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The jigsaw can be a difficult tool to setup and get great results with. That sounds odd given that it is a perfect beginner tool, especially for those that are budget conscious. I’ve identified six factors that you must get right in order to make the jigsaw behave and work well for you. These factors are pretty easy to get right, but the power comes in knowing them.
I also have a video and article completely covering the jigsaw and how to use it.
#1 Dull Blade
Jigsaw blades don’t stay sharp forever. Cheap blades don’t stay sharp for long at all. If you aren’t sure how old your blade is, or if you’ve been using it for awhile, swap it out for a new one. You might be shocked at how much better it cuts.
#2 Pushing Too Hard
Ah, one of life’s great lessons that applies in so many scenarios.
Saw blades in general are designed to do the work of cutting wood for you. You only need to apply enough pressure to keep the jigsaw moving forward. Pushing too hard can overwhelm the ability of the blade to cut and remove wood.
Just let the blade do its job while you hold it straight and steady.
#3 Wrong Type of Blade
There are a surprising number of jigsaw blade types. There are blades for every material – plastic, metal, laminate, light wood, dense wood…. There are blades that cut on the upstroke, downstroke, and both up and down.
New jigsaw owners tend to just assume a blade is a blade, throw one in the saw, and go to town. But, that’s a quick way to anger and frustration. Make sure you choose the right blade for the job and, just as importantly, know how the blade is going to make the jigsaw behave so you’re ready.
#4 Bad Saw
I’m not usually one to blame a tool for bad results. A woodworker with enough skill can make just about any tool adequate. The jigsaw is an exception.
It’s designed as a top-heavy tool with a small base and the blade is unsupported at the bottom. These characteristics don’t encourage stability. Combine that with an old or cheap saw that vibrates and chatters, and you’ve got a tool that’s a nightmare to use.
This probably isn’t THE reason your jigsaw isn’t cutting straight, but it could be a big contributing factor.
#5 The Base is Tilted
While the idea of this video and article is to avoid bevel cuts – most jigsaws have a tilting base for cutting bevels on purpose. It’s a good idea to check that the base is square to the blade.
I like to do this by loosening the base just enough so that it will move, but doesn’t flop around, and then setting a small square on the blade.
Even if you’ve never tilted the base you should still check it for square. Also, check it every few months to make sure it hasn’t moved.
#6 Holding the Saw Straight
It may seem overly simple, but you’d be surprised how many times we are our own worst enemies. If you aren’t practiced enough to keep the jigsaw steady and straight, it doesn’t matter if you have every one of the above factors nailed down.
As you’re learning the jigsaw and getting some practice in, use a straight edge to guide the saw. This is still a technique you could use once you’re an expert, but it will especially help you become familiar with the tool in the beginning and still get a good result.
Putting it all together
With a decent saw, the right blade that’s in fairly new condition, and a square base, position yourself so that you won’t have to move your body. Get in a good balanced stance with your feet about shoulder width apart. Have a line of sight to where the blade is cutting for the entire cut. If you lean further and further as the saw cuts, that can introduce unsteadiness and cause you to wander off the line. Start the saw and push it through the cut letting the saw do the work while you keep it stable and steady.
If you’re looking to go further and get a comprehensive look at the jigsaw and how it works, check out my Jigsaw Tips and Tricks article and video.
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