A good blade can make all the difference when it comes to making the correct cuts with a jigsaw. However, there is a wide variety of options on the market and this can be a bit intimidating for those just starting out with this tool.
So, to make things clearer, this quick guide will help you learn how to choose the right jigsaw blades for your project and will also take you through what different kinds are needed to cut different materials.
The Two Jigsaw Blade Shank Types to Know
For the most part, jigsaw blades are categorized by the type of shank that they have.
The shank is the piece of the blade that is locked into the clamp of the jigsaw and these will either be a T-shank or U-shank. It is important to get this right as otherwise, the blade you buy will not fit your tool regardless of how suitable it might be for the task at hand.
These are the most commonly used kinds of jigsaw blade shanks today.
These have a tang on the top of them that fits into the tool-free blade clamp. These blade shanks are compatible with almost all of the modern jigsaws you will find available in most hardware stores these days.
U-shank blades have a cut shaped like a “U” at the top of them. These were once the most common type of blade shanks used in jigsaws for many years but the advent of the tool-less blade change system has caused them to lose popularity.
If you come across an older model jigsaw, you will likely find that it uses a U-shank blade. These are becoming more and more difficult to replace as the days go on, so be careful if you are using a jigsaw with this kind of blade shank.
4 Common Jigsaw Blade Types by Cutting Material
With the types of shanks out of the way, let’s take a look at different types of blades by the type of materials they are able to cut.
#1 Reverse Tooth Blades
Unlike most jigsaw blades, the teeth of reverse tooth blades point downwards so that they cut on the downstroke rather than the upstroke.
This means that they can effectively cut through materials that are prone to splintering, such as laminate worktops, without damaging their surface.
#2 Plunge Cut Blades
Some jigsaw blades have a sharp tip on the end of the blade which allows them to pierce a workpiece when they begin to do plunge cutting.
These blades are designed to be used with soft materials such as softwood and plasterboard and should not be used for heavier materials for they will not be able to cut through them without overheating.
#3 Scrolling Blades
These blades are designed for scroll cutting and are narrower than standard blades. This allows them to cut tight curves without bending or breaking.
Scrolling blades are perfect for making clean and controlled cuts and can be used on soft metals like copper, brass, and aluminum.
#4 Flush Cutting Blades
Because the shoe of a jigsaw usually extends past the blade, it can sometimes prevent you from making a cut flush to a surface.
A flush-cutting blade solves this problem as its wider body extends its reach so that the jigsaw is able to cut up to a vertical surface.
However, jigsaws that have shoes that are closed at the front, cannot be used with this type of blade. So these blades are for niche uses only and should only be applied to projects where you know you’ll need them.
This type of blade can be used to cut just about any kind of material and is most often used by contractors because of its ability to create a better finish on the final product.
What Materials Are Jigsaw Blades Made From?
In terms of the material that the actual blade is made from, there are four main types.
#1 HCS Blades
High carbon steel (HCS) blades can withstand flexing well and are generally inexpensive, making them a popular choice for cutting softwoods and light-duty plastics.
The metal itself is fairly soft and pliable and these blades can be expected to survive bends and curves well. That said, the teeth will wear out faster than the other types of blades, especially if it’s used on tougher materials.
#2 HSS Blades
High-speed steel (HSS) is most commonly used to make drill bits for metal. Along the same vein, jigsaw blades made from HSS are typically designed for metal as well.
While HSS teeth can withstand repeated cuts through tougher materials, the metal itself is quite stiff and inflexible, meaning that bends and curves can cause the blade to break prematurely.
#3 Bi-Metal Blades
Bi-metal (BIM) blades are made from a composite material, commonly consisting of the two previous materials above.
These blades often use HSS for the teeth and HCS for the main body of the blade. This irons out the shortcomings of the two blades and creates a blade that will flex without breaking and cut through hard materials without dulling the teeth.
This makes these blades ideal for curved cuts in tougher materials like hardwoods and metal. However, BIM blades can be amongst the most expensive to buy. At the same time, though, because of their durability, they can be viewed as a long term investment for dedicated workers.
#4 Tungsten Carbide Blades
Tungsten carbide (TC) is an extremely hard material commonly used in industrial tooling. TC blades are not made purely from tungsten carbide but instead, they have either carbide teeth or a layer of tungsten carbide grit which is applied to the cutting edge instead of saw teeth.
This type of blade is commonly used when cutting through abrasive materials like bathroom tiles, plasterboard, fiber cement boards, or glass fiber reinforced plastics.
Jigsaw Blade Size: Which Dimensions Matter?
A blade that isn’t long enough will quickly cause problems when you’re working on a project so you’ll want to make sure you’ve picked one with the right dimensions if you’re cutting through deep materials.
Keep in mind that there are two different figures which need to be accounted for which are the length, which usually runs from the tip of the shank to the tip of the blade, and width, which will indicate how durable the blade is.
Jigsaw Blade Teeth: What Should You Keep in Mind?
The vast majority of jigsaw blades will have some kind of saw tooth configuration which will determine how effectively they can accomplish a project.
One of the most basic principles when it comes to saw teeth is that a high tooth count makes for a finer but slower cut, while a low tooth count makes for a faster but rougher cut.
Most jigsaw blades are designed to cut on the upstroke and have teeth that point towards the shank, but you can also buy, as mentioned earlier, blades that cut on the downstroke as well.
This only scratches the surface of the many options available on the market and it would take much longer to go through every kind of blade you could use on the incredibly versatile jigsaw.
However, the best way to make sure you’re choosing the best jigsaw blade is to look at the manufacturer’s description. Most new blades are supplied with basic usage instructions and application guides to make it easier to understand what they’re used for.
All in all, hopefully, this guide has helped you grow more comfortable with jigsaws and has given you a good starting point in picking the right kind of blade for your next project.