Under 2 hours
A jigsaw is a versatile and easy-to-use power tool that allows DIYers and professionals alike to make straight or intricate curved cuts for craft projects or other woodworking tasks. Once you learn the fundamentals of using a jigsaw and have the right type of blade, you can make detailed cuts on a wide range of materials including wood, metal, laminate and tile.
This guide will teach you how to use a jigsaw and offer helpful tips for successful and safe operation.
The parts of a jigsaw contribute to its versatility.
The up-and-down motion of a jigsaw blade is activated by pulling a trigger on the saw’s handle. Most models are variable speed, meaning that the speed of the reciprocating action depends on how much pressure is placed on the trigger. Releasing the trigger will slow or stop the saw blade.
Some jigsaw models have settings for different cutting actions – straight and orbital. In orbital action, the blade moves forward during the cutting stroke in addition to the up-and-down movement. This more aggressive blade motion and is designed for cutting in soft materials like wood or plastic. The orbital movement provides a faster cut, but less smooth than a straight stroke.
The base of the jigsaw, called the shoe, rests on top of the material being cut. For a regular straight cut, the shoe and the blade are at 90-degrees. The angle of the shoe can be adjusted so that body and blade of the saw are tilted to make a bevel cut through material.
Jigsaws are best used for cutting shapes and curves in wood with its narrow blade, which is attached to the tool’s body by a spring-loaded clamp at the front. The blade’s sharp teeth are measured in TPI, or teeth per inch. A higher TPI gives a smoother cut that requires less sanding. Blades with a lower TPI produce faster cuts that are good for rough work. Multi-purpose blades are available but specially designed varieties should be used when cutting materials like metal, ceramic tile, glass and plastic.
Understand Teeth Per Inch
Jigsaws are best used for cutting shapes and curves in wood. However, you can also cut metal, laminate, tile and other materials with them.
When choosing a jigsaw blade, pay attention to the teeth per inch or TPI. The TPI tells you how many teeth are on the saw blade. A higher TPI means a greater number of smaller teeth. Saw blades with high TPIs provide a smoother cut and usually need less sanding. Blades with a lower TPI produce faster cuts that are good for rough work.
Tip: When cutting materials other than wood, look for a specialty blade designed specifically for them.
Prep Your Work Area
Before cutting, raise the workpiece by placing it on rails or a piece of wood paneling. Choose a support thick enough to allow the jigsaw to make a full cut without hitting your workbench.
Use clamps to secure the material you want to cut in place.
Tip: Work in a ventilated area. Open windows and use fans as needed and wear a dust mask for protection.
Mark the Material and Prepare the Saw
Mark the material with a pencil. Use a measuring tape as needed to plan where to put the marks. A framing square can also help you create straight lines and precise right angles.
If you’re using a delicate material that could chip, cover the saw’s shoe with masking tape. The layer of tape will cut down on friction to protect the material.
Select the right saw blade and install it on the jigsaw. Follow the manufacturer’s directions to get the blade securely in place.
Tips: For safety, unplug the saw or remove the battery before installing a blade.
Start the Saw
To begin making a cut, plug in the saw or slide in the battery.
Rest the saw shoe on the edge of the material and near the cutting line. With the blade next to but not touching the material, pull the trigger. Allow the saw to reach full speed before you begin to move it.
Make a Cut
Once the saw is at full speed, ease it forward while you keep the shoe firmly on the cutting surface.
Press the shoe firmly on the surface and ease the saw forward to the cutting line while keeping the trigger engaged.
Guide the saw along the outside of the cutting line, keeping the shoe flat. Work slowly and stay just outside the line. You can trim more or sand with sandpaper for fine-tuning, but you can’t add back what you’ve cut.
Let the saw do its work. Pushing with too much force can strain the motor or cause the blade to break. To avoid unintended beveling, avoid applying side-to-side pressure.
When the cut is complete, release the trigger. Then, lift the saw and rest it on the workbench.
Safety: Keep your hands away from the saw blade while cutting.
If you need to make a cutout in your material, use a power drill to make a 1.5-inch hole along your marked line. Slide the jigsaw blade into the starter hole. Follow steps five and six to create the cutout.
An alternative to the starter hole method is the plunge or pocket cut. To make one, lean the saw forward onto the front lip of the shoe so that the blade is parallel to the wood. Start the saw. Once the blade is at full speed, tip the saw back to ease the blade into the wood. This method works best for rough work.
Maintain Your Jigsaw
Keeping your jigsaw well-maintained can help it stand the test of time. Before you use a corded saw, check the cord for any fraying or damage. If you spot any problems, don’t use the saw. Inspect blades before installing them. Avoid using bent blades, as they could damage the tool.
After use, wipe your saw down with a cleaning cloth. Use a wire brush to remove any dust from the vents. Every few uses put a few drops of all-purpose lubricant on the blade roller guide. Only use battery chargers designed for your tool. Remove the battery from the charger once it reaches full power.
Tip: Check the manufacturer’s instructions for specific advice on how to care for your saw.
Now that you know how to use a jigsaw, you can tackle a wide range of DIY projects. No matter what you’re cutting, use the right saw blade, work slowly and use protective equipment for best results. The Home Depot can help you find the tools and materials you need for woodworking, metalworking and more. For one-off projects and quick home renovations, consider our jigsaw rentals.