How to operate a jigsaw without accident or injury.
A jigsaw, also called a sabre saw or scroll saw, is useful for making straight and curved cuts or patterns in wood, particleboard, plastic, metal and ceramic tile. It has a long, thin blade that moves rapidly up and down.
Portable jigsaws are popular with DIYers and professionals alike, but jigsaw accidents are all too common. Slip-ups can lead to serious cuts, damaged tendons and nerves, and worse.
Jigsaw hazards to be aware of include jigsaw kickback, snapped jigsaw blades, electric shock from using the machine in a wet environment, flying debris and trips caused by power cords. To avoid a potentially debilitating injury, follow these jigsaw safety tips on your next project.
Jigsaw safety starts with PPE
The most important piece of PPE when using a jigsaw is a pair of safety glasses. It’s typical to lean over the jigsaw for a better view of the cutting path. This puts your eyes directly in the trajectory of flying chips, splinters and sawdust.
You should also wear hearing protection, a dust mask and safety boots. Gloves are not recommended. Your hand should never go near the blade when the jigsaw is in operation, but if it does, the glove could catch on the blade, pulling your hand with it.
Don’t wear loose clothing or jewelry. If your hair is long, tie it back to keep it out of the way.
Prepare your tool, your site and your workpiece
Before you start the jigsaw, take these safety precautions.
- Read the user’s manual.
- Double check you have the right blade for the material. Otherwise, you may find yourself applying excessive force or fighting jigsaw kickback.
- Check for missing blade screws and inspect the blade for damage or dullness. A dull blade requires more force, which can lead to kickback and lack of control.
- Tighten the blade if it’s loose.
- Inspect your work area to make sure it’s dry and clear of debris and flammable materials.
- Check the underside of your cutting surface for any obstructions that could cause kickback.
- If your jigsaw is corded, make sure the cord and extension cord are out of the way. Using a cordless model will eliminate the tripping hazard.
- After marking your cutline on the workpiece, clamp it to a workbench or other solid surface. Some people hold the workpiece in one hand, but doing so puts you at risk of cutting into that hand. It also gives you less control over the jigsaw.
- Put the power switch in the off position before plugging in the jigsaw.
Jigsaw safety rules
When you’re ready to saw, follow these best practices.
- Hold the jigsaw with two hands.
- Place the blade near the workpiece but not touching it.
- Gently pull the trigger and wait for the jigsaw to achieve full speed, then ease the cutting teeth along the outside of your cutline and slowly let the saw cut into the material.
- Apply even downward pressure, not side to side pressure, which could bend the blade. Don’t force the blade or it might snap, causing the saw to lunge out of control.
- Remember that jigsaws cut on the up stroke. Release the trigger when the cut is complete to stop the blade.
- Wait for the blade to stop spinning completely before moving it out of the workpiece.
What type of jigsaw blade to use
Choosing the right blade is important to jigsaw safety. Some common types of jigsaw blades and their applications include:
- High carbon steel: Inexpensive and excellent for cutting softwoods, plywood and laminated boards.
- High speed steel: Harder and more durable; useful for cutting hardwoods, metal and reinforced plastic.
- Bi-metal blades: Flexible and wear-resistant; used for heavy-duty cutting on metal and hardwoods.
- Tungsten blades: Excellent heat resistance and durability; engineered to cut through steel, fiberglass or ceramic tiles.
How to change a jigsaw blade
If the blade is broken or it’s the wrong blade for the project, you’ll need to change it. How to change a jigsaw blade depends on the age of your tool. First, unplug the power cord or remove the battery pack.
On older models, use an Allen wrench or screwdriver to loosen the screw holding the shank of the blade. You can then gently pull out the old blade and replace it. Don’t handle it by its teeth. Remember to set the blade so that the teeth are facing away from the jigsaw.
Newer jigsaw models feature a tool-less blade changing system. To remove the blade, disengage the blade release lever. Either the blade will be ejected by the jigsaw or you’ll need to carefully pull it out. Replace the blade with the teeth facing away from the machine and reapply the release lever to secure it in place.
Install a blade of the appropriate length, and fine-tune the blade guard if needed. This will minimize the number of exposed teeth and make operating the tool safer. The exposed portion of the blade should exceed the material’s thickness by only 1 inch.
How to keep a jigsaw blade from bending or falling out
Blades often bend because of a blunt edge, so make sure the sides don’t look worn and that the teeth are sharp.
When a jigsaw blade won’t stay in, the most common reasons include a worn blade, a blade that’s the wrong type for the machine, a missing or worn blade screw or debris such as sawdust preventing the blade from locking in place. Fixing these issues generally results in a secure fit for your jigsaw blade.
Jigsaws are easy to use and handy for countless projects. These jigsaw safety tips will help you use one effectively and without incident.