Jigsaw Vs Circular Saw (Which One Should You Choose?)

If you’re getting into the industry of craftsmanship, and see yourself cutting through woods and assembling your dream projects together, you’re going to need some power tools to get the job done.

But, what exactly do you need? And what’s the difference between many of them?

I’ll be looking to answer those questions for you today, and in particular – the jigsaw and the circular saw, two of the most well-known power tools that you can find throughout your local hardware store.

So, talking about differences – what exactly is the difference between a jigsaw and a circular saw? A jigsaw allows you to make cuts that are more intricate, and can also make curved cuts. A circular saw has one job, which is to cut quickly on heavy woods in straight lines.

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.

  • A jigsaw would primarily be used for works that require more intricate cuts
  • Circular saws are incredibly powerful and can easily rip through wooden boards
  • Jigsaw blades in comparison to circular saw blades can break easier but are inexpensive to replace
  • Both saws can be found in corded and cordless forms
  • Jigsaws have no learning curve, whereas a circular has a slightly higher learning curve
jigsaw vs circular saw

Jigsaw Vs Circular Saw

After reading through this entire guide, you may ask yourself why we compared these two power tools when they are vastly different from each other. Whilst they may be different aesthetically and also with the cuts they can make, these two saw models are often the first purchase a budding DIYer can make.

Maybe you’re just getting into the industry for either a professional or personal purpose, or perhaps you’re deciding upon which of these saws would be a welcome addition to your growing inventory, and want to see which is right for your needs.

I’ll cover the ins and outs of both of these saws, so you’ll know exactly which is right for you. Firstly, we’ll start with the jigsaw.

What Is A Jigsaw?

using a jigsaw

To learn the intricacies of the jigsaw, it’s first important to understand exactly how this power tool came to be. 

Interestingly enough, the first jigsaw was made in 1946 when an Austrian engineer by the name of Albert Kaufmann replaced his wife’s sewing machine needle with a blade.

Fast forward to 2022, and the jigsaw has seen many different variations and additions to the original, yet the idea remains the same. A singular, toothed blade moves in a back and forth motion against the material upon a tabletop, with an array of cuts that can be made; such as circular cuts, beveled and straight cuts to name some examples.

Jigsaws can cut an array of materials and are only limited by the model itself, and the blade which is clamped upon it. The most common materials in which a jigsaw is used to cut include woods, metals, plastics, and even ceramic tiles.

Jigsaws can be found in both corded and cordless models, pending your preference, with even the best cordless models matching their corded counterparts.

What Features Would I Find On A Jigsaw?

jigsaw features

A jigsaw has a set of core features that, without, would make using it quite difficult. As well as this, there are some additional features, yet we’ll be focusing on the main features for now.

The first feature of note is the blade, and the stroke length. The blade is one of the most important components of the jigsaw, as it’s used to make cuts upon materials. Blades can be found in many different forms and are composed of different materials, relative to what you’re looking to cut.

The stroke length is the length that the blade makes in one reciprocating movement, a stroke. A higher stroke rate means the blade covers more distance when cutting the material.

Lastly, is the motor. The motor channels the energy from either an outlet if corded or a battery is cordless. This energy is distributed throughout the jigsaw to allow power for the blade to cut, and also added features such as LED lights and laser guides.

What Would I Be Using A Jigsaw For?

Due to their use in aiding with accurate projects, jigsaws are most commonly used in applications where such precision is essential.

Curved cuts are one of the cuts that a jigsaw excels in, as well as plunge, bevel, and your standard straight cuts.

Using stenciled designs for a project (maybe a homemade jigsaw puzzle, or carving some wooden figures for a school project for the kids), will allow you to get the most out of your jigsaw, especially with circles, as they can be accurately cut with a jigsaw even without a tracing to follow.

Types of Jigsaw Blades

A key difference between a jigsaw and a circular saw is the type of blade used. Each has its unique advantages and variations so choosing the right one is important for your DIY project.

Jigsaw Blade Shank

For instance, most jigsaws use thinner, narrow blades that are ideal for more intricate jobs. 

