Your Guide to Buying Jig Saw Blades

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Your Guide to Buying Jig Saw Blades
jig saw is a power tool known for its versatile cutting action and ability to cut shapes into various materials using a small blade. It is safe when used properly, easy to use, and provides a great deal of accuracy at a fraction of the cost of a cutting machine. While the saws themselves have many options and features that make them a great tool, it is the blades that are highly responsible for how the tool performs. The type of blade used determines the type of material that can be cut as well as how quickly and  smoothly the blade will cut.

 

Materials a Blade Will Cut

Jig saw blades cut a variety of hard and soft materials, but not all blades are the same. It is important to select blades appropriate to the material and how one wishes to cut it. Using the wrong one can potentially result in poor cutting, bent or broken blades, and broken saws, among other things. Fortunately, many manufacturers market blades by the material it is used for, which makes identifying the correct model easy. Some manufacturers, such as Bosch, color the blades by the material category. With an appropriate blade, users can cut the following materials:: 
 

  • Wood, both hard and soft;
  • Metals, most commonly steel or aluminum;
  • Ceramic and glass;
  • Plastic;
  • Fiberglass and Plexiglas;
  • Masonry materials, such as concrete, plaster, and marble;
  • Paper products, including cardboard; and
  • Thicker fabrics, such as leather.

Cutting Hard vs. Soft Materials

Cutting with a jig saw is not simply a matter of turning it on and cutting as fast as possible. Harder materials like metal are slower to cut, while users can cut softer materials, including many types of wood, more quickly. The design of each blade reflects this.
 

Jig Saw Blade Types

Selecting a blade with the proper shank is essential. The shank type denotes how the blade is fastened to the jig saw. T-shanks and U-shanks are the most common; however, some brands may only use shanks specific to their jig saw models, and older models may require discontinued blades, such as the bayonet. Users should consult the specifications to ensure the use of proper blades. Some may be compatible with more than one shank.


T-shanks
T-shanks are very popular because the blades work with jig saws that feature a quick-changing blade option. This allows users to quickly change blades without using an external tool. A T-shank can often be used in a U-shank jig saw as well.

 

U-shanks

U-shanks must be manually fastened to a jig saw, usually by a locking screw. This often requires the use of an Allen key or other tool.

 

 

Blade size

Users should chose blade size based on the material to be cut and how it needs to be cut. The length should be at least an inch longer than the thickness of the material. The width and thickness of the blade reflects its flexibility and maneuverability. Because blades are not supported on the bottom end, longer blades are thicker to prevent bending. Blades that are thinner and less wide are weaker but better suited for cutting clean, sharp curves and intricate patterns, and with the right jig saw, the user can even cut a hole.


Blade Fabrication
The blades themselves are composed of various metals and compounds. Generally, the harder the blade, the harder the material that can be cut. However, some work well for both hard and soft materials, particularly wood. It's always best to check the individual specs and use suggestions according to manufacturer recommendations.

 

High Carbon Steel

High carbon steel, often shortened to HCS, is a composition of iron containing 0.55 to 0.95 percent carbon and 0.3 to 0.9 percent manganese. These blades are flexible and cut softer materials well. The drawback to the blades is that they are also the weakest and wear out the fastest. However, due to their low cost and ability to cut wood, many users prefer them in the workshop.

 

High Speed Steel

Unlike the suggested name, high speed steel does not designate higher speed capability. Commonly designated as HSS, it is harder than carbon steel but not as flexible. It can cut harder materials; however, it is more susceptible to damage from heat that builds up in the cutting process.

 

 

Commonly designated as HSS, it is harder than carbon steel but not as flexible. It can

cut harder materials; however, it is more susceptible to damage from heat that builds

up in the cutting process.

 

 

Bi-metal

Bi-metal blades include both high speed steel and high speed carbon steel. The body of the blade is carbon steel, which provides flexibility. The teeth are high speed steel and can cut harder materials. The combination of the two materials results in blades ideal for heavy cutting. Bi-metal blades can last 10 times longer than high carbon steel and high speed steel blades.

 

Tungsten Carbide

Tungsten carbide is a chemical compound made up of tungsten and carbon. The material is bonded to a steel shaft and often has a grit edge, similar to sandpaper, rather than a saw edge. This allows for smooth cuts. As a jig saw blade, tungsten carbide is effective in cutting the hardest of materials and other specialty applications. These blades are often the most expensive.
 

Jig Saw Blade Teeth

The blade material provides the support of the blade, but the blade teeth define its cutting action. Manufacturers will often market blades by how fine or rough of a cut is made, which the teeth design determines.

Blade TPI

Manufacturers measure the amount of teeth on a blade in teeth per square inch. Generally speaking, harder materials require higher TPI to cut, while soft materials may cut better with blades of lower TPI. The amount of teeth also affects the cutting speed and how rough or fine the cut is. Higher TPI yields smoother cuts, while lower TPI yields rougher cuts. Materials like wood are more suited for rougher-cutting blades since users can sand the edge later.
 

Types of Blade Teeth

Teeth are commonly milled or ground. Milled ones are blunter and last longer. They are ideal for fast cuts with a rough surface. Ground teeth sets have a sharper edge and point, but wear out quickly. They also cut slower and leave a finer edge. In addition to teeth type, the teeth may also be designed in various layouts.
 

Layout
Description

Taper

Taper set teeth have a straight alignment and are used for slow, very fine cutting.

Wavy

Wavy teeth sets are aligned in a wave design and can be used for straight, fine cuts.

Side

Offset in design, side set teeth are used for faster, rough cuts.

Reverse

Reverse teeth sets are like taper sets but aligned in the opposite direction. These blades are ideal for cutting materials more prone to chipping.

Specialty Teeth Sets

While the teeth sets listed above are the most common used in blade manufacture, some materials that are especially hard, like ceramic tile, may require finely ground teeth or no teeth at all; these blades cut more like a file than a saw.

Common Jig Saw Blade Applications

The following chart is a general guide for cutting applications. The chart is not comprehensive and actual cutting applications may vary. Manufacturer specifications should be reviewed prior to using any blade.

Material 

Blade Material(s)

Teeth Type

Softwood

High carbon steel
Bi-metal

Side
Taper
Reverse

Hardwood

High Speed Steel
Bi-metal

Side
Taper
Reverse

Plastic

All materials
Varies according to composition

All types
Varies according to composition

Aluminum

High Speed Steel
Bi-metal

Wavy
Side
Taper

Steel

High Speed Steel
Bi-metal

Wavy
Taper

Ceramic, stone,
and other masonry materials

Tungsten Carbide

Grit, no teeth

Finding Jig Saw Blades on eBay

Purchase jig saw blades of all types on eBay. A keyword search is a great place to start, and allows you to easily filter your search results. If looking for multiple blades to have on hand as accessories, use keywords like "flush cut blade" or "metal-cutting jig saw blade 5-pack" to refine your search further.

You can also search blades by brand name, such as Bosch, Skil, and DeWalt, and even include a model number, like T101B, to get exactly what you want. In addition, blades may be sold as a single unit or in sets, including assorted sets.

eBay is a global marketplace, and therefore a great source for all of your DIY needs. From hardware to hand tools like screwdrivers, polishers and other gear, eBay sellers list a wide variety of products to help with your project.

Conclusion

The proper selection of jig saw blade to its application is pertinent to achieve high-quality results in cuts. Most importantly, the manufacturer's specifications should always be consulted to ensure appropriate blades are selected. Shank type should be purchased according to the jig saw model. 

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