jigsaw, garage, power tool

Jigsaws for Plywood

A jigsaw is a wonderful tool to have, as any handyman can attest to. It is able to cut through a multitude of materials, including wood, plywood, plastics, PVC, metals, and ceramics. It is an extremely versatile power tool, and because it is a power tool, I would like to start by addressing a few safety concerns.

Jigsaw Safety Tips

A jigsaw is a serious power tool, and as such, it should be taken seriously. Here are just a few safety tips that will help make sure you use your jigsaw properly and maintain all of your fingers so you can continue to enjoy it.

Safety Manual

I know that no one likes to hear it, but you really should familiarize yourself with every power tool that you own, and this includes your jigsaw. Understanding the tool and how it is supposed to be operated can help to prevent the vast majority of accidents that would otherwise occur.

PPE

You should always wear the appropriate protective equipment when you are operating a power tool. This is the case with the jigsaw as well. You should especially wear safety glasses to protect your eyes from debris. You may think that if you wear glasses that you don’t have any need for safety glasses, but that is not the case. Goggles are available for people that wear glasses. Don’t risk your vision. In addition to eye protection, you should also use hearing protection. I consider light earplugs to be a must as well.

Minimize Distractions

It is extremely important that you pay attention while operating any power tool, regardless of how dangerous you may think it is. The jigsaw may not come across as very imposing at first glance, but it can be quite dangerous. You shouldn’t text and drive, and you also shouldn’t operate a jigsaw while playing on your phone, talking on the phone, or doing anything that could take your attention away from the tool itself.

No Water

Never use the jigsaw in a clamps or some other device to secure your project while you are working on it. It is extremely dangerous for you to try to cut a piece that is not stable. And no, holding it in your off-hand does not mean that it is stable. It is very dangerous and you are risking losing a finger, or much worse.

Direction Matters

Pay attention to the direction that you are pushing the tool during its operation. Never push the blade towards any part of yourself. That means always keep your fingers and anything that you don’t want cut out of the jigsaws potential cutting path.

Don’t Force It

It is also important to not put to much pressure into the jigsaw while cutting. Attempting to cut too fast can damage the blade, the jigsaw, and the material. And depending on the amount of force and pressure you can potentially injure yourself as well.

Flat Base

When you are going through the cutting motion, ensure that you keep the base of the jigsaw flat at all times. This helps to control your cuts, but it also helps to maintain your safety and the safety of those around you.

Wait until it stops

Wait until the blade stops before lifting the jigsaw away. This is very important, and it is very easy to forget when you are working and in a hurry. That blade doesn’t always stop just as soon as you let go of the button. Often that blade keeps going for a few moments. Unfortunately, that means that this is the time that someone is most likely to be injured, as they have let their guard down. Always ensure that the blade has stopped moving before lifting the jigsaw away from the work surface.

Cool Down

After cutting through something, especially denser materials, the blade of the jigsaw can get very hot. It can get hot enough to actually burn your skin. Always give the blade time to cool down before touching it. That may seem obvious to some people, however, when a blade breaks and you go to change it, make sure it is cooled all the way down. It can be a nasty surprise to reach out and grab that hot blade.

jigsaw, garage, power tool
Jigsaw in garage, Your Best Digs

Uses for the Jigsaw

The best thing about a jigsaw is the fact that it is affordable, often portable and that it is an excellent option for cutting curves into wood. I find it especially handy for cutting circular holes when the need arises. I especially like to work with my jigsaw when I need to saw 2 x 4s down to length. Want to make your own holiday decorations? Get yourself some plywood, draw the Christmas reindeer or the Halloween skeleton and cut that baby out with your jigsaw, slap some paint on it and boom, you have one of the nicest decorations on the block. Maybe you are interested in woodworking. Being able to cut curves into your wood is going to greatly expand what you are able to do in the shop. The jigsaw is a must have tool in my opinion.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Using a jigsaw has many advantages and disadvantages. To help keep this article succinct I am only going to discuss the big pro and con. Ironically, these two characteristics of the jigsaw are very closely related to each other.

Pros

The main advantage of using a jigsaw is the ease of use. I jigsaw is a tool that nearly anyone can begin using. As long as you don’t put to much pressure and you take your time, you can get the hang of it fairly quickly.

Cons

As I said, these characteristics are closely related. The primary disadvantage of the jigsaw is the fact that it can provide rough and uneven cuts. This is mainly due to the fact that poor technique can result in poor results, meaning that for some people mastering the jigsaw can be quite difficult. It is equally important to ensure that the material you are cutting and the jigsaw blade you are using match each other adequately.

