Doug wrote in with an interesting question, and one that a lot of homeowners, DIYers, and beginner woodworkers face at one time or another.
What would you buy first, a jig saw, or a circular saw? Here’s his question in more detail:
If you were an average homeowner, which saw would you want first?
A friend of mine just got her first home, and likes to do small projects. I thought of getting her a circular saw but got to thinking, maybe a jig saw would be a better choice?
You could always cut a few 2x’s with the jig if you had to, but you are never going to cut any curves with the circular? A metal cutting blade in the jig could cut down the shower rod or threshold strip a lot easier.
A jig saw is safer, but this woman is more than competent and has built decks and taken the lead on sheathing roofs for habitat so my concern is best bang for the buck, most versatile, and most useful for a single woman homeowner.
After giving this much thought, and reflecting back to my own purchase decisions, I’m going to say that a jig saw is the better choice as one’s first power saw. This might not be true for everyone, but maybe my rationale will help.
A jig saw, equipped with the proper blade, can handle many different types of cuts, and in different types of material.
Back when I bought my first jig saw, I eventually paid more for clamping straightedge cutting guides than it would have cost to buy an inexpensive circular saw. But at the time I didn’t have much space to use or store tools, or I might not have been thinking clearly. Jig saws are not ideal for making long straight cuts in sheet materials.
But you know what can make long straight cuts in sheet goods, such as plywood? The home improvement store or lumber yard where you go to buy your raw materials. They’ve got panel saws that make quick work of sheet goods. The first cut is free, after that there’s a minor cost – something like 25 cents per cut.
A jig saw can cut 2x4s and other 2x boards with reasonable ease and straightness, and you can just use a rafter square or similar as a basic straightedge cutting guide.
There’s also how jig saws can make cuts of any shape or size. You can even cut shapes out of the middle of a workpiece, granted that you start the cuts with strategically drilled holes.
Years ago, when I started buying my own power tools, I opted to buy a good Bosch jig saw than to spend less on homeowner brands of jig and circular saws. Was it the right choice? Honestly, I don’t know, but I have never once regretted my purchasing decision.
After that, my next saw purchase was for a Craftsman 10-inch miter saw. My circular saw purchase only came after that, and it was for a Festool track saw. I had used circular saws before that, but kept putting off the purchase until I saved up for the Festool. Without room for a table saw, and tired of working with frustrating edge guides, I looked to the Festool for breaking down sheet goods, and it works like a dream.
Depending on the project you plan on tackling, a circular saw might be the better choice. You cannot use metal-cutting blades with a wood-cutting circular saw, or at least that’s what I’ve read, due to the motor design and what-not. But they do make fine-cutting blades, non-ferrous and plastic-cutting blades, and plywood blades for super-smooth finishes.
Circular saws are often better for making long and straight cuts, with or without a cutting guide.
It’s a tough choice to make, but I think that a jig saw is going to be the better choice as a DIYer or homeowner’s first power saw.
Oh – and corded. Unless someone has a particular interest in going cordless, or already bought into a cordless system they plan to expand or at least maintain over time, corded yields better bang for the buck.
Here are two prior discussions about corded vs. cordless:
A corded saw, whether you choose a jig saw or circular saw as your first power saws, will last for years, while the batteries of a cordless saw might give out sooner. Battery longevity is better than ever, thanks to the high performance and features of modern Li-ion battery technology, but sooner or later all batteries must be replaced.
For a professional, who might get daily use out of a particular tool, cordless is an increasingly better way to go, at least with certain tool categories.
But for the homeowner, DIYer, or hobbyist that might only dust off and use their saw a couple of times each year, a corded model will deliver greater bang for the buck. For the same money, a DIYer on a budget can often buy a better corded tool than a cordless one.
So that’s my take on the jig saw vs. circular saw purchasing decision. Eventually, an active DIYer or homeowner might have both. But to start off, I think that a jig saw offers greater potential.