How to use a jigsaw – Beginners Guide

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jigsaw beginners guide

Jigsaw is probably the most favorite tool among carpenters and DIY professionals; it can easily make straight or beveled cuts in many materials: wood, aluminum, plastics, synthetic foam, MDF boards and plywood. Even fret works, the jigsaw is used widely in this field. In short, a saw “to do everything”.

In this guide, it will be a good start for you if you are a beginner, we will discuss important details any beginner should know, from the uses and components of jigsaw to the cutting techniques.

Jigsaw Components

First, we need to know the basic components of any jigsaw. 

Most jigsaws have common components like the shoe, the on/off switch, the blade, the pendulum motion switch, the guide roller etc,.

jigsaw components

Uses of Jigsaw

Jigsaws are used nearly to create any types of cuts. Also, it can cut through any type of materials, like wood, ceramic tiles and metal sheets. Later on, you will know that jigsaw have settings that must be adjusted according to the type of cut and the material. If you use the right settings, this will give you great results.

Main Types of Jigsaws

There are two main types of jigsaws, and those types are:


Top handle jigsaws

This is the most common type, a handle, on which the power switch and the speed control switch, at the top of the motor. This type makes it comfortable for carpenters and DIYers to use the saw for straight cuts, which is why it’s so popular. The only disadvantage of this type is the curves and angles; you will find it a little bit inconvenient for you make precise bevel cuts and curves because you do not see the cutting line or the blade while cutting. However, with some practice, you will be able to do it precisely.

Barrel grip jigsaw

Barrel grip jigsaws

The second type does not have a separate handle; in fact, the motor casing is the handle. This type is also being used a lot; it gives you precise cuts and makes it convenient to use the tool to make curves and beautiful cuts like in furniture pieces. The only drawback of this type is the circumference of the handle as it may be bigger than the user’s hand, and it may be harder for him to use this type.

Jigsaw Operation Mechanism

Jigsaws have a built-in bevel gearbox, the motor drives the vertical blade at high speed (up to 3000 strokes/min).

The blade is installed in a groove of guide rollers, the blade vertical motion provides the feeding force, and prevents deviated movements on the sides, which ensures accurate cuts in thick materials.

Creating precise cuts effortlessly

Lightweight, maneuverable, and safe to use, the jigsaw is one of the most popular cutting tools in DIY. Thanks to a wide range of blades, it makes it easy to saw various materials with sufficient precision. The power of the models ranges from 300 to 800 W.

It also comes in an affordable price, low power machines (up to 450 W) are short of breath on thick materials that are beyond 50 mm. The 500 to 800 W models do not have faster oscillation frequency, but this extra energy doubles the cutting capacity and makes it possible to saw harder materials. Especially if it is associated with a pendulum motion and a quality blade.

jigsaw cutting metal

What is jigsaw pendulum motion?

You have two types of motion in the jigsaw blade, the first one is up and down (of course), the second one is forward, and backward, which is the pendulum motion, this motion makes it possible to cut through hard materials more efficiently.

To make it crystal clear, the jigsaw follows an elliptical trajectory. At the upward motion, it tilts forward to increase the attack of the teeth over the entire piece of wood and accelerates the cut. At the downward motion, the blade moves backward to reduce the friction and evacuate sawdust.

I’d like you to watch this video so you can figure out what the pendulum motion really is:

Jigsaw settings


Jigsaw Speed

Basic models are running at full speed and used on wood. Because of the risk of overheating, the cutting of metals or plastics is virtually excluded. However, if your machine has a speed-changing switch, you can adjust the speed (from 500 to 3,100 strokes/min) depending on the material. Use low speeds for metal sheets or ceramic, average speed for soft metals and plastics, maximum speed for wood and its products.

The pendulum motion

You will find a switch of three or four positions, which makes it possible to choose the pendulum motion degree according to the material being cut. Use maximum pendulum settings for fast cuts in softwood or synthetic materials. However, you should know that the surfaces are getting rougher in high speeds. Reduce the pendulum motion for hard or thick woods, lumber sheets and non-ferrous metals. For thin cuts in wood, steel or fragile materials (polystyrene, tiles), it is better to remove the pendulum motion.

