The history of jigsaws goes back over 60 years to a man named Albert Kaufmann, an engineer of Scintilla AG company in Solothurn, Switzerland. Inspired by the mechanical action of a sewing machine, Kaufmann replaced the needle in his wife’s machine with a saw blade, enabling him to make delicate and detailed cuts in wood.
As time progressed, the jigsaw has become one of the most popular power tools on the market, with Bosch alone selling around 20 million units worldwide since it took control of Scintilla AG in 1954. In this buying guide, we’ll help you in the process of buying a cordless jigsaw. To read our guide to buying jigsaw blades, please click here.
First of all, you need to consider the following:
- corded or cordless
- power requirements
- speed requirements
- pendulum or orbital
- adjustable base plate
For the purposes of this buying guide, we will assume that you’re interested in buying a cordless jigsaw. Our buying guide will focus on lithium-ion cordless jigsaws. For an in-depth look at the features and benefits of lithium-ion batteries in power tools, please see this guide.
The primary benefit of buying a cordless jigsaw is convenience and flexibility; use it anywhere, particularly in places – or on occasions – where you
do not have access to a power source.
This benefit, however, needs to be weighed against the primary limitation of any cordless – or battery powered
– power tool; batteries need to be recharged. And the frequency of recharging depends upon the jobs you’re using your cordless jigsaw for.
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Cutting harder materials, for example, requires the jigsaw’s motor to work harder, draining the battery quicker.
So, if your typical application involves long periods
of cutting hard materials, you may wish to consider
a corded jigsaw (buying guide come soon, but
click for the range we stock).
Many manufacturers sell “naked” versions of their jigsaws.
Click here for our guide to understanding naked power tools.
This means if you’ve already bought into the Makita, for example, l8v lithium-ion battery range, you can use your existing 18v batteries on their naked DJV180Z 18V Li-ion Jigsaw. This is especially beneficial if you already own several lithium-ion batteries from a particular manufacturer; you can use a battery on the jigsaw, while another is charging.
In summary, then, a cordless jigsaw is ideal for getting the cut made quickly, independent of a wired power source and our choice of cordless jigsaw will likely be influenced by the cordless power tools we already own.
As stated above, our choice of cordless jigsaw may, in part, depend upon brand loyalty.
If we’ve already invested into a lithium-ion cordless power tool, we may wish to continue to expand our collection of cordless tools from the same manufacturer.
This allows us the benefits of swapping batteries between tools, assuming of course that the tools we’re buying operate from the same battery voltage (10.8v, 14v, 18v, etc).
The simple formula is the thicker and/or harder the material you’ll be cutting, the more power is required. The power is measured in volts (V) on a cordless jigsaw, so look out for voltage rating. Keep your eye, too, on the capacity of the battery, denoted by its Ah (ampere hour) rating.
The higher the number the better as this means the battery has a higher capacity to store its charge, giving you longer run-times, depending of course on the application you’re undertaking.
Speed is a different matter, however.
A jigsaw’s speed is measured in rotations per minute (RPM) or strokes per minute (SPM).
Your jigsaw’s speed will be either fixed or variable. For the occasional use, a single speed jigsaw will be sufficient. However, being able to control the speed of the blade is important for a couple of reasons:
- some materials can scorch or burn if the jigsaw blade is too fast while cutting
- cutting materials like wood is best done at as fast a speed as possible to reduce vibration
Therefore, being able to control the speed via a variable speed dial is potentially an important feature for us, depending on the use we’ll put our cordless jigsaw too.
Slower cutting speeds are needed when your scrolling as your cut. Your choice of blade is also a key consideration, so please read our jigsaw and sabre saw blade buying guide.
Power and speed are both factors to consider when you’ll be cutting thicker or deeper materials.
The longer the stroke length of the blade, the deeper or thicker the cut. For deep, thick cuts a more powerful motor and higher RPM are needed. So check the numbers (the voltage and RPM) of the cordless jigsaw you’re considering.
Please refer to the list of cordless jigsaws below and note the voltage, the battery Ah and RPM offered.
