What Is The Difference Between A Jigsaw and Sabre Saw?

Ever had those large, family gatherings where you’ve forgotten the names of your long-lost relatives, only to get them confused with a distant cousin or relative you haven’t seen in a while? Well, the saw family is pretty much the same  – large, similar, and often confusing.

Jigsaws and sabre saws are no different – they belong to the same family, yet they’re slightly different in appearance, and what they do. But don’t worry – you won’t be the first or the last person to mix up the names of these power tools.

So, into the midst of it all – what exactly is the difference between a jigsaw and a sabre saw? A jigsaw and sabre saw are used for slightly different applications, with a jigsaw more renown for accuracy, and a sabre saw known a little more for its power capabilities.

Want to read the whole guide, but don’t have enough time on your hands to do so? I’ve made a quick overview of the main points discussed today, so you can come back and read the entire article at a better time for you.

  • The jigsaw was first designed in 1946, when an engineer replaced a sewing machine needle with a blade
  • Jigsaws are used for accuracy, a sabre saw is more known for its power and brute cutting ability
  • Common features shared between the two include a motor, blade and shoe used as leverage against the material
  • Both models come in corded and cordless varieties 

Jigsaw Vs Sabre Saw

As stated, both the jigsaw and sabre saw are derived from the same family of the saw, with both saws able to cut in a reciprocating motion, that is, the blade makes its cut by moving back and forth through the material.

They hold similar features, and look slightly different. I’ll be explaining to you in-depth the differences between the two, as well as the applications both are normally used for.

What Is A Jigsaw?

A jigsaw is extremely versatile, and is one of the standard tools that are usually found in a worker’s inventory, whether it’s for home workshop use, or professional uses on site.

Jigsaws can be found in cordless or corded form, pending on how you’d prefer to use them. They’re quite easy to use, and the learning curve is relatively simple to learn, which is why many beginners opt to use a jigsaw.

They’re quite compact, and that even goes for corded versions. Intricate cuts are often made with a jigsaw, with one of the earliest uses being that for, you guessed it, the jigsaw puzzle.

In 1946, an engineer by the name of Albert Kaufmann replaced his wifes’ sewing machine needle with a blade, and the first jigsaw was created. It was one of the more cruder models you’d see, yet set the tone for many future decades of innovation to the modern day jigsaws we see upon the shelves today.

Like the sabre saw that we’re pitting it up against for your clarity, the jigsaw works in a reciprocating motion, with the blade moving back and forth against the material to make its cut.

Even though the jigsaw is often used to carve curved lines and more complex lines and shapes than a sabre saw, these tools can also pack some power, with up to 7amps on the premier versions.

What Features Would I Find On A Jigsaw?

When using a jigsaw, you’ll come across some core features that allow the power tool to assist you in getting the job done.

Firstly, is the motor. Like all power tools, the motor is essentially the heartbeat of the tool, channeling the energy from a power outlet (or battery, if it’s cordless), and distributing this to the blade to provide power for the cut. Motors can be found in brushed or brushless forms.

Next, is the blade. Without the blade, you can’t make the cut, and you’d have a very useless tool collecting dust on your workbench. Blades can be found relative to the application they’re needed for, and TPI (teeth per inch) on the blade will vary – also dependant on the application. 

Blades can be designed specifically for wood cutting, metal, plastic, and other specialized uses, however these blades will often be a little more expensive than generic or multi-purpose  blades.

Next, is the stroke length and shoe. The stroke length refers to how far the blade moves upwards and downwards per stroke, with higher stroke rates meaning the blade can cover more distance when cutting the chosen application.

The shoe refers to the plate that protects the blade, and is used as leverage against the cutting material. Shoes can be adjustable, which is a useful addition when cutting tricky materials, or for angled cuts. 

What Would I Be Using A Jigsaw For?

A jigsaw more commonly makes cuts in shapes other than straight lines. Commonly, jigsaws are able to cut with more accuracy than their sabre saw counterparts, as they cut in a non-linear motion.

