Info

Poin Model ASte638

I (800) 441-9878 Circle *bl3

Poin Model ASte638

I (800) 441-9878 Circle *bl3

PROS: Flat base; very low vibration; soft-start motor; comfortable small-diameter barrel; best dust collection; alien wrench stores on saw.

CONS: Base doesn't tilt; no orbital action (but blade cants forward 4°, so it backs away from cut on down-stroke); slower top speed means less aggressive cuts in hardwood.

Festo

Model PS2E-Plus

Barrel jjrip - street price $285 (800) 337-8600 Circle #614

Model PS2E-Plus

Barrel jjrip - street price $285 (800) 337-8600 Circle #614

PROS: Longest power cord (16 ft.); comfortable small-diameter barrel.

C ()\S: On/off switch sometimes gets shut off inadvertently in use.

Freud

Model F|85 Top handle • street price $10» (800) 334-4107 Circle 0blS

Model F|85 Top handle • street price $10» (800) 334-4107 Circle 0blS

TR< >N: Allen wrench stores on saw.

f (.)\S: 90" base detent imprecise; lock-on button potentially dangerous for lefties.

Hitachi

Model CI65V2K Top handle - street price $180 Model CJ65VA2K Barrel grip - street price SI 80 <800) 829-4752 Circle #b1b

Metabo

Model SIEP70

Barrel grip-street price $2I'J (800) 638-2264 Circle "Olli

Makita

Model 4304

Top handle - street price $160 Model 4305 Barrel grip • street price SI 60 (800) 462-5482 Circle *b17

PROS: Toolless blade change; soft-start motor; very good dust collection; comfortable small-diameter barrel.

CONS: None.

PROS: Top handle has low center of gravity; alien wrench stores on saw.

CONS: 90* base detent imprecise; lock-on button potentially dangerous for lefties (top handle only); no dust-collection port.

power acceptable. The reason that Fein's top blade speed is lower than the others' in this test is that it's designed primarily for metalwork, according to the manufacturer. Nevertheless, Fein rccommcnds the AStc638 for woodworking too.

Cutting power is increased by adjustable orbital action, a feature you'll find on all our test saws except the Fein AStc638. An orbital blade stroke causes the blade to back away from the wood on the down stroke, clearing sawdust from the teeth, reducing friction, and allowing for more aggressive cutting action.

For more precise cutting, you can switch from orbital to straight blade stroke and slow down the cutting speed. All our test saws have electronic variable speed control.

Blade changing. Four of the brands allow toolless blade changes: Bosch, DeWalt, Metabo, and Milwaukee. The quickest and easiest blade change of all is the Metabo, which uses a quick-release lever. (See top photo, page 65.) The Milwaukee blade-change mechanism is similar to the Metabo, but you have to be careful to push the blade firmly into its slot, or it'll twist out of alignment when you release the lever. The Bosch and DeWalt toolless blade changes require a few turns of a knob directly over the blade—a little less convenient than the Metabo and Milwaukee.

The other jigsaws require either an alien wrench or a slot-tip screwdriver to change the blade. Blade changes on these models are still fairly quick and easy, as long as you keep the tool handy, but we liked toolless blade changing better.

There are three different types of blade shanks: universal, T, and hook. Different saws accept different types. (See specifications in chart, pages 66-67.) We did not notice a difference in performance between the three types, but universals are the most widely available—you can buy them at hardware stores, home centers, woodworking stores, and catalogs. T-shank blades are available from woodworking stores and catalogs, and hook-shank blades are available primarily where Porter-Cable jigsaws arc sold.

Cutline visibility. On all the saws, air from the motor's cooling fan is directed toward the blade, to blow chips away from the cutline for good visibility. The Metabo blower was the best performer, giving you a perfectly clear view of the cutline. Some saws (Bosch, DeWalt, Fein, and Porter-Cable) let you reduce the air flow or redirect the blower away from the blade when you don't want as much airborne dust or when you're cutting metal with cutting oil.

Baseplate* We considered a few factors when rating baseplates (also called shoes). First, all the baseplates except Fein and Porter-Cable tilt 45* in both directions for bevel cuts. However, setting them back to exactly 90° can be painstaking on the DeWalt, Freud, and Hitachi. This is because the 90° detent is imprecise on the models we tested— you need to use a square to get them precise. The Craftsman model doesn't have a 90* detent, and it's the most difficult base to set square because tightening the setscrew cocks the base slightly away from your setting.

We asked Fein and Porter-Cable why the bases on their jigsaws don't tilt. The reason, according to the manufacturers, is that a significant number of woodworkers prefer a base set permanently to a perfect 90* to ensure accuracy.

