Choosing a Jig Saw

Jig saws are extremely versatile and handy tools. They combine many of the functions of a band saw and a scroll saw into one small, portable package. With all the features and choices, finding the right saw for your projects can be difficult. Use our guide to help you decide.

Power Source

Where and how you will use your jig saw will determine the power supply you need. Two types are available:

Cordless jig saws are convenient in areas where extension cords are difficult to use. They’re best suited to cutting wood and wood products.They can cut tougher materials, but the extra power needed for those applications drains batteries quickly.Cordless jig saws are available from 12 to 18 volts. Higher voltage means longer battery life.

Corded jig saws don’t depend on batteries for power and are better suited for tough cutting jobs or continuous use. Corded jig saw motors range from 3.5 to 6 amps. Higher amp motors provide more power and enable the saw to cut thick boards, light metals and other tough materials.


Once you’ve decided on a power source, compare the features:

  • Variable speed saws allow the user to adjust the blade speed according to the material being cut. When used in conjunction with properly matched blades, this feature provides cleaner, faster cuts in different materials. Most variable speed saws have a range from 500 to 3,100 strokes per minute.

  • Orbital action moves the blade side to side as well as up and down. The added motion allows the saw to cut through stock faster. Most orbital action saws have settings to change the amount of side to side motion based on the material being cut.

  • An adjustable foot (sole) lets the operator make cuts at an angle to the face of the material. Most saws have a range between 0 and 45° .

  • Vacuum or blower features keep sawdust and debris from obscuring the cut line during operation.

  • Tool free blade changing lets the operator change blades quickly and saves time when cutting multiple materials.

  • Blade supports eliminate or greatly reduce blade flexing during use. The reduced flexing provides straighter cuts and extends blade life.


One of the most important parts of the saw is the blade. Different blades are available for different applications. Blades are classified by the number of teeth they have per inch (tpi). The higher the tpi the smoother the finished cut. The lower the tpi the quicker the cut. The material from which the blade is made also effects performance. Here are a few common blades and their uses:

  • High Speed Steel (HSS) blades are usually used for wood and light metal cutting.

  • Bi-metal blades are used for wood and light metal cutting.

  • Cobalt steel blades are harder than HSS or bi-metal blades and should last longer. They are commonly used for wood and metal cutting.

  • Carbide grit blades are used to cut masonry board.

  • Scrolling blades are narrower than typical jig saw blades and used to make tighter turning cuts.

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