Sometimes I do a project and in the instructions I say “Just cut out X with a jigsaw” (or a scroll saw or a miter saw – you get the point!) I’ve been using power tools so long that I forgot that most people have never picked one up and it’s a scary thing to do for the first time. So when I decided to start a series about using power tools for those who have never been brave enough to attempt it, I corralled my good buddy (aka partner in crime) Jenna from Rain on a Tin Roof to join me in a new series we’re calling POWER TOOLS 101. Today I’m sharing all about how to use a jigsaw – while Jenna is tackling a drill. So if you’re seriously a DIY newbie, jump on over to learn all about drill use. Before we get into the fun stuff, let’s review power tool usage in general:
- Always wear appropriate safety gear when using power tools. Safety glasses, ear protection, etc. Depending on the material you are working with and what tool you are using it might be slightly different, but just be safe!
- Read the manual before you start. Yeah, it’s boring. I know – and honestly I don’t always do it if I’m just buying another version of the same tool I’ve been using for 20+ years (like a drill). But you should, especially if you’re just starting out.
- Know where thy fingers are. Seriously. My grandad owned a sawmill wayyyy back in the day, so this has been drilled into my head since the day I was born. Blades and fingers do not mix.
- Pay attention to your surroundings. Know who’s around you, where you are working, what materials are around. You don’t want to cut metal (which makes sparks) next to a pile of sawdust. Be extra cautious.
- Properly maintain your tools. They’re an investment – so to make the most of that investment (plus to keep them as safe as you can), maintain them properly. Do be sure to re-read the instructions that come with your tool to do it as needed.
Alright! Let’s learn about how to use a jigsaw. I use a Black and Decker Select Smart from Walmart. Fancy, huh? I’ve had a few jigsaws over the years, and honestly this baby works great for the price. For around $40, it has a tilting blade, speed control and quick change blade. Those three things are what I look for the most when buying a skill saw. It gives you the most control over your tool and helps you get the job done quickly and accurately. You can buy different blades for different materials for a jigsaw. Thick wood, thinner wood, metal – there are lots of choices and I typically buy packs of them at Lowe’s for the best deal. Mark out whatever you want to cut with the saw on wood (or metal). There’s a little notch at the front of the blade guard, but honestly I find that it can get you off mark when doing something curvy or wonky – so I watch the actual blade instead. Starting off on the edge of the material (mine was wood) you’re going to be away from the lines and work your way to them. Then slowly, carefully guide the saw, letting it do the work. Squeezing the handle controls the speed, so be gentle. It’s like learning to drive for the first time – you don’t go straight to the interstate, you start on isolate roads. You start out slow and steady. Do the same with a jigsaw. After a few projects you’ll be a cutting fool and be able to control it at faster speeds, but accuracy is key with this tool and I still go slow even after using one for 2 decades. Be a turtle! Now let’s say you want to cut inside a circle (think like a donut). Use a drill (see Jenna’s post is coming in handy here) and drill a hole that’s bigger than your blade. Then insert your blade into the hole and cut just like you do on outside parameters. See that cut? My husband puts his hole right on the line and cuts from there. I’m not that brave, so I go just inside it and cut my way over. After you cut it all out, then sand the edges and you’re ready to paint or stain or whatever it is comes next. Trouble shooting tips
- If your cutting medium jumps up and down, give it more support. (Don’t laugh, the struggle is real!)
- If your lines are wonky, slow down. Goooooo slllooowwwwlllllyyyy.
- If you are having to push the saw to make it cut, change the blade.
- If all else fails – READ THE MANUAL.
Ok – that’s my tips and advice for how to use a jigsaw! Got more questions? I’ll do my best to answer them! What tool scares you the most? I might cover it next month!
Great information, I just have one question. Does it matter what brand blades to buy for my jigsaw?Also I have an older jigsaw and am having a hard time with a straight line. thanks, Joyce
Gina Luker says
Take your blade out of your jigsaw and take it to Lowes it doesn’t matter what brand you buy as long as the part that goes into the saw matches.
I have a jigsaw and I used it for a small project. It was easy to work with and this was a great recap! I already had some shop skills, which made things easy for me. My question is in regards to the project I did where I used my jigsaw to carve out some notches for a hinge – a little rectangle cut about an inch wide and a half inch in length. I guess my question is how tight of a curve can you do with a jigsaw?
As for another tool you could cover… what about a reciprocating saw?
Gina Luker says
You need to get it as tight as you can and to do so you can cut half on one side then cut the other half to get a tight curve.
For tight cuts with a jig saw us a scroll blade. They fit your saw and are made just for that . Cutting one side and the other your setting yourself up for mistakes. My saw is a skill and has a scrolling knob to turn the blade making scroll work so much nicer.
Gina Luker says
Thanks so much Richard!
How do you know when to use a jigsaw vs. circular saw etc? Are there projects better for one over the other?
Woohoo!! Great post and just what I need. I just opened up my wood workshop, aka my garage to do some woodwork and crafting so this series is going to come in very handy for me since I’m new to it all. Thank you so much! -Bev
I am not ready yet to use a saw of any type! But I love it that there is someone out there willing to share their knowledge. You constantly see a post about how to build something that the person writing thought would be simple and so do you till you come to that part about using a power tool. At that point my mind just stops and I look for another post. I need to learn how to use the drill first! I look forward to reading your series!
Great info. I really appreciate the tips and cannot wait for the rest of the series.
Circular saws! Scare me to death. They are heavy and I’m afraid of kickbacks.
Linda Blackerby says
Thanks to both you and Jenna. I’ve been wanting to learn to use power tools but have been afraid. These are great tutorials for beginners like myself.