If you’re working on anything that requires great care and precision make sure that you’re using a jigsaw. Specifically, Jigsaw blades have two main types: the T-shank and the U-shank.

T-Shank Blades

As the name suggests, T-shank blades have a T-shaped shank. This is perfect for on-the-go tool-free blade changes. 

Easy to set up and remove, this convenience makes them the most commonly used type of jigsaw blade for any everyday DIY task.

U-Shank Blades

Also known as universal shank blades, U-shaped shanks are less common and often found in older jigsaw products. They still work fine, but require a tool or screw to secure them in place.

As a result, the cumbersome nature of the U-Shank makes it much less desirable when compared to T-Shanks.

Jigsaw Blade Teeth

The teeth of the jigsaw blade are smaller and closer together than that of the circular saw. 

This makes them perfect when tackling jobs that require intricate, detailed, or curved cuts. To avoid tear-out or the splintering of your material, use a jigsaw blade.

Strengths & Weaknesses Of A Jigsaw

jigsaw use

A strength of the jigsaw is if you haven’t noticed already – the intricate cuts these power tools can make. 

Crafty projects, such as the cutting of words, numbers, shapes, and letters, etc – are very common uses for the jigsaw and an area where the jigsaw holds strength over alternative power saws. Due to the compact design of the jigsaw, control is much easier over this tool than it is on other saws, and in tight areas is where a jigsaw is quite handy.

A weakness of the jigsaw, and every tool has its weaknesses, are its power and blades when compared to other saws. A jigsaw is not the most useful in larger jobs where more power is required, and if you’re doing so – you may need to purchase a new tool, or use an alternative tool you have in your workshop.

The blades on a jigsaw are much thinner than most saws, and due to this, can break easier. Yet, this happens with all saws over time, regardless of their size. Luckily, jigsaw blades are rather inexpensive to replace, and we’ve also created a guide on the best jigsaw blades to purchase should this happen to you.

What Is A Circular Saw?

circular saw in use

A circular saw is a very commonly used saw amongst those who work with lumber, especially for those workers who are doing so on site. These saws are found in both corded and cordless varieties, and due to their power, can cut through materials incredibly quickly, without compromising too much on accuracy.

Circular saws feature a circular, toothed cutting disc that rips through materials, with many applications that can be cut using this power tool including woods, metals, most pipes, and even stone.

What Features Would I Find On A Circular Saw?

circular saw use example

We’ve discussed the motor in the jigsaw section, and a circular saw motor is not too much different.

The blade is a circular, toothed disc, and can cut and rip through materials at an extremely fast-paced, meaning many materials are easy for the circular saw.

Blades can be found in many configurations, and are a lot sturdier than a jigsaw blade due to the immense pressure they come under, both heat and power wise when cutting. They do break, however, these are not as common as a jigsaw blade breaking.

The next important feature a circular saw will include is the bevel adjustment. This determines the degree when making bevel cuts, and is an essential feature for making angled cuts.

What Would I Be Using A Circular Saw For?

another circular saw use example

Circular Saws are best used for the repetitive cutting of large wooden boards, and it’s for this reason that they’re commonplace on the worksite and found in the home workshops of DIYers.

These power saws can be used on the smallest jobs, to large-scale construction sites – depending on what your preferred use is for these tools. They’re not only used for cutting through wood with ease, but also for masonry, metal, and sheet work to name some examples – however, you’ll need specific blades for these applications.

Strengths & Weaknesses Of A Circular Saw

old circular saw

You’re probably aware now, that the power of a circular saw is one of its main strengths. Whether it’s a corded or cordless model you’re using, you can be assured that ripping through woods every day is something that is quite easy to do.

Straight-line cuts are a strength of the circular saw, and they are quite accurate when the wood is placed face down and at high speed.

The weakness of a circular saw would be its inability to make curved cuts. Straight lines are where this power tool excels, and if you’re looking to make curved cuts on a circular saw – you can forget about even attempting to do so.

