What is a Jigsaw and How Does It Work? A Complete Overview

A jigsaw power tool is a popular woodworking tool that is used to cut straight and make curved cuts in wood, metal, and other materials.

The jigsaw tool has a long and interesting history, which goes back all the way to the 18th century, when it was first invented in its most simple way.

Today, jigsaw saws are essential power tools for any woodworker or DIY enthusiast, and they come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and power levels to suit different needs and budgets. But what is a jigsaw? Let’s find out!

What Is a Jigsaw?

A jigsaw is a portable power tool that can be used to make a variety of quick cuts. This tool has a small body with a handle for good grip and an electric motor that drives a blade via the transmission of an up-and-down arm.

Jigsaw saws are extremely simple to use, can make curved cuts (which other tools, such as table saws, cannot), and have an adjustable blade speed to handle a wide range of cuts. In this article, you will learn all there is to know about this great tool.

What is a Jigsaw and How Does It Work - Festool Carvex PSBC420 EB jigsaw
What is a Jigsaw and How Does It Work – Festool Carvex PSBC420 EB jigsaw

The information you will gather in just a few minutes of reading this blog post will let you understand the jigsaw power tool better so you can start using it properly for your projects. This may look like a jigsaw for beginners article, but even if you are an experienced woodworker, you better read this article all the way through.

Disclosure: At zero cost to you, I may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post. I earn from qualifying purchases as an Amazon associate. Products featured are selected based on quality, performance, and reputation, regardless of affiliate relationships.

Do I Need a Jigsaw?

Ok now that you have an answer to your question “what is a jigsaw” You might think, do I need a jigsaw?Well that is a question that is difficult to answer since everyone’s wishes are different. You will find an extensive answer to this in my article, do I need a jigsaw.

There I also go deeper into the different types of cuts you can make with this tool and I also discuss the possible alternatives to the jigsaw power tool. I recommend reading this article first and then coming back here to read the rest of this blog post and gather all the information you need to understand the jigsaw.

In some cases, a jigsaw alternative can also offer a good solution to carry out the work on your project. To get more inspiration on this subject, I recommend reading my article Jigsaw Who? 7 Innovative Jigsaw Alternative Tools That Will Amaze You. You will find valuable information that will undoubtedly help you.

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What Is a Jigsaw Used For?

A jigsaw is a power tool usually used for woodworking, carpentry and other types of DIY projects. Due to the relatively low price, this tool is very accessible for occasional DIYers up to and including Professionals. It is designed to make precise and clean cuts in a variety of materials. It can be used for cutting wood, metal, plastic and even for cutting tile.

Ask many woodworkers their opinion and they will all say that a jigsaw has several advantages , but the most important advantage that will come back all the time is the ability to make curved and irregular cuts with ease. To be able to do this, a thin blade is mounted on a reciprocating arm that moves up and down quickly. Like that, the jigsaw will allow it to easily follow the contours of a pattern or shape. That is why the jigsaw is a popular tool for cutting out shapes and patterns in wood or other materials, as well as creating custom cuts and shapes.

What is a Jigsaw and How Does It Work - Making curved cuts
What is a Jigsaw and How Does It Work – Making curved cuts

Jigsaw saws can be used to make straight cuts in wood or other materials as well as curved cuts. A jigsaw power tool is ideal for trimming a piece of wood to size or cutting it into smaller pieces. You can tailor the cut to the material and task at hand thanks to the adjustable blade speed and variety of blade types.

What is a Jigsaw and How Does It Work - Making straight cuts along a speed square
What is a Jigsaw and How Does It Work – Making straight cuts along a speed square

Jigsaws are widely used in metalworking, plastic fabrication, as well as woodworking and carpentry. In comparison to other tools, the right blade and cutting technique can assist in making clean, precise cuts in these materials, saving time and effort.

You can say that a jigsaw is an indispensable tool for a variety of cutting tasks in the workshop or on the construction site. A jigsaw is a handy tool to have in your toolbox , whether you’re a professional woodworker or a do-it-yourselfer. To show you what a jigsaw can do for you, I have listed a few tasks as an example:

  • Wood or other material trimming and shaping: A jigsaw can be used to trim excess material from a piece of wood or to shape it into a specific shape. When working with irregularly shaped materials or creating custom pieces, this is especially useful.
  • Cutting circles and curves in wood or other materials: This is probably one of the tasks in my workshop where I use my jigsaw the most. For cutting circles, decorative shapes, and curves in wood or other materials, a jigsaw is the perfect tool. 
  • Making stopped cuts: Sometimes you don’t have to cut all the way through the wood and stop at a certain point. When using a table saw, you would cut further on the underside of the wood than on the top because of the circular blade. You don’t get this with a jigsaw.

