Power and Performance
The jigsaw is a versatile cutting tool for home improvement and hobby chores. Depending on the power of the motor, the machine can produce anywhere from 500 to over 3000 strokes per minute (SPM) and can cut through materials ranging from wood to steel. Before purchasing a jigsaw consider the job that needs to be done, and choose the machine that best fits those requirements
A jigsaw cut in both straight and curved lines through a multitude of materials and offers the freedom of movement and the ability to make either slow cuts with precision or to rip cuts quickly. Some special features enhance performance in certain applications and make the machine more desirable. For example, a 360-degree orbital blade allows for intricate detail, and variable speeds and orbital action settings are designed to guide the machine based on the job being done.
Features vary from model to model and can greatly enhance the user experience. Perks like anti-vibration technology, dust collection tools, lasers to guide cutting, and illuminating lights are also worth noting. Many owners find that these add-ons make the difference between a good jigsaw and a great one.
Jigsaws range from around $30 up to $300. Which models are worth the investment, and which should you avoid spending extra money on? In addition to price, blades are also a recurring expense and should not be overlooked.
Black & Decker JS660 Jig Saw
The Black & Decker comes with a five amp, variable speed motor that produces 3,000 stokes per minute (SPM). The Black & Decker is a jack-of-all-trades jigsaw. The saw cuts furniture, PVC, laminate, drop ceiling tiles and hardwood with equal vigor and is capable and strong in either home improvement or hobby applications. The JS600 is precise enough to build a guitar and strong enough to rip through a 2X4.
The Makita 4329K brings 3.9 amps to the party and comes with variable speed control. The 4329K produces between 500 and 3,100 SPM and has three orbital settings. We surveyed several woodworkers and precision craftsman who favor the saw’s control and precision, and many regular owners also had similar praise for it. The 4329K clearly works well for either hobby or construction applications, offering exceptional performance regardless of the rigor of job.
The PORTER-CABLE PC600JS is powered by a six amp, heavy duty motor and cuts at speeds of up to 3,200 SPM. Several owners we surveyed said the PC600JS makes light work of plywood and 2X4s. One said it easily cut 100-year-old lumber during home demolition. The saw’s speed can be changed on the fly, which is yet another plus for this machine. It’s no wonder that the PC600JS is described by customers to be more like a freight train than a saw – smooth, powerful, even, and steady.
The Makita 4350FCT’s motor is 6.3 amps, and the speed varies from 800 to 2,800 SPM. The 4350FCT comes with plenty of power, but with a lower SPM. Power stays at the blade, which is evident in the range of materials the 4350FCT cuts. Laminate flooring, counter tops, three-inch-thick 2X4s and 1 ½-inch-thick maple are among the heavier products that split after getting in the 4350FCT’s cutting path.
The Bosch JS470E comes with the most amps of any saw on our shortlist. The SMP ranges from 500 to 3,100, which is on the very high end. It is rated to cut wood up to 5 7/8 inches, aluminum up to 7/8 of an inch, and mild steel up to 3/8 of an inch thick. The Bosch is a beast that flawlessly produces decorative cuts in cedar and goes through six-inch thick pieces of oak. Owners also frequently use it to cut aluminum and steel plates and revere it for its steady, clean cutting abilities.
The Black & Decker JS600 features a selector dial which automatically sets optimal orbital settings, There are seven pre-programmed settings, including ones for cutting metal, PVC, and wood. The various settings for wood include options for straight or curved cuts in varying depths of material. The huge majority of owners we surveyed loved this feature and praised it as a huge differentiator from other saws that they had used. The JS600 also includes an Accu-Bevel setting that allows for quick and accurate angle adjustments by flicking a lever, allowing the user to cut almost anything in whatever shape is desired.
The Makita 4329K varies speed and has plenty of power. It does not, however, feature dials or flashy graphics detailing the best setting for the material being cut. While a few owners encountered difficulty when dealing with 45-degree angles and keeping the blade true to 90 degrees, we didn’t find this to be much of an issue once you get used to the saw.
The PORTER-CABLE PC600JS features a four-position orbital lever designed to provide the best cut in a variety of situations. There is also a speed dial with seven positions, so the machine’s versatility is obvious. The base bevels to four different positions – 0, 15, 30 and 45 degrees. The speed control is at the user’s thumb and we found it to be super easy to reach and use. Speed can be changed during use, which keeps the blade from binding if cutting gets rough. Changing both blades and the angle of the cut is simple, and the saw is solid in the hand and delivers when it counts.
The Makita 4350FCT comes with an on-board hex wrench used to adjust the bevel. It adjusts to various positions up to 45 degrees and has a positive stop at 90 degrees. The speed control dial is easy to access with the thumb and can be set to three different positions. The balance of the motor provides for 40% less vibration and less noise - a quality greatly appreciated by many of the owners we surveyed.
