What is an orbital jigsaw, and what makes it different from a regular jigsaw?
Also known as an orbital saber saw, