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How to Choose and Use a Jig Saw

Ask This Old House general contractor Tom Silva shows the best uses for a jigsaw and how to choose the right one for the job


  1. Choose which type of grip suits you best. There is the barrel-handle jigsaw or the top-handle jigsaw. This is largely a comfort choice, so try out both.
  2. This saw is great for curved cuts, circle cuts and scribed cuts on walls.
  3. The orbital setting is important when choosing a jigsaw. Jigsaws cut in an upstroke and the orbital setting controls how much the blade moves back and forth. At zero, the blade moves straight up and down like a sewing needle.
  4. For fine cuts, keep the orbital setting low. A higher setting is more powerful, but less precise.
  5. Also, check the speed setting. The speed of the blade of the blade can impact the power of the blade. The thicker the wood, the more speed you may want. Use slower speeds to cut metals and plastic.
  6. Look at the bevel setting. Lay the bevel flat for a zero-angle cut. Move the bevel for a more angled cut like a 45-degree.
  7. Choose a blade depending on what type of cut you want to make. If you want to cut something fine, like a veneer, use a blade with the teeth facing down, so the blade cuts down and not up.
  8. For a more aggressive cut, use a blade with the teeth facing upward, so the blade cuts on the upswing.
  9. There are blades with teeth both up and down for a moderate cut.
  10. Be sure to look at how the blade connects to the saw. Some jigsaws accept “T” type shank while others accept a straight shank, so choose the one that matches your saw.
  11. When making a cut, make sure the shoe is level on the cutting surface. If it isn’t, it’s possible the blade could jump.
  12. Keep a firm grip on the saw to prevent the blade from jumping.
  13. Let the saw do the work. Do not push or pull the saw. This could drastically affect the cut.


Tom demonstrated best jigsaw practices by showing several examples, including the 561593, Festool Carvex Ps 420 EBQ Jigsaw, manufactured by Festool and the JS470E Top-Handle Jigsaw, manufactured by Bosch Power Tools.

Jigsaw blades can be purchased from home centers and hardware stores.