One of the most satisfying woodworking tools is the jigsaw. Anyone who’s needed to cut curves and circles into wood or other materials knows how valuable this tool is and how much fun it can be to operate. Having the right tool for the job is essential, but how deep can you cut with a jigsaw?
You can cut nearly as deep into whatever you’re cutting as the jigsaw blade is long. Theoretically, a six-inch blade can cut a six-inch piece of wood. But in practice, this isn’t exactly true, and it’s not especially safe, either. The recommended depth for a jigsaw cut is about 1 1/2″.
A jigsaw uses a reciprocating blade, which means that the motor drives the blade up and down. Since it has a motor, a jigsaw is a power tool. As such, it can be more dangerous than your manual hand equipment, so knowing what a jigsaw should and shouldn’t cut is essential, as is figuring out just how deep a cut you can safely make with your jigsaw.
Different Blades for Different Jobs
Jigsaw blades come in varying lengths and configurations, and you’ll need to know what you’re planning on cutting, as there isn’t a universally accepted cut-anything blade.
Blades for cutting wood aren’t the same as those for metal, laminates, and tiles.
Blades will generally be sold in packs — like the BOSCH T10RC Jig Saw Blade Set — and offer varying TPI and lengths, combo packs for wood and metal, and all manner of specialty blades.
The Trend Enterprises Professional Jigsaw Blade is for cutting plastic, and a specialty blade is required since a different blade will create enough heat to melt together the cut you just made.
What You Want Your Saw To Do
Past the material you’ll be cutting, you also need to have an idea of the kind of work you’ll be doing.
If you plan on intricate lines and curves being part of your jigsaw adventure, you’ll need a thinner blade since you’ll need some flexibility when cutting around tighter turns.
Working a thicker blade around a small, intricate cut can result in the blade bouncing out of the cut or even breaking, and either can be pretty dangerous. Straighter cuts can use a thicker blade.
Read also: Why Is My Jigsaw Not Cutting Straight?
You’ll also want to consider the teeth-per-inch (TPI) of the blade you choose. The higher the TPI, the better the blade will be for cutting thinner materials.
A blade with six TPI is a good choice for thicker wood, while a 15 TPI blade will better serve your needs with a thinner piece. More teeth on a blade also mean a smoother cut.
If you don’t want to do a lot of sanding afterward, you’ll want a higher TPI blade.
Smoother cuts also come from not forcing the saw forward. Be patient and apply just enough pressure to move it gently forward along the cutline.
Finally, on an adjustable-speed saw, higher speeds yield smoother cuts, but higher speeds are only safely used by people familiar with the tool.
Beginning users need to start with a slower speed to be safe.
What You’re Cutting
While jigsaws can cut various materials, they’re most often thought of as tools for cutting wood. In general, avoid hardwoods.
Firs, pines, and cedars are some of the softer woods often used in building projects. A jigsaw won’t have trouble with these.
However, harder woods like oaks and birches will take a little extra care if you’re going to put them under your jigsaw blade.
Harder woods notably create more friction against the saw blade.
Running your blade too fast or forcing the saw forward when cutting harder woods creates more friction, which can leave scorch marks on the wood you’ve just cut, and might even lead to the saw burning out.
If you smell something burning, stop cutting. You may need a different blade, less pressure, or a different tool altogether.
Jigsaw Blade Length and Depth of Cut
A good rule of thumb that experienced jigsaw users observe is this: you can safely cut a piece of wood (or whatever material you’re using) that is one inch shallower than the length of the blade.
You have to take into consideration three things in this case:
- The entire blade does not cut: While most of the blade’s length extends out of the jigsaw’s foot, not all of it makes contact with the materials.
- Stroke length: Your saw’s blade goes up and down to create the cutting motion. The cut you make cannot be any deeper than the length of the blade when it’s sitting at the top of the saw’s stroke.
- The bottom of the cut: If your blade isn’t long enough to cut completely through your material, you’ll risk the blade’s tip impacting against the bottom of the cut. This can result in the blade breaking or deflecting or the saw jumping. Either can cause injury to the user or bystanders.
This all means that a four-inch blade can safely be used to produce a cut in a piece of material no thicker than three inches.
But before you decide to find yourself a ten-inch blade, remember that the longer the blade is, the more chance there is for that blade to bend or warp, which can be very dangerous.
Use Tools for Their Intended Purposes
While it’s a widely accepted maxim that you should always use the right tool for the right job, not everyone follows that advice.
Truth be told, just about everyone has, at some point, tried to make the wrong tool work because it was all that was available.
Jigsaws get misused like any other tool, so there are ways to do so safely. Specifically, a jigsaw often gets drafted into service to cut, say, a 2×4 in the absence of a circular saw.
While this isn’t what jigsaws are for, you can safely make such a cut by going slowly and not forcing the saw.
This also brings us back to the topic of blades since even if the jigsaw is the right tool, the wrong blade can cause problems.
As already mentioned, blades are widely available for wood and metal, but there are also specialty blades for nearly any material you can think of.
There are even jigsaw blades explicitly made for cutting leather. Take the time to find the blades you need. It’s a time investment that will pay off.
It’s also important to take proper safety precautions when using any power tool. Eye protection is a must, especially with a jigsaw, as it’s a tool that spits out a lot of wood in the form of sawdust and splinters.
Getting a splinter in your finger is uncomfortable. But in your eye? Forget it. Gloves and hearing protection are also appropriate.
Within reason, you can cut as deeply with a jigsaw as it makes you comfortable.
As blades are available in various lengths, there is no hard-and-fast rule as to how deep you can go.
Again, follow the guideline of cutting materials that are at least one inch thinner than your blade is long.
Exceptions to this rule of thumb are possible and not entirely unsafe but should be undertaken with care and the benefit of experience.
The newer you are to operating a jigsaw, the closer you should stay to this guideline.
Pay attention to what you’re cutting, follow the lines you’ve marked for the cut, and take it slow and steady.
Cheers, tools owners!