Jigsaw vs. Circular Saw – What’s the Difference?
Jigsaws and circular saws are two of the most widely used power saw types by professional woodworkers, DIYers, and hobbyist homeowners.
And for those that are serious enough about their trade, it will be a wise idea to have both around given that they are built for different applications and hence both will be useful around the home or workshop.
But, even though the two saws will also differ in the design and prices, many potential buyers still get confused on which one they will need or which to buy first for those that want both.
While it is easy to differentiate these two saws from their appearance, here we highlight more differences between them besides their appearance. We also list the pros and cons of each to help potential buyers stuck between the two.
The jigsaw is what many woodworkers and DIYers will also fondly refer to as the saber saw and the pike saw and it is among those saws that you are likely to get in most workshops.
It is typically a handheld power saw that has been built to cut with the blade perpendicular to the saw and is meant for easy one-hand use. There are two types of jigsaw based on the blade that they use which are the U-shank and T-shank.
These saw types are also loved for their increased versatility as they can make a wide variety of cuts from miter to bevels cuts thanks to the uniquely designed beveling shoes.
Jigsaws have been created for portability as they will come in a more compact and lightweight size that makes them easy to carry, and you can use them both indoors and outdoors.
When compared to the circular saw, this saw is also more affordable which makes it perfect for woodworkers buying their saws on a budget. But what truly sets it apart is the ability of its thinner blade to make some complex curvy and wavy cuts in different materials like wood and plastic.
Jigsaws will also come in both corded and cordless versions to ensure they cater to almost any kind of woodworker and DIYer.
However, if you are planning to cut thicker stock, then you are better off going for a circular saw as the thin blade on the jigsaw is not able to handle thick materials. Users might also not like that it seems to struggle a little when it comes to making straight cuts.
Circular Saw Overview
If you have been working with wood long enough, the chances are that you already own a circular saw. Like the jigsaw, it is one of those power tools you can expect to get in a well-stocked workshop.
Circular saws will cut with a toothed circular blade which explains where it gets the name. This disc blade will cut by rotating superfast. These blades are available in different sizes and with a different number of teeth, but the 7-1/4-inch 24-tooth blades are the most common.
With a circular saw, you will always get high cutting speeds. And most people should be able to master how to make the best use of this saw with enough practice.
Also, many woodworkers will love its ability to make plunge cuts which is something that other popular saws like the table saw seems to struggle with. When compared to the jigsaw, it will deliver significantly more accurate and precise cuts.
When you need to cut thick stock, the circular saw will be up to the task. Provided you have enough space to support the workpiece, it will also cut larger materials with ease.
If you buy this saw, you will also get to choose whether to go for the more portable handheld models or the more powerful mountable types that will be perfect for use in the workshop.
The only areas where the circular saw seems to fall a little short is that it will still require a little more experience to use than a jigsaw and that it is often a more expensive power tool.
Long and thin
Circular cutting disc
Up and down reciprocal motion
High-speed blade rotating around an axis
Simpler to use
Comes with a learning curve and takes some practice
Wood, ceramic, laminate, plastic, metal sheets and more
Mostly sheet materials, wood, metal, and plastic
Bevel, miter, compound, plunge, carves and other intricate/delicate cuts
Straight, long, right-angle cuts and rough bevel rips
Making carvings, wooden cutting board, magazine rack and cutting laminate flooring
Making tables, cabinets, toolboxes, and bird feeders
Weight and Size
Lightweight and more compact
Heavier and larger
Jigsaw vs. Circular Saw
One of the most common mistakes that many DIYers and woodworkers will make, and this is even more so the beginners, is choosing a saw hastily as in many instances they end up with the wrong.
But, if you are torn between the jigsaw and circular saw, you do not need to make the same mistake as you can be confident of making the right decision if you keep the following points in mind.
The blade that these saws use is one of the most obvious differences between them, and it is also what makes them ideal for different applications.
Jigsaws are designed to work with a long thin blade that resembles a serrated knife which should explain why many users also refer to it as the saber saw. Most of these blades will be made from either hardened steel, bimetal composite metals or high sped steel.
Circular saws will come with a circular disc-like blade which is where they get the name from. This blade will also have some kind of serration which are referred to as teeth with typical ones coming with 24 teeth. Also, this blade is often sharper than what you get on the jigsaw and hence requiring extra care when handling.
