Home & Garden

Tool lesson: The jigsaw

Author: Canadian Living

Home & Garden

Tool lesson: The jigsaw

The jigsaw is a practical and versatile tool for any home workshop. Whether you want to create a wooden toy for a child, make a decorative bracket for the porch or simply cut out a hole in a piece of drywall, a jigsaw can do the job.

Before you buy a jigsaw, look at the features that are available. You can expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $300 for a jigsaw, but a few extra dollars well spent now can save you time and money in the long run. Your first decision will be whether to purchase a cordless (battery operated) or electric model.

"Cordless jigsaws are easier to handle. They can get into hard to-reach places, and you don't have to be near an electrical outlet to use them," says Andrew Mitchell, owner of WoodChips: The Project Place in Mississauga, Ont. "The biggest advantage of an electric jigsaw is that it never runs out of juice -- you always have power."

Which one to buy?
• A 7.2 or 9.6 volt cordless jigsaw or a 2.9 or 3.5 amp electric jigsaw is sufficient for crafts and household jobs. Look for a jigsaw with low vibration.
• The advantage of a variable-speed jigsaw over a fixed-speed model is that it allows you more control over how quickly you cut through a material.
• Higher-priced jigsaws usually feature orbital action (the blade moves forward as it moves up and down), allowing you to cut through most materials faster and with less effort.
• Most jigsaws have an adjustable base plate, allowing you to make bevel cuts of up to 45 degrees.

Making the cut (see images)
• Before making any cuts, transfer the pattern to the piece of material; clamp piece securely to the work surface.
• Learning how to use a jigsaw can be a matter of trial and error. Get a feel for how tightly you can cut a curve and how quickly you can make a cut by experimenting with different patterns and a variety of materials.

Page 1 of 2 -- Learn more about how to use a jigsaw, plus important safety tips on working with this handy home renovation tool on page 2

• With the appropriate specialty blade, a jigsaw can cut plastics, laminates and other hard-to-cut materials, as well as various wood types, ranging in thickness from about 1/4 of an inch to 2-1/2 inches. The more teeth per inch on the blade, the finer the cut.
• Use a 1/2-inch drill bit to make a pilot hole to use as a starting point when cutting out shapes (see photos 2 and 3). If you use a drill bit that's any smaller, you might not be able to fit the jigsaw blade into the pilot hole.
• Keep a firm grip on the jigsaw to maintain control and get the cleanest cut.

Keep It Safe
• Always wear safety glasses.
• If a blade breaks or bends, or if teeth are snapped off, insert a new blade.
• Always unplug an electric jigsaw or remove the batteries from a cordless jigsaw before making any adjustments.
• Before changing a blade, unplug or remove the batteries from the jigsaw. Loosen the set screw(s) that holds the blade. Pull the blade from jaws and discard safely. Insert a new blade and tighten the set screw(s). Some jigsaws feature a quick blade release (for example, Black & Decker's Quick Clamp Blade Change System).
• Look for a jigsaw that has a safety lock for the blade; keep all power tools safely locked away, out of your child's reach.

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Tool lesson: The jigsaw