Jig Saw, Recipro Saw, Sabre Saw

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Introduction | Tips for using | Sabre saw |

jig saw
Makita standard jig saw.

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Jig saws are used mainly for cutting curves through a few different materials. Wood, up to say 50mm (2 ") thick, thin metal sheets, plastics etc.

The action of the cutting blade is up through the material to the base of the saw. The teeth on the upstroke help to pull the base of the saw into firm contact with the work. This is the usual way of doing it. As it is in all powered saws, they would be dangerous otherwise.

Some jig saws have a small light that comes on when you pull the trigger. A handy addition. Some models also come with an orbital function. To be honest, I have never used one, but the theory is that the orbital action allows a faster cut.

All jig saws seem to come with a tilting fence. I can't remember ever using mine tilted.

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Tips for using

As I wrote in the intro, a jig saw cuts on the up stroke.

  • The base of my saw has plenty of room around the blade, to allow for easy blade changes and to let me tilt the base.
  • Because it cuts upwards and there is a gap around the blade, it easy to splinter brittle material like the laminate on a counter top.
  • Use as fine a blade as you can in relation to what you are cutting.
  • If you are cutting a hole for a sink in a 40mm thick counter top, you need a bit of bite in the blade, yet you want to avoid splintering the face.
  • Get a few different sizes if you are not sure and try them out.
  • Drill your starter hole 20mm or 30mm inboard of your finished cut line and do a test run.
  • If there is still a bit of splintering, try laying down masking tape on the cut line and cutting through that.
  • It is possible to scratch laminate and particularly full gloss laminate by pushing along a bit of grit under your jig saw base. Keep things clean. Dust off frequently.
  • I often lay a sheet of thin cardboard along the outside of the cut line and run the saw along that.
  • Change the blade sooner rather than later.
  • I am a great one for trying to get the most out of my blades, but it is false economy, I am only adding extra stress to the tool.

I see that you can now buy jig saw blades that do in fact cut on the down stroke, specially for laminate. I don't know how good the are, I've not been game to try them.

Every toothed saw ever made, works on the principle of the two surfaces, the work and the saw being pulled together by the cutting action. Pushing them apart sort of goes against the grain for me. (ha ha). If you have used one of these and they are good, let me know.

In my page on making a temporary saw bench I show how I often knock up a bench for cutting ply etc. with my circular saw.

If I have laminate sheets to cut, especially narrow strips and small pieces, I do the same with my Makita jig saw.   Sort of like a poor man's band saw.

  • I get a piece of MDF or ply, sat on two saw stools.
  • I drill a starter hole in the middle.
  • I saw forward a bit then stop with the saw still in the cut.
  • I have holes drilled in the base of my saw, and I use these to screw it down to the ply.
  • I turn it over and fix the ply to the stools.
  • That's it, done.

There is a neat fit all around the blade, the blade is cutting down through the face of the laminate, so the splinters, if any, are on the back. Magic.

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Sabre saw, recipro, reciprocating saw

recipro saw
Makita recipro saw.

Saber saws are just a lot bigger than a jig saw, with the same up and down action. They are not for cutting curves so much as cutting in hard to get at places. Like the jig saw they have a range of blades for different materials.

I have used the one pictured for cutting off overhanging rafters and purlins with the roof sheeting still on, prior to us building on an extension. Also it is good for cutting off seized up nuts, where you don't want to make sparks with other tools.

Not a common tool but maybe handy to hire for an odd job. There are some typical blades in the photo, and the small blue one is a jig saw blade for size comparison.


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Please Note! The information on this site is offered as a guide only!  When we are talking about areas where building regulations or safety regulations could exist,the information here could be wrong for your area.  It could be out of date!  Regulations breed faster than rabbits!
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