The jig saw has become one of the most popular power tools in the homeowner’s toolbox, right next to the cordless drill-driver. Its ability to cut a wide variety of materials in a straight line or around corners make it an indispensable saw, especially if there is going to be only one in the workshop. The jig saw is available with a limited number of features, and one of the most important choices is to step up to an orbital model.
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A standard jig saw moves its blade in a reciprocating manner, straight up and down. This is the sawing motion that cuts the material. The orbital jig saw adds a circular motion to the cutting stroke. The blade moves in an elliptical track, lunging out on the cut stroke and back on the retrieve.
The orbital jig saw will make a more aggressive cut when the cutting option is set to orbital. You will notice that as you set the switch or lever to the orbital degree you want to use, the attack angle of the blade changes. This increased attack will cut the material more aggressively but with a slight loss in precision. When cutting tight corners, you will want to reset the cut angle to a straight, reciprocating cut.
The reciprocating cut of a jig saw is often slowed by a build-up of dust and chips, because the limited length of the cutting stroke fails to clear them from the gullets of the blade. The orbital cut addresses this issue because the back stroke of the cut moves the blade away from the material, allowing the chips to fall away.
Another factor in the precision of a cut is the speed of the blade. You will want to look for an orbital jig saw with variable speeds. This control may be set by a switch on the handle or, on better models, it can be controlled by the pressure on the trigger. This is the better option as you will be able to vary the speed during the cut, starting slow initially and then speeding up as the cut proceeds.
You will pay slightly more for an orbital jig saw than for a straight reciprocating jig saw. The additional benefits of the variable cutting action make the tool more flexible and easier to use and worthy of the additional investment.