StoryID
501378
ToolNumber
1
ComponentId
tcm:78-1626955

Photos: David Sharpe

0ver a career building boats, working wood, and remodeling houses, I've learned that great jigsaws are like great boats and great sports cars: tight, precise, and easy to drive through a turn. Like all boat builders, I cut a lot of curves, and the tool I rely on most for that is my jigsaw.

Having owned both wonderful and lousy jigsaws (and sports cars), I know that good design counts more with jigsaws than with many of the other tools in my shop. Luckily, I could tell just taking these tools out of the boxes that the saws in this test are greatly improved compared with the models available even just a few years ago.

Test Criteria

I tested eight saws: the Bosch 1590EVSK, Craftsman 27719, DeWalt DW321K, Hitachi CJ120V, Makita 4340FCT, Metabo STEB105 Plus, Milwaukee 6266-22, and Ridgid R3120. I used them for three weeks on boatbuilding and cabinetmaking jobs, and dialing-in finish carpentry. I noted features that made the saws user friendly, like easy blade changes, fast base tilt, and a good dust blower. I also studied each saw's performance by cutting plywood from 1/8 to 3/4 inch, various softwoods, and hardwoods up to 8/4 inch thick. I also cut Lexan, Plexiglas, and aluminum. I timed crosscuts on SPF 2x6s to gauge speed and power. I also scroll-cut details and tight circles to check blade wander or swayout. To keep things fair, I used the same brand and types of blades in all the saws.

Cutting Performance

We ask a lot from a jigsaw, and high on that list is getting a square cut in tough materials. We also want a smooth-operating, comfortable saw that stays on a thin pencil line and doesn't jump in thin material but also has the power to muscle through 2-by and countertop stock and doesn't pile up sawdust on the cut line.

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Craftsman's powerful blower keeps the cut line clear.

Scrolling and Swayout. Swayout, or blade wander, is the tendency for the blade to deflect, particularly when scrolling, which results in out-of-square cuts, particularly in thick materials. All the saws in the test have roller guides near their bases to steady the blades, which functioned satisfactorily. Bosch takes blade control a step further with its unique "precision control" feature; it's an extra guide, activated by a button on the side of the tool, that clamps over the blade to steady it.

I tested for swayout cutting a tight scroll pattern in a section of 6/4-inch maple countertop, a job that will make any blade want to wander (or just run away), then checked each cut's accuracy with a try square. The Bosch's blade deflected about 1/32 inch with the precision control feature engaged and about 1/16 inch without it. The Makita has no such feature, yet exhibited only a hair over 1/32-inch swayout–impressive. The Metabo, Milwaukee, and Ridgid came in with about 1/16-inch swayout, while the Craftsman and Hitachi exhibited about 1/8-inch. The DeWalt's cut was 3/32 inch out of plumb. In softer materials like SPF, PT, and cedar 2-by, all the saws performed much better, with near- perfect cuts.

Smoothness and Feel. Cutting to a line, say for a cabinet filler or notching a laminate countertop blank for wall irregularities, is precision work. I used each saw to cut along a scribe line that followed a slight belly in a plaster wall at the end of an upper cabinet run. I cut in various hard and softwood species and other materials I have in my shop, including mahogany, maple, maple butcher block, teak, marine plywood, white oak, yellow pine, pressure-treated, Lexan, and Plexiglas. I ran the saws through the materials using each of their orbital cutting settings, and they all performed as I expected them to. The Bosch, Craftsman, and DeWalt models, however, were a little smoother when the line curved, especially in tough material.

Handles. During this portion of the test, I found myself noticing the each tools' handle layout. While they all have well-shaped primary handles and each one felt comfortable, I also hold a saw's head for extra control on precision cuts like scribes or countertop penetrations, and I found Hitachi's the most comfortable. The Makita is also a dream following a scribe line. Next I like the DeWalt and Milwaukee, followed up by the Bosch, Metabo, Ridgid, and Craftsman.

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Makita's bright halogen light is no gimmick. I liked it the more I used it.

Sight Lines. The wire guards in front of the blades on the Makita, Hitachi, and Ridgid can obscure the cut line from certain angles. This is a very minor problem, but in a tight spot, such as cutting inside a cabinet, it can be annoying. The Metabo and Ridgid blade guards fold up, which is a good solution.

The Makita has a bright light in front of the blade. At first I thought it was gimmicky, but I quickly came to appreciate it; the light makes it much easier to follow a dull pencil line or cut out the back of a base cabinet for plumbing penetrations.

The sight lines on the remaining tools are very good.