Best Jigsaw Blade for Plywood?

Picking out the best jigsaw blade is a tall order. There are more than a few manufacturers out there, many of which seem to have excellent reviews. However, in my opinion, there is a clear winner, and that is Bosch. They have consistently high reviews and they are fairly inexpensive. If you can’t decide on a specific brand, I’d definitely recommend that you give Bosch’s jigsaw blades a try. In my experience, they seem to last longer than the blades that come from other manufacturers. In addition to this, they seem to bend less.

What If I use the Wrong Blade?

In order to know which kind of blade you need, you first need to know what kind of blade your jigsaw takes. Is it a T-shank or is it a flat U shank? This is another one of those reasons why reading your owner manual can benefit you. One good thing to remember is that if there are fewer teeth per inch, then the cutting action is going to be much more aggressive. The more teeth you have per inch then the cleaner the final cut will be, however, this can make the cutting process take quite a bit longer. The angle of the teeth matters as well. Down cut teeth are used in order to make clean cuts on laminate surfaces. The blades with the most teeth are often used to cut metal. There are even diamond encrusted jigsaw blades that are used for cutting ceramics. Using the wrong blade can definitely affect the amount of time and effort that goes into the cutting process as well as how nice the final cut actually looks. Not only that, using the wrong blade would result in the blade wearing out much quicker and causing you to buy more blades, hurting you right in the wallet.

Proper Jigsaw Use

Now, this is going to echo a few of the safety issues that we mentioned previously, but that is just how important this is. First, when operating the jigsaw, make sure that the cutting path is clear. That doesn’t just mean your fingers, either. That means anything that you don’t want cut should be well clear of the jigsaws cutting path. This includes any other tools you may have laying around, as well as any cords that may be nearby. You would be surprised to see how many people cut through their own cords. Fortunately, there are cordless varieties available.

Next, before you begin cutting, make sure that the base is flat and held firmly. This helps to ensure that you make clean cuts and helps to keep the jigsaw in a safe and controlled position. One advantage that some jigsaws have is the ability to angle the base, allowing you to cut custom bevels into your work, which can really increase the aesthetic appeal in the final product.

Again, make sure that you aren’t operating the jigsaw in a wet environment. It may seem ridiculous to mention this again, but the reality is that even a small electrical shock from a power tool or your jigsaw can be enough to disrupt your hear and cause a vast number of complications, including death.

When cutting with your jigsaw maintain steady and consistent pressure. Try not to back off the cut and come back into it too much, as this can cause jagged edges, which would later require a lot more sanding to fix. Keeping that in mind, it is equally important not to put too much pressure on the jigsaw blade. Doing this can cause the blade to run off course and cut into your project, potentially ruining it, and this also applies to trying to cut a project to quickly.

Once you complete a cut, release the button and allow the blade to stop moving before raising it away from the cutting surface. This is to make sure that you don’t accidentally cut yourself, someone else, or something else that you did not intend to. Even though the button has been released, the blade can continue moving for up to three seconds depending on the model of jigsaw you use.

If you use a cordless jigsaw, it is highly recommended that you only charge the battery when it is disconnected from the jigsaw. This helps to ensure that the battery is fully charged and also helps to prevent any potential overcharge damage from happening to your jigsaw.

Cutting Through Ceramic Tiles

This jigsaw is cable of cutting through a vast array of different materials. One example is ceramic tiles. In order to be able to cut through the ceramic tiles, you first need one of the special diamond blades that I mentioned previously. Once you have an appropriate blade you then need to securely clamp the tile to your work surface. I recommend keeping a water bottle nearby with a squirt top. Make sure to keep the tile cool during the cutting process. By doing this you can cut custom notches into your tile so you can get that bathroom floor done all by yourself, no extra help necessary.

Cutting Plywood

One major issue when cutting plywood with a jigsaw is tear-out that you get on the edges. There is actually a really easy way to avoid this and get beautiful clean cuts. First, you need to mark where you are going to be making your cuts. Then, simply take a shop knife or utility knife and score deeply into that mark. Then simply go back and cut along the new score line and mark to get that beautiful smooth cut. By precutting the outside faces of the plywood we are preventing the frayed edges that would otherwise be left behind by the jigsaw’s blade.

So what do you think? Are you going to be picking up a jigsaw at the hardware store today, or was it already a mainstay in your toolkit?

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