If you are an avid DIYer, you probably have an assortment of different saws at your disposal. Chain saw, circular saw, miter saw, the list goes on and on. Each one has its own special purpose, of course, and you may question which saw should I be using to cut certain materials on my project?
You can use a jigsaw for a number of projects. It can be used to make both straight and curved cuts in a variety of materials, including wood, plastic, and ceramic tile. But, can a jigsaw cut metal? Yes, a jigsaw can be used to cut metal, it is recommended to use a bi-metal blade or a tungsten blade with a TPI greater than 21 to cut metal. To cut sheet metal choose a blade with a TPI greater than 21.
Lets dig into some additional factors that can determine if your jigsaw will be able to cut metal effectively and safely.
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Blades That Cut Metal
- High-speed steel- These blades do not accelerate the cutting speed. They are a harder material than the high-carbon steel blades. This blade can cut harder materials, but the heat it generates during the cutting process can wear the blade down quickly.
- High-carbon steel-These blades are made of iron with some carbon and manganese. The blades are very flexible and used on softer materials. Weakness is a major drawback of these blades, but they are less costly and easy to find. These are made mostly for cutting wood.
- Bi-metal-These blades are made of both High-speed steel and High-carbon steel. The body is made of High-carbon steel so it has flexibility and the teeth are made of High-speed steel so it can cut harder materials. These are ideal for using for harder and heavy cutting with the combination of both metals. They also last ten times longer than blades made from either steel on their own. These are good for using on hardwoods and metal.
- Tungsten Carbide-This is made of a carbon and tungsten compound. It is bonded to a steel shaft and usually has grit, such as sandpaper and no edges found in other blades to make a smooth cut. These blades are the most expensive and they are made for cutting the hardest of materials. These blades are excellent to use on ceramics, steel, and fiberglass.
Another important difference in blades would be blade teeth. Blade teeth affect how rough or fine the cut is. The blade teeth are usually ground or milled. Ground teeth are much sharper but wear out quickly. Milled teeth are not as sharp, but last longer.
TPI-Teeth Per Inch is the unit used to measure how many teeth in a square inch of the blade. Harder materials require a higher TPI and softer materials require a lower TPI. TPI also determines the cutting speed. Blades with fewer teeth will have a faster, rougher cut. Blades with more teeth cut slower and produce a smoother finish.
Jigsaw blades with a TPI between 6 and 20 are best for using on softer materials such as wood.
Harder materials, such as metal, are best to be cut with a blade having a TPI greater than or between 14 and 36.
Another factor in the blade are the layouts. This determines how the teeth are aligned on the blade.
A few common layouts are:
- Taper-Teeth are aligned straight and used for very fine, slow cuts.
- Wavy-Teeth are aligned in a wave shape, good for fine, straight cuts.
- Reverse-Teeth are aligned similar to the taper but run in the opposite direction. Best to use on materials that tend to chip.
- Side-Teeth are offset and best to use for rough, faster cuts.
As with any and all other projects, it is vital we take safety precautions seriously. Below are some precautions to always take seriously when using a jigsaw.
- Jigsaws produce dust, and if you’re cutting metal little shards of metal will fly everywhere! Be sure to wear a mask and goggles when using your jigsaw. Nothing is more painful than a tiny shard of metal in the eye.
- Jigsaws have exposed blades. Be sure to keep your fingers, hands, and any other part of your body out of the way of the blade. Also, if you have long hair, be sure to keep it tied back out of the way so it doesn’t impede your vision of the blade.
- Be sure to keep the power cord out of the way of the blade as well. You certainly don’t want to cut the power cord in the middle of your project. Make certain to have an extension cord long enough not to tangle yourself up in.
- Your blades should be sharp enough to do the job. If your blades are dull, there is a chance of them breaking, which is dangerous. Dull blades will not give you the finish you want either.
Safety first! Always make sure you follow safety precautions. A jigsaw is a wonderful tool but used incorrectly can cause serious harm and be a danger to yourself or anyone else around.
As you can see, there are a few things to consider when you are using your jigsaw, and many things you can use this versatile tool for. A jigsaw can be used on metal, but you must be sure you are choosing the correct type of blade first. It’s recommended to use a bi-metal blade or a tungsten-carbide blade with a TPI between 21-24 to cut metal. If you want to cut sheet metal, choose a blade with a TPI of 21-24 as well. Other blades may actually cut metal, but you will not get the nice finish you were hoping for.
Are all jigsaw blades interchangeable? There is a universal or U-shank blade, but not all jigsaw blades are interchangeable. As stated above, there are different blades that are best for cutting different materials.
What is the difference between an orbital jigsaw and a regular jigsaw? A regular, or standard, jigsaw moves the blade only in an up and down motion. An orbital jigsaw is quite different. With the orbital jigsaw, the blade moves slightly forward and into the wood, or other material, on the upswing. It then moves slightly backward on the downstroke as the blade resets for the next stroke.
What is the difference between a T-shank and a U-shank? The shank is the part of the blade that is locked into the clamp of the jigsaw. T-shank blades (tang shank) are the most commonly used blade and has a tang on the top of the blade that fits into the blade clamp of your jigsaw. Most are compatible with the jigsaws you’ll find on the market today.
A U-shank (universal shank) blade has a cut the shape of a U on the top of the blade. These were, at one time, the most common blade. However, since the tool-less change system has become more popular and accepts the T-shank, these U-shank blades have become less useful.
Can a jigsaw cut a 4×4? Yes, jigsaws can cut any type of wood. It works best if the softwood is no more than 1-1/2 inch thick and hardwood is no thicker than 3/4 inches.