The Best Jig Saws
After twelve hours of testing on fourteen models of saw, we believe that we’ve found the best jigsaws for just about every situation. They’re not quite essential but for many people, a jigsaw is a key feature of their toolset and we’d recommend them for anyone planning on making intricate cuts in wood.
Finding the best was the hard part, these handy little saws make complex cuts a snap and don’t take up the room that a full scroll saw would. So, let’s dive in with our favorite saw and then we’ll discuss how we picked them and our testing process before diving into them. There really is something for everyone.
Highly rated by those online and our reviewers, the Bosch JS470E is one of the best jigsaws around and the higher cost can easily be seen when you’re working with it. If you just want the best… pick this one up, you won’t be let down no matter what your intended use is.
In This Article:
- 1 Top Pick
- 2 The 6 Top-Rated Jig Saws
- 3 Who Needs a Jig Saw?
- 4 How We Selected the Jig Saws
- 5 How We Tested
- 6 Top 6 Jig Saws
- 7 Getting the Most Out of Your Jig Saw
- 8 Jig Saw FAQ
- 9 Smooth Curved Cuts and You
The 6 Top-Rated Jig Saws
|Best Overall Jig Saw||Bosch JS470E|
|Runner Up||DEWALT DW317|
|Best Cordless Jig Saw||DEWALT DCS334B|
|Best Barrel Handled Jig Saw||Bosch JS470EB|
|Best Value per Dollar||PORTER-CABLE PCE345|
|Best Budget Jig Saw||Meterk 3000 SPM Jig Saw|
Who Needs a Jig Saw?
Jigsaws are agile little saws that are often used to make intricate cuts in material. If a reciprocating saw is just a powered hacksaw, it’s best to think of a jigsaw as a powered jeweler’s saw. They’re smaller but allow for much more intricate cuts.
If you’ve ever wondered where the term “jigsaw puzzle” comes from… well, they were the tool originally used to cut them. That should give you a good idea of their capabilities.
Jigsaws can be found with a variety of different blades suitable for cutting different materials. Plastic, metal, wood, and pretty much anything short of stone and glass can be cut with one as long as you spend some time making sure you have the right blade.
Larger models can also be used to cut 2x4s or 2x2s in a pinch, although they’re really not the best tool for that particular job.
Jigsaws aren’t a workhorse saw. Instead, most people have a specific purpose in mind when they begin to use one. They’re much cheaper than band saws, thankfully, while maintaining almost the same utility, they just tend to be a bit less precise since the saws have a tendency to vibrate more like any handheld tool.
If you’re on the fence… well, pick one up. We’re sure that any hobbyist will find a great use for one in no time.
How We Selected the Jig Saws
Jigsaws are a bit different from the usual fare when it comes down to it. In this case, the professionals who use them are fairly rare, working in specialized creative fields, so we went with the next best thing: woodworking forums.
We asked around to see what saws people were using and what they liked about them. Afterwards, we cross-referenced with the general online consensus about the saws before deciding on which ones to bring in for testing.
We found the following to be essential qualities.
Build quality always comes first to us, but it’s particularly important to jigsaws. Since they work through a reciprocating action and are meant for intricate cutting you’ll find a shoddy jigsaw is just a less powerful Sawzall in the end.
The entire saw needs to be held together well, and that often means the best of them are a little bit heavier than you’d expect. It may take some getting used to, but in the end, the extra weight means less vibration.
Of those we tested two had considerable amounts of play in the blade, which made them worthless as far as we were concerned. They certainly didn’t make our list, as the focus was kept on the primary function of the saws.
Orbital saws move the blade in a slight ellipse instead of straight up and down. While that might seem to be a disadvantage at first glance it actually does a few great things for the saw.
The biggest is that it all but eliminates “chattering” which is the vibrating action you’ll find in low-end saws. These relatively minor vibrations can greatly effect a cut and while you should still be able to make a decent curve with one it takes more skill and you’re likely to have to refine the cut with a rasp or sandpaper afterwards which is a major pain.
It also keeps down on wear on the saw blade since it’s not in constant contact with the workpiece.
Some saws have an adjustable orbit, allowing you to swing wider or shallower depending on the setting. A longer orbit cuts more aggressively.
While not necessary for everyone, adjustable speed is exactly what you need if you’re planning on cutting materials other than wood.
Slow things down with metal and plastic for a smoother cut and you can speed it up to match the type of wood you’re cutting.