The Bosch JS470E is a versatile cutting tool. It comes with four orbital action settings which are simple and easy to adjust. We found the Bosch to handle slow speeds better than most jigsaws, and at higher speeds its performance was off the chart. A dial controls the maximum speed and an accelerator in the trigger controls operating speed. The deck bevels for angle cuts, up to 45 degrees, and is adjusted with a wrench. All in all, the Bosch is an excellent choice for almost all heavy duty applications but is also easy to control and steady when doing light and detail work.
Scott completed his first woodworking project in the 5th grade, and he’s been an avid woodworker ever since. For the past 46 years, Scott has enjoyed remodeling homes, building custom cabinets and mantels, installing hardwood floors/trim work, and many other unique projects.
Black & Decker JS600 Jig Saw
The Black & Decker JS600 features a few “toys” that add to its appeal. The tool-free blade change and blade storage features are well-liked by owners. Another feature that elicits positive responses from customers is the JS600’s dust blower, which clears dust from the cutting path and allows for a cleaner work area. Our one complaint of this saw is that it does not come with a light, which is a popular feature on three of the five saws on our shortlist. It’s worth mentioning that the saw is incredibly easy to operate - even for beginners and those unfamiliar with power tools like jigsaws.
The Makita 4329K provides arguably the best comfort out of any of the saws on our shortlist. Its handle is ergonomically designed with a rubberized grip that goes very easy on your hands. It also features a counterweight balancing system which reduces vibrations and a dust removal system which ensures a clean cutting area. Perhaps most importantly, the drill only weighs 4.2 pounds and is 8 7/8 inches in length. Its compact profile is not lost on users, and neither is the keyless blade change - a key differentiator when it comes to convenience.
The PORTER-CABLE PC600JS comes with many of the features one expects from a name-brand saw in the industry. The keyless blade change is simple and quick. The LED (light emitting diode) work light mounted in the saw provides plenty of light. The blower keeps the cutting line free of dust. Note – do not stick your face to the right of the machine while in use, or you will get a mouthful of sawdust! Overall, the machine is compact yet rugged and feels stout in the hand.
The Makita 4350FCT trumpets its main feature in its name - an LED light designed to illuminate the work surface and help guide you as you cut. The saw also features a patented dust removal system that does a spotless job when put to use - a feature which many owners who we surveyed really appreciated.
While the Bosch JS470E 120-Volt 7.0-Amp Top-Handle Jigsaw is not equipped with a work light, it does come with just about any bell and whistle you can think of on a jigsaw. Its low vibration feature which, when coupled with the oversized plastic handle, ensures a smooth and steady cut. Its tool-less blade ejection lever means users don’t have to handle blades hot from friction. Unlike all the other models that we reviewed, the Bosch features an ambidextrous lock button for longer cuts, which we found to be very helpful. It also is compatible with a vacuum feature that allows you to get rid of dust quickly and efficiently after your cut.
Black & Decker JS600 Jig Saw
The Black & Decker JS600 is $29 and is by far the cheapest of the saws we reviewed. The tool is loved by many and is a repeat purchase for some. While it is best for those who wish to use the tool for home improvement and crafting, we don’t recommend it for more professional projects.
The Makita 4329K will set you back $69, plus shipping and handling. While we didn’t find it to be substantially better than the Black & Decker JS660, its main advantage is its compact size and light weight. If these are important considerations for you, it may be worth paying slightly more for the 4329K.
The PORTER-CABLE PC600JS costs $62. It is hands down better than the Makita 4329K. It offers more in features, has more power, and includes variable speeds. It feels powerful and compact and is a solid purchase. But if you’re looking to maximize value, we recommend sticking with the Black & Decker.
The Makita 4350FCT will not break the bank, but you might feel like calling an accountant before spending $172 on it. Is this drill really $100 better than the 4329K or PC600JS? No. You will be save a good deal of money if you purchase a less expensive model and invest the amount you saved on saw blades.
The Bosch’s price of $159 is a bit higher than the other jigsaws on our shortlist, but we strongly recommend the extra investment. With jigaws, you truly get what you pay for, and this machine certainly delivers on its promise. It’s no wonder that this machine is the number one tool of choice for professional woodworkers and craftsmen. If you are in the market for a serious, no-frills chainsaw, this is your best bet.
The Black & Decker JS600 makes this award a no contest. For the price, this machine packs plenty of power, is extremely user friendly, and is designed to make your home improvement projects as manageable as possible. While it lacks some of the bells and whistles of the Bosch, it it offers enough power, performance, and versatility to get you through 90% of the cutting jobs that you will likely ever do. Buy it, choose some good blades, and get to work.