I decided to write about this week's Toolbox Tuesday item after receiving a friend's text message last Friday. He was installing a doggie door and wanted to know if I had a good recommendation for a jigsaw. Little did he know, I had spent much time researching this very tool after a long relationship with a lackluster entry-level jigsaw.

Right after we bought our house in 2003, I decided I needed a jigsaw. I had little to no comfort level with power saws, was quite intimidated by our circular saw, and I wanted to be able to cut some plywood. Looking back on it, my nervousness is a bit funny to me now, but was legitimate at the time.

We went out and bought a very inexpensive, entry-level Skil Jigsaw. It fit our needs at the time, and our budget as well, but I realized the problems with that saw almost immediately and began looking forward to the day when I would buy a new one.

I lived with that Skil saw for over three years. Each time I would use it, I would struggle to set a 0 degree angle on the cutting base, to secure or change blades, to keep the settings in place while cutting with it, and to cut perpendicular to the material I was cutting (the blades constantly leaned and walked). When I say struggle, I mean struggle. If that saw had feelings, I'm sure all of my swearing and name calling left permanent damage on its psyche.

As I got into woodworking, with each project it became more and more apparent that I needed a higher quality jigsaw. I realized I would often be scribing boards to match the uneven surfaces of floors and brick walls, or cutting small curves or squares out of boards, and I would need something more reliable that is able to produce a much cleaner cut than the saw I had purchased. As usual, much of my research relied on the various Internet resources, but I held one review higher than the rest.

One day while browsing around, I thought of how much I envied Norm Abrams and his New Yankee Workshop. I'm obsessed with his amazing woodworking skills and his very organized and spacious shop with power tools, clamps galore, integrated dust collection, and even a separate room for staining and finishing. What I wouldn't give to have that sort of a setup. I realized that he probably had a pretty good jigsaw so I looked up the tool he was using. Figuring it would be a ridiculously expensive saw, I thought it would at least give me an idea of what brand and features to look for.

Much to my surprise, I determined that Norm was using a very nice but reasonably priced Bosch jigsaw. I started looking for the saw on Amazon and found a small selection rather quickly. But that's where the choice got a little difficult.

If you're looking for a good jigsaw, there's one important decision that you will need to make, and it is all a matter of preference. Mid-level to higher end jigsaws have two basic setups, a "top handle" configuration, and a "barrel grip" configuration. 

I was really only familiar with the top handle setup with all of the jigsaws I've used. This configuration has the trigger beneath a handle that runs along the top of the jigsaw. The handle allows you to guide the saw along with your finger on the trigger. It is comfortable and easy to use, but a bit taller and more awkward to deal with.

The second and less prevelant option, the barrel grip setup, places the power switch on the side of the saw, and provides a knob on top with a barrel to hold onto while cutting. This configuration allows a lower profile for the saw, and seems to offer a bit more flexibility and control of cut. 

Here are the two side by side.

I mentioned I was obsessed with Norm, and not knowing anything other then the top handle option, I couldn't make a decision based on personal experience. I just figured, "whatever works for Norm should work for me." I determined that Norm was using the Barrel Grip saw in his shop, so that is what I went with.

Now four years later and I couldn't be happier with my choice. I've used this saw to build my office desk, scribe baseboards, build the door-turned-headboard project, and countless other things around our house. The blades change quickly and easily, the cut is true, and the construction and operation of the saw is wonderful. It is a solid and heavy saw that doesn't feel like it will break just by using it the way the other saw I had did.

The only problem I've had with it is that the knob on the top of the saw has come off, but it appears they've addressed that issue with the new integrated knob design on the current model. Everything else with this saw has been great.

If you're in the market for a new jigsaw, I'd absolutely say you should go for it on this one. I've yet to be steered in the wrong direction when I'm following what Norm says or does, and I'm pretty sure the same goes for you and your shop.

Do you have a favorite jigsaw that has worked well for you over the years? Perhaps you have a serious man crush on Norm Abrams like I do? Let me know.

Comments 3

Comments

JC
1/11/2012 at 8:05 PM
Hey, I recognize that jigsaw! We use one EXACTLY like it at work (and it gets extremely heavy use/abuse). My ONLY complaint about it, is that on ours, the orange "button" thing in the top handle, which is used to lock/unlock the blade had broken, and it was constantly falling out or getting lost. We recently replaced it with the newer Bosh one that's in your link, which uses this sliding switch to lock/eject the blades (much easier).
JC
1/11/2012 at 8:08 PM
OK I fail for not reading most of the post, since I just saw that you had the EXACT same problem with the saw. It's still an excellent tool. The one we had must have lasted at least 5-10 years, and we use it to cut and scribe all our counter tops/gables and any other parts (on site). Sometimes we even have to cut through 3 layers thick or particle board (which is extremely hard on a jigsaw).
Cap
8/3/2015 at 1:04 PM

I love coming on your blog to get advice on tools. Most of the time my "research" is just saying to myself, what would Santan do? I'll be getting this one pretty soon!

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