Quick Change Blades
Most modern jigsaws are able to change blades with no tools and in only a few seconds. While it might be marginally more secure if you’re not using a quick change, in practice we found this to be pretty much essential.
Saws which require a tool for removal are just a pain, especially since jigsaws often employ tiny allen screws for securing the blade in place. It can be frustrating to have to undo the screw, make sure you don’t lose it, and then put the blade and screw back in.
Some jigsaws can function quite a bit like scroll saws, allowing you to turn a knob on the top to make the process of cutting smooth curves easier. And it does… if you have a lot of experience with a jigsaw since you have to keep a constant level of pressure behind the saw while turning the knob for it to cut smoothly.
If you don’t have that level of skill you’re likely to find the scrolling function worthless. The thought is nice, but even some experienced woodworkers that we talked to insisted it was an unnecessary feature.
There are a few other things to keep an eye out for, just be aware that they’ll all add to the cost of the saw quite a bit:
- Laser Guides-If you’re planning on making a lot of straight cuts with your jigsaw, then you should definitely be looking for a laser guide. The saws like to twist when making straight cuts and a laser will help keep you on the line.
- Beveling-Some of these saws can also be used to make bevel cuts, which is a nice touch for some projects. Look for something which can do both 22.5 and 45-degree cuts for the best results.
- Dust Collection-While not strictly necessary, many jigsaws can pick up dust as you go along. Some can also hook to a shop vac although we didn’t test that feature out ourselves. Dust collection both keeps the workpiece clean, allowing you to see your lines and helps for those who are sensitive to wood dust.
How We Tested
Once the saws had all arrived we had to come up with a battery of tests in order to figure out which was the best in real-world applications.
After some thought, we did the following:
- Straight Cutting: We cut a 6”x6” piece of wooden paneling straight across. We repeated the process four times with each saw, checking to see which were the easiest to hold straight.
- Pattern Cutting: To test the capabilities of the saws we decided to find a simple pattern to cut. We settled on this T-rex because who doesn’t love dinosaurs? Each saw was used to cut the pattern once in ¼” MDF and then checked for accuracy. All were able to cut the pattern, but some needed much more finishing work done by hand than others.
- Other Cutting Capabilities: We eliminated quite a few saws during the pattern cutting process. Those which remained then had blades switched to plastic blades and were used to make a couple of relatively random cuts derived from a french curve. We then tested a metal blade in a 22g copper sheet like those used for jewelry.
All in all, we felt that all of this was a good setup for making sure the saws were good during real-world use. We settled on five as the top saws and also included one budget model for those who aren’t planning on heavily using their saw.
The short form of the results broke down as follows:
- The Bosch JS470E proved to be a versatile, powerful jigsaw with smooth control and a great amount of variability in its four orbital settings. It would be our first choice for home use in most cases.
- The DEWALT DW317 was a runner up. The lower cost is nice and it has a great speed control but it wasn’t quite up to par with the Bosch.
- As always, DeWalt won out with their cordless model, in this case, the DEWALT DCS334B, which runs on standard DeWalt 20V batteries and delivers smooth cutting and a surprising amount of power for a cordless tool.
- The Bosch JS470EB was the same as our favorite in everything but the barrel handle. Most of our reviewers preferred top handled models but if you’re looking for a barrel handle we can safely recommend this excellent jigsaw.
- The PORTER-CABLE PCE345 was another fast favorite and if you’re looking for a cheaper model you’ll be surprised at how awesome it is for the money although it’s not quite in the realm of a “budget tool” just yet.
- The ultra-cheap Meterk 3000 SPM Jig Saw only made it into testing by a hair since it was so cheap and came from a brand we’d never heard of. Still, we were pleasantly surprised to see it fully function through testing and it has most of the features you need even though the build quality wasn’t particularly impressive.
All-in-all, we felt that the time spent testing these saws was well worth it. Most of those eliminated were from off-brand manufacturers, really you can’t go wrong with a modern jigsaw from most brands… these just ended up being our favorites.
Top 6 Jig Saws
Each of these saws has its own set of strengths. We think that for many people cost will end up being the deciding factor, but we’d urge you to take a look at our favorite and the runner up before you start diving for the bottom of the barrel. The difference in the finish wasn’t that big, but the difference in use was major.
Best Overall Jig Saw
The JS470E at A Glance:
- Power: 7A
- Cordless?: No
- Orbital Settings: 4
- Speed Control: 500-3100 Variable
Smooth cutting, more powerful than the others, and well-built are all qualities that come to mind with this jigsaw. It really was the best of those we tried out by a wide margin.
