Achieve Perfect Circular Cuts Using the Best Jigsaw
If a do-it-yourselfer is only going to have one power saw, it’s going to be a circular saw. However, circular saws are limited, intended only for cutting straight lines (although how straight the lines are depends a lot on the skill of the user). They really aren’t intended for use in cutting curves or circles because one were to try to, the blade would bind up in the wood being cut, causing a lot of splintering and not much accurate cutting.
To cut curves, circles and inside openings into plywood, other sheet goods and hardwood boards, a jigsaw is the preferred tool. Jigsaws, sometimes referred to as saber saws, are designed specifically for these types of cuts. The ¼” to ½” blade width along with the narrow blade thickness make these saws ideal for cutting curves.
With the right sorts of blades, jigsaws can also be used for cutting metal sheeting and straps as well. While they aren’t the most efficient way of cutting through metal, they’ll suffice for those who only have to cut metal occasionally.
There are a wide range of options that you can find on jigsaws, some of which are mere niceties, while others are extremely important to make sure the saw will give you the cut you need. We have compiled in this list the best jigsaws in 2021. Be sure to check out our jigsaw buyer's guide before making your selection.
Makita Variable-Speed Jigsaw
Black & Decker LineFinder Orbital Jigsaw
Chicago Electric Power Tools Orbital Jigsaw
Milwaukee 6.5 Amp Top Handle Jig Saw
Makita 4350FCT Top Handle with L.E.D. Light Jig Saw
DeWalt DCS3331M1, 20 Volt Max Li-Ion Jigsaw
Porter Cable PCC650B 20-volt MAX Lithium Jigsaw
Comparing the Best Jigsaws for 2021
I’ve been a fan of Makita for years ever since I bought my first cordless drill from them. It was 7.2 volts giving you an idea how long I’ve been using their tools for. Makita couples a 3.9-amp motor with an 11/16” stroke, and three orbital settings providing plenty of cutting capacity. This is a variable-speed saw, running from 500-3,100 strokes per minute. A through-the-body dust port helps keep the cutting area clear and they’ve put a counterweight balancing system in it to reduce vibration. The overmolded handle, extra-large trigger and a trigger lock all combine to make this a comfortable tool to work with.
Black and Decker have made the problem of selecting the right orbital setting much easier with this saw. Simply select the visual icon for the type of cut you want to make from 7 available options and the saw adjusts automatically to provide you with cut appropriate to your job. The 6 amp motor provides plenty of power as well with a 13-16” stroke length. Like the Craftsman, this one will accept either type of blades (T-shank or U-shank). This saw provides excellent illumination for the cut line, helping you to make a more accurate cut. Blade changes are quick and easy and on-board blade storage is included.
Chicago Electric Power Tools Orbital Jigsaw - Most Quiet
Considering the price, The Chicago Electric Orbital Jigsaw gives you a lot for the money. The 5-amp motor provides six speeds from 800-3000 strokes per minute. It’s also an orbital saw, providing three different orbital settings and also features a quick change blade clamp for tool-free blade changes. Like some of the other jigsaws, a laser cutting guide is included which aligns with your cutting line, providing convenient guidance. It also has a blower for removing the sawdust from your cut line, helping to make it easier to see where you are cutting. Finally, there’s a fence, for ripping narrow strips. If you’re looking for a bargain, this one’s the one for you.
Milwaukee has a great reputation for power tools and this 6.5 amp jigsaw is no exception. The variable-speed motor provides 0 – 3,000 one inch strokes per minute. To help maintain proper speed there’s a variable speed dial and a tachometer along with four separate orbital settings to help reduce the chance of splintering. Like the other jigsaws it has a tool-less blade clamp for quick blade changes and a precision roller blade guide. If your shop doesn’t have good lighting, this saw adds a LED headlight which is a nice option to have. The handle is rubber overmolded for greater comfort and a counter-balanced mechanism reduces vibration.
Makita’s entry comes in with a 6.3 amp motor, a little lighter than the other jigsaws we’ve looked at but also has the lowest noise level in its class and 40 percent less tool vibration. The motor is variable speed from 800-2,800 strokes per minute, providing a one inch stroke. An electronic speed control has also been included to maintain cutting speed even under load. To make it easier to see the cut line, Makita has also added an LED headlight and personally that’s a feature I really appreciate. The blade clamp is tool-less for quick and easy blade changes and the built-in blower works to keep the cutting path clear for accurate cuts. A rubber overmolded handle keeps the user comfortable during operation.
I’ve liked DeWalt’s jigsaw design ever since they first came out with their tool-free blade changing system. This saw is extremely easy to operate, although it really isn’t a one-handed operation. The lever is conveniently located on the front of the tool for quick and easy T-shank blades changes. The cast shoe bevels tool-free as well, up to 45 degrees with stops at 15 and 30 degrees. Four positions of orbital action match whatever cutting you need to do, with adjustable speeds up to 3,000 strokes per minute with a one inch stroke length. A convenient adjustable blower is included as well.
