Cutting Fast: An obvious question when comparing the performance of different jigsaws is “which saw cuts the fastest?” I created a speed cutting test to determine the answer. First, I fitted each saw with a new Bosch Progressor blade, designed specifically for fast, rough cutting. With the help of my wife, Ann, I timed how long it took each saw to crosscut a 2x6, as shown in the lead photo on page 44. I took several passes, then averaged the times for each saw. I tried to push each saw as hard as I could without bogging its motor down. In the final tally, the premium-priced Festool turned in the fastest average time: 2.74 seconds, notable because this saw doesn’t have the highest-amperage motor or fastest blade stroke speed in this group of jigsaws. The next fastest cutting time was clocked by the Makita — less than a tenth of a second slower than the Festool. Posting a slightly slower time than that was the Bosch, followed (in timed order) by the Metabo, Milwaukee and Hitachi. The DeWALT held up the rear of the pack with a rather slow 4.27-second average time. The second-and-a-half difference between the fastest and slowest saws might not seem like much. But this time can really add up if you have dozens of rafter ends to decoratively jigsaw, or a pile of curved parts to cut out. Vibration: Regardless of how fast a jigsaw cuts, the less vibration it produces, the better. All jigsaws employ some sort of counterbalance system to reduce the up-and-down shaking created by the reciprocating plunger and blade, and some work better than others. In truth, I found it quite difficult to accurately compare the vibration of the various saws in the group, as it varied under different circumstances. For example, the DeWALT felt very smooth-running when idling at full speed. However, when I put the saw to wood, it produced noticeably more vibration. After careful consideration, I found the Bosch and Festool, closely followed by the Milwaukee and Makita, consistently produced the least vibration when cutting a variety of wood types and thicknesses with a variety of blades. That’s not to say that the DeWALT and Hitachi produce unacceptable amounts of vibration, but they just didn’t feel as smooth running as the top saws. At the bottom of the pack, the Metabo jigsaw consistently produced more vibration than any of the other saws. [caption id="attachment_7431" align="aligncenter" width="370"] One of the tests the author put the saws through was cutting melamine, which is fragile and likely to splinter when making close cuts. Cutting cleanly: Getting clean jigsaw cuts with only light splintering, tearout and surface chipping is chiefly a matter of selecting a blade that’s designed for the job. But I still wanted to see just how smooth a cut each saw was capable of producing with a general purpose blade. I fit each saw with a fine-toothed blade and set it to a medium speed with a slight orbit (#1). I then took several cuts with each on a piece of 3/4" melamine — a material notorious for chipping easily. After experimenting with different rates of feed, I selected the cutoffs that displayed the cleanest edge produced by each saw. The Bosch, aided, I suspect, by its precision control guide, left the cleanest cut edges. With cuts only slightly more ragged than the Bosch were the Makita, Festool and DeWALT, followed by the other saws. It’s worth noting that I was able to get a much cleaner cut with all of these saws by fitting them with a special saw blade designed for laminates, as well as an anti-splinter insert. [caption id="attachment_7432" align="aligncenter" width="305"] The better view you have of the cut line, the more accurate your cut will be, and the Bosch jigsaw has the best overall cutting viewpoint. Cutting accurately: The major factors that affect the accuracy of jigsaw cuts are: How well you can see the line of cut and how well the saw’s blade stays square to the workpiece (or at a fixed angle during bevel cuts). Generally, a saw with less of its body overhanging the blade is easier to use, especially when you’re working in cramped quarters or trying to follow a curvaceous line, say when cutting out a scrollwork pattern. The open front end configuration of the Bosch and Metabo make it much easier for me to see the blade without having to crane my neck. The Milwaukee and Hitachi have the most blade obscuring body overhangs, but the former’s built-in LED light helps to improve its line-of-cut visibility. [caption id="attachment_7433" align="aligncenter" width="470"] Many of the jigsaws had a slight waver in them, but the Bosch and Festool saws provided the most square cuts. It’s usually true that the thicker, denser (or more variable in density) a workpiece is, the more likely that a jigsaw’s blade will deflect when cutting it. This is especially true when cutting tight curves. To judge this aspect of cutting accuracy, I crosscut 4x4 lumber with each jigsaw. Most models left edges that wavered in squareness and up-and-down straightness over the length of the cut. The exceptions were the Bosch and Festool models, which left nearly dead square and straight cut edges. It’s safe to assume that such superior performance was likely due to the special blade guide systems on these saws, which helped prevent their long saw blades from deflecting.
A few initial notes are in order. If buying a contractor saw, I would consider Delta and Jet offerings by that same name. If my work and budget called for a cabinet saw, I would consider the Jet Xacta, Powermatic 66, and Delta Unisaw. Test-drive candidate saws; a few cuts mean more than a month of junk mail. Durability and fence quality are generally not factors. Either saw type will last outlast its owner with reasonable care, and either can be bought with a high quality fence. I would not consider anything less than the contractor saws mentioned above. Cheaper saws make rough cuts, wear out quickly, don't hold their adjustments, and are more prone to dangerous kickbacks. The good taste of money saved turns bitter when your projects take longer and turn out poorly. My intent is to state differences in a non-biased manner, but an attempt has been made to order the items by probable importance.
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