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Jig Saw BasicsA jig saw is one of the most versatile tools you can own.

Choose a Blade
The biggest reason a jig saw is so capable is the wide variety of blades available. For cutting wood alone, you’ll find blades for fast cuts, smooth cuts, straight cuts, and tightly curved cuts. Plus, there are blades for cutting metal, plastic, acrylic, ceramics, and leather, among others. And you’ll find general-purpose blades that cut about anything – just not as cleanly as a specialty blade. When selecting a blade, you also need to make sure it will deliver the quality of cut you need. That’s based on the “tpi” rating, or teeth-per-inch.

High, Medium, and Low TPI Rating

Use the Correct Mode
In standard mode, the blade of your Jig Saw moves up and down rapidly, causing the teeth to cut through the material. Some jig saws also offer an orbital cutting mode. In that mode, which is most useful for cutting wood or thick plastic, the saw also rocks the blade forward on the upstroke.  Orbital action can be adjusted from no orbit to aggressive orbit, usually with two additional settings in between. For fast cuts where smoothness isn’t important, set the saw to full orbit. For the smoothest cuts, or for cuts following tight curves, turn the orbit off. Otherwise, you can experiment with the alternate settings.

Straight Cut

Let the Saw Work
When cutting with a jig saw, the most common mistake people make is thinking that the harder they push the saw, the faster it will cut. But forcing the blade into the cut is counterproductive.  First, forcing the cut causes unnecessary friction. Plus, it keeps the teeth against the workpiece, which means there’s no chance for the gullets (the spaces between the teeth) to remove the waste. Both of these conditions cause the blade to get hot, which dulls it quickly and can burn the workpiece.  Instead of forcing the saw into the cut, let the blade do its work, and simply push the saw along at the rate it wants to go.

Oribital Cut

Handle the Curves
Forcing a jig saw into the cut becomes even more problematic when making curved cuts. If you hold the saw with one hand only and push it around the curve, you end up inadvertently pushing the saw sideways as well. This causes the blade to flex and results in a cut that wanders off course and is not perpendicular to the surface of the workpiece.  The first remedy for this is to slow your feed rate when making curved cuts. The second is to hold the saw with two hands. One hand goes on the saw housing directly above the blade, while the other hand goes on the handle as usual.  With this technique, your front hand does the “steering” by pivoting the saw to follow the curve. Your rear hand does nothing more than guide the saw forward, without applying any sideways pressure. With a little practice, you’ll be cutting curves that are dead on every time.

Handle the Curves

© 2010 August Home Publishing............................................................................ From Kreg and Woodsmith Magazine

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