Blade and Saw Basics
A jigsaw (also called a saber saw) cuts in a rapid up-and-down motion. The key to excellent results with a jigsaw is to match a specific blade to the type of material you'll cut: wood, metal, plastics, tile, etc. The blade package will indicate what material the blade cuts best.
Most blades are carbon steel, 2 to 3-1/2 in. long and either 1/4 in. wide for making tight radius cuts or 3/8 in. wide for general-purpose cutting. Six-teeth-per-inch blades cut fast but rough; finer blades with 10 or more teeth per inch deliver smoother cuts. Special toothless blades cut everything from leather to tile. When buying blades, consider investing in bimetal blades. They can last 10 times longer and are less likely to break.
When purchasing a saw, check to see what type of blades it uses. Most jigsaws accept blades with a 1/4-in. universal tang that locks into the blade clamp with a set screw. Some saws accept only specially designed blades (like bayonet-mount) from their own manufacturer. Once you discover the blades you use the most, stock up to avoid running out in the middle of a job.
If you'll only use a jigsaw once in a while, you may want to buy just a basic model. When you're ready to move up, you can spend more than $200 for a heavy-duty saw that performs better and has more features, such as:
- Orbital cutting action. If you've ever rocked a handsaw up and down while cutting a board or firewood, you've noticed how this speeds the cutting action. Jigsaws with this feature have dialed settings that change the pitch of the blade from straight up and down for metal cutting to angled forward for aggressively cutting wood.
- Longer blade stroke. Using a jigsaw that delivers a 1-in. long blade stroke will get you through a job faster than using a saw with a 1/2-in. long stroke.
- Blade guides. Saws so equipped have a pair of rollers or other guides below the blade clamping assembly (Photo 4) to steady the blade for less bending and greater accuracy.
- Variable speeds. A jigsaw with preset speed settings or a variable speed trigger allows you to customize each cut and to slow down when you're at a tricky point in a pattern. This helps you work with a wide variety of materials and densities, too.