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Jigsaw buying guide

Don’t cut corners when buying one of these curve-cutting tools.

Tools Editor Bob Hunter
Bob Hunter, Tools Editor
Like many woodworkers/DIYers, I bought a jigsaw decades ago as one of my first tools (along with a drill and circular saw). Armed with a tiny budget and equally little tool savvy, I bought the cheapest jigsaw I could find—and regretted it with each cut. I upgraded to a pro-grade jigsaw a few years later and have never looked back. To help you avoid my initial mistake, in this review we test 10 better-quality corded jigsaws for the avid woodworker.

The best saws cut nice and square

Ideally, a jigsaw makes perpendicular cuts close to marked lines, saving you material as well as time spent cleaning up edges. In our testing, only the DeWalt DW331K and Milwaukee 6268-21 consistently made dead-on perpendicular cuts, thanks to a guide roller situated close to the shoe (base or footplate). Blades on the other saws deflected slightly, with the worst deflecting up to 18 " in 112 "-thick stock, due to guide rollers that wiggled side-to-side or allowed the blade to jump out of them.

You can’t follow a marked cutline if you can’t see it, so place a high priority on cutline visibility. Each saw has in front of its blade a protective plastic or wire guard that sometimes impairs the sight line, especially as dust builds up on the guards. We prefer saws with forward-positioned blades where we don’t have to lean low to see under the saw’s body, but that’s only part of the battle. Saws with a built-in blower should clear dust from the cutline to help you cut more accurately. All but the DeWalt DW317K, shown below, have this feature.

You can’t cut what you can’t see
Without a built-in blower, the DeWalt DW317K has no means of clearing sawdust from the marked cutline ahead of it.

Still, we found the blowers on the Craftsman 28223, DeWalt DW331K and Makita JV0600K and 4350FCT too weak to clear dust effectively, forcing you to blow it off as you go. Blowers on the Bosch JS365 and JS470E, Hitachi CJ90VST, Milwaukee, and Porter-Cable PCE341 clear dust best. Some saws have dust ports as either standard or optional accessories, but we found them ineffective and clumsy when hooked to a shop vacuum.

Controlling blade speed proves crucial for best results

All the tested saws have adequate power to cut through the wood and composite materials you’ll likely use—provided you equip the saw with a sharp blade appropriate for the job.

Each saw has a variable-speed dial, allowing you to optimize its maximum blade speed—measured in strokes per minute—for the material being cut. But we also appreciate a variable-speed trigger, such as those found on saws from  Bosch, DeWalt, Milwaukee, and Porter-Cable. With these, you set the maximum speed with the dial (just as a governor caps the rpm of a truck engine), and then use the trigger to vary the speed up to that limit (as you would with the accelerator pedal in the truck). This extra layer of control lets you slow down the blade speed mid-cut, such as near a transition or tricky curve; with the other saws the speed stays the same as set by the dial, regardless of how much you pull the trigger.

You can cut more aggressively with a jigsaw by increasing the orbital action in the blade. With this engaged, the blade swings back-to-front like a pendulum as it strokes up and down. You’ll get the cleanest cuts with no orbital action, but a little orbit helps cut curves without backing up and repositioning. Eight of the 10 models have four orbital settings: one straight up and down (no orbit) and three in increasing amounts of “swing.” The Porter-Cable has just three settings, and the Craftsman has five.

Two Ways to Change Blades

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The best saws have a body-mounted lever that opens and closes the blade-clamp jaws for easy blade changes.

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The others use a blade-clamp release that encircles the blade clamp. These can be more difficult to access and operate.

A three-horse race...

The Bosch JS470E, DeWalt DW331K, and Milwaukee 6268-21 easily outdistanced this field of 10 jigsaws, and you’ll be happy with any of the three. But the Milwaukee placed at or near the top in all testing categories, so it claims Top Tool honors. Plus, it comes with a 5-year warranty.

For less than half the cost, the Hitachi CJ90VST ($75) lacks the speed control of the top-priced saws and has a fussy blade chuck, but it cuts well and also has a 5-year warranty. We named it our Top Value.

Download the complete Corded Jigsaw comparison chart.

