How Thick of Wood Can a Jigsaw Cut?

jigsaw thick wood cuts

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Jigsaws are a versatile and safe power tool. A woodworker can achieve a lot with a jigsaw. That’s why it’s often the first power saw a woodworker acquires.

If a jigsaw is the only power tool you have, you may be tempted to push its capabilities. This can lead a woodworker to ask the question, how thick of wood can a jigsaw cut?

​Determining Factors for Jigsaw Cuts

A jigsaw can cut plywood, lumber, metal, plexiglass, and plastic. It’s designed to cut curves, circles, or other non-standard patterns that are simply impossible with a circular saw. ​

​There are several different factors that play into how thick of wood can a jigsaw cut.

  1. ​The first limitation for how thick of wood a jigsaw can cut relates to the jigsaw blade. A jigsaw can not cut wood that is any thicker than the length of its blade below the saw base. 
  2. ​The second limitation for how thick of wood a jigsaw is able to cut relates to the jigsaw blade teeth. The blade of a jigsaw is comprised of teeth, and the number of teeth per inch is a determining factor in what the jigsaw can cut. The fewer teeth per inch on the jigsaw blade, the thicker the piece of wood the jigsaw can cut.
  3. ​The third limitation relates to the type of wood you are cutting. In general, the harder the wood, the more difficult it will be for the jigsaw to cut, because of the friction and heat that is produced. Thus, the softer the wood, the thicker the jigsaw will be able to cut.
  4. A final consideration, albeit much less than the previous three, is how powerful of a motor your jigsaw has. If you have a cheaper cordless variety, your jigsaw might not have quite as much power and could struggle getting through certain woods. This isn't always the case though, so read up more on your specific model.
How thick of wood can a jigsaw cut

Photo credit: toolstop on Visual Hunt / CC BY

Ideal Cut Depth for a Jigsaw

Most jigsaw blades are 4 inches long, which could tempt a woodworker to use the jigsaw for thicker pieces of wood. Longer blades can be found for unique circumstances.

​Once a 4" blade is attached to the jigsaw, you will usually have an effective length of around 3". All things being equal, this is a rough calculation of how thick of wood a jigsaw can cut.

With that being said, cutting wood that is the same length as the effective jigsaw blade often leads to challenges. If possible, you want to cut a piece of wood that is at least 1" thinner than the effective blade length.

This allows the jigsaw to have room to move the blade back and forth. It also keeps the blade from jamming and breaking, while also allowing it to expel the sawdust effectively.

​Choosing the Right Jigsaw Blade Length

​Jigsaws are such a versatile tool because different blades are designed for different cuts. For example, if you need to cut a circle, a circle cutting jig saw will allow a perfect circle without any free handing.

​Straight vs Curved Cuts

Wider jigsaw blades are generally designed for making long straight cuts. Narrow jigsaw blades are used for cutting curves. ​

Thicker Wood

For thicker jigsaw cuts, it is important to pay attention to the teeth per inch in the jigsaw blade you are using.

The thicker the wood, the fewer teeth per inch you want on your jigsaw blade. A blade with fewer teeth per inch has more space between adjacent teeth, which allows more sawdust to be cleared out on each stroke.

You can also help with thicker cuts by using the jigsaw at a slower speed. ​You can achieve this in a variety of ways. The first is by simply not pushing the jigsaw through the cut as hard. The thicker the piece of wood, the slower you will want to navigate the jigsaw.

You can also help with thicker cuts by using the jigsaw blade at a slower speed. Some cheaper jigsaws don't give you the ability to adjust the jigsaw speed, but a good jigsaw allows you have control of the cutting speed.

​Knowing the Type of Wood

​In general, jigsaws can cut all types of material, not just wood. And, as it relates to wood, jigsaws can cut both hardwood and softwood. 

However, the process you use to cut hardwood is different. A jigsaw isn't the perfect solution for harder woods, but it will work just fine, so long as you move slowly.

Don't rush your cuts with thicker woods, or else you might break your blade or have it get stuck.

jigsaw thick wood cuts

How to Cut Thick Wood with a Jigsaw

When you're looking to cut really thick wood, there are several different ways to tackle it with a jigsaw.

Use Multiple Saws

Even the best jigsaw will find thicker pieces of wood to be challenging to cut. We find it best to use the jigsaw for creating a template, but then using a more robust saw if possible.

  • If you are faced with a project that uses a thicker piece of wood, use a jigsaw to create a template for intricate cuts. ​
  • Then come in with a ​more powerful saw to cut the thick wood. If you're just making rough cuts and accuracy isn't vital, you can choose a circular saw. Or, for a high degree of precision, opt for a nice band saw

Use Multiple Jigsaws

Sometimes projects require getting creative with solutions, especially if your tool arsenal is limited.

Some woodworkers use two jigsaw blades to cut thicker pieces of wood. Doubling up on the blade will help prevent flexing, thereby keeping your edges straighter than using a single blade. If you’re in a tight spot, you can try the double blade method, as long as your saw will accommodate two blades.

Some blades can cut a capacity of up to 3 inches. Just know that using a jigsaw to cut thick pieces of wood will make it difficult to make the curves in the wood. If you decide to tackle it, just remember to go slow. Let the saw do the work. Don’t use your energy to push the wood through the saw.

Also, make sure that the shaft is well supported. You’re plunging a long and narrow blade into a thick piece of wood. If you force anything, you could end up breaking your blade and causing damage to your saw.

Beware of splitting the stock. Your plate should be at least an inch longer than the wood you are cutting.

Conclusion

​When you have a thick piece of wood to cut, you can use a variety of different saws to make your cut. However, a jigsaw is a very common saw that most people have, and can be used very effectively to cut thick pieces of wood.

Remember to cut slowly, and pay attention to the type of jigsaw blade you are using. Whenever possible, keep a few jigsaw blades on hand that are designed to cut thick, hard wood.