Two of the best and most popular saws are the Jigsaw and the Bandsaw. Each saw has its own features and specialties. There’s lots of confusing information on which Jigsaw is best to buy or how to purchase a Bandsaw. It’s challenging to decide which one you need and when.

Understanding when to use a Jigsaw vs Bandsaw will improve the quality and efficiency of your woodworking. Here, we debunk what the real differences are and share why it’s important to understand these differences.   

Quick Summary

Jigsaws and Bandsaws have thin blades that are capable of cutting straight and curved cuts into wood. Here are the key differences: 

  • Jigsaws are handheld whereas a bandsaw is a stationary machine. 
  • The blade of the Jigsaw is attached at one end whereas the bandsaw has a circular blade where one end connects to the other. 
  • A Jigsaw will make finer cuts but is limited to material no thicker than the length of the blade. Although more versatile, the Jigsaw is harder to use when tackling precision tasks. 
  • The Bandsaw can make rough curved cuts and is used for resawing and can be used on thicker wood. It cuts faster and is easier to use. 

A Jigsaw is a more versatile machine and can complete more tasks. The Bandsaw is more specialised and will complete certain tasks faster and to a higher standard. 

What is a Jigsaw?

A Jigsaw is a small, handheld power tool with a narrow blade for handheld cuts. It comes in both corded and cordless formats although corded is more common. It is a dynamic tool that has many uses and can cut into a variety of thin materials. 

The blade is around 5 inches in length and allows the user to cut curves with precision and accuracy. The blade is reciprocating and therefore moves up and down to cut material. The blade is mounted on the upper body of the device and can be changed depending on the requirements for the project. 

Jigsaws are one of the most popular tools for DIY enthusiasts as they are one of the most versatile and cheap power saw devices available.

Jigsaw illustration

Functionality

One of the hallmark benefits of using a jigsaw is the throat depth. Being a handheld power tool, the jigsaw doesn’t have a back plate against which wood or project pieces can butt up. This means it has no maximum capacity or width for the piece being worked. This makes it ideal for cutting designs out of large pieces of plywood or wide boards. This is why they’re often used for crafting wood signs or pieces of artwork. 

The small size of the blade enables intricate cutting and the lack of a back plate enables cuts to start from within the work surface. The blade of the jigsaw is also easily separated. It can therefore be re-docked with various other blades for internal and external cutting purposes. 

Versatility 

Another benefit is how portable this power tool is. The Jigsaw can be taken anywhere as it is handheld. Anyone wanting to do woodwork regardless of the location is able to use a Jigsaw. 

In addition to being portable, these are often cheap due to their small size. This makes it a very approachable and affordable tool for beginners and hobbyists.

The cut a Jigsaw produces is also versatile. It is used for both curved and straight cuts. Interchangeable blades enable the saw to cut through a variety of materials. Note: in order to cut straight you’ll need to be slow and precise, but this video helps: 

A Jigsaw can also be used on many ‘makeshift’ surfaces if you don’t have a workbench.     

Blades 

The blade of the Jigsaw is interchangeable enabling the user to change cuts and work on new materials. The blade choice determines the quality of the cut given the material and cutting goals. It’s important whilst using a Jigsaw to select the right blade for the job. 

Fast cuts require large teeth to quickly saw through the piece. Smaller precision cuts require narrower teeth, which will create a smoother finish. 

Check out this article on Jigsaw blade selection. 

What is a Bandsaw? 

On the other end of the spectrum stands the bandsaw.  A typical bandsaw stands alone or on a bench so that the working platform is at waist or chest height. A Bandsaw is used while standing, much like a table saw or jointer. Unlike the Jigsaw, it is not handheld. 

The Bandsaw is a more industrial and specialist machine. The machine includes a table and large motor. To use the saw, the user rests the wood on the table and moves the piece through the blade. The blade runs in a continuous circular motion with one end connecting to the other. 

The Bandsaw has a thicker and larger blade compared to the Jigsaw and is also capable of sawing both straight and curved cuts. 

There are many different types of Bandsaws. Some are even used for cutting meat! 

Bandsaw

Functionality 

Bandsaws are used for resawing purposes. This means slicing the timber along the grain selection to reduce it to smaller pieces. Check out this detailed article on what resawing really means. 

A Bandsaw has a back stop, meaning there is a defined limit to the size of pieces you can cut with this tool.  However, this limitation comes with benefits.

Firstly, power. With the larger size comes the capacity for a more powerful motor. This means the bandsaw can slice through thicker pieces of wood and harder species. This is useful for more detailed projects and for the more serious woodworker. Compared to the Jigsaw, the Bandsaw saws through wood much faster and more consistently. 

Due to the circular saw, the blade and teeth also move extremely consistently and passes through wood in exactly the same motion. This creates a consistent finish.

For each Bandsaw task you may need to change the saw blade so it works in the correct way. This includes adjusting the wheel, fixing the new blade and positioning the desk. The sweet spot for Bandsaw usage is between 2” to 4” wood. 

The cut 

A Bandsaw offers stability since the blade and cutting surface are fixed to one another. The piece is the only thing that moves through the cutting process and is controlled by the user. This allows finer cuts and a higher quality end result requiring less effort. 

Unlike the Jigsaw, the machine is stationary and offers a very consistent cut. Due to the increased power and consistency, the Bandsaw will cut wood consistently and quickly with minimal effort from the user. This tradeoff is worth the cost and size of the machine when working on high-end projects or high-volume pieces. 