In summary, then, your choice of cordless jigsaw will likely be influenced by brand loyalty, and you must consider the typical applications you’ll be using it for before deciding on a single or variable speed model, and remember to consider the power output versus the sort of cuts you’ll be undertaking.
What Is Pendulum Action
A frequently asked question about jigsaws is, “should I buy pendulum or orbital?”.
The answer is simple; pendulum and orbital essential are the same thing. The term “pendulum” describes the orbital movement of the jigsaw blade. Rather than simply moving up and down, the blade also moves backwards and forwards.
Why does this matter?
This functionality is going to help you cut more aggressively, particularly through thicker or harder materials.
It also affords you much more control over the blade as you cut.
A jigsaw without this function will labour while cutting thicker or harder materials, you’ll end up pushing the jigsaw more and the blade will overheat and scorch or burn the material. The pendulum action also oscillates the blade in and out of the cutting face, thereby allowing the blade to cool as it cuts.
This potentially means longer life for your jigsaw blades. At the same time, the sawdust (if you’re cutting wood) is able to drop away from the cutting line, giving you a clearer sight of your cut, while the blade is always cutting new wood, thus giving you a much faster and efficient cut.
The pendulum capabilities are typically delivered in 4 to 5 stages, all of which are adjustable via a switch on the side of the jigsaw.
The more stages, the more control over the orbital action of the blade you have.
In summary, then, all of the cordless jigsaws on our list have at least 4 stages of pendulum which, in turn, will control the backwards and forward motion of the blade as you cut. This is particularly helpful when cutting hard materials.
Being able to adjust the base plate of the cordless jigsaw will allow you to make bevel cuts of, typically, angles up to 45°. Also look out for whether the jigsaw comes with base plate protector.
This is usually a plastic slip on device that prevents your work surface from being scratched by the jigsaw’s aluminium base plate.
The more perks the better. One of such has to be the ability for the jigsaw to blow the dust away from your cutting line.
Being able to see the cutting line is essential, and while some of our cordless jigsaws will help out by blowing the dust away, we’re also looking for some sort of light to be shone on our workpiece.
All of the cordless jigsaws in our guide offer bright LED illumination as you work via their built-in job lights.
Look out for some sort of electronic motor control. Such a feature protects the motor while you cut, preventing it from overheating and at the same time extending the overall life of the machine. Bosch has utilised their excellent Electronic Motor Protection (EMP) in their cordless jigsaws, while their lithium-ion batteries have Electronic Cell Protection (ECP).
DeWALT relies upon its XR Lithium-Ion system to protect the motor, switch and battery in their cordless tools.
Another key consideration is the ability to quickly and tool-free change the jigsaw blade.
No one wants to be touching a burning hot jigsaw blade after cutting through a piece of hardwood. Thankfully all of the cordless jigsaws in our guide have the ability to quickly change the blade, tool-free.
Take a close look at the extra features offered by the cordless jigsaw you’re buying. Look beyond cutting capacities, etc, and check whether you’re getting as many features as possible for your money.
We’ve selected jigsaws from the 18v Li-ion range, see our table below.
Some are naked – ie. don’t come with batteries – meaning you save a bit of cash, just use the 18v Li-ion battery packs from the manufacturer that you already own. If there’s a version of the jigsaw that comes with batteries we’ll indicate this.
To wrap up this buying guide, remember the following:
- what lithium-ion cordless tools do you already have? This may influence the cordless jigsaw you go onto buy as going for a naked or “body-only” version will save you cash if you can use your existing batteries in it
- what jobs are you most likely to be undertaking? If it’s big cuts in thick, hard materials, then you’re going to need lots of power from the motor (volts), lots of amps from the lithium-ion battery (Ahs) and lots of speed on the blade (RPM). Either way, being able to control the speed of the blade is important for safe, accurate cuts
- pendulum means the blade moves backwards and forwards as well as up and down
- the depth of cut is determined by the saw blade stroke. The longer the stroke, the deeper the maximum cut, blade dependent