Why Is It Called a Jigsaw?

The serrated cuts made by the jigsaw power tool when cutting through material give it its name. The tool was initially known as a “scroll saw,” but it was later renamed a “jigsaw” due to the saw-like movement of the blade and the jagged cuts it produces.

A man named John Hawkes invented the jigsaw in the late 18th century in order to improve on the existing scroll saws of the time. Hawkes’ design incorporated a reciprocating blade that moved up and down , allowing for more precise and efficient cutting. Initially used for intricate woodwork and decorative projects, the tool quickly gained popularity and began to be used for a broader range of tasks.

The jigsaw is now a widely used and necessary tool in the workshop that has become indispensable and can be used to cut wood, cutting metal, plastic and other materials. Despite its modern capabilities, the jigsaw’s distinctive serrated cuts and saw-like movement persist, earning it the nickname “jigsaw” to this day.

What Are the Different Types of Jigsaws?

There are several types of jigsaw saws on the market, each with its own distinct set of features and capabilities. Understanding the different types of jigsaws can assist you in selecting the best one for your specific needs and projects. Let me show you what variety of shapes and sizes jigsaws comes in:

  • Corded jigsaws: Corded jigsaws are powered by an electrical cord, which provides a consistent and dependable source of power. Corded jigsaws are typically more powerful than cordless models (however, most batteries these days are pretty powerful as well), making them ideal for heavy-duty projects requiring a lot of cutting.
  • Cordless jigsaws: The rechargeable battery powering these jigsaws allows for greater mobility and flexibility. Cordless jigsaws are great for on-the-go projects, but they also reduce the number of cables on your workshop or job site floor, which I believe is a huge benefit. To discover more, go check out my article The Great Debate: Corded Vs Cordless Jigsaw – Which One To Buy?
  • Barrel grip jigsaws: These jigsaws, who can be corded or cordless, have a unique handle design that allows for a comfortable, natural grip. These jigsaws are great for long periods of use and for making precise cuts.
  • Top handle jigsaws: These jigsaws have a traditional handle design that is located at the top of the tool. Top handle jigsaws are generally easier to control and maneuver than barrel handle models. I prefer these types because of the better grip due to my smaller hands.
What is a Jigsaw and How Does It Work - Barrel grip jigsaw by Festool
What is a Jigsaw and How Does It Work – Barrel grip jigsaw by Festool
What is a Jigsaw and How Does It Work - Top handle jigsaw by Festool
What is a Jigsaw and How Does It Work – Top handle jigsaw by Festool

How Does a Jigsaw Work?

As you could already discover earlier in this article does a jigsaw consist of a small electric motor that runs a thin blade, and it is designed to be portable and easy to use.

The blade of a jigsaw is the most important part of the tool, as it is responsible for making the actual cuts. Blades for jigsaws come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and tooth configurations to suit different materials and cutting needs. 

Some common blade types include T-shank blades , U-shank blades, and reverse tooth blades, which I will come back to later in this article.

The motor is another important part of the jigsaw power tool as it powers the blade and makes it go up and down. Jigsaw motors come in different sizes and power levels , with more powerful motors being able to cut through thicker and harder materials. The speed of the blade can also be adjusted using the jigsaw’s controls, allowing for more precise and controlled cuts.

What Are the Different Types of Jigsaw Blades?

Like said before, these blades come in a variety of shapes, sizes and tooth configurations to suit different materials and cutting needs. However, there are some distinct differences that may be important for use on your tool:

  • T-shank blades: This is the most common type of blade. The T-shank that can be identified on the top of the blade by two small bulges on either side will fit into the tool’s blade clamp if one is provided. T-shank saw blades are strong and durable , and they can be used on a variety of materials.
  • U-shank blades: These blades can be recognized by their U-shaped shank that fits into the blade clamp of older jigsaw models. U-shank blades are not as common as T-shank blades, but they may still be used for certain applications.
  • Reverse teeth blades: The teeth on this type of blade are angled in the opposite direction, which helps to reduce splintering and tearing when making cuts. Reverse teeth blades are great for use with delicate materials and for achieving a clean , finished look.
What is a Jigsaw and How Does It Work - T-shank blade
What is a Jigsaw and How Does It Work – T-shank blade
What is a Jigsaw and How Does It Work - U-shank blade
What is a Jigsaw and How Does It Work – U-shank blade

To find the perfect blade for your jigsaw, I recommend you to check out my article, Choosing the perfect jigsaw blades in 3 simple steps | FREE DOWNLOAD. This guide will be of great help for you in finding the blad that is perfect for the job.

What Is the Disadvantage of a Jigsaw?