Jigsaw Shoe Adjustment

The saw shoe supports the machine; and it has the ability to tilt on both sides of the blade from 0 ° to 45 ° to create beveled cuts. To do this, slightly loosen the screws that hold it and adjust it to the desired angle, these screws are usually tightened by an Allen wrench. Most jigsaws have common angle gradients, which are (15 °, 20 °, 30 ° and 45 °). On many models, the saw shoe moves back to clear some space for the blade. It is, thus, possible to make cuts at the level of a vertical wall.

Using the jigsaw to make different cuts

Creating straight cuts with jigsaw

Straight cuts do not require great precision; you just draw a thick line with your pen and follow it. For parallel cuts near the edge (up to 30 cm), use jigsaw parallel guides. These guides will allow you to create cuts parallel to the edge of the material, you should fit the guides on the shoe of the jigsaw and start cutting.

straight cuts jigsaw

Creating bevel cuts with jigsaw

Bevel cuts can be made by adjusting the angle of the jigsaw shoe. If you are lucky, you will find a built-in protractor on your jigsaw to determine your preferred angle. The inclination of the blade reduces its cutting capacity; so do not forget to consider that.

bevel cuts jigsaw

Creating inner cuts with jigsaw (Openings for example)

It is better to have a drill and a bit that is larger than the jigsaw blade, you should draw a circle on the sheet, drill at the side of the cutting line that you’ve just drawn and then start cutting from the hole that you made. By this way, you will save a lot of time and effort and you will not waste a lot of wood.

creating opening with jigsaw

General Steps on How to Use a Jigsaw

Fit the blade on the jigsaw

Using the Allen wrench, loosen the blade screw and install your blade according to the material that you want to cut. Newer jigsaw models may have blade lock, so make sure you push on it to release the mechanism when you want to remove or install the blade.


Adjust your preferred cutting speed

The speed switch makes it possible to have the cutting speed according to the material. We choose a slow speed for hard metals, average for soft and fragile materials, fast for wood and products.

jigsaw cutting speed

Adjust the pendulum motion degree

The pendulum motion improves the cutting speed and the evacuation of sawdust. Several settings can be adopted depending on the strength of the material and the desired finish.

jigsaw pendulum motion

Connect the suction system

All modern current jigsaws have a dust extraction system to connect to a vacuum cleaner. It clears the cutting line for a better vision of the work and avoids the heating of the blade.

Start the cut

To initiate a cut, place the front of the shoe on the wood and align the blade on the path. Hold the saw firmly with both hands and start the engine at full speed before start the cutting.

start cut jigsaw

Making parallel cuts with jigsaw

To make straight cuts parallel to the edge, use the jigsaw parallel guide, it is usually supplied as standard. The maximum cutting width with this accessory depends on the length of its sliding rod.

Making Complex cuts

The jigsaw is an efficient tool when it comes to complex cuts. To make it easier to maneuver the tool, make bold lines to create the cutting path, and cut it into several pieces instead of cutting it one time.

Creating inner cuts with jigsaw

If you want to cut an interior rectangle or square window, make the cut with a pilot hole near the path. Cut to the first corner, and then cut the adjacent sides.

cutting inner square jigsaw

Cutting a circle with jigsaw

You can easily do this with jigsaw circle cutting guide, it is like the parallel cutting guide. Just install the cutting guide on the shoe, place the tip of the guide on the center of the circle, and turn around it.

cutting circle jigsaw

Cutting laminate and melamine sheets with jigsaw

Laminate and melamine sheets are often fragile objects and have an unfortunate tendency to produce splinters during sawing. Use a splinter guard or masking tape on the cutting line to achieve a good result and prevent splinters for flying around.

splinter guard jigsaw

Cutting PVC pipes

Jigsaws also allow the cutting of plastic and PVC, provided you use the correct blade and settings. To cut through PVC. First, fix the pipe firmly, and then you have two options, whether you have a long blade or a short one, if you have a long blade you can cut it all through the pipe without the need to rotate it after cutting, but if you have a short blade, it is better to be shorter than the pipe diameter to avoid hitting the bottom and you have to rotate the pipe to make the cut completely.

cutting pvc jigsaw

Bottom Line

Jigsaws are amazing tools that enable you to create any types of cuts, where they are bevel, straight or curved, but for best practice, you must use the correct blades, settings and speeds. Remember, this tool is for little detail work, not for heavy duty, so don’t try to cut through 2x4s because it is not designed to cut through that much wood, so generally, don’t go beyond a thickness of 1 inch