In this edition of our Training Apprentice series we're looking at how to use puzzles. A jigsaw or saber saw is probably one of the most versatile tools you will use. It can handle straight cuts, patterns, curves and plunge cuts, and can cut a wide variety of materials. The jigsaw is so simple to use that beginners can safely make high-quality cuts in minutes. Since Puzzle is so simple to use, explaining how to use it should be a breeze, right? We'll see if that's the case. Here's how to use puzzles.
Blade material matters
To use a jigsaw, the first thing you need to do is choose the right saw blade for the task at hand. Jigsaws can cut through wood, laminate, metal, and even tile, but they require specially designed blades to cut through each of these materials. Stick to blades designed for the specific material you plan to use for the best cut quality.
No matter what material you plan to cut, most blades will be made of carbon steel or bi-metal. They are usually 2 inches to 3-1/2 inches long, or 1/4 inch wide for tight cuts or around corners, or 3/8 inch wide for general purpose cuts. A blade with fewer teeth cuts faster, while a blade with more teeth cuts more smoothly. It also varies with different materials. For example, wood cutting blades have fewer teeth than metal cutting blades.
Pro tip: Almost every puzzle shoe has a non-marking pad that covers the metal soleplate. You don't have to worry about staining the expensive oak you use for your lazy susan. If your puzzle mat gets dirty or lost, apply a layer of masking tape to the base to avoid scratching or marking the surface.
How to Cut Wood Using a Jigsaw
Wood represents one of the more common materials you'll cut with a jigsaw. While you may be able to learn by doing, getting into projects with a few tricks may speed up the learning process.
This may seem obvious, but remember to press the shoe (base) against the wood when cutting. It helps you keep the saw steady. You can cut straight lines, or you can cut curves, but keep the shoe on the workpiece.
- Straight Cuts: Use the fence to guide your jigsaw parallel to the edge of the wood. This also helps with precision in bevel and compound cuts.
- Finishing the Circular Saw Cut: If you are actively trying not to let the circular saw cut past a certain point, such as when cutting stairs, you can use a jigsaw to make precise cuts to inside corners.
- Cutting Curves: Move the jigsaw at a speed that won't cause the blade to deflect (bend), so there are no slightly beveled edges. Move the saw forward slowly, allowing the motor and blade to work.
- Plunge cut: You'll angle the jigsaw onto the front lip of the shoe. Start the jig saw and tilt the saw firmly back so the blade penetrates the wood. If you plan to start cutting in a place that is difficult to insert, try drilling a hole first.
- Fine work where chopping/tearing doesn't work: Pick up a down-stroke cutting blade rather than the more common up-stroke cutting wood cutting blade. If that's not an option, put some painter's tape on the line you want to cut, draw your line, then tape cut into place. It will help you avoid tearing.
Cutting metal requires a blade with more small teeth; you're looking at 21 to 24 teeth per inch. With this blade, you can use the jigsaw to cut up to 10 gauge sheet metal, ferrous pipe (non-ferrous), mild steel and lumber with studs.
- Avoid burrs: Sandwich the metal between two thin pieces of plywood to help reduce burrs.
- Cutting sheet metal and pipe: Cut at low speeds to reduce heat and extend blade life.
Metal cutters chew up blades very quickly, so if you have a lot of cuts on your plate, be prepared to have extras. You can extend the life of your inserts by lubricating them with cutting oil.
Using a Jigsaw to Cut Laminate
For laminate cutting, you'll want a blade that cuts down to minimize chips on the material.
- Drill Start Hole: Reduce chips by drilling a start hole instead of trying to cut in.
- Tape it up: Another way to help reduce tearing is to use masking tape or paint tape on cut lines.
- Get Relief: Use the short relief cut to ease the blade through corners to reduce blade deflection.
Cutting tiles? Completely correct.
Your jigsaw can cut tile, and for tiles under 1/4" thick, they might even be ideal for when you need to make curved cuts. You will need special carbide abrasive inserts designed for this task.
- Lubricate the cut: For thinner tiles, lubricate the cut with water. Thicker tiles may require cutting oil.
- Reduce tile breakage: Clamp the tile securely and hold the saw firmly.
- Cutting Curves: Work slowly and steadily, and make sure to make some relief cuts to remove waste.
If you have any helpful tips on how to use the puzzle, feel free to leave them in the comments section below.