Cordless tools are where it's at.
I bought an 18-gauge cordless nail gun some time ago. Now, every time I need my 15- or 23-gauge guns and have to dig the compressor out of its cubby in my van for a handful of nails, that nagging voice saying “go all cordless” speaks a little louder. So I'm slowly replacing the sitework tools that I use most.
High on that list for some time has been a jigsaw. I use my jigsaws a lot. Many of the curves I've cut in pieces throughout my career were cut on site using one, never mind the hundreds of cutouts I've made for outlet boxes in ceilings, walls, and cabinets [Editor’s Note: Don’t forget bunkbeds and Murphy beds]. My shortlist of required features, gathered from owning several less than desirable jigsaws, is:
– Accurate and effective blade guidance system– LED light (non-strobe)
– Effective dust collection
– High rpm
– Orbital action
– Beveling base
– Quick-release blade
– Comfortable grip
– Low weight (for cutting with saw upside down; more on this later)
– Cordless with enough power that you can't tell
Until recently, I owned a few jigsaws that had most of those requirements. But they still had flaws. (I do not like the strobe light in one of them. ). And none of them were cordless.
After shopping around and reading reviews, I settled on the 22-volt offering from Hilti. Hilti has always made fantastic tools. In some categories, they’ve arguably set the standard and could be considered the industry leader. Tools like its powder-actuated fastening systems, concrete line, and lasers of all stripes have become synonymous with quality. Truth be told, I have a lot of Makita battery tools (still want its cordless barrel grip jigsaw), but I also have Metabo HPT and a few DeWalts as well.
You could say I'm not brand loyal. So, being entirely open to brands off my radar, I decided I'd try Hilti's cordless jigsaw on for size.
First and foremost is mechanical accuracy—clean cuts. And by this, I mean the ability to make a parallel cut regardless of the radius I force the saw into. [Editor’s Note: This is what we used to call “sway out.” I don’t know if it’s a real term or we made it up, but it basically means the blade bends or flexes and the cut isn’t plumb, or 90 degrees. Most saws do it, as we know, even good ones.]
Hilti’s cuts are stellar.
Checking my cuts with a square I found zero or near-zero (less than a mm) blade deflection. I'd say it passed this test as well as or better than any of my corded saws. This has as much to do with power as it does with the blade management system.
Another important feature is how easily I can turn a tight-radius curve. Again, the Hilti performed flawlessly. With minimal effort, I can guide the saw along any inside or outside curve I put it up against. So effortlessly, in fact, that it increases accuracy: Because the saw is so smooth, I can follow a line extremely closely without accidental over-cuts or deviation. I attribute some of this ease to the saw's surprisingly light weight. Add to this the integrated LED and dust blower that clears the cut line of debris, and it makes it that much easier to maintain accuracy in my cuts.
The 22-volt battery (one of the lightest batteries on the market, too) powers a motor that packs a serious punch. Even in 2-inch-thick oak, it felt like I was cutting MDF.
To give the battery and motor a torture test, I made twenty-five 2-foot rips in 3/4-inch ply for a total of 50 lf. The battery gauge hadn't even budged at the end of it. It maintained a consistent 3,000 strokes per minute with the variable speed trigger fully depressed. Having the orbital function engaged makes quick work of thicker materials and stubborn hardwoods.
The Hilti design feels good in my hand. With a grip that’s both form-fitting and unobtrusive in my hand, Hilti nailed the ergonomics. I cut upside down a lot. This serves two masters: First, I can see the line better. Second, the cut is cleaner because the teeth exit the reverse side of the work. By engaging the throttle lock, I can use the lower body of the D-handle and it feels more like a barrel grip. This is important because I prefer barrel grips for upside-down cutting.
The base can be beveled up to 45 degrees with detents at the other common intervals. I find the release easy to reach and the detents to be dead-on out of the box. It’s not often I need to bevel the jigsaw, but when I do, it’s critical that feature not be a hassle. Some of the other high-end brands I've seen have separate beveling bases, which I find annoying. I like that Hilti incorporated it into the design.
Often, I find myself using my jigsaw for a task in a finished house where minimizing dust is a must. The detachable dust collection chute does a pretty good job at getting the majority of the dust. This is good enough for me and it means less cleanup. It also helps keep some of the fine dust out of the air, which I don't need to breathe at this point in my life [Editor’s Note: More from NR on this topic in his “doesn’t suck” vac review.]
If cordless tools are on your radar, I would definitely recommend that the Hilti jigsaw be a serious contender on your list.