Whether you are cutting metal, wood, plastic, ceramic tiles, or countertops, you will love the versatility that a jigsaw offers when cutting curves. However, cutting curves can be challenging without the proper jigsaw settings and cutting skills. Whether using a hand jigsaw or an electric one, this guide provides you with everything you might need to improve precision when cutting curves.
How To Use A Jigsaw To Cut Curves
1. Assemble the cutting tools
Although you can use any jigsaw model to cut curves, it is advisable to go for one with a high RPM for precise cuts. Going for a model with a variable speed is also advisable as it will help you have better control over your cuts. However, you should not use the orbital action when cutting curves as it compromises accuracy.
Considering that many Jigsaw models come with thick and rigid blades, you need to swap these blades with the smaller and thinner scrolling blades. The flexibility and the slim form factor of the scrolling blades enhance cutting curves as you will be able to follow the cutting lines much more precisely than when using the thick and stiff standard blades. You’ll also be able to change the cut direction with minimal chances of the blade snapping.
Considering that jigsaw blades can’t drill pilot holes, you will need a power drill with the correct drill bit size for drilling the pilot holes. If you are using free hands to mark curves, you will need a pencil for marking the cutting lines. If you don’t have the adequate skills for free handing the outline, you can use curve guides, online software, or templates to outline.
2. Use free hands to mark and cut curves
When making a freehand cut, use a pencil to draw and cut a line on your workpiece. Using a stencil or a template can help make the drawing much easier. If working on a complicated design, marking the waste side of the cut with an X can help.
Before starting the jigsaw, ensure you secure the piece of material you are working on and have sufficient clearance off the bench or floor for the jigsaw blade. In most cases, woodworkers prefer using clamps to secure the working materials.
For better clamping and securing, ensure that you place around half of the material you are working on on the working table. Although the clamping will depend on the weight and size of the material you are working on, it is advisable to use at least two clamps.
3. Wear a protective gear
Once the material and the jigsaw are ready, it’s time to wear the protective gear before turning it on. Wear the earplugs to avoid the potential ear damage from the loud sound of the jigsaw. You might also need to wear an apron and goggles to protect yourself from the dust and debris from the material you will be cutting.
4. Start making the cuts
Considering that the jigsaw blade can’t drill, fit the correct size of a drill bit into the power drill and then make the pilot hole. Instead of drilling a starter hole, you can also use the jigsaw to make a plunge cut. Ensure the jigsaw shoe is flat and in contact with the workpiece.
With the blade’s kerf on the waste side, place the jigsaw blade on the cutting line. Although many people prefer positioning the jigsaw blade in contact with the piece of the material they are working on and then pulling the trigger, it is advisable to start the jigsaw and give it time to gain speed before contacting the blade to the piece of material.
When making different cuts, it is advisable to steer the jigsaw using both hands. If your jigsaw features a variable speed trigger, you may adjust the speed when cutting if need be. If working on tighter curves or cutting across the grain, ensure the speed of your saw is a bit slow.
5. Cut more precise curves using a template
Instead of drawing on the material you are working on and then making the cuts hands-free, you can use a template to make the curves more precise. You can make the template from anything used to cut but rigid when using it, such as plastic, softwood, or cardboard. However, you need to ensure the edges of your template are error-free and smooth.
This smoothening might mean sanding and cleaning the edges. Although you can then use the template to draw a cutting line on the material you are working on, it will yield better results as a guide for your jigsaw. Whether using the drawn line or the template as a guide, go slow in your cutting and consider stopping and backing up the blade a bit to ensure the turn is smooth and tight.
In case of intricate cuts when the turns are too tight, you can make some relief cuts on the waste side of the material to improve the flexibility of the blade. You can also consider making slow left-to-right sweeping motions to chip away at the material. However, the relief cuts should be about the width of the blade to avoid wasting too much material in the process.
6. Cut and draw curves using a circular jigsaw jig or a trammel
Cutting circles or circular arcs using free hands is quite challenging, particularly if you have to center or align them on the material you’re working on. To cut appealing circles using a jigsaw, you will require a circular jig or a trammel.
Although marking a cutting line is optional while using the jigsaw, it provides you with a guide on the path to follow when cutting. With a trammel with a pencil on one of its ends, draw the circle that makes a cutting line. Using a drill, make a hole on the outside of the circle and ensure it is big enough for the jigsaw blade to fit in with ease.
Make sure you set the circular jig on the correct radius such that its blade sits on the outside part of the cutting line and secure it to the jigsaw shoe. Switch the jigsaw on and give its blade time to gain speed before cutting.
Important tips when cutting curves using a jigsaw
Whether you are a beginner or a veteran, there are chances of making mistakes when cutting curves with a jigsaw. Fortunately, the following tips can help you with your cuts’ overall smoothness and accuracy.
- You can avoid the bite from being too hard when starting to cut by setting the minimum jigsaw RPM before the blade contacts the material you are cutting and then slowly contacting the material
- After starting to cut, press the blade into the material you are cutting and start increasing the speed
- Ensure the jigsaw base is correctly and firmly sitting on the workpiece to enhance flexibility when sliding along the curve as you cut
- Although it will depend on the length of the curve you are cutting, it’s advisable to consistently cut without stopping until you finish
- Making a pilot hole large enough is advisable to allow the blade to turn for 360 degrees. Keep in mind that the pilot hole should be on the waste material
- It is advisable to test cutting curves on scrap material before cutting on the actual material. Typically, even a veteran can find it challenging to cut curves on certain materials, and so testing is important
- Instead of placing the workpiece at the middle of the workbench, consider placing it on edge to ease movements when necessary
- It is advisable to use the jigsaw blade with a downstroke so the edge and face of the workpiece will remain smooth
- When choosing a blade for cutting curves, go for one with the highest teeth per inch. Typically, these blades are slower but reduce the risks of missing out and results in smoother cuts
Key safety considerations when using a jigsaw
You should keep in mind some safety considerations, especially when using electric jigsaws to cut curves. Some of these considerations include:
- Avoid pressing the jigsaw when you are about to complete the cut to prevent the accidental acceleration of the saw as the blade finishes the cut or leaves the kerf
- Ensure you are using sharp blades to cut the curves to avoid excessively pressuring the saw or the blade
- When cutting using an electric jigsaw, ensure the power cable trails behind and not in front of the cutting blade
- Do not curl your fingers around the material you are working on or place your fingers too near to the cutting line to avoid injuring yourself
- After finishing the cut, turn off the jigsaw and then give it time for the blade to stop movements before putting the saw down
The above guide will help you cut curves in a wide variety of materials using a jigsaw. Although the first cuts might not be perfect, you can achieve the desired results after a few trials. Remember to try the cuts on a scrap material if you are a beginner or unfamiliar with the material you are cutting. Finally, keep safety in mind and follow all safety precautions.