The Bandsaw is normally used to cut wood up to around 4 inches in thickness. Although blades can be changed, typically this is to either replace the blade due to wear or to alter the configuration of blade teeth. 

Blade

Guiding guards protect the user from the blade. This means the user is less likely to injure themselves on a blade.

The blade is fixed in place and the drill vice can be used to stop any unnecessary movement of the wood. This enables the user to create consistent exact cuts and takes the human element out of the attempt to be consistent. 

Here is an excellent article on how to choose a Bandsaw blade. 

Jigsaw Vs Bandsaw Similarities and Differences

These two power tools share a lot of similarities, particularly in their blade type and the style of cuts.  If you’re looking for narrow cuts with sharp turns and minimal kerf, both the Jigsaw and the Bandsaw are excellent selections.  However, depending on your project, certain ones may serve you better.

Jigsaw Cut vs Bandsaw Cut 

The Jigsaw is designed for making complex narrow cuts. The smaller blade enables the user to get into the nooks and crannies of the wood and to be precise in the finish. The Bandsaw in comparison suits creating wider cuts. It excels at sawing through the entire length of wood to split it. 

Both the Jigsaw and the Bandsaw are capable of making straight cuts. But making a high quality straight cut with a Jigsaw requires more skill and patience from the user. The user needs to be detailed and slow with the cut. The Bandsaw on the other hand benefits from a drill vice meaning the wood is kept in the exact desired position. This takes the human error element out of the cut. Therefore the Bandsaw is more suited to repetitive long cuts. 

Bandsaw cut

The Jigsaw is used for several types of basic cut but is limited to its blade length. A Jigsaw will struggle to saw through material thicker than 5 inches whereas the Bandsaw does not suffer this limitation. 

Cutting Power 

Anything requiring a higher cutting power will be better suited to the bandsaw.  This means, if you’re working with more exotic hardwoods or very hard species, you will need a Bandsaw to cut the material.  On the other hand, if you’re working with a very wide specimen of wood, you’ll have better luck with a handheld Jigsaw due to the maneuverability of the tool.  

Scope of project 

As you progress to more serious levels of woodworking and have the space in your shop, you will likely make the move to get a Bandsaw.  A large Bandsaw can accomplish many of the same things a Jigsaw can, while also offering the power and stability that defines a Bandsaw.  With the ability to use a guide to make straight cuts, as well as the power to cut through harder woods, a Bandsaw is a versatile tool that will allow you to make sharp and narrow designs on a large scale. 

Jigsaw Blade vs Bandsaw Blade

The Bandsaw has a blade that is connected to a band. The band is mounted on wheels and allows the continuous circular motion of the blade. 

The Jigsaw uses a reciprocating blade and is only attached at the top to the body of the Jigsaw. In other words: the Jigsaw blade moves up and down whereas the Bandsaw blade moves round and round in a circular motion. 

Jigsaw blades are easily interchangeable whereas Bandsaw blades take more time and skill to replace. In general Bandsaw blades will also last longer than Jigsaw blades. 

Other questions 

Scroll Saw vs Bandsaw Vs Jigsaw

A Bandsaw is used for rough curved cuts, can be used on very thick wood, and is easy to use. It normally isn’t used for sheets of wood and it makes fast cuts, with blades that last for a long time. 

The Jigsaw is used for finer cuts and is limited to wood no thicker than the length of the blade. It’s harder to use than the Bandsaw and is best for sheets of wood. Blades don’t last very long and it cuts slower than the Bandsaw. 

Scroll Saws are used for very fine and intricate cuts. It’s limited to 2 inch thick wood and can cut veneers with ease. It’s best used for very small and thin pieces of wood. Of the three, it’s the slowest to use and blades dull very fast, but it produces the finest cut. 

Benchtop Bandsaw vs Standing Bandsaw

A Benchtop Bandsaw refers to a Bandsaw machine without legs and hence is placed on a benchtop. The other type is a ‘standing bandsaw’ which includes the legs. The Standing Bandsaw allows for plenty of flexibility for maneuvering longer pieces around the saw as you cut them. They also tend to accept larger boards. 

A Benchtop Bandsaw on the other hand takes up less floor space but does take up considerable space on the workbench. 

Jigsaw or Bandsaw? Final thoughts 

Obviously there are situations where a Bandsaw may be uneconomical or where a Jigsaw would still be able to perform better (due to lack of space or a wide piece of wood). As a whole, a Bandsaw can do most of the cuts and functions that a Jigsaw can, and with much more power and stability.  Additionally, the versatility of being able to make rip cuts and straight edges more precisely means a bandsaw may be a better investment overall.

JigsawBandsaw
Lightweight and handheld.Static machine. Heavy, large, immobile. 
Blade attached on the top of the saw and bottom not attached. Reciprocating. Blade is connected to a band. Blade mounted on wheels.
Suitable for rough and general cutting. Variety of materials.Large scale and accurate cutting. Specialist for large pieces of lumber. 
Can make small cuts but not great for long straight cuts. Used for resawing. 

If you’re very limited on space and budget, a Jigsaw can be a phenomenal introduction to the type of cuts and designs these tools can make, and can offer you the chance to make unique, beautiful wood decorations with low effort and experience.  

Whatever your needs, these tools are both great instruments and can offer you cuts that a standard circular saw or table saw are incapable of, making these good to have around.  Try your hand at a small, portable jigsaw, and begin learning the different designs and cuts you can make with it.  If you feel like you’ll use it frequently, or want a more stable way to make those cuts, upgrade to a bandsaw.  Otherwise, you can keep the jigsaw on hand for those projects as needed.

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