Ok, as you could already see in this article, the jigsaw is a great tool that ha a lot of advantages. However, there are a few potential disadvantages to using a jigsaw power tool, which I will go over briefly to keep you informed as best as possible:

  • Jigsaw saws are not intended for making deep cuts. They usually have a cutting depth of 5-7 cm (2-3 inches). This can be a problem when cutting through thicker materials. More about cutting depth in my article, All You Need to Know About Jigsaw Cutting Depth
  • Limited power: The big difference between a jigsaw vs circular saw is that they not as powerful as some other saws like a circular saw or table saw. They may struggle to cut through very hard or dense materials because of this. This can be a disadvantage when working on heavy-duty projects or with particularly tough materials.
  • Vibration: Jigsaws can generate quite some vibration when in use, which can be uncomfortable for the user and may make precise cuts more difficult to achieve.
  • Noise: Jigsaws can be noisy tools, that is why I always recommend the use of earplugs to protect the user’s hearing.
  • Blade changes: Jigsaw saws require the use of special blades, and changing the blade can be a time-consuming and somewhat difficult process. This can be a disadvantage when working on projects that require frequent blade changes. However, With some models (like the ones from festool) there are no keys or tools required to change the blade. To learn how to change the jigsaw blade properly, you can visit my article, How To change a Jigsaw Blade? a Clear 2 Minute Guide

While jigsaws are versatile and useful tools, they do have some limitations that make them inappropriate for certain tasks or projects. When deciding whether a jigsaw is the right tool for the job, it’s critical to consider the specific needs of your project ahead of time.

How to use a jigsaw

The jigsaw is a relatively simple tool to use, but it is critical to follow all jig saw safety instructions and use the proper blade for the material and task at hand to achieve the best results.

When using a jigsaw, keep the following tips and techniques in mind:

  • Choose the right blade for the material and task at hand. There are different blades that are designed for specific materials and cutting needs, so if you want to achieve the best results, it’s important to select the right blade.
  • For making straight lines, it is recommended to use a straightedge or a guide. This will help to ensure that your cuts are precise and straight. I occasionally use my speed square for this.
  • It is preferred always to clamp the material in place to prevent movement. This will help to ensure that your cuts are clean and accurate, and it will also help to keep the material stable as you work.
  • A great tip that I use constantly is to make the cut with the blade on the waste side of the line. This will help prevent the blade from drifting or going off course as it penetrates the material. Later you can sand off the excess material up to the marking line.
  • When making cuts with a jigsaw, go slowly and steadily. Also it can be a good idea to switch off the orbital action of the jigsaw. A slow and controlled pace will help to ensure that the blade does not overheat, bind, bend, or break, as well as preventing accidents.

Conclusion – Why Should You Buy a Jigsaw?

Jigsaw saws are a versatile and essential tool for any woodworker or DIY enthusiast. Whether you’re making square cuts or intricate curves, a jigsaw can help you achieve professional-quality results every time. With a little practice and the right techniques, you can master the art of using a jigsaw and take your woodworking skills to the next level.

There are several reasons why I recommend you to consider buying a jigsaw:

  • Versatility: A jigsaw is probably the most versatile tool to have in your workshop. It can be used for a wide range of cutting tasks, including cutting straight, make curved cuts, and irregular shapes. On top of that they are useful for a variety of projects, not only for woodworking, but also for metalworking, plastic fabrication, and much more.
  • Precision: If they are equipped with the right blade , jigsaws are capable of making precise and clean cuts. The adjustable blade speed and range of blade types make it possible to tailor the cut to the specific material and task at hand.
  • Ease of use: Jigsaws are relatively easy to use, even for jigsaw beginners. They are lightweight and portable, and they can be easily maneuvered to make cuts in a variety of locations and situations.
  • Speed: Jigsaws can make very fast cuts , and they can help to save time and effort when working on projects where you need to make a lot of cuts.
  • Value: Jigsaws are generally affordable tools compared to their alternative, the bandsaw. They can be a cost-effective option for those who need a tool for occasional cutting tasks or for DIY projects, or for those who have a small workshop and are not able to place a bandsaw in their shop.

A jigsaw is a practical tool and in my opinion a must have in your workshop or toolkit. It can handle a wide range of cutting tasks and is relatively easy to use. Thats is why a jigsaw is a good choice for both professionals and DIY enthusiasts. I could not imagine having no more jigsaw in my shop. There would be a lot of task need to be done by hand and take a lot of time, or tasks I could not do at all.

So, if you ask me, yes you should buy a jigsaw. However, finding the one that fits your needs can be quite challenging. To help you with that, you can find a great helping guide on my website. Please visit my article How To Choose A Jigsaw – The Best Jig Saw Buying Guide now in order to gather all the information you need to find the best jigsaw.

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I hope this article was helpful and answered your question, what is a jigsaw?

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Woodworking | DIY | Home decoration

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