Power Tools for Beginners: How to Use a Jigsaw

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Are you wanting to start using power tools but feeling a bit intimidated by them? I’m walking you through a few different power tools, and today we’re talking about how to use a jigsaw. 

Welcome back to our Power Tools for Beginners series!

No clue what I’m talking about? I started this series last month as a way to get my butt in gear when it comes to actually using power tools around the house. I’m vaguely familiar with how to use most tools, but up until recently I had never actually used my tools to create anything on my own – I always let my husband do it.

But, I’m on a mission this year to learn how to use all of the power tools we own, and actually get comfortable building things without someone holding my hand throughout the project. And so, this series was born because I don’t like to do anything alone and I wanted to take y’all along for the ride. We learned how to use a miter saw last month to create this gorgeous geometric wall art, and today we’re going to talk about how to use a jigsaw.

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So, the jigsaw.

What is a jigsaw and why would I want to use it?

A jigsaw is a tool that’s used to cut thin materials into shapes. It’s typically used for more intricate projects than just cutting a straight line (mostly because, who has a steady enough hand to cut a straight line with this thing?) and it’s great for cutting letters or other shapes out of wood. We used a jigsaw to create this sign that used to hang in my office nook (it’s in the garage now), and once you learn how to use a jigsaw you can cut basically any shape you can image out of thin pieces of wood or metal – the sky’s the limit!

What did we use it for? Well, this time around, we used it to make this:

Fun, no? I’ll have a tutorial up for this specific project next week, but for now, let’s talk about the tool. Just like last time, we created a short little video to give you an overview of the tool and how to use it – so settle in and watch, and then afterward we’ll break it down a bit.

How to Use a Jigsaw

Super obvious disclaimer: I’m not an expert, I’m just a girl who has a husband who taught her how to use a jigsaw. Power tools are dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. Be careful, my friends.

This tool is really straightforward. There’s a blade on the end (don’t touch it!), a trigger to make it go, and some controls on the side that let you speed up or slow down the movement of the blade, depending on the material you’re cutting (for example, you want the blade to move slower if you’re cutting sheet metal because it’s so delicate, but faster if you’re cutting something hardier like wood).

To use the tool, all you really have to do is pull the trigger and let ‘er rip. Seriously – it’s that simple! If you’re still feeling apprehensive, though, here are a few additional tidbits of information that might be helpful if you’re using a jigsaw for the first time:

Tips for Using a Jigsaw

  • You want to move very slowly with the tool in order to avoid jagged edges, and to help make sure you follow the lines you’re supposed to follow.
  • Unless you’re just an artistic prodigy with an incredibly steady hand, you’re going to want to have some sort of guide to follow – for my project, I traced the letters onto the wood with a Sharpie to help me stay on track.
  • You don’t want to force the blade in an unnatural direction (it might break), but you also shouldn’t be afraid to tell the tool what to do. I was pretty timid with it at first, but then Corey showed me that it’s pretty good at making turns and curves, as long as you use good pressure and move slowly and steadily. It takes practice, but it’s not difficult at all!
  • Be prepared to break some wood your first few times if you’re cutting a more intricate pattern. The first letter I tried to cut out broke right in half the first time I tried to cut it – it took me a couple of tries before I was really comfortable with the tool, but once I got the hang of it, it was super simple.
  • You may not be able to reach every section of your design with the jigsaw alone. It’s pretty common to need to bust out a drill to create a small hole to get you started in a difficult-to-reach area.
  • Most models have a button on the side that allows the blade to run continuously without needing you to press the trigger. It’s a slightly more advanced technique (I was not comfortable trying that yet) but is great if you’re doing a really intricate cut and need all your focus to be on moving the tool.
  • And finally, you can get either a corded or a cordless jigsaw. Ryobi was generous enough to send us this great cordless model, and I loved that I didn’t have to worry about moving a cord around while I was working – one less thing to focus on when I’m using a tool that has the potential to cut my fingers off is always a good thing.

And really, that’s all there is to it!

You can see the full tutorial of how to make a wood sign using a jigsaw here, and be sure to let me know in the comments if there’s a specific tool you want to see – I’ve already got the next couple of tools planned out, but I’m always looking for ideas!

Power Tools for Beginners Series

  • How to use a miter saw
  • How to use a circular saw
  • How to use a power roller
  • How to use a paint sprayer

DIY GUides

  • How to paint a room
  • How to stain wood
  • How to hang curtains

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