Rotary Saw vs. Jigsaw: Which to Use?

Rotary Saw vs. Jigsaw: Which to Use?

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There are dozens of different types of saw out there, with two extremely ones in construction being the rotary saw and the jigsaw.

Today, we are here to determine what exactly both of these saws are, what they are used for, what similarities they share, what makes them different, and which one is best for certain tasks.

Rotary Saws and Jigsaws: The Basics

Before we start talking about similarities and differences, Let’s first define what these two tools are.

What Is a Rotary Saw?

Rotary Saw The rotary saw is a relatively small handheld electric saw. Although it may be small and seemingly unimpressive, it’s actually considered to be a heavy-duty tool. The rotary saw features a small circular blade that is usually around two or three inches in diameter.

That said, a rotary saw may also be able to use a variety of other bits. However, do not mistake a rotary saw for a rotary tool. These are not the same thing.

The main purpose of a rotary saw is to make relatively small and precise cuts, usually interior cuts, on drywall, plywood, plasterboard, and other similar materials.

Moreover, depending on the blade that the rotary saw in question is affixed with, it can also be used to cut many other materials including softwood, hardwood, granite, stone, concrete, asphalt, cast iron, and other metals.

What Is a Jigsaw?

Jigsaw We then have a jigsaw, which is also a relatively small handheld saw. Just like the rotary saw, it is also a powered saw that may be battery-powered or corded. One of the defining features of a jigsaw is that it features a very thin, flexible, and fine-toothed blade that is usually around 4 inches in length.

Moreover, the blade of a jigsaw moves in a reciprocating motion along the vertical plane, or in other words, it moves up and down extremely quickly. A jigsaw is a very commonly used tool in woodworking. It is generally used to cut a variety of irregular shapes and curves.

If you are careful, you may be able to cut straight lines with it. Although the jigsaw is primarily used for woodworking, depending on the blade, it may also be able to cut plastic, various metals, as well as other materials.

Similarities of Rotary Saws and Jigsaws

Now that we know what these two tools are, let’s figure out what makes them similar. As you are about to see, there aren’t very many similarities.

1. They’re Both Powered

Both of these tools are powered and may get power via a battery or AC power.

2. They’re Handheld and Maneuverable

Both of these tools are designed to be handheld, as they are not affixed to any kind of base. Because of this, both of these saws are fairly lightweight and maneuverable. They’re also certainly designed for portability.

3. They May Both Be Used One-Handed

Although a jigsaw is slightly less capable of this than a rotary saw, both can technically be used with a single hand. They’re both lightweight and have handles that allow them to be operated with one hand while holding the workpiece with your other hand.

Jigsaw in Use

Differences Between Rotary Saws and Jigsaws

Now that we know what makes them similar, let’s determine what makes jigsaws and rotary saws different from each other.

1. Size and Weight

A rotary saw is generally much smaller and lighter than a jigsaw, as well as more compact. When it comes to one-handed use, the rotary saw is the better option. The rotary saw is therefore also better for making small cuts in very tight spaces.

2. Blade Type and Motion

The rotary saw has a fairly small circular blade that spins very quickly in a circle. On the other hand, a jigsaw has a long and straight blade that moves in a reciprocating motion along the vertical plane. Essentially, one blade spins in a constant circle and the other moves back and forth.

3. Guided vs. Unguided

Something that makes the jigsaw very easy to use is that it comes complete with a guide plate on the bottom. This helps to keep the saw steady while in use. A rotary saw has no such guide, and therefore relies solely on the user for accuracy.

4. Cutting Intricate Curves and Shapes

A rotary saw does have a small blade which makes it ideal for making precise cutouts in drywall, plywood, and other such materials. However, due to the nature of the blade of the rotary saw, it’s not ideal for cutting intricate curves and shapes. However, this type of cutting is exactly what a jigsaw is built for.

5. Etching

If you need to etch a design into a piece of wood, you could use a rotary saw but would struggle to get the job done using a jigsaw.

6. More Than Just Cutting

A rotary saw does technically allow you to remove the blade and then attach other bits to it to do more than just cutting.

7. Intended Purpose

The intended purpose of a jigsaw is primarily to cut curves and irregular shapes into wood, while the intended purpose of a rotary saw, originally, was to cut precise holes into drywall and other similar materials.

8. Materials That Can Be Cut

Depending on the attachment, a rotary saw can cut drywall, plasterboard, plywood, normal wood, asphalt, concrete, granite, stone, plastic, cast iron, and various other types of metal.

A jigsaw on the other hand is designed primarily for cutting wood, although depending on the attachment, it may also be able to cut plastic, PVC, and thin metals.

Rotary Saw in Use

Rotary Saw vs. Jigsaw: Which of the Two Should You Use?

If you are cutting irregular shapes or curves into wood, or you just need to quickly saw apart a thin piece of metal or PVC pipe, then a jigsaw will do just fine.

However, if you need to make precise cuts into something like plywood, plasterboard, or drywall, or you need to etch a design into a piece of wood or other material, or need to cut very hard materials such as granite, then a rotary saw is the way to go.


Now that you know what makes the rotary saw different from the jigsaw, you can decide which of these two tools is ideal for a variety of tasks that you may want to complete.

How Do Rotary Saws and Jigsaws Compare with Other Tools?

See how rotary saws compare with: circular saws

See how jigsaws compare with: bandsaws | circular saws | circular and reciprocating saws | coping saws | oscillating multi-tools | reciprocating saws | Rotozips | routers | scroll saws