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The jigsaw will make curving cuts in any width or length of material, unlike its larger cousin, the handsaw. With a long blade it will cut boards up to 3-in. thick. Other blades allow you to cut non-wood materials like laminates, plastic and metal. The recent availability of 18-volt cordless models makes the jigsaw an extremely versatile tool, especially on the jobsite.

3 Types of Jigsaws

Top-Handle

This most-common design has a handle positioned above and in-line with the motor.Typically, a trigger switch is incorporated into the handle.This comfortable-to-hold design increases control when cutting thick boards.

In-Line

In this design (only available from Bosch), the blade protrudes from the motor like a dagger, so it can get into places most other jigsaws can't. However, the tiny baseplate makes it less accurate than conventional jigsaws.

Barrel-Grip

You grip the motor housing to operate this type of jigsaw—perfect for operators with large hands.The switch is sometimes placed on the top or bottom of the housing; on some models it's on the left side, readily accessible to a right-hander's thumb. Some users say having the hand low and behind the blade makes this a faster cutting saw.

Features

Orbital Blade Action

When the jigsaw was introduced, the blade cut with a "straight-line" up-and-down action. In recent years, an orbital cutting action has been added—the blade moves slightly forward on the upstroke and backward on the downstroke for more aggressive cutting. On most models you can switch the orbital action On or Off, and on some, you can choose the degree of orbital action.

Stroke Length

The up and down distance the blade travels is the stroke. A longer stroke offers better chip clearance and allows faster cutting.

Speed Control

Variable speed lets you speed up for fast cuts, but slow down for cleaner cuts in thin woods. Slowed way down a jigsaw will cut plastic or metal.

Blade Guides

This feature limits side-to-side and rearward deflection of the blade so you get more accurate cuts and less blade breakage Not all models have a blade guide, particularly models with a scrolling head.

Baseplate

Look for one that won't flex or loosen during operation. An adjustable baseplate should have detents for stops at 45" and 90' (see photo, lower right).

Blade Mount

Several different blade-mounting designs are used on jigsaws. Most models will accept universal-type blades, but some require special blades. Some have quick-release mechanisms (see photo, top right). On most saws, a setscrew must be loosened to release and replace the blade.

Dust Control

Although jigsaws don't generate a lot of dust, the chips collect in front of the blade, obscuring the cutline. Many models have a chip blower to clear them. Some of the latest models have vacuum ports so the saw can be connected to a shop vacuum.

Cut at full tilt. Adjustable-angle baseplates allow you to cut angles up to 45'.

Options/Accessories

EXTRA BLADES. Stock up on blades that are used and/or break most often. Stick with bimetal blades; though they're more expensive than high-speed steel ones. Bimetal blades last longer. S8 for 5 blades. Available from Woodworker's Supply; (800) 645-9292.

EDGE GUIDE WITH CIRCLE CUTTEf This guide attaches to the jigsaw base to guide straight cuts parallel to an edge. It can also be used as a trammel to guide circular cuts. S20. Available from individual manufacturers.

THF. CORDLESS 01- When you're working outside-or where a cord will be in the way—a cordless jigsaw is extra handy. $100 - S350, from several manufacturers. CallTools on Sale (800) 328-0457.

Quick change.

A quick-release lever replaces the conventional setscrew for tool-free blade replacement. A neat convenience.

Scrolling Head

Some jigsaws have a top-mounted knob you turn to change the blade's direction for cutting smaller curves.

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Wood Working 101

Wood Working 101

Have you ever wanted to begin woodworking at home? Woodworking can be a fun, yet dangerous experience if not performed properly. In The Art of Woodworking Beginners Guide, we will show you how to choose everything from saws to hand tools and how to use them properly to avoid ending up in the ER.

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