The orbital settings and speed controls are both in great places, allowing for easy adjustment on the fly and the 7 amp motor did better in metal than any of the others we used. The super-wide range in the speed control was also nice and makes this an excellent jigsaw for those who are planning on cutting a wide variety of materials.
It functioned well in both the pattern and straight cut tests as well, with the puzzle pieces needing virtually no finishing when cut. The handle is well done, allowing for an easy grip and the ability to maintain constant pressure as well.
The advanced circuitry was also nice, and not something you find on just every jigsaw. It functions by keeping the saw’s strokes per minute at a constant rate, rather than making you guess while you’re applying pressure to the saw. It does lack some extras like a laser guide, but we feel that’s a small price to pay.
The DW317 at a Glance:
- Power: 5.5A
- Cordless?: No
- Orbital Settings: 4
- Speed Control: 0-3100 variable
If the above Bosch seems to be out of your league in price, then you’ll be quite pleased with this option from DeWalt. It has all of the great features we expect in a modern jigsaw and maintained smooth cutting ability.
The only real problem was that we tested it after the Bosch so it felt a little bit underpowered in comparison since the motor sits at “only” 5.5 amps. The orbital action really eats at wood and the weight of the tool makes it fantastic for straight cuts.
It also had the easiest blade change of all those we tested, which is great if you’re planning on cutting multiple materials in a single workshop session. The whole thing feels solid and there was absolutely no play in the blade.
The price is definitely right. It’s not a “budget” saw by any means but it’s likely to prove it’s worth over the span of a long, long life. Indeed, it may be a better job site saw for those who use jigsaws than even the Bosch, it’s built tough.
Best Cordless Jig Saw
The DCS334B at a Glance:
- Power: Runs on 20V MAX battery
- Cordless?: Yes
- Orbital Settings: 4
- Speed Control: 0-3200 Variable
If you’re looking to get uncorded with your jigsaw, DeWalt offers this excellent saw. Comparable in power to the plugin saws we tested while having all of the features expected of a modern jigsaw made it a fast favorite.
The only reason it wasn’t our top pick was because of the high price. If you already have a DeWalt battery or two lying around, however, the quality of the tool makes it a steal. Just make sure you have them as the tool is sold bare by DeWalt, meaning you’ll have to pick up a 20V battery to go with it which is… well, it’s pretty expensive.
That said, apart from the fact that the battery runs out you’d never suspect this saw was cordless. It’s powerful, smooth, and a bit heavy once the battery is inserted which helps to maintain lines with your jigsaw.
Apart from the cost, it’s only real weakness is that it’s battery-powered, which means you may have to stop in the middle of a job and charge the battery if you don’t have another one on hand.
Best Barrel Handled Jig Saw
The JS470EB at a Glance:
- Power: 7A
- Cordless?: No
- Orbital Settings: 4
- Speed Control: 500-3100 Variable
This is the exact same as our favorite, but the external configuration is different. We’re not big on barrel handles, finding them to be a bit more cumbersome for fine cutting, but if you’re planning on using your jigsaw for straight cuts primarily it’s a good option.
Like our favorite, there’s a lot to be recommended here. It’s extremely powerful, smooth, easy to control, and has a build-quality best described as absolutely exceptional.
The biggest difference is in the handle, barrel handles allow for easy movement in a straight line but we found them cumbersome for more complex cutting.
Best Value per Dollar
The PCE345 at a Glance:
- Power: 6A
- Cordless?: No
- Orbital Settings: 4
- Speed Control: 0-3200, 7 settings
If you’re looking to get the most value for your money, then you’ll be quite pleased with the PCE345. It’s a powerful jigsaw with great orbital settings and awesome construction but it doesn’t quite compare to the Bosch or DeWalt options that topped our list.
Overall it’s a solid saw. The biggest problem we had was the fact that it has 7 speed settings instead of a smooth variable controller which can be a pain with specialty materials but won’t affect most people’s usage.
The motor is quite powerful, but keep in mind there’s no control circuitry for constant speed with this one. You’ll have to adjust for the load depending on the material that you’re cutting. Most people are used to compensating for this anyway but if you’ve only used advanced saws before it can be a pain.
It also vibrated fairly heavily compared to the more expensive, and heavier, saws. It’s not a cheap piece that’ll ruin your work, but keep a set of wood or metal files handy for finishing edges after you’ve made the cut.
