets of ply, shelving – all of which are generally a centimetre or two thick.

Even if you’re cutting your wooden kitchen worktop, 4cm is going to be the maximum requirement, so jigsaws that can cut 12cm depths or more just won’t get a chance to fulfil their potential. Most have a cutting depth of around 8cm – that’s plenty. Also, if you’ve ever tried cutting exceptionally thick sections of timber with a jigsaw, you’ll know that making a ‘square’ cut is nigh on impossible as the flexibility in the blade lends itself to ‘wandering’, and so you may be accurate along your cutting line and directly below it, but the deeper you go, the more chance of you entering wavy line territory. For me, jigsaws really aren’t designed for deep (accurate!) cuts.

Also being able to tilt the sole plate of the saw to make bevelled cuts is a pretty rare requirement, so I’d again say that it’s a non-essential feature for DIY, but to be honest, most jigsaws now have this capability anyway.

Which is the best jigsaw make?

As with all power tools, I am normally drawn towards the quality of the well known brands, but I find this bias to be most acute with the more viscious tools, and jigsaws certainly fall into this category. With a fast moving saw blade, close to slower moving fingers, I want a brand with a track record. So in many ways it’s not surprising that Makita and De Walt are certainly options in this area, but without doubt my stand out winners for jigsaws are Bosch.

Bosch have the largest range, specific Pro (blue) and DIY (green) ranges, are the biggest sellers, and if you walk into most shops, you’ll see that Bosch control the market with replacement blades. Bosch simply equals best with jigsaws. They always make chunky, robust tools, and that’s exactly what you want with a jigsaw – the lightweight, flimsier options just dance around all over the place making it impossible to make an accurate cut. The pros will of course go for the ‘blue’ range, but these can get pricey, and are in no way vital for even a high use DIYer. Therefore I’ve got absolutely no hesitancy in recommending from the ‘green’ range.

Which Bosch jigsaw?

The best option from the Bosch green DIY range is the Bosch PST 800 PEL 530 Watt Compact Jigsaw.

I choose the 800 as I don’t think the 900 model offers a great deal more for your money – the only extras in comparison to the 800 model are a little more power, speed preselection (whoopee), and a little light (not exactly vital). The 700/600 series perhaps lack a bit of power and weight, but they would certainly still be fine for light to medium DIY use.

For the best prices on the Bosch range, try Amazon first, and for some price comparisons you can take a look at Tooled-Up and John Lewis.

Finally, if you still need a little more information to make up your mind on which model, visit the official Bosch site for more detailed specifications on their DIY jigsaw range.

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