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The jigsaw is a useful power tool to acquire as it has a number of unique applications that other machines don’t posses, in particular its ability to cut curves and deal with a wide variety of different materials.


How Does a Jigsaw Work?

The narrow blade on a jigsaw reciprocates vertically and is usually controlled by a ‘soft start’ trigger on the machine. What’s not quite so apparent is that in addition, all modern machines use a variable ‘pendulum’ action, where not only does the blade moves up and down, but also back and forth. The result of this dual action is that the machine will cut into thicker and harder materials much more rapidly. This has several advantages, such as longer motor and blade life as well as being much faster. Some machines are equipped with a tilting base plate to allow bevel cuts to be made and most also have a dust extraction port fitted as standard.

Styles of Jigsaw

Whilst all jigsaws work in a similar fashion, two very distinct body styles have evolved which determine how the machine is held. The first is the ‘D’ grip; a separate handle on top of the machine with the trigger located conveniently underneath.


The alternative is the ‘body’ grip, where the motor casing itself acts as a handle and in this case, the controls are usually on the side.



Apart from its ability to cut out curved shapes, the vast range of different blades mean that the jigsaw is able to cut a very wide variety of alternative materials. Blades can be fitted to most machines that will enable it to cut softwoods, hardwoods and all man-made sheet material. Selecting the appropriate blade allows the machine to cut more exotic materials such as ceramic tiles, fibreglass and carbon fibre as well as metal such as stainless steel. With the appropriate blade fitted in a saw frame, these materials can be cut by hand, but it’s not recommended!



The nature of the the cutting action means that the jigsaw cuts more slowly than other types of saw and so may not be an automatic first choice for straight work. However, when complex curves need to be cut, for example, in a large sheet of ply, the jigsaw is the only machine that will rise to the challenge and with the appropriate blade fitted, it will also handle a very wide range of different materials.

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Rob StoakleyAlfredo M. Claussen Recent comment authors
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Alfredo M. Claussen
Alfredo M. Claussen

Nice but short article… it fails to fully explain the differences between the two styles of grip: The common top grip body is more comfortable when cutting with the jigsaw resting on top of the material to be cut. It allows you to remain comfortable even when doing long cuts that raise the temperature of the motor, as it remains cool to the touch. But those are the only advantages. In contrast, the Barrel or Body grip is very advantageous as it places your hand much more closely to the cut, achieving much better precisión: the photo even shows that… Read more »

Rob Stoakley
Rob Stoakley

Many thanks indeed for your excellent comments and I certainly wasn’t aware of the differences between the two styles of handle. The information you’ve provided by way of your extensive experience is definitely worthwhile and invaluable for the newcomer seeking to purchase a jigsaw.

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