In this installment of our Training Apprentice series, we’ll explore the art of using puzzles. A jigsaw or saber saw is an incredibly versatile tool that can handle straight cuts, patterns, curves, and plunge cuts. It’s capable of cutting a wide variety of materials with ease. The simplicity of the jigsaw allows beginners to make high-quality cuts in mere minutes. So, let’s dive in and learn how to use puzzles effectively.
Blade Material Matters
To begin using a jigsaw, the first step is to select the appropriate saw blade for the task at hand. Jigsaws can cut through wood, laminate, metal, and even tile. However, each material requires a specifically designed blade for optimal results. Stick to blades specifically crafted for the material you intend to cut for the best possible cut quality.
Blades for most applications are typically made of either carbon steel or bi-metal. They are usually 2 to 3-1/2 inches long or 1/4 inch wide for tight cuts, corners, and patterns, or 3/8 inch wide for general purpose cuts. Remember that blades with fewer teeth cut faster, while those with more teeth offer smoother cuts. The tooth count also varies depending on the material being cut, with wood cutting blades having fewer teeth compared to metal cutting blades.
Pro tip: Almost every puzzle shoe comes with a non-marking pad that covers the metal soleplate. That means you don’t have to worry about staining the expensive oak you’re using for your project. If your puzzle mat gets dirty or lost, simply apply a layer of masking tape to the base to avoid scratching or marking the surface.
How to Cut Wood Using a Jigsaw
Wood is one of the most common materials you’ll come across when using a jigsaw. While you can certainly learn by doing, there are a few tricks that can help expedite the learning process.
First and foremost, when cutting wood, remember to press the shoe (base) against the wood surface. This helps maintain stability and keeps the saw steady. Whether cutting straight lines or curves, always keep the shoe in contact with the workpiece.
Straight Cuts: Utilize the fence to guide the jigsaw parallel to the edge of the wood. This technique also aids in achieving precision for bevel and compound cuts.
Finishing Circular Saw Cuts: If you’re trying to avoid the circular saw cutting past a specific point, such as when cutting stairs, a jigsaw can come to the rescue. It enables you to make precise cuts in inside corners.
Cutting Curves: Move the jigsaw at a steady speed to prevent the blade from bending, resulting in uneven edges. Advance the saw slowly, allowing both the motor and blade to work harmoniously.
Plunge Cut: Angle the jigsaw onto the front lip of the shoe, start the saw, and firmly tilt it backward to penetrate the wood. If you plan to start cutting in a difficult-to-insert location, consider drilling a hole first.
Fine Work when Chopping/Tearing Doesn’t Work: Opt for a down-stroke cutting blade instead of the more common up-stroke wood cutting blade. If that’s not an option, place painter’s tape along the desired cutting line, draw your line, and then cut while keeping the tape in place. This tactic prevents tearing.
When cutting metal, use a blade with more teeth per inch, typically around 21 to 24. With this blade, you can easily cut 10-gauge sheet metal, non-ferrous pipe, mild steel, and lumber with studs.
Avoiding Burrs: To minimize burrs, sandwich the metal between two thin pieces of plywood.
Cutting Sheet Metal and Pipe: Cut at low speeds to reduce heat and prolong blade life.
Keep in mind that metal tends to wear down blades quickly, so if you have many cuts to make, be prepared with extra blades. You can extend the lifespan of your inserts by lubricating them with cutting oil.
Using a Jigsaw to Cut Laminate
When it comes to cutting laminate, it’s crucial to choose a blade that minimizes chipping.
Drill a Start Hole: Reduce the chances of chipping by drilling a start hole instead of attempting to cut directly.
Tape It Up: Another effective method to minimize tearing is to apply masking tape or paint tape along the cut lines.
Get Relief: Utilize short relief cuts to guide the blade smoothly through corners, reducing blade deflection.
Cutting Tiles? Absolutely!
Surprisingly, your jigsaw can also tackle tile cutting, particularly for tiles under 1/4″ thick. For this task, you’ll need specialized carbide abrasive inserts.
Lubricate the Cut: For thinner tiles, lubricate the cut with water. Thicker tiles may require cutting oil.
Reduce Tile Breakage: Ensure that the tile is securely clamped, and firmly hold the saw.
Cutting Curves: Work slowly and steadily, making relief cuts to remove waste material.
If you have any valuable tips on how to use puzzles, feel free to share them in the comments section below.