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Tool Test: Jigsaws, continued

Jigsaw Specs - Part 1

Model

Grip

Street Price*

Weight (in lbs) **

Cord Length

Motor Rating

Toolless Bevel Mech.

Bosch 1584AVS

barrel

$155

5.5

8'

5.0 amp

no

Bosch 1587AVS

top

$155

5.7

8'

5.0 amp

no

DeWalt DW323

barrel

$164

5.9

9'6"

5.8 amp

yes

DeWalt DW933

top

$279

8.0

n/a

18v cordless

yes

DeWalt DW321

top

$164

6.0

9'6"

5.8 amp

yes

DeWalt DW318

top

$103

6.1

8'

4.5 amp

no

Fein ASTe 638

barrel

$475

5.3

9'9"

4.7 amp

no

Festo PS2E

barrel

$292

5.0

13'

450 watt

no

Freud FJ85

top

$109

5.4

7'3"

4.8 amp

no

Hitachi CJ65V2

top

$159

5.6

8'

5.2 amp

no

Makita 4305T

barrel

$159

5.4

9'

5.5 amp

yes

Makita 4304T

top

$159

5.6

9'

5.5 amp

yes

Metabo STEB 105 Plus

top

$199

6.0

14'

6.0 amp

no

Metabo STE 105 Plus

barrel

$199

5.8

14'

6.0 amp

no

Milwaukee 6267-20

barrel

$299

5.8

n/a

12v cordless

no

Milwaukee 6266-6

top

$149

5.5

9'6"

5.7 amp

no

Porter-Cable 9543

top

$159

6.4

10'

6.0 amp

yes

* Price includes case (except Frued, Fein, Milwaukee's cordless

** May differ from manufacturers' specs; does not include weight of cord, which was supported while tool was being weighed.

Jigsaw Specs - Part 2

Model

Toolless Blade Clamp

Switch Type

Speed Control

Speed (spm)

Vibration ***

Place of Manuf.

Bosch 1584AVS

yes

slide

wheel

500-3100

less than average

USA

Bosch 1587AVS

yes

trigger

trigger

500-3100

less than average

USA

DeWalt DW323

yes

slide

wheel

500-3100

less than average

Italy

DeWalt DW933

yes

trigger

trigger

0-2000

n/a

Assemb. in USA

DeWalt DW321

yes

trigger

trigger

500-3100

average

Assemb. in USA

DeWalt DW318

no

trigger

trigger

0-3100

average

EU

Fein ASTe 638

no

slide

wheel

1050-2600

much less than avg.

Germany

Festo PS2E

no

slide

wheel

1200-3300

much less than avg.

Germany

Freud FJ85

yes

trigger

trigger

500-2800

average

Spain

Hitachi CJ65V2

no

trigger

wheel

700-3200

more than avg.

Ireland

Makita 4305T

yes

slide

wheel

500-3000

more than average

England

Makita 4304T

yes

trigger

wheel

500-3000

more than avg.

England

Metabo STEB 105 Plus

yes

trigger

wheel

1000-3000

average

Germany

Metabo STE 105 Plus

yes

slide

wheel

1000-3000

average

Germany

Milwaukee 6267-20

yes

slide

single speed

1700

n/a

Germany

Milwaukee 6266-6

yes

trigger

wheel

450-3100

average

Germany

Porter-Cable 9543

yes

trigger

trigger

500-3100

average

USA

***Ratings reflect author's judgment of how the tools felt running at full speed with no orbital action; cordless models were not rated because their top speeds are so low compared with corded models.

Bosch 1584AVS

Bosch owns the company that invented the jigsaw back in the 1940s, so it’s not surprising that until recently, their saws were the standard for judging all other jigsaws. They still make great tools, but other manufacturers have caught up. The 1584AVS was one of the first jigsaws with a toolless blade clamp. To install a blade, you put it in the slot in the end of the spindle, twist it 90 degrees so the teeth point forward, and rotate a knob on top of the saw. It’s easy to spin the knob quickly, but twisting blades in and out of the clamp is not as easy as shoving them straight in. This saw is smooth running and comfortable to use, but it can be frustrating for lefties because the switch is on the left side of the motor housing.

