How to Use a Jigsaw to Cut a Straight Line

How to Use a Jigsaw to Cut a Straight Line

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The straight line is the first thing every aspiring woodworker learns to cut. It seems simple enough on paper, but not so much with a jigsaw because you don’t have as much support on a jigsaw as you do with a table saw. Can this be remedied?

 

Learning how to use a jigsaw to cut a straight line is a simple and straightforward process, no pun intended. Since the cut line requires a very obvious motion, all you need to worry about is making a few preparations and having the right tools.

 

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To help you make your first cutting experience go as smoothly as possible, this article has all the information you need regarding blades, cutting speed, drawing utensils, and creating a support (fence) to guide your saw in a straight line.

Blades

Blades

Obviously, there are multiple types of blades you can use on different materials and for specific cuts, angles, and so on. For the purpose of straight line cutting there are two things, you have to take into account when it’s time to pick a blade.

There are rip cut blades and crosscut blades, and you should always use the appropriate one for the occasion. You may be able to get away with combination blades but those are very picky about the material.

Drawing a Straight Line

Because jigsaws can do both rip and crosscuts, you might want to use a measuring tape instead of a ruler. This will give you the option of measuring length or width in just one step, as opposed to working with a ruler that may be smaller than your sheet of wood.

 

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Drawing a straight line with the grain might get tricky at times too. If the surface of the wood offers a lot of resistance, try using both the measuring tape and the guide/fence for extra support.

 

A square can also help you with drawing the line if you use it in conjunction with the measuring tape. Additionally, you can use the square to act as a secondary guide while pushing your jigsaw on the cutting line.

Makeshift Fence

Makeshift Fence

You should always add a guide on top of the cutting material. Think of it as a makeshift fence as it serves the same purpose as the fence of a table saw. There are many ways you can install this but only one way works best. Use clamps to attach the fence to your sheet of wood.

 

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This will let you apply enough pressure to keep the guide firmly in place without damaging the sheet of wood. After all, you might need to cut pieces from underneath the fence later. If that’s the case, using anything other than clamps, like nails or glue will not only ruin the sheet but may also tilt the fence and cause you to mess up a 90-degree straight line.

Remember that the piece of wood you choose to use as a guide should also be perfectly straight on the edge facing the saw. You can use a level to make sure everything is in order and a small sander to correct any small imperfections.

Cutting the Wood

The only thing left to master how to use a jigsaw to cut a straight line is actually working your tool with the appropriate amount of forward and downward pressure. The force you should exert on the wood through your jigsaw will depend on the thickness of the material.

If you’re cutting thin sheets of softwood, you don’t want to push down too hard as you might just bend it and mess up your cut. You don’t want to push forward too fast either as even with a guide you could end up sliding the saw away from the fence.

With enough practice, you’ll be able to make small freeform straight cuts on materials like plywood. However, when you’re working on rip cuts, hardwood, and especially 2x4s, you should always try to have at least a fence to use as a guide. Drawing a straight line may be easy, but that’s because a paper won’t give you the same feedback that wood can give you and it also doesn’t cause your pencil to vibrate as your jigsaw blade will.

FINAL VERDICT

Cutting a straight line with a jigsaw is not hard in terms of pushing the saw or controlling the speed. Each type of material has specific requirements and most jigsaws come with speed settings designed for cutting into multiple types of sheets.

The tricky part about cutting a straight line is actually all the stuff that comes before the blade starts ripping into the wood. To get a perfectly straight line each time, you’ll have to draw a straight line and learn how to use a measuring tape and a square together. Once you get that down and you remember to put a guide on your board, the actual sawing motion is child’s play.

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