Jigsaw vs Bandsaw: Which is Best? (Key Differences)
Most woodworkers, myself included, use a table saw more than any other saw. But when you have to make curved cuts, a table saw won’t do the trick.
This is when you’ll need one a scroll saw, a reciprocating saw, a jigsaw, or a bandsaw.
But what’s the difference between a jigsaw and bandsaw?
I’ll explore the differences and similarities between a jigsaw vs bandsaw, when you should use each one, and much more. Let’s dig in!
Jigsaws and bandsaws are both highly functional and versatile, and both saws can deliver a variety of cuts. But a bandsaw can deliver more cuts, and it can cut through thicker materials thanks to its power. The jigsaw, on the other hand, is more affordable saw and better suited for smaller projects.
In This Article:
What is a Jigsaw?
A jigsaw utilizes a small, thin blade and cuts in an up-down motion.
A trigger on the saw’s handle controls how fast the blade moves. The more pressure that’s applied, the faster the blade will move.
You can find both corded and cordless models, that make it easy to cut wood on the go.
In addition to wood, this saw can also cut through tile, metal, plastic, glass, laminate, and other materials.
When cutting softwoods—like cedar, spruce, pine, or fir—the blade should move fast to prevent burning; for hardwoods it should move slow to prevent burning.
A jigsaw is mainly used to cut curves, though it can make straight cuts, beveled cuts, and holes too.
Most jigsaws allow for orbital cutting as well, and when set to this cutting mode the blade will move up and down while moving forward and backward. This cutting mode is best if you want to cut quickly and you don’t care about making rough cuts.
To use a jigsaw, you must first rest its base, or the “shoe”, on the material you intend to cut. Once it’s in position, turn the saw on; the blade will start cutting under the shoe, making it one of the safer saws.
Additionally, most jigsaw shoes can rest at an angle on surfaces, and in this position the saw is able to make beveled cuts.
Want to learn how to use a jigsaw? Check out my mini course to learn the ins and outs of using a jigsaw for your projects!
Types of Jigsaw Blades
Two types of blades are used with jigsaws: U-blades and T-blades. U-blades are harder to attach and they can sometimes fall out while the saw is cutting, which isn’t only inconvenient but dangerous too. T-blades are easier to fasten and they stay fixed much better.
Some jigsaw blades have teeth that face upwards while others have downward-facing teeth. The side of the material that the blade is cutting toward will have a smoother cut, whereas the opposite side will have more of a rough cut.
How many teeth a jigsaw blade has is relevant as well. If there are lots of teeth per inch, the saw will cut slower but it’ll deliver more precise cuts. Fewer teeth ensures quicker cutting speed but a rougher cut.
While the jigsaw is great for a variety of reasons, it does have a few notable shortcomings as well. For one, the blades used aren’t that long, which means you can’t cut through thick materials.
Plus, since this is a smaller saw, it’ll take longer and more effort to make intricate cuts.
What is a Bandsaw?
A band saw is another versatile saw that can make a range of cuts, including curved and straight cuts.
How this saw operates is what makes it unique. It utilizes two wheels; a big wheel at the top and a smaller one underneath. A bladed band is wrapped around both wheel, and when these wheels turn, the band moves with them, cutting downward as it does.
This continuous downward cutting motion is one of the main features that distinguishes band saws from scroll saws and other saws that cut in an up-down motion.
And because of its cutting motion, there’s less vibration when a bandsaw cuts through material, and the band even helps to keep the material in place.
This power tool comes in a couple of variations, a larger, upright standing saw or a portable, compact band saw.
The large model features a larger blade and more power, while the compact band saw sports more portability.
Most bandsaws can cut at least 6 inches deep, while some can make cuts that are up to 12 inches in depth. The most commonly used bandsaw blade is an eighth of an inch thick; blades that are a sixteenth of an inch thick are common as well.
With a narrow blade that has a lot of teeth, you can make some pretty tight curves. And just like with a jigsaw, the more teeth a blade has, the smoother the cut will be.
If you use a thicker saw blade—like a three-quarter or one-inch blade—you can make straight lines.
And when it comes to making straight lines, the bandsaw is a bit safer than a table saw, particularly because you don’t have to worry about kickback.
In addition to wood, bandsaws can cut through nonferrous metals like brass, aluminum, and copper making them great for a wide range of tasks.
Jigsaw vs Bandsaw
Both saws are highly functional, so if you need to make clean, curved cuts through a thin material, you can’t go wrong with either a jigsaw or a bandsaw.
That said, there are things a jigsaw can do that a bandsaw can’t (and vice versa), which means jigsaws are better for certain tasks while bandsaws are best for others.
Of these two saws, the bandsaw is generally easier to learn and use, mainly because it’s a stationary saw.