The DeWalt baseplate is the only one that permits adjustments without a tool—we like the convenient built-in lever that loosens the base for tilting.

Most of the test models have bases with channels down the middle underneath, to add rigidity and allow splinters and dust to escape during the cut. We didn't notice any difference in performance between saws with channels and those with flat bases.

But channels can be a problem for a site carpenter or cabinet installer back-bevelling a cut to scribe-fit a cabinet against a wall. When the entire jigsaw, rather than just the base, is tilted a few

In the Pipeline:

As this issue went to press, we got our hands on three brand-new jigsaws. We didn't rate these saws because they're prototypes. But we did try them out, and we noticed some upgrades that make them worth considering. Here's the scoop:

The Bosch I589EVS has a new streamlined housing that looks better than it feels. The upgraded toolless blade changing mechanism is the best we've tried. Both top-handle and barrel-grip degrees, the shoulders of the channels can hang up on the edge of the work. For this kind of back-beveling, a flat base without a channel works best. The Craftsman, Fein, Milwaukee, and Porter-Cable all have flat bases.

Ergonomics. This rating gives a good idea of how comfortable the tool will be during extended use. Wc looked for comfortable handles, convenient on/off switches, modest vibration, and a low center of gravity. The Hitachi and Porter-Cable top-handle models earned "excellent" ergonomics ratings.

Our testers thought slanted top handles felt more comfortable than horizontal ones. And smaller-diameter barrel grips felt belter than fatter ones.

A warning for left-handers: Some of the top-handle models (Bosch, Freud, Hitachi, Milwaukee, and Porter-Cable) have a lock-on button or switch located on the left side of the handle. (See bottom photo, page 65.) Willi ihese saws a lefty can inadvertently activate the button or switch and lock the saw on—a potentially dangerous situation. Among top-handle saws, the Craftsman, DeWalt, and Makita saws had the best lock-on mechanisms for lefties.

Dust collection. Five of the eleven brands have dust-collection ports behind the blade; the Bosch's dust-collection attachment is optional. (See chart.)

On the Bosch, Festo, Freud, Metabo, and Milwaukee saws, dust collection works well only if you snap a clear plastic shield (supplied) in front of the blade. (See middle photo, page 65.) But on the Bosch and Freud saws, the shield gets dusty—even with the vac turned on— and obscures the cutline. Feins dust collection works great without the shield.

Our conversations with jigsaw users revealed that not many considered dust collection one of the most important features on jigsaws, because these tools don't generate the volume of airborne dust you get with sanders and routers. But if dust collcction is important in your shop, consider the Fein and Metabo saws—top performers in our dust-collection tests.

Recommendations

Wc gave our Editors' Choice award (best performance regardless of price) to two top-handle models and two barrel-grip models.

In the top-handle category, wc found the best performers to be the Bosch 1587AVS and DeWalt DW321K. They both received very good to nearly excellent ratings in all categories. The Bosch offers optional dust collection, while the DeWalt doesn't. Unfortunately, we can't recommend Bosch's top-handle model for left-handers, because we found that it's easy for lefties to unintentionally press the lock-on button. The DeWalt top-handle saw is safe for lefties.

In the barrel-grip category, Editors' Choice honors go to the Metabo StEP70 and Bosch 1 584AVS. Metabo gave an outstanding performance in ever)' category. Mctabo's dust collcction is standard, while Bosch's is optional.

Our Best Buy award (best performance for the price) goes to the Freud FJ85. It holds its own in this elite class of professional-quality jigsaws, yet its street price is a rock-bottom $100. And it does have dust collcction. We don't recommended it for left-handers, though, because the lock-on button is easy for lefties to press unintentionally. A

PROS: Flat base; toolless blade change; cordless model available (not rated in this test). C ONS: Top handle not slanted so less comfortable; lock-on button potentially dangerous for lefties (top handle only).

PROS: Flat base; comfortable top handle has low center of gravity.

CONS: Base doesn't tilt; lock-on button potentially dangerous for lefties (top handle only); no dust-collection port.

Milwaukee

Model 6266-6 Top handle street price S155 Model 6276-6 Barrel grip street price SI55 (800)414-6572 Circle *b19

Porter-Cable X1^

street price $145 Model 7649 Barrel grip street price $145 (800) 487-8665 Circle »620

New Models from Bosch, Makita, and Porter-Cable versions will be offered. Available: December. Street price: around $170

The MakiKi 4304T is a lot like the 4304 that we tested, but it has toolless blade changing and base-tilt adjustment. Available: August. Street price: around S200.

The Porter-Cable 9543 is the company's first adjustable-base jigsaw, and the toolless base adjustment is the best we've tried. It also features toolless blade changing. Available: September. Street price: around $180.

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