TAKING THE PUZZLE OUT OF JIGSAWS

in News

Whether you’re a serious DIY enthusiast or the occasional Mr. or Ms. Fixit, a jigsaw is one of the first power saws you should invest in. It’s one of the most affordable saws you can buy, the easiest to use, especially for novices, but most importantly, it can do something that no other saw can – cut intricate shapes.

Need to cut a neat circle out of a piece of wood without damaging the rest of the wood? Jigsaw. How about cutting a perfect rounded-corner rectangle out of a countertop for a drop-in sink? Jigsaw. Intricate stencils; numbers and letters for kids’ craft projects; home made jigsaw puzzles ­ – the answer to all of them is a jigsaw.

You can of course use a jigsaw to cut short straight lines, like a 2 x 4 plank. Adjusting the base plate allows you to also cut 22,5 and 45-degree angles. In addition, a jigsaw will cut a variety of other materials like plastic, fiberglass, drywall, tiles and even metals. So, a versatile little workhorse all in all and one you really should have. Here’s the low-down on what to consider when you select yours.

ELECTRIC OR CORDLESS?

As with so many other power tools, jigsaws are available either electric and corded, or battery powered and cordless. The age-old power VS mobility argument no longer applies, because advancements in battery technology means cordless models are generally just as efficient as their electric counterparts. Cordless gives you greater mobility for outside work. It’s also very convenient to not have a power cable in the way when you’re cutting intricate shapes – in our view that’s probably the #1 argument for going cordless.

Of course batteries need to be recharged and will eventually need to be replaced. Going corded cuts out these maintenance issues and they’re generally a tad cheaper too. Think about how you intend to use it. If a circle or short straight line is likely all you’re ever going to cut, corded may be the better choice for you.

Bosch Jigsaw 300W (PST 650)
R 735.00 R 955.00

 

STRAIGHT VS ORBITAL

A much more important decision than corded or cordless is probably the cutting action of the jigsaw you choose. The jigsaws of yesteryear and cheaper base models of today tend to be straight reciprocating jigsaws. It simply means the blade only moves up and down, pretty much like the motion of sewing machine needle. This makes for slower going, but gives you accuracy and clean cutting.

Orbital reciprocating jigsaws also have a slight forward motion to their up-down blade stroke. It cuts faster, but the price is a rougher cut and less accuracy. However, good models offer orbital adjustment settings, which means you could choose faster orbital cutting for rougher jobs and flip to zero orbital action for finer work. How often you use it and what you will use it for should guide your decision.

Ryobi Jigsaw 650W (J-650V)
R 545.00 R 685.00

 

TOP HANDLE VS BARREL GRIP

Another key decision is the shape of the handle. The more traditional and popular top handle (also known as D-handle because of its shape) is easy to grip and operate with a basic finger trigger inside the hand loop. However your hand is quite far from the material being cut, which could affect cutting accuracy. The more modern barrel grip design puts the operator’s hand much closer to the cutting surface, giving much greater control for doing very intricate work. For basic DIY we think a more traditional top handle model is a solid choice.

SIZE & SPEED

Like any power tool, the higher the amperage the more cutting power you have. Base models will have an amperage rating of 5 or less, while the better models have ratings of 6,5 or 7. In considering performance, you also need to look out for its cutting speed. It’s expressed in strokes per minute (SPM) and upper end models can exceed 3 000 SPM.

Metabo Jigsaw 450W (STEB 65)
R 995.00 R 1,145.00

 

WHICH BLADE MAKES THE CUT?

That’s a good question, because there’s a fair amount to consider.

Is it T or U for you?

Referring to the end of the blade that fits into the saw, blades are classed as either U-shank (universal shank) or T-shank. U-shank is the more traditional shape, found on older saws and modern base models. Saws taking U-shank blades often require a tool like an Allen key for blade changes. T-shank blades are much more convenient, they simply slip in and lock into place. Some saws can take both U-shank and T-shank blades. Before you buy blades, make sure which one your saw takes.

Baring its teeth

How many teeth does the blade have? Teeth per inch (TPI) or centimetre affect not just the speed of the cut but also the roughness of the cut and the materials you can cut. Then there’s the shape. Are the teeth milled, ground or ground tapered? And should you pick a blade made of high carbon steel, high speed steel, bi-metal or tungsten carbide?

It’s a veritable avalanche of techie stuff, but it doesn’t need to leave you grinding your teeth! That’s because power tool brands take pity on us and clearly mark which blade to use for what. From tiles, to plastic, metal, to ultra smooth wood – just read what it says on the blade, pop it in your jigsaw and you’re good to go.

Makita Jigsaw 450W (4329K)
R 1,890.10 R 2,400.00