It’s not often you find a name brand tool at this kind of price point. Porter Cable sells this model without the battery included but even if you add in the cost of the battery and charger, the overall cost is still pretty reasonable. The tool comes with three orbital settings and an open nose making it easy to see the cutting action. An on-board dust blower keeps the cut line clean, so you can see what you are doing. Like the other saws, this one offers tool-free blade changes as well while being very lightweight at only 4.2 pounds. The stroke length is a little shorter at 3/4’ and runs a maximum speed of 2,500 SPM.
The jigsaw is a handheld power tool, designed specifically to allow cutting of curves. While it’s not limited to cutting curves, it’s the only handheld power saw specifically designed for that purpose. Other saws, like circular saws, are designed for cutting straight. As a saw for cutting curves, the jigsaw is the handheld equivalent to the scroll saw or some uses of the band saw.
A jigsaw works by an oscillating up and down movement, cutting on the upstroke. Modern jigsaws, especially better quality modern jigsaws, offer a variety of oscillation patterns, intended to reduce chipping and splintering in a variety of materials, especially when cutting across the surface grain of plywood. An additional strategy that can be used to avoid this splitting is to cut through the surface veneer, on the cut line, with a utility knife, before cutting with the jigsaw. This is especially useful for Lauan plywood, which has a very thin surface veneer.
Some jigsaws offer “plunge cutting” capability. This means the saw will cut through wooden sheet goods without a starter hole. For plunge cutting to work, one not only needs a saw which can accomplish it, but a blade that can as well.
Jigsaw blades are not rugged, carbide tipped disks, like circular saw blades so they don’t last anywhere near as long. It is always a good idea to have several spare blades when beginning a project, so that they can be replaced as needed.
If you can afford it, the better quality jigsaws are worth buying. The amount of adjustable blade speeds, stroke lengths, and oscillation styles, more than make up for the cost of the saw. The payback will come in increased efficiency, both in faster cuts and in less damage caused by the saw.
Types of Jigsaws on the Market
These are the higher quality units that need to be connected to house current for use. Specifically, we're referring to the ones with adjustable oscillation patterns. The cord can be an inconvenience at times, but it allows continual cutting, without having to change batteries. If you are going to be doing a lot of cutting with a jigsaw or you are rarely going to use it, a corded model may be your best choice.
Budget Corded Jigsaws
These are the basic units, without a lot of options. They provide basic cutting, but with only one oscillating pattern so they’re more likely to splinter the workpiece. If you are working in plywood or other situations where you don't have to worry about splintering so much, these will be ideal.
Contractors and others individuals who use their jigsaw regularly would probably be better off with a cordless saw, simply for convenience sake. While the cordless units are more expensive, they can be used without the need to run an extension cord or worrying about that cord getting in the way of your cut. Today's cordless jigsaws are almost exclusively made with Lithium-Ion batteries for greater capacity and quicker recharge time.
There are two basic styles of jigsaws; barrel and D handle. Many manufacturers build the same saw models in both styles. This provides the user with their choice. While the D handle is the more traditional style, users of barrel style jigsaws rave that they are easier to control. Since good control over the blade and the cut is a major consideration when using a jigsaw, these models are well worth your consideration.
There are a few models on the market, like the Craftsman corded model which was chosen as number one for our budget corded jigsaw list, which can be used in either configuration. Simply remove the D handle and grasp the barrel. Power switches for both configurations are included on the saw.
Options to Consider in the Purchase of Your Jigsaw
Take a good look at the shoe construction on the saw. Inexpensive saws will often have a stamped sheet-metal shoe. There is no way that a stamped shoe is going to be flat, so if you need accuracy, I'd avoid them. The better ones have cast and then machined shoes. Cast shoes stay much flatter, as well as resisting bending and other damage. Some of you may overlay this with a molded plastic pad for reduced friction.
Power is not as important in a jigsaw as it is in other saws. However, if it comes down to a choice between two saws, and the only difference is power, go for the more powerful one. There may be a time when you have to cut through thicker wood where that extra power will be useful. That more powerful saw will probably also have a longer stroke, which helps the saw to be more efficient.
Some saws offer plunge cutting capability. This means that you can start cutting in the middle of a sheet of plywood, without drilling a starter hole. This is not a common option, but it can be handy. However, when using it, you need to be very careful. Plunge cutting is very likely to mess up the surface of your board if you are not careful.
Variable speed is very handy, especially when you need to do fine cuts in thin or soft material. If you’re cutting with the blade moving at high speed, it is extremely easy to overshoot a cut or go off the line. Slowing down the cut provides greater control.
The thing that makes the blade go off line the most isn't speed, but pressure. As you press on the handle of the tool trying to turn it, you could actually push the tool sideways as well thus causing the blade to cut at an angle. The jigsaw blade is only held on one end making this a very real risk. Some of the better saws offer supports for the blade to prevent it from being able to tilt like this and to prevent the blade from ending up bent. This is very useful, especially for the novice user.
Most of the higher end saws will add other options, such as on-board blade storage and blowers to clean off the line of cut. Some come pre-equipped for connection to a dust-collection system. These conveniences make the saw easier to work with, although they are not necessary. Some of these units come with LED “headlights” or laser guides. These are great options to have, making it easier to cut straight and follow the line you’ve laid out. While I’m strongly in favor of these features, I wouldn’t make them the top priority when choosing a jig saw. However, if it comes down to a choice between two, this could be the deciding factor.