2. Cutting Design
Because the blades come in different designs, they will also cut differently, and so it is not always easy to use these two saw interchangeably for the same cuts.
The jigsaw looks more like a sewing machine with the blade perpendicular to the saw, and it will cut in an up and down reciprocating motion. Also, this blade will rest on a uniquely designed shoe that will make it possible to bevel and pivot it when you want to make more intricate cuts.
With the circular saw, the circular blade will rotate around the axis at super high speeds which allows it to make straight cuts superfast. Better yet, most of these saws will typically have a blade guard and laser that will ensure more cutting precision.
Even though these saws operate differently it is still possible to measure their ease of use even if you have never used both before.
If you know how the two cut, then it should be clear that the jigsaw will give you a much easier time than the circular saw. A circular saw can still be easy to operate once you get the hang of it, but it will come with a steeper learning curve and will also expose you to more danger.
Besides the ease of use, the jigsaw is also smaller which allows you to use it with one hand, and this makes it more beginner-friendly than the circular saw when it comes to operation.
4. Material Types
Given that these are tough power saws that run on some quite powerful motors, they will both be able to handle a wide variety of materials. But, many users prefer to use them on wood.
Jigsaws will cut both hard and softwoods with ease, and with the right blade, will also make cutting other things like laminate, ceramic tiles, plywood, particleboard, plastic, and metal a breeze.
Circular saws are even more powerful, but the size of the blade and the design of both the tool and blade make it more ideal for cutting sheet materials, metal, soft and hardwoods, pipes, roofing shingles, metal, and masonry.
5. Cut Types
Besides being able to cut a wide variety of material types, both saws are also designed to make various types of cuts which makes them some of the most versatile power tools you can have in the workshop.
When using a typical jigsaw, you should be able to make different cuts such as bevel, miter, compound, plunge, and curved cuts. However, in many instances, many users will use their saber saws for intricate, incline and crosscuts.
For those that opt for a circular saw instead, you can use yours for bevel, long, straight cuts, plunge, smooth angle cuts, rough beveled rips, and many more cut types. But, what you can cut with your circular saw will be highly dependent on the capabilities and features of the particular model you have.
6. Typical Uses
While the two saws might be very versatile as they can make a wide variety of cuts, like any other tool, there are some typical uses that many woodworkers and DIYers will prefer to use them for.
A jigsaw will in many instances be used for making intricate patterns on wood and when making delicate cuts where other saws like the circular saw would damage the workpiece.
For specific projects, jigsaws come in handy for cutting laminate flooring, designing magazine racks and making cutting boards.
Circular saws are more powerful which means they will be better suited for handling larger projects. Hence, most woodworkers will typically use them for projects like making tables, cabinets, toolboxes and cutting shelves.
7. Weight and Size
Weight and size determine how easy a saw will be to handle, and they will even be more important for handheld types like jigsaws and circular saws.
But, here the jigsaws have a clear edge over the circular saw as most models will come in a more compact size and are also not very heavy. This means they are also more portable, and so woodworkers and craftsmen can easily carry and use them in different job sites.
Circular saws use larger and more powerful motors and they also have larger and thicker blades and relatively more components. Hence, a typical circular saw will be heavier and bulkier than the jigsaw. But, it is also worth knowing that there are still many smaller and more compact circular saws built for portability.
You will not need to spend a lot of cash whether you choose the jigsaw or circular saws because both are often reasonably priced. For basic but good enough models of either saw, you will hardly ever need to spend more than $150.
However, overall the jigsaws tend to be significantly more affordable than the circular saw because even the top tier models hardly retail for more than $200. But for a circular saw, you can spend hundreds of dollars to get a top tier model from a top brand.
Also, remember that with both saw types, things like the motor size on the saw and the accessories and extras that it comes with can drive the price up. Where you are buying the saws from also matters a lot.
Whether you are occasional hobbyist homeowner that likes to make things now and then or a more seasoned DIYer or professional woodworker, there is no doubt that the jigsaw and circular saws will be very handy to have around.
And given that they are quite different tools that will serve different purposes, you will get better service if you have both. But when you need to decide which one to get first, watching out for the differences highlighted above should help simplify your buying decision.
With that said, the jigsaw will be a perfect tool for you if you think you will need to make more intricate and delicate wavy and curvy cuts often. Circular saws, on the other hand, will work best for those looking for something more powerful for making long, straight cuts and for cutting sheet materials.