As well as this, a circular saw is one of the most dangerous power tools to use if used incorrectly, with some 10” circular saw blades reaching max speeds of 6500 RPMs. You can imagine this 

What are the Differences Between a Jigsaw and a Circular Saw?

Each with its advantages and disadvantages, choosing between a jigsaw and a circular saw can be a difficult decision. But not to worry! Below, I’ve listed the key differences to help you in your decision:

Blade Type

The core difference between a jigsaw and a circular saw is the blade type. 

Jigsaw blades come with fine teeth for detailed cuts while circular saw blades are often thicker and larger for straight cuts on tougher materials. Use the former for precise work and the latter for tackling tougher jobs quickly and efficiently.

Uses

It is therefore extremely important to consider what you will be using the saw for! 

If you’re after a saw to cut rounded corners, interior cutouts, or anything precise, use a jigsaw. This is especially the case for softer materials like plywood, MDF, or laminate.

On the other hand, if you’re after something to make cross-cuts and slice large sheets of plywood or lumber, use a circular saw for speed and efficiency.

Speed

Due to the precision, jigsaws must operate at a slower, more methodical speed. Circular saws, however, utilize more powerful motors and larger blades to cut through materials quickly.  

When purchasing a saw, you must therefore consider how much time you have to complete the task.

Cutting Depth

With smaller teeth, the jigsaw naturally has a much more limited cutting depth than the circular saw. 

Specifically, your average jigsaw can be used on wood with a thickness of anywhere below 2 inches. It is perfect for materials of a moderate size.

On the other hand, the larger blades of the circular saw are ideal for deep cuts on thick materials. The size of the cut will depend on the blade and power of the motor which will vary between models.

Safety

The narrow blades and small teeth of the jigsaw make it particularly safe for cutting as the kickback produced is relatively minimal. However, this does mean that they should never be used on thicker materials as you may lose control.

By contrast, circular saws are much safer for thick cuts. However, they should only be operated by more experienced workers as there is still potential for kickback. The size of the machine makes it a lot more dangerous to use.

The Final Verdict

You should now be able to tell the two of these tools apart, as well as the appropriate projects to use each of them for.

Both saws would be an invaluable addition to your workshop and serve their own uses. This is why it’s important to identify how often you’ll use either saw, as well as what for. 

If you’re constantly needing to rip through boards, you know a jigsaw won’t cut it, so a circular saw is a more preferred option for you. If you’re doing intricate shapes and complex number cutting – a circular saw won’t help you there!

What did you think of this article? Anything that we missed, or something you’d like to share with our readers?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

FAQs

Can you make straight cuts with a jigsaw?

Yes, you can make straight cuts with a jigsaw. It will be more difficult than if you were to use a circular saw but can be done with the help of a guide or straight edge.

Is a jigsaw better than a circular saw to cut plywood?

Whether a jigsaw or a circular saw is better for plywood depends on the type of cut you wish to make. Use a jigsaw for curved or intricate cuts and use a circular saw to make straight lines or cut larger sheets.

Is it easier to cut a straight line with a jigsaw or circular saw?

A circular saw is more often better to cut straight lines with. Jigsaws are typically used for curved cuts but could be used for straight lines provided you have a guide or straight edge.

Can a jigsaw cut a 2×4?

Yes, a jigsaw can cut a 2×4. However, it will not be as efficient as a circular saw. You will need to make multiple passes as the jigsaw has a limited cutting depth.

How thick of wood can you cut with a jigsaw?

Generally, a jigsaw can cut up to 2 inches of thickness. This can, however, vary depending on the jigsaw’s power, the size of the blade, and the material being cut.

Do carpenters use jigsaws?

Yes, carpenters do use jigsaws. They most often use them for intricate designs such as shapes or patterns. Carpenters will, however, use complimentary tools such as the circular saw for different purposes.

Photo of author

Barry Gray

Hi, I’m Barry. I’ve loved woodworking and bringing things back to life for more years than I care to remember. I hope my passion for tools comes across loud and clear in everything you read here on The Tool Square.

Leave a Comment