Due to this, jigsaws are used in applications where accuracy is vital. If you’re looking to design shapes, say cutting a circular piece from a wooden stock, a jigsaw would be perfect due to its ability to oscillate when cutting.

As well as cutting curves, jigsaws have the ability to make bevel cuts, with a majority able to bevel up to 45° in both directions.

Say you’re hosting a Halloween party, and have bought a few pumpkins to carve at late notice – a jigsaw would be perfectly suited to assist with this job, thanks to its ability to carve intricate designs.

What Is A Sabre Saw?

A sabre saw is another name for the commonly used reciprocating saw, and resembles  A sabre saw uses a motor to move its blade upwards and downwards, which gives it the ‘reciprocating saw’, name.

A sabre saw is larger than a jigsaw, using a toothed blade, similar to the jigsaw, so make its cuts. These power tools are often used in work that requires brute force to get the job done, and are favored by many contractors in work that requires quick, inaccurate cuts, such as demolition work.

A sabre saw doesn’t require a table as a jigsaw does, being used with hands as the shoe is pressed against the material. Some sabre saws can be used one handedly, and can be found in either cord or cordless varieties.

What Features Would I Find On A Sabre Saw?

The features of a sabre saw are quite similar to that of the jigsaw, so we won’t go into as much depth as these components were explained in detail earlier.

However, I’ve made a quick list below to run over exactly what you’d find on a sabre saw.

  • Motor: Channels the energy from either a battery or electrical socket throughout the saw to provide the cutting action
  • Blade & Stroke Length: Used to cut through materials, with the stroke length referring to how far the blade travels in a stroke
  • Shoe: Used to place against the material you’re cutting – as sabre saws don’t have the luxury of being tabletop tools as their jigsaw kin do

What Would I Be Using A Sabre Saw For?

As sabre saws are not as precise as a jigsaw, and are used for power instead, you’d be using these for their ability to cut through materials with ease, caring little for accuracy.

As such, sabre saws would be best used for slight demolition jobs, where materials need to be ripped and torn down quickly. If you’re tearing down some old walls, or perhaps facing an application where you don’t care too much for the material, you’d be using a sabre saw.

These saws are able to rip through materials quickly, and due to their power, give off more vibration and kickback when in use, which eliminates any accuracy you may be going for. Of course, there are higher-end sabre saws which are more accurate than their cheaper counterparts, yet a jigsaw is your go to for these accurate, slower cuts.

If you want it done fast, use a sabre saw.

How Do I Decide Which Is Best For Me?

Really, it boils down to what you do on a day to day basis, and the projects you normally would use power tools for.

If you need a saw to cut through materials without accuracy, with an aim at simply demolishing or making rough cuts, a sabre saw is the saw you’d be purchasing. 

If you’re someone who is simply using their tools for around the house uses, and prefer a tabletop method when cutting – you should be looking at a jigsaw, in order to produce a wider variety of cuts at a slower pace.

I can’t advise you on what is perfect for you, as it does depend entirely on your needs and the use you’ll get out of either tool.
Both are vital tools if you’re looking at expanding your knowledge and expertise within the craftsmanship industry.

The Round Up

Now that we’ve reached the end, you should have a clearer understanding on what both tools do, as well as how they’re used, and what for. If you’re still confused about the differences between the two, have a read of this article and explore some of the other useful guides and reviews I’ve created on both of these tools – especially if you’re looking at increasing your knowledge.

Both tools can be incorrectly used and referred to as the other, as well as other saws, as the saw family is quite large and only gets bigger over time.

With that being said, I’d really like to hear what you have to say – and perhaps you may even have some tips for our fellow readers.

Leave your comments in the section below.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are sabre saws known as so many different tools?

Over the decades, many tools have changed since their creation, morphing into the models we know today. Sabre saws are often referred, and mixed up with tools such as jigsaws, scroll saws, reciprocating saws, which are all branches of the saw family tree, yet used for different applications.

Essentially, you can think of a sabre saw as a mix between a handheld jigsaw and reciprocating saw – as many jigsaws are able to cut the same lines as their reciprocating saw alternatives.

James Thomas

James Thomas

Tool Enthusiast

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