What is a Jigsaw Used for?

what is a jigsaw used for

​What is a jigsaw? And, what is a jigsaw used for? These are common questions for beginning woodworkers.

​Simply put, a jigsaw is a hand-held saw that is an absolute master at cutting curved and complex shapes into various materials.

Wood, metal, plastics, ceramic tile, laminate, and more can be cut with a jigsaw. In this article we’ll give you a brief introduction to this versatile tool, including what it is capable of.

Jigsaw uses vary greatly due to the versatility of the tool. It is capable of doing intricate woodwork, has many blade options for cutting through a variety of materials, and is easy to use in many projects involving cutting.

what is a jigsaw used for

Photo credit: ​​​​toolstop on Visualhunt / CC BY

​What is a Jigsaw?

Before we dive into what a jigsaw is used for, lets review what a jigsaw is.

​A jigsaw is simple in construction, involving the tool itself, a blade, and a power source. Practically anyone can use one, since the blade is relatively protected by the shape of the saw. Generally, the majority of the blade will be under the material, and only moves in a vertical manner.

They can be less intimidating than other types of saws, typically being small in shape and easier to handle than other types of blades. ​What you use the jigsaw for determines the type of jigsaw blade that you select. And, it is important to select the best blade for your specific job, which we will review. 

Jigsaw Basics and Blades

​Sometimes mistakenly known as a saber saw, a jigsaw is a lightweight, handheld saw that cuts with a small blade in an up-and-down motion. Its lightweight frame, ease of use, versatility, and safety make it a great introductory saw for beginning woodworkers.

It’s often the first power saw many people buy. The key to getting the best possible results from a jigsaw is to choose the appropriate blade for the material you are cutting.

Most jigsaw blades are made of carbon steel and are between 2" - 3.5" long, and are either 1/4” wide for making tight, intricate curving cuts, or 3/8” wide for general purpose tasks. 

​The most common blade that you will use for wood has about​ six teeth per inch. This will cut very quickly, and produce a fairly rough edge. ​For a finer edge, you would use a blade with more teeth per inch.

Finer blades will deliver smoother cuts but require a slower approach. There are even special tooth-free blades for cutting anything from tile to leather. Bimetal blades are our recommendation for jigsaw blades. They are less likely to break and will typically last ​significantly longer than a regular blade.

You may opt for the cheaper blades as a beginner or hobbyist. But once you’ve snapped a few blades during a project, or rendered a blade dull after a few particularly dense cuts, you’ll understand the value of the bimetal blade.

​More Than Cutting Curves

​The sweeping, curving lines are something a jigsaw is known for. These little saws excel at cutting curves into metal or wood. But, there’s a lot more to them than just curves.

First of all, jigsaws can handily cut wood of various density and thickness, as long as the wood is thin enough for the jigsaw blade to penetrate. When fitted with an appropriate blade, jigsaws also handily cut steel, drywall, fiberglass, and even cement backing board. The jigsaw is an amazingly versatile tool and will find a happy home in any workshop.

Second, jigsaws are easy to maintain and manipulate. ​When you buy top end jigsaw, the process of changing blades couldn’t be easier. With the saw unplugged (or the battery removed), simply find the dial where the blade and saw are connected. Twist this counter-clockwise and release the blade. Hold this dial open, and you will be able to insert a new one. Release the dial and the blade is locked into place.

​Bevels and More

If you need to cut a bevel, you may believe you need to have a fancy, expensive, adjustable saw. Bevels are angled cuts through the wood. These are also called a mitre cut, which can also be done with most miter saws. Most jigsaws have the capability to cut a bevel of 45 degrees.

In order to set up your jigsaw to cut a bevel, you typically look for a lever above the saw’s shoe that slides laterally. When you release this lever, the shoe will tilt freely and can be set to your desired angle. When you’re where you want to be, just pull the level back and lock it into place.

​Cordless Jigsaw Options

Many jigsaws today are available in cordless varieties, which are a woodworker’s dream. They offer the freedom to twist and turn the saw any way you need to, cutting elaborate shapes and curves. You never have to worry about the cord being tangled, in the way, or cut.