In contrast, a jigsaw is a handheld power tool, one that generally requires more finesse for smooth and efficient operation. But if you get your jigsaw handling down, you can make a range of tight cuts that even a bandsaw can’t deliver, and you can make them in no time.
In terms of versatility, bandsaws have a slight edge over jigsaws, as they can deliver a range of cuts to hard and thin materials alike.
Specifically, a bandsaw can cut through thick wood if it’s equipped with a thicker and larger blade, whereas a jigsaw can’t because the small, thin blades it utilizes can only cut so deep.
On top of being able to make deeper cuts through thicker materials, bandsaws can also make a wider variety of cuts, including rip cuts, beveled cuts, circle cuts, and straight cuts.
Plus, you can turn raw wood into boards that are more suitable for woodworking with a bandsaw, and this requires minimal planing.
Types of Cuts
A bandsaw can deliver all the cuts a jigsaw can deliver and more. It also has an easier time cutting material, mainly because of how it works.
That said, both blade length and amount of blade teeth have a lot to do with how well a saw can make certain cuts, and this is true for bandsaws as it is for jigsaws.
The cutting motion is also important. Because a jigsaw cuts in an up-and-down motion, it’s limited in the kinds of cuts it can make. A bandsaw, on the other hand, isn’t limited in the same way, as it utilizes a reciprocating blade that always cuts downward.
Bandsaws and jigsaws come in different sizes. There are handheld bandsaws and jigsaws, and generally handheld jigsaws are slightly smaller than handheld bandsaws.
But the kind of bandsaw that most woodworkers use is the large, stand-up model. This is often compared to the tabletop jigsaw, though the latter is dwarfed in size by the bandsaw.
At first, a handheld jigsaw’s small size may be a hindrance, but once you get familiar with this it becomes an advantage. This is why most woodworkers use the handheld tool over the tabletop tool.
And as far as bandsaws go, the stand-up models are usually preferred over the handheld ones because of their sturdiness and stability.
Of these two saws, the jigsaw is more affordable. Specifically, handheld jigsaws are more affordable than handheld bandsaws, and tabletop jigsaws are much more affordable than stand-up bandsaws.
The main reasons for the discrepancy in price are size and functionality. In other words, because bandsaws are bigger and operate in a more complex way, they cost more. For these same reasons, both maintenance and repairs are more expensive as well.
How Are Jigsaws and Bandsaws Similar?
In a few key ways jigsaws and bandsaws are different, but in many more ways they’re similar.
For example, both can make precise cuts through different materials. Also, both utilize small blades, and both are safer than table saws.
Plus, either one can deliver complicated curves (if you’re skilled and know how to make these).
Because these saws are so similar, you can choose either one without fear of significant limitations.
When to Use a Jigsaw
Jigsaws are best for making tight, curved cuts in thin materials. Therefore they are often used for furniture construction, joinery, etc.
Here are just a few of the shapes I’ve cut with a jigsaw.
You can cut a circle, square, triangle, or another shape right in the middle of a board with a jigsaw, and you can do this quickly and with just a bit of effort.
In short, the jigsaw is best for smaller tasks, especially those that require smooth intricate cuts. However, if the material you’re cutting is especially small and thin, it may be best to go with a scroll saw.
Lastly, a jigsaw is a tool you can bring on the go, whereas the stand-up bandsaw is far from a portable saw.
When to Use a Bandsaw
Cutting Curves and Circles
With a bandsaw, you have much more control when making curved cuts. This is mainly because a bandsaw cuts downward and pulls the sawdust it creates downward as well. So you can easily follow your cutting line and avoid making a huge mess.
Cutting notches with a bandsaw is safer, cleaner, and more effective than cutting these with a table saw. You could make notches with a jigsaw as well, but because the jigsaw isn’t as stable, you run the risk of making irregular cuts with this tool.
Resawing is when you take a piece of wood and cut out smaller pieces that are more visually appealing and easier to use. Doing this with a bandsaw is a breeze in large part because a bandsaw can make deep cuts.
Bookmatching is when you cut a piece of board in half and then join the two pieces together. Usually this is done to highlight a unique woodgrain. With a bandsaw, you can easily cut a board into thinner, smaller pieces that are even and smooth all around.
Repurposing Scrap Wood
A bandsaw can turn raw wood into usable boards and panels. You could literally run part of a stump through the saw, and after a few cuts, have several small boards that can be fitted together to make a range of objects.
Check out the video below to learn how to use a band saw and more!
When you stack jigsaws up against bandsaws, it’s clear to see that both saws are useful in numerous respects, but bandsaws are slightly better than jigsaws in a few key ways.
Specifically, bandsaws are more stable, and they can deliver more kinds of cuts. Plus, bandsaws can cut through more materials, and they can cut through materials thick and thin.
So if you can get your hands on a good bandsaw, do so. Otherwise, a jigsaw will be fine for making curved cuts, straight cuts, and a range of other cuts.