Bosch 1587AVS

This top-handle saw is identical to the 1584AVS except for the handle, trigger, and speed control. The toolless blade clamp is tightened by turning a small knob that pops up from the top of the machine. It’s not quite as easy to use as the knob on the barrel-grip version because it’s smaller and engages only in the up position. Like the other Bosch saw, this one has a dust blower and orbital cutting action. I particularly like the switch because it’s true variable-speed, but being left-handed, I wish the lock-on button was located somewhere other than the left side of the handle.

DeWalt DW321

The DW321 was introduced about three years ago and was the first jigsaw to come without an Allen wrench. Other saws already had toolless blade clamps, but this was the first with a toolless bevel clamp. The clamp is operated by pivoting a lever that projects from the rear of the base, making it faster and easier to change bevel settings. The trigger switch is true variable-speed and has a lock-on button that’s impossible to activate by mistake. I particularly like the design of the handle, which is in keeping with DeWalt’s emphasis on ergonomic design and is especially comfortable to grip.

DeWalt DW323

This is the barrel-grip version of DeWalt’s DW321. The tools have the same blade clamp, motor, and gear housing. They also share the same bevel lock mechanism, though this saw has a smaller base and added metal blade guards. I particularly like the switch, which slides forward for on, but rocks back for off. This makes it impossible to turn on by accident and easy to turn off in a hurry. The switch is located on the bottom of the motor housing, so you can reach it with the fingers of either hand. Unlike using top- and side-mounted switches, you almost never have to shift your grip to get at it. If you like barrel-grip saws, this is one you should try.

DeWalt DW933

The DW933 is the newest professional-grade cordless jigsaw. The motor and plastic housing are unique to this tool, but the base, blade assembly, and gear housing are the same ones used on the DW321. According to the manufacturer, this saw will cut 50 feet of 3/4-inch material on a single charge. I tried it myself and managed to cut 80 feet of 3/4-inch plywood before the battery ran down. That might not sound like much, but it’s the equivalent of eight or nine sink cutouts, and more cutting than I’ve ever done at one time. Overall, I think this is a very nice tool, though it’s 30% slower and noticeably heavier than corded models. Whether or not these are reasonable trade-offs depends on how inconvenient it is for you to use a cord.

DeWalt DW318

Like the other DeWalt saws I tested, the DW318 has a dust blower, orbital cutting action, and a true variable-speed trigger switch. But it’s an old model that lacks many of the features found on newer saws. For example, the blade and bevel clamps are both activated by Allen wrenches. What’s worse, they take different size wrenches, so there are two to keep track of. The saw comes with a stamped steel base and a handle that’s less comfortable to grip than those on more current models.

Fein ASTe 638

If you’re familiar with Fein at all, it’s probably because you’ve seen their triangle sander. (This is also the company that invented portable power tools when they built the first electric drill over 100 years ago.) The ASTe 638 is a compact and extremely smooth running jigsaw. But it was designed to cut metal rather than wood, so the base doesn’t tilt and there’s no orbital cutting action. One of the more unusual things about this tool is that the wrench for the blade clamp is connected to the knob on top of the saw. You get at it by unthreading the knob. Considering the high price and limited features, it’s not the best choice for the typical residential job site.

Festo PS2E

It’s clear that a lot of thought went into designing this saw. For example, the dust collection port comes off the back end of the motor housing because the duct is built right into it. And it has an exceptionally nice switch that curves out on front to give you something to push against. Tap the back end of the switch, and it pops to off. The PS2E runs smoothly and is comfortable to grip. The most interesting thing about this saw is that you can get it with Festo’s optional guide rail system (inset). By snapping the tool into an adaptor plate, you can run it along the guide rail to make cuts that look like they came off a table saw. There may not be a lot of value in doing this with a jigsaw, but I’m a big fan of the guide system, which also works with Festo’s circular saws and routers.

Freud FJ85

This was one of the least expensive saws I tested and also the one with the most serious problems. It has most of the latest features: orbital action, a true variable-speed trigger switch, and a toolless blade clamp. The blade clamp was very easy to operate, but it did a poor job of holding the blades. This saw kept throwing the blade that came with it, so I tried Bosch-style blades from other manufacturers. The only one it would hold was a metal-cutting blade from Milwaukee. Freud’s saw does a fine job cutting metal, but it has an especially short cord and a handle that’s not very comfortable to grasp.

