Tips for using a Jigsaw – Beginners Guide

Jigsaw guide

Power tools are essential for any DIY enthusiast and even more useful in the workplace. Jigsaws have a very special place in the workshop because of their versatile nature and ability to cut intricate designs.

However, if you have never worked with this type of equipment before, it can feel a little overwhelming and could be potentially dangerous.

We know what it is like to be a beginner confronted with a jigsaw, but there is hope. In this guide, we are going to be looking at some of the most commonly asked questions about using a jigsaw for the first time and giving you some clear advice on how to get the most out of this diverse tool.

What Is A Jigsaw?

A jigsaw is a handheld tool that is designed to cut curves and other complex designs into wood, plastic, metal and other materials. It is ideally used with thinner pieces of material and makes use of a reciprocating blade.

Tips For Using A Jigsaw

One of the first things that you should consider when using a jigsaw for the first time is safety – anything with a blade has the potential to cause serious damage, and if it is not used correctly, there is a chance of an injury.

How Do I Use A Jigsaw Safely?

There are several things that you can do to keep yourself safe when using a jigsaw, most notably wearing the correct safety equipment. This can include gloves and eye goggles to protect the eyes from any flying debris that may spring off the wood or other material that you are cutting.

However, you can also take a look at these handy jigsaw safety tips:

  • Never put your hand closer than two inches from a moving blade.
  • If the cut is more than 1.5inches, you should turn off the power before attempting to back out of the cut.
  • Cutting materials thicker than ¾ inch may require a different tool.
  • You should make relief cuts on more significant projects and avoid twisting the blade whilst in use; this will prevent damage from occurring.
  • Do not force the saw into the material; it should be a gentle motion.
  • Be sure that you are using the correct type of blade for the material that you are cutting – we have a great full-length beginner’s jigsaw guide with some useful information on that here.

How Do You Cut A Straight Line With A Jigsaw?

One of the most common concerns for people who are not used to using this type of equipment is that they aren’t sure how to get their jigsaw to cut in a straight line. This type of saw is often associated with cutting curved lines, but there is the capacity to cut a straight line too.

If you have asked yourself ‘can I cut a straight line with a jigsaw?’, you will be pleased to know that you can but doing so requires an additional tool.

If you are trying to achieve a perfectly straight line, this can be tricky, even if you have marked the area out beforehand. Take a piece of perfectly straight wood and clamp this to the material that you are going to be cutting. You must make sure that it is fixed securely and will not move during the cutting process. You can now guide the shoe of the jigsaw along the wood and achieve a straight cut.

My Jigsaw Won’t Cut Straight.

Even if you have tried the above trick, you may find that you still have problems in achieving a straight cut, and this might not be down to the way you are cutting but more to do with the tool itself.

If you are using an older jigsaw, it is likely that there will not be a guide bearing and this can make it extremely difficult to achieve anything near a straight cut.

Until the 1990s, it was unheard of that a jigsaw would feature a guide bearing, yet many people are still using out of date tools that don’t have any of the features we would see on more modern pieces of equipment.

The only way to rectify this problem is to invest in a new jigsaw, that isn’t more than 30 years old. You will find that the addition of the guide bearing, as well as plenty of other modern features, will make the saw far easier to use. And of course, you will be easily able to get those straight lines.

Can You Use a Jigsaw Vertically?

When you think about using a jigsaw, you think about holding it horizontally and moving the device along the piece of material that you are cutting. But is this the most convenient method and can you use a jigsaw vertically?

The good news is that you can use your jigsaw vertically, but there are a few things to keep in mind when doing so.

A jigsaw is much slower than many other types of saws, so it can be ideal for making vertical cuts. Cutting at this angle could be dangerous and may cause an unexpected slip, ruining the entire project. Still, the delicate nature and slower speed of the jigsaw make it ideal for touching up materials that have already been installed.

You should be mindful, once again, that you are using the correct type of blade and cutting with the wrong one could damage both the blade and the material.

You can also cut a hole into the centre of the material using a vertical cut. This is commonly referred to as a plunge cut and knowing how to do this can come in extremely handy in the workshop.

Have the blade running at half speed and place the front of the shoe onto the material. You can then slowly bring the moving blade down towards the material and make the cut.

How Do You Cut Curves With A Jigsaw?

One of the best applications for a jigsaw is cutting a curved line, and many people turn to these tools to achieve an intricate design that other saws would be too cumbersome for.

Whether you have an important work project or want to try something new in your hobby shed, following these simple tips will help you to get the perfect curved cut with your jigsaw.

  • Begin by marking out your cuts and putting on your protective gear – safety is the most important aspect of using your jigsaw or any other type of power tool.
  • Now you are ready to make the cut; you should place the jigsaw near to the material but do not turn it on until you are ready to start.
  • Once the power is on, you can move the jigsaw slowly to the material being careful not to force the saw into the wood, metal, plastic or whatever you are cutting. This is a delicate process, and you should make sure that you guide the tool gently.
  • Making relief cuts along the cutting line is a great way to avoid damaging the blade or it becoming stuck.
  • If you don’t use relief cuts, you should be mindful that the blade does not become bevelled – be sure to adjust it as necessary.
  • Be mindful of cutting just outside the cutting line so that you do not cause any damage to the material.
  • A jigsaw will usually give a relatively clean cut, but there are times when you may need to use a sander to get a totally smooth finish.

What Can I Use Instead Of A Jigsaw?

Many people might compare a jigsaw to a bandsaw, and it is easy to see why this is. A bandsaw also features a thin blade, but the two are used to make different types of cuts.

Where a jigsaw works very well for cutting curved lines, it is a little more difficult to make a straight cut – without that important guide bearing.

In contrast, a bandsaw is adept at making straight cuts, so if you need this type of cut, this is a good alternative.

Another commonly confused tool with the jigsaw is the scroll saw – some people may even call a jigsaw a scroll saw, but they are two different pieces of equipment. In short, a scroll saw delivers a far more precise cut and can be used in place of a jigsaw.


A jigsaw is a great tool when it comes to cutting intricate curves and is relatively easy to pick up. That being said, there are some important safety considerations, and when you are new to this tool, you should familiarise yourself with how it is used.

If you have recently purchased your first jigsaw, you will likely be excited to get started – our beginner’s guide to this versatile tool tells you everything you need to know.

Tips for using a Jigsaw – Beginners Guide

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