Older jigsaws are corded, but the newer models feature battery packs and are slim, lightweight, and a joy to use.

​Ease of Use

Straight out of the box, your jigsaw is probably going to be the easiest, safest, and most straightforward saw you’ll ever use, regardless of how experienced you are with wood. Jigsaws can be kid friendly, when under proper supervision and proper safety practices. That makes them a great tool to introduce your kids to the art of woodworking.

​Jigsaws don’t take up much shelf space, can be used in any size workshop, and will find a purpose in nearly any project. If you’re a fan of Halloween, they’re also just about the best thing for carving pumpkins that we’ve ever used.

​What is a Jigsaw Used For?

Most commonly, jigsaws are used to cut curves or irregular shapes in wood and metal.

​The design of the modern jigsaw was created by Albert Kaufmann when he used a saw blade instead of a needle in a sewing machine.

Sewing machines are designed to allow cloth to travel freely around the needle to allow for intricate thread cutting. The concept translates similarly to the jigsaw. 

Cuts a Variety of Materials

Different types of materials, including wood, metal, plastic, and ceramic require different blades. Many types of blades exist for the jigsaw, making it a highly versatile tool. The blades can be quickly exchanged, allowing the jigsaw to be used almost anywhere.

Here is a brief list of materials that a jigsaw can cut:

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    ​Wood
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    ​Aluminum
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    ​Steel
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    ​Fiberboard
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    MDF
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    PVC
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    Cardboard
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    Plexiglass

Uses Multiple Types of Blades

Each material also offers requires different types of blades, depending on the thickness and toughness of the material. It is important to pay attention to the different types of blades and the materials they are designed for. This prevents damage to the blade, or injury if the saw gets stuck in the material or cuts too freely.

Using a blade with too few teeth per inch on a material can make it difficult, and dangerous, to cut. This will result in the saw blade getting stuck in the material, creating a risk of the saw suddenly jumping out of the material as you try to free it.

Some thinner jigsaw blades ​will allow you to create intricate design patterns out of wood with your saw. The jigsaw does this by allowing for easier manipulation when making curves ​while you are cutting the design. 

Thinner Blade

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    ​Not as wide of metal behind the teeth
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    ​Makes tighter cuts
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    ​Works better for more intricate designs
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    Breaks easier

​Thicker Blade

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    ​Wide metal behind the teeth
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    ​Makes wider-radius cuts
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    ​Works better for ​thicker material and faster cuts
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    ​More durable

Some jigsaws require tools when replacing the blades, others do not. This makes it important to pay attention not only to the material a blade cuts through and its thickness, but also the manner it mounts to the saw.

Creates Designs and Shapes

designs you can make with jigsaws

​The jigsaw is especially adept at creating curved designs and intricate shapes. This is because it uses a fairly narrow blade and, being handheld, is easy to manipulate along a design line on the material.

We recommend cutting some curves drawn on scrap wood to gain a little bit of experience at how fast to move the saw and how quickly to turn the saw to follow the line.

Once you get the hang of the speed, you can cut intricate curves and designs that end up with smooth and attractive edges.

Most jigsaws can also be tilted to provide a beveled cut, as we outlined above.

Ease of Use

​With the right blade and a design in mind, a user simply needs to power up the device and carefully follow their guides. ​

The versatility of the jigsaw allows for the beginning woodworker to become accomplished at using a jigsaw fairly quickly.

A cordless version of the jigsaw makes navigation and usability easier to use by eliminating a cord that can tangle. In addition, it makes difficult cuts much easier by allowing the cutter to focus on the material rather than the tool’s cable.

Summary

What is a jigsaw used for? It is a portable, handheld saw that can cut a variety of materials very intricately. Whether wood, metal, or plastic, a jigsaw is a quick and effective way to make cuts. These cuts can be simple, straight lines, or complicated, curves, or anything in between. 

The jigsaw is a very simple saw, and safe to use, especially when compared to other types of saws. Jigsaws are also very reasonably priced, and a great asset to every woodworker, professional or hobbiest.

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