A jigsaw with an electric motor (jigsaw power tool) is designed for making straight or curved cutting in panels easier. The panel strength and hardness are of little importance.
A jigsaw can cut not only plastic or wood but steel or aluminum panels as well. But you must know how to use a jigsaw to make high-quality cuts without tool wear.
First of all, you must select the right blade. The blade characteristics depend not only on the panel material but also whether the cut is straight or curved, as well as its accuracy:
Types of jigsaw blades
- If you need to do straight cuts, choose a wide blade. A jigsaw with a wide blade will cut along the marking almost on its own.
- For curved cuts, install narrow blades. To make a very curved cutting easier, manufacturers have created jigsaws with a swivel head. Such jigsaws have a special handle for turning the blade’s operation area to any side without turning the tool. The swivel head maneuverability depends on a jigsaw model and can do a full turn in the most “advanced” versions.
- If the cutting speed is more important than quality, choose a blade with large teeth. For fine cutting, vice versa, a thin blade with small teeth is a better option.
Selecting a blade according to the material for cutting is not difficult, because manufacturers always indicate what material a blade is intended for. Each blade has its features, depending on the properties of the target material. For example, a blade for cutting wood has large teeth with an increased angle of attack and a large step. For cutting metals, a blade with a smaller profile made of high-strength HSS (or similar) steel is used.
The quality of cutting also depends on the blade fastening type. For cutting panels of solid material or thick panels, a rigid fastening is better as it allows cutting more consistently.
The easiest way is to mark out a panel without the sawing allowance and a saw blade during cutting – cut not along a marking line, but near it.
Read also: Jigsaw buying guide
It is also important to know on which side a workpiece should be marked out. Since the blade stroke corresponds to the movement in the saw direction, chips are most often made on the side of the panel facing an operator. This is especially true for laminated coating of wood-chip or wood-fiber boards. Thus, turn the workpiece face down for a better cut. In this case, the “back” surface is marked out respectively.
If the marking has a closed contour and it is impossible to get to it from the edge, drill a hole somewhere to put the electric jigsaw’s blade in.
For a good cut, fix the workpiece with a clamp on a workbench or a sawbench after marking out. The latter is better equipped for using a jigsaw, as the devices on it allow firmly fixing both a workpiece and a jigsaw.
A jigsaw must be fixed if you need to do an accurate fine cut through a complex curved pattern, as well as with a large thickness or strength of the workpiece when you must use a powerful heavy tool. By firmly fastening a jigsaw to the sawbench, an operator moves the workpiece panel, pushing it to the blade.
Jigsaw usage recommendations
If you cut solid materials (such as steel) or thick panels quite often, it may be reasonable to buy a table jigsaw. Such devices are of the professional equipment segment. They have a drive of high power and functions making the cutting process much easier, and various options, such as the soft-start function, automatic correction of the cutting power depending on the resistance value of the blade movement in the working area, or highlighting with a laser.
For making the sawing process faster, modern electric jigsaws have a special mechanism called a pendulum. By enabling the pendulum mode, an operator increases the cutting blade speed, which allows lessening the effort applied to the jigsaw. But usage of the pendulum mode results in less accuracy and lower quality of cutting, so it is used only at large tolerances when the rough cutting is allowed.
The pendulum mode is also incompatible with certain types of materials. For example, acceleration when cutting metal panels results in overheating of the blade and its fast wear out. When cutting plastic, on the contrary, the workpiece can melt in the area of the blade. The pendulum mechanism is mostly used for cutting softwood, chipboard, and polystyrene foam. The jigsaw mechanism allows not only enabling or disabling the pendulum mode but also smoothly changing its intensity.
When selecting the cutting speed, you must avoid resonance, that is, the coincidence of frequencies of the blade reciprocating movements and oscillations of the panel. The resonance creates strong vibrations. The situation can be fixed by slowing down or speeding up the cutting process (if possible).
If the workpiece is a thin metal panel, put a plywood panel under it and cut both panels at once.
How to use a jigsaw safely
A jigsaw must be used carefully, controlling the force of pressing the blade to the material. It should not be too much; otherwise, a wearing-out engine and parts will shortly fail.
Also, do not “torment” a jigsaw by cutting with a blunt blade, even if the panel is made of soft and pliable material. Use only sharp blades, this will significantly extend the service life of your jigsaw.
Cutting panels with a jigsaw is accompanied by a lot of finest dust. It is not so dangerous outside or in a workshop, but you do not want to have dust at home, as it can cause health problems or malfunctions in the operation of household appliances. A solution is connecting an electric jigsaw to the construction vacuum cleaner while cutting. The vacuum cleaner must be of construction type. A typical household vacuum cleaner is not meant for such dust volumes and fractions. If connected to a jigsaw, it will quickly fail.
Using a jigsaw with a vacuum cleaner is quite easy. If you do not intend to purchase one, you can at least ensure the removal of dust and chips from the working area, so that it does not cover the marking. Use a jigsaw with the function of blowing out the cutting area for that.