The jigsaw is essential equipment to have in your workspace. Not only is it one of the most powerful tools of the trade, but it is also versatile enough to cut through a myriad of materials: wood, plastics, metals, and others. A good woodworker would not rely on his or her saws alone though. Bringing out your best work and minimizing the dangers the jigsaw might inflict on others (because let’s be honest, the blade is not the safest thing in the planet) necessitates that you know how to operate it properly.
Using a jigsaw with little background and regard to safety is a very foolish thing to do. Do not be that person — get to know the powerful thing that is in your collection, and make the most out of your purchase. If you have not decided on one yet, you can check out my list of the best jigsaws currently in the market here: https://www.sawinery.net/jigsaw/best/.
When I first delved into woodworking, I remember the excitement of expanding my toolkit and getting my hands on a powerful jigsaw. If you’re like me and wondering whether you’re missing any steps in using it, let me share with you my guide on how to master the jigsaw. Join me on this journey.
WHAT ARE THE STEPS I SHOULD FOLLOW TO USE THE JIGSAW EFFECTIVELY?
Step 1: Find the right blade for your jigsaw.
The blade is the most important component of your jigsaw, but it would not be the same for every material you intend on cutting. The thickness of the material is the factor that should be considered. Cutting with a blade that can get through it will make your life easier. Generally, the lower the teeth per inch (TPI) is, the more aggressive and faster the cut becomes. Also, depending on the jigsaw model, the appropriate blades can be T-shaped or U-shaped and are often made of carbon steel. Some models like SKIL 4495-02 laser jigsaw model both support such blades. You can check the manufacturer’s provided manual to verify the information if you are unsure.
If you want clean cuts on wood, choosing a fine-toothed blade with 10-12 TPI should do the trick. If speed is more important for you, then you can switch into a coarse-toothed blade which usually has 1 TPI. Meanwhile, cutting metal would be best done with a blade that has more TPI because the material is harder. Generally, these take the form of blades with 32-35 TPI.
Step 2: Prepare other necessary materials.
When cutting different materials using a jigsaw, such as a high-powered Dewalt DCS331B you would not be relying on the jigsaw alone to do your job perfectly and safely. There are other materials necessary here, such as the wood, metal, or plastic you will be applying the jigsaw on. Others are necessary for keeping you safe, including a mask, goggles, and earplugs. The task would also inevitably produce plenty of debris and dust — you can prepare ahead by putting tarpaulins or similar materials on the floor to easily collect these and organize your workshop.
Step 3: Mount the jigsaw blade properly.
I always encourage reaching out to a professional if there’s any fear of mounting incorrectly, but honestly, if you adhere to the manual’s instructions on installing the blade on the jigsaw, you should encounter no problems. I’ve been through it, and meticulous adherence to guidelines is key. The steps can be different depending on the age of the tool. For newer jigsaws like the Porter Cable PCE345, the steps should be more straightforward using a push lever and clamp. Older models might require having a screwdriver handy. For the process to be safe, make sure that the jigsaw is unplugged. Develop the habit of unplugging your jigsaw when it is not in use to avoid accidentally turning it on.
Step 4: Measure and trace lines on your chosen material.
Learning how to use a jigsaw correctly involves some patience. Do not go right into plugging and cutting your material of choice. To ensure accuracy, planning has to take place first. Do measurements of the material regardless if it is plastic, wood or metal that you are working with and then mark the cutting features with lines using either a pen or a pencil. Doing this first will also make the job easier, and the shapes that your materials can be cut into are plenty enough.
Step 5: Secure your chosen material using a clamp or a workbench.
Wondering when to turn on the jigsaw? That step should be next after the material you will be cutting is positioned on a surface using reliable woodworking clamps. This will ensure that it will not move around while you are applying the jigsaw on it. The clamps should be as sturdy or more than a C-clamp and you can use as many as you deem necessary. With clamps in place, cutting with a jigsaw should produce fewer vibrations.
Step 6: Plug in or insert the battery pack of the jigsaw.
It’s time to turn on your jigsaw. Many would have to be plugged in a power source, while others would depend on a battery. It is worth reiterating that the jigsaw should be unplugged or the battery must be removed in case the tool is not in use. When using a jigsaw that has to be connected to an electric socket, make sure that the cord can extend into a comfortable length to reach your workbench. Once done, find the power trigger for the jigsaw which is usually located on its handle. Based on my experience with various models, many jigsaws are equipped with a lock switch, a handy feature that eliminates the need to hold the trigger throughout the entire cut. It’s one of those details that can make the task more manageable and less tiring.
Step 7: Set the speed for the jigsaw.
Similar to choosing the appropriate blade for your jigsaw, setting the speed would depend on the material of your choosing. A lower setting would be appropriate for sturdier materials like metals; even if the job is done gradually, you are ensured that the process would be safe. Wood would not require a lower setting, but you can go with whatever you are comfortable with. If you are just a beginner with the jigsaw, going slow would ensure more accurate cuts. Check if your jigsaw comes with a variable-speed trigger so that you can squeeze as light or as strong as necessary.
(Looking for fun and interesting woodworking projects for your kids? Check out the best craft kit for children here to make your kids entertained and productive)
Step 8: Guide your jigsaw through the marks on the material to be cut.
Remember the measurements and traces that were done earlier? This step is where they come in handy. Start by the material’s edge and then slowly follow the lines. Do not put too much pressure on the jigsaw regardless of the cut you are trying to achieve as this may result in a broken blade. This goes without saying, but keep a considerable distance between the blade and your fingers.
Step 9: Apply finishing touches.
After making those precise cuts, I’ve often found some excess sections that veer away from my original vision. I typically use the blade of the jigsaw or even some sanding materials to tidy them up. It’s a simple step that not only sharpens the final look but also ensures those edges are smooth and polished.
Step 10: Store your jigsaw properly and clean your workspace.
When you are sure when you are done for the day, remove your finger from the trigger and let the blade stop completely. Proceed to unplug the jigsaw from its power source or remove the battery pack if the model allows you to do so. Store the jigsaw in its proper place and away from sight, especially if you have children. Keep your workshop clean by promptly collecting the dust and debris scattered as a result of cutting with your jigsaw.
For a clutter free woodworking space, you can also check our review of the best small shop dust collection system here.
Compared to other types of saws, the jigsaw falls on the safer side of the spectrum. Still, this is not an excuse to not observe precautions when learning how to use a jigsaw, especially when it operates with an exposed blade. Perfecting the cut with it should be preceded by operating the machine safely. By placing importance on the proper blades and safety materials as well as using these general steps and studying the product manual closely, you should be able to encounter little to no problems with your jigsaw.
Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.
Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.