A closer look at each tested jigsaw

Criteria for choosing the 10 jigsaws in this review:
■ 110-volt power
■ Variable-speed motor
■ D-grip-style handle
■ Priced between $70 and $175

Milwaukee 6268-21, $160

102225734.jpg

800-729-3878, milwaukeetool.com
This saw hit home runs nearly across the board: highly accurate cutting with no deflection, easy blade changes with a self-ejecting clamp, good cutline visibility with a strong blower and LED light, powerful motor, low vibration, a shoe you tilts tool-free, and an ergonomic handle. The variable-speed dial is mounted on the bottom of the variable trigger, though, making it somewhat difficult to see the markings and grip the trigger. And a plastic shield that wraps around the front of the saw clogged with dust, creating a cloud illuminated by the LED; we prefer cutting with this removed.

Hitachi CJ90VST, $75

102225731.jpg

800-829-4752, hitachipowertools.com
Sporting the strongest blower among the test saws, this model enabled us to easily see marked layout lines. It has one of the most comfortable grips, and is the only saw with the variable-speed dial on its front for easy access and visibility. It lacks a variable-control trigger, but it is soft-starting. You don’t get a plastic no-mar pad for the metal shoe, and its blade clamp proved the most difficult to operate.

Bosch JS365, $130

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877-267-2499, boschtools.com
Bosch’s “middle-of-the-pack” jigsaw has a respectable motor and dual speed controls. Even though the handle and trigger are comfortable, the trigger has an annoying delay before the motor responds. And although it’s easy to release a blade using the body-mounted lever, the chuck does not eject the blade. The shoe tilts in both directions, but with only a 90° detent, it can be tricky to precisely set other bevel angles.

Bosch JS470E, $160

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Compared to the JS365, this saw has a more powerful motor, self-ejecting blade chuck, larger shoe, and longer cord. It has a nice rubber-overmold grip and ergonomic trigger with soft-start—but immediate—response, and its blower was second strongest. The JS470E has the same shoe-tilting issues as the JS365. At just over 6 lbs, it’s the heaviest saw among those tested, but it’s not an issue unless you cut overhead. 

Craftsman 28223, $80

102225728.jpg

800-549-4505, craftsman.com
This saw has adequate power with decent ergonomics and blade changes. But three unique features—a cutline laser guide, an independent scrolling head, and a detachable D-handle that converts the saw into a barrel-grip version—offer limited value for the everyday woodworker. It vibrated more than any other saw, and demonstrated the most blade deflection.

DeWalt DW317K, $100

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800-433-9258, dewalt.com
With good power and sight lines, this model also has the dual speed control we like, but the variable-speed dial is mounted on the trigger, making it awkward to use. This saw lacks both a good guide roller and dust blower, limiting its viability in a woodworking shop.

DeWalt DW331K, $150

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This saw earned high marks for its absence of blade deflection, low vibration, powerful motor, comfortable handle and trigger (despite having the variable-speed dial located there), and a shoe that tilts tool-free. But the poor performance of its dust blower makes cutting along a line difficult, and though its blade clamp proves easy to open and close, it’s hard to tell when a blade is fully installed without tugging on it.

Makita JV0600K, $120

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800-462-5482, makitatools.com
A smooth-running saw with comfortable handles and trigger, easy blade changes, and minimal blade deflection, the JV0600K outperformed its pricier sibling. But a few factors keep it in the middle of the pack: A weak blower creates a dust cloud around the blade, impairing visibility; the lack of a variable-control or soft-start trigger limits your ability to adjust speed during use; and the absence of a no-mar pad for the shoe could result in scratched workpieces.

Makita 4350FCT, $175

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Like the JV0600K, this saw has a comfortable grip and low vibration, but it comes with a no-mar shoe pad. It displayed slightly more power in use, but with peskier blade changes than its sibling. Although the owner’s manual says this saw has a soft-start trigger, we did not experience this in testing, and the lack of a variable-speed trigger results in less control. A weak dust blower negates the built-in LED light that can’t light through an almost-blinding dust cloud.

Porter-Cable PCE341, $90

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888-848-5175, portercable.com
With adequate power, low vibration, good cutline visibility thanks to a strong blower, and easy blade changes, the PCE341 is a respectable value-priced tool. But the blade deflected nearly 116 " in 34 "-thick stock and tracked more to one side, forcing us to angle the saw to cut a straight line. Its slick handle lacks a rubber grip, and its shoe requires a hex wrench (not included) to loosen its two bolts.

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