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Project Lab: How I learned to stop procrastinating and love the jigsaw

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I’ve used an inverted jigsaw quite a bit in my videos here. This is a great tool for people who want to make intricate cuts but don’t have a bandsaw nor a scrollsaw. A few people have asked for more info about my setup, so let’s take a closer look.

For those who don’t know, a jigsaw is a power tool that lifts and lowers a blade really fast. It’s kind of like a mini robot arm with a tiny handsaw. You can swap out the blade to cut a variety of materials, and the tool lets you make all sorts of cuts. This long thin blade very versatile.

But that same long thin blade also makes the tool one of the most hated in the workshop.

This is because it can flex during your cut. At best, you get a cut that’s not square. At worst, the blade drags you off your cut line and make it tough to get back on.

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Bending blade

Luckily, there is a way to fix this. And that’s to flip the jigsaw upside down.

Now we can see if the blade starts to flex. And if you’re working with small parts, it also becomes easier to move them to exactly where you want to cut.

Suddenly we’ve got a tool that can compete with more expensive bandsaws and scrollsaws. Those tools are far more pleasurable to use, but still: The inverted jigsaw unlocks a wealth of options in the workshop without having to drop hundreds of dollars.

There are some great videos out there about how to make an inverted jigsaw jig to hold your jigsaw this way. DIYCreators and Paoson Woodworking are two good examples. In a clever twist, Jack Houweling uses super-strong magnets for his. 

But what if you have no interest in making such a jig? That’s where I was back in 2016. I got stuck in a gumption trap, as “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” author Robert Pirsig would have called it.

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Gumption

I needed to cut out some letters for a sign for folk-country-rock band The Mascot Theory, and the only tool in the shop that could do this was my jigsaw. But I didn’t think I had the time nor abilities to make the jig that would hold this thing in place. Instead of working on the sign, I procrastinated.

The deadline was approaching, so I got desperate. I ended up just flipping this thing upside down and clamping it in my workmate. And…

It worked.

After adding a simple plywood base to the top, I ws able I cut out 32 tiny little letters and shapes for that sign on this setup. It did great. 

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Upside down

From there, there are several incremental ways to improve the performance of this setup. Eventually, one ends up with the full jig. You can see the full evolution in the video above.

But it’s important to know that you don’t need to spend the time on that work if you don’t want to. Yeah, your jigsaw experience will improve with each addition. But it’ll work just fine till you get the motivation to tackle them.

So don’t let the lack of a proper inverted jigsaw jig slow you down. Just flip your jigsaw upside down and get to work. You can do the rest later.

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The jig

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Full disclosure: Purchasing stuff from any Amazon links below will support this column. Don’t feel obligated to buy anything, but if you do, thanks!

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Jigsaw

DeWalt DW317K jigsaw: I have worked the heck out of this thing. It has handled continuous running four hours without problem. And that’s with all sorts of dust and junk falling into the works from above. At 5.5 amps, it seems to have plenty of power. My only gripe is with the shoe. One side has an adjustable cutting angle, while the other lets you flip it around and lock in at 90 degrees. This feature should be nice; if you want to just make plain-ole square cuts, then you don’t have to worry about adjusting the shoe angle or checking to make sure that it hasn’t wandered away on you. But the 90-degree-cut side of my shoe is actually more like 94 degrees, making it unusable. I haven’t been able to fix it, either. Instead, I just leave it on the adjustable side. That being said, the proven reliability of the tool keeps me happy. No magic smoke yet!

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Clamps

Toggle clamps: These vertical toggle clamps feature 200 pounds of clamping pressure. This should be more than enough strength for holding the jigsaw in place, even when cutting grippy stuff like sheet steel. These are untested on vibranium; please let me know how it goes if you get the chance.

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Spade bits

Spade bits: It’s nice to have a set of these around for quickly cutting big holes. You can use these either for rough work or for when you have to plunge the jigsaw blade into a surface for an inside cut.

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Workmate

Workmate: If a bench vise and a sawhorse had a baby, it’d be a workmate. This handy tool features a contracting surface that both clamps and supports your work. And when you’re not using it, you can fold it up and tuck it in a corner. Mine is some cheap brand that my wife got me for Christmas one year. While it’s falling apart, it still works fine. This Black and Decker one looks similar. Hopefully it has more robust clamping hardware than mine, but even if it doesn’t, the price is right.

Wisconsinite Andy Reuter writes and shoots video about whatever DIY project is holding his attention at the time. For more, follow him on Instagram, find him on Twitter, or subscribe to his channel on YouTube.

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