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How to Use a Jigsaw – Beginner Friendly Tutorial

cutting wood with a jigsaw

Do you know that most of the professionals & DIYers use a jigsaw to make straight or intricate curved cuts for any kind of woodworking task or making crafts? Why? 

Because a jigsaw is one of the easy-to-use and versatile power tools to cut a variety of materials like thin metal, laminate, plastic, ceramic tile, and wood. You just need the right blade to do all this work without that you won’t be able to make the perfect compound and bevel cuts in boards or other materials. You need to learn the basics of using a jigsaw. 

A circular saw, scroll saw or reciprocating saw won’t do the trick to cut curves lines in various materials. 

In this article, we will teach you how to use a jigsaw to cut sheet metal, intricate shapes in wood. 

Cutting wood with handheld jigsaw

making curves in wood with jigsaw

For making curved or intricate shapes in the wood, any handheld jigsaw will work. You can also use them for crosscuts and finished corners cut. They are not best to use if you want fast, and straight long cuts For that you need to use a circular saw. 

General Purpose blade

You need a general purpose cutting blade. You can use the one that comes with the jigsaw. 

Cutting intricate shapes in wood

  • A jigsaw works best if softwood is max 1-½ inch thick and hardwood ¾. If you use it for thicker boards, the blade will bend. Make sure you have the sharp saw blade and don’t force it while making the cut.
  • For making the Plunge Cut, make a cut in the middle of a wood with a drill possibly or something else, so that blade becomes parallel to the workpiece when you tip the jigsaw. Make sure the saw must be at when you tilt it and slowly putting the blade into entry cut in the middle of the wood. 
  • If you want a quick cut, the coarser blade will be good but you need to sanding work later. 

Cutting ceramic tile

Even though there are other tools such as tile nippers and ceramic rod saws to cut the ceramic tiles but they cut slow and damage the tiles more often than not. 

Cutting ceramic tile

Carbide-grit ceramic blade

To cut the ceramic tile with a jigsaw, you need a blade of max 1/4-in. Thick.

Cut slowly when working with tile

You need a carbide-grit ceramic blade for tile cutting. If you are cutting thin tiles use water to lubricate the blade and cool it down. While for the thicker ones, use cutting oil for lubricating the saw cut. 

Also, make sure the tile is tightened enough for the blade to work smoothly not vibrate otherwise it will break.

Cutting Sheet metal

To cut the sheet metal with a jigsaw, you need a proper blade of up to 10 gauge thick. 

Cutting Sheet metal

Metal Cutting Blade

You should choose blade of up to 21 to 24 teeth per inches to cut sheet metal 

Clamp metal between plywood to cut it

For keeping the sheet metal firm and to avoid any rough edges, firmly put the metal sheet between the plywood layer up and down. It may take more time to cut through the sandwich but it will be worth it. 

Rather than making plunge cuts, for pattern cutting, you need to drill starter holes for the blade to work smooth. Also, make sure there is enough clearance for the blade when you place the workpiece over the rail to cut over the workbench or sawhorses.

To cut metals, you must have a heavy-duty saw with features such as variable speed, orbital action, and vacuum hose that you will find only in costly jigsaws.

Jigsaw Blade and Basics

A jigsaw (or a saber saw) cuts when the jigsaw blade is activated by pulling a trigger and blade moves in up and down motion rapidly. You need to have a specific jigsaw blade to cut the type of material like metal, tile, wood, plastics, etc. It all depends on blade material that it can cuts or not. 

Jigsaw Blades

The blades should be 2 to 3-1/2 in. long for making tight cuts in the small radius and 1/4 in. to 3/8 in. wide for general purpose cutting. They are made of carbon steel. 

You may opt for 6 teeth per inch which cut rough or 10 teeth per inch for making smoother cuts. There is a different category of jigsaw blades and type of materials it can cut, it all depends on the kind of material it is made from. We recommend you buy the bimetal blades because they tend to last longer and don’t break more often. 

The blades are measured in TPI, teeth per inch. More the number of teeth, smoother the cuts. The blades with fewer teeth tend to move faster hence good for only rough work. 

Before buying a saw you must know the type of blade it comes with. This will help you to get the blades you need and stock up, rather than running out blades while working. Most jigsaws come with 1/4-in. Universal blade. 

Here are some features you will find in basic and heavy-duty jigsaws.

  • Variable speed: This will help you to increase or decrease the speed of blade based on your job. You just need to put the pressure on the trigger the way you blade to perform. You can slow or stop it just by releasing the trigger.
  • Orbital Action: There are two cutting actions in various jigsaw modes: straight and orbital. In Orbital motion, other than the normal up and down movement of the blade, it also moves forward. This motion is useful in cutting soft materials like wood or plastic. Because it is aggressive and fast motion, so the cuts will be less smooth.
  • Shoe (Jigsaw Base): The shoe or base of the jigsaw is placed on the material. For making straight cuts, shoe and blade must be at 90 degrees. While making a bevel cut through the material, you need to adjust the angle of the shoe (body and blade are tilted against the material).

Tips for Using Jigsaws

A jigsaw main attribute is to cut scrolls, circles, and curved shapes but it can also cut on straight lines. To make the straight rip cut you need a good rip fence and blade. 

Here are some tips to remember when learning how to use a jigsaw:

  • Don’t be in a hurry while cutting. Take your time and always stay outside of cutting like
  • Never make a tight curved in a single cut. Always use short relief cuts so that your blade doesn’t get bind. 
  • Make sure the workpiece won’t touch the worktable. Always raise it on the rail for the blade to work with its full potential.
  • Use masking tape on fine finishes
  • Always clamp wood to the bottom of the surface while cutting a thin sheet of metal. It will help in reducing vibration and provides a clean cut.
  • For making the cut in the middle of the wood, first, drill a ½ inch hole and then use the blade to begin the cut.

Jigsaw Safety

Safety is one of the most important things you need to keep in mind while using a jigsaw. While using any power tool you must have all safety gear with you and operate in a safe manner to prevent any serious injury.

  • While changing the blade always remove the battery in case of the cordless jigsaw and unplug it if you are using a corded one. 
  • Use the respective blade made to cut that material this will save you from untended kickback. 
  • Do not put unnecessary pressure on the saw. Let it cut at normal speed
  • Make sure the jigsaw shoe is placed firmly on the surface of the workpiece
  • Don’t lift the blade till it has finished cutting
  • To save your eyes from dust or flying particles always wear safety glasses, Wear ear protection from loud noise.
  • Wear gloves while operating and keep your hands far away from the blade

About the Author David Vieria

David has been a woodworker for most of his life — in his dad’s cabinet shop. After using the tools himself, he decided to share it his woodworking and power tools knowledge with DIYers. Read more about him

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Leave a Comment:

David A. thomas says

Hello Mate, your blog is really good. You have mentioned very helpful tips for using jig saws which is very helpful for me. Thanks for sharing this information with us.

Scroll Saw vs Jigsaw - Which One to Choose? - SawAdvisor says

[…] curved lines, and even perfect circles. Jigsaws were once used to cut pieces for jigsaw puzzles, so they can do even very fine designs. These saws are also very inexpensive. Typically, you can pick up a cheaper model for […]

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