Hitachi CJ65V2

The best thing about the CJ65V2 is that it’s exceptionally compact, which makes it easier to use in cramped quarters, such as the inside of cabinets. Hitachi shaved off a couple of inches of length by moving the speed control wheel from the back of the motor housing to an area near the front of the tool. This saw has modern features like a dust blower and orbital cutting action, but the blade and bevel lock still require an Allen wrench. However, the wrench is easy to get at because it stores in a slot in the base. Unfortunately, this saw vibrates more than most.

Makita 4304T

There are a lot of things to like about this jigsaw, like the dust blower, orbital action, and toolless blade and bevel clamps. The blade clamp is activated by turning a knob on top of the tool, and is faster and simpler to use than most. I especially like the way the base slides smoothly between bevel settings and is locked in place by a quick acting lever. What I don’t like about this saw is that speed is not controlled by trigger pressure and that it vibrates more than most of the tools I tested.

Makita 4305T

This is the barrel-grip version of Makita’s 4304T, so it has the same toolless blade and bevel clamp, dust blower, and orbital action. It’s especially easy to change blades because the clamp is activated by spinning a knob that folds out of the top of the saw. You can use this tool with either hand because the switch is mounted on top of the motor housing. Like the 4304T, this saw seems to vibrate more than most of the tools I tested.

Metabo STEB 105 Plus

You probably haven’t seen this saw, because it has been out for less than a year and is made by a company that’s better known in Europe. The best thing about Metabo’s saw is the toolless blade clamp, which is very fast and easy to use. It consists of a springloaded lever on the end of the drive spindle. The tensioning spring looks like it would be easy to damage, but that’s unlikely because the only time it’s exposed is when you’re changing blades. The saw comes with orbital cutting action, a dust blower, and a removable dust-collection manifold. I like the long 14-foot cord, but would have liked the saw more if it had a variable-speed trigger.

Metabo STE 105 Plus

Except for a handle and trigger switch, this barrel-grip model has the same features as the other Metabo saw I tested. That includes a dust blower, orbital cutting action, and a superior toolless blade clamp. I appreciate the way the wire guard in front of the blade folds up and out of the way to give you better access for changing blades. Like all barrel-grip saws, speed is controlled by turning a thumb wheel. The switch, which is on top of the motor housing, is the type that slides forward for on and rocks backwards for off. The motor housing is kind of boxy, so it’s not as comfortable to grasp as some of the other barrel-grip models. That said, this is still one of my favorite barrelgrip jigsaws.

Milwaukee 6266-6

This tool has been on the market for over three years, but it still has the best toolless blade clamp I’ve ever used. To change blades you pull back a lever on the nose of the saw, remove or insert a blade, then release the lever. No other clamp is faster or easier to use. Like most professional duty saws, it runs smoothly and cuts powerfully. An Allen wrench that stores on top of the base is used to change bevel settings. Detents in the bevel mechanism make it easy to set angles of 0, 15, 30, and 45 degrees. My only complaint about this saw is that the trigger is a simple on/off switch and the lock-on button is located where you can accidentally activate it if you use the tool left-handed.

Milwaukee 6267-20

This jigsaw has the same base, blade clamp, and gear housing as the other Milwaukee saw I tested. What it doesn’t have is a cord, because it’s powered by a 12-volt battery. At 5.75 pounds, it’s lighter and easier to handle than many corded models. With so few cordless jigsaws on the market, it’s hard to evaluate run time. I managed to cut 40 feet of 3/4-inch plywood on a single charge, which is not bad when you consider the short cuts people usually make with jigsaws. On the downside, the saw lacks a dust blower and has a single speed of 1,700 spm, which is much slower than a corded model.

Porter-Cable 9543

This jigsaw has more features than any other. In addition to the usual dust blower, orbital action, and toolless blade clamp, it has a toolless bevel clamp and a unique spring-loaded detent system for setting common angles. Unlike with other saws, you don’t have to jiggle the base onto a fixed pin, but simply tilt it sideways until a dog clicks into one of the detents. The bevel lock is operated by rotating a lever that folds down from the back of the base. To use the blade clamp; you engage a spring-loaded lever on the end of the spindle. However, the spring is very stiff and can be hard to get to if the blade stops on the upstroke. But overall this is a very nice saw and worth considering if you’re going to buy a D-grip model.