Best Budget Jig Saw
Meterk 3000 SPM Jig Saw
At a Glance:
- Power: 6.6A
- Cordless?: No
- Orbital Settings: Variable
- Speed Control: 0-3000 Variable
This saw doesn’t quite measure up to the rest on our list but the low price and surprising quality of the item meant that we just had to include it for those who are working with a tight budget.
It’s surprisingly feature-filled. Even the orbit is on a variable control, allowing you to make fine adjustments. And… well, you might need to, this saw is pretty light and vibrates more than any of the others which made our list by quite a bit.
Still, when judged against the price and some of the other saws which we eliminated during testing it’s a good piece of work. The light weight combined with the 6.6A motor seems to be the culprit in this case rather than something wrong with the engineering.
As a budget tool for occasional use, it’s great and the cost is low enough that nearly anyone can afford to snatch one up. We wouldn’t recommend it for dedicated craftsmen, however.
Getting the Most Out of Your Jig Saw
All tools require a certain amount of skill to use, but when the results from a jigsaw matter as much on the skill of the operator as it does on the tool itself.
Clamps are your best friend when it comes to cutting curves, keeping the workpiece solid against a surface will make things much easier on you. Make sure that you set the speed and orbital control to the appropriate settings for the material.
Experience is going to be the end determiner of how just how well things go, of course. Learning to cut smooth curves will take a lot of time and if you’re planning on future artistic usage… well, expect to burn through some blades during the learning process.
Thankfully, templates can easily be found online. You can also work with exterior curves by finding silhouette designs and tracing them on the workpiece.
To get the most out of your saw you’ll need to spend time with it.
Fortunately, jigsaws tend to be more forgiving of mistakes than high powered saws like table saws and reciprocating saws. You usually won’t have to deal with things like kickback or a workpiece suddenly jumping when you cut through it.
That said, safety goggles and basic caution is still strongly advised.
The important thing is to get out there and have fun, jigsaws can open a whole new world of expression for the people who really take to them.
Jig Saw FAQ
Here we go, we’ve anticipated some of your questions and answered those our reviewers had during testing. If we haven’t answered your question, drop us a line in the comments and we’ll get back to you at the first opportunity.
How do I do an interior cut?
Use a drill bit of the appropriate size to drill a hole in the template that will fit your saw blade and then drop it in and get cutting. It’s easier to use a jigsaw for these cuts than a scroll saw since you won’t have to move the blade, you can just set the tool over the hole.
Do I need a jigsaw or a scroll saw?
Scroll saws are able to make more intricate cuts more easily, but they also cost a lot more and aren’t nearly as useful for DIY tasks. A jigsaw with the right blade and enough depth of cut can make it through a 2×4 without damage, as opposed to the fragile blades on a scroll saw. That said if you become skilled with a jigsaw you’re not going to be limited much when compared to a scroll saw.
How are jigsaws related to puzzles?
Early jigsaw puzzles were constructed from wooden paintings. A primitive jigsaw was then used to cut the pieces, which is where the name of the puzzles comes from. People still do it for high-end puzzles, although the majority on the market these days are actually just punched cardboard over a print.
Are there different types of jigsaw blades?
There are two main types: U and T style blades. The majority of modern saws use T blades, but you should double-check before you make the purchase of a set of blades because they’re not interchangeable.
What TPI is ideal with a jigsaw?
As any wood cutting goes… the more teeth the finer the cut since they’ll chip less material at a time. The orbital action on modern jigsaws helps quite a bit here, however, making for much smoother cuts than you’d get with a standard up/down action.
Is a bigger orbit better?
Not necessarily. At the highest settings a jigsaw can seriously chew through wood but the largest orbitals aren’t appropriate for other materials. As always, it’s recommended to use the lowest possible setting that’s still doing what you want it to.
Can a jigsaw be used as a workhorse saw?
If you’re cutting lumber on a regular basis you should get something more powerful. The small size of jigsaws and their blade will lead to overheating pretty rapidly if you’re planning on doing a whole framing job with one or something. That said, as long as the depth is there and you can hold the saw straight they do a passable job cutting lumber.
Smooth Curved Cuts and You
Jigsaws might not be one of the “essentials” of woodworking but they make it possible to do some pretty creative stuff without having to really spend a ton of money. Operator skill matters more here than with many saw variants, but a good jigsaw will help you learn much more quickly.
If you don’t already have one… well, maybe it’s time to pick one up. The world of smooth curves and intricate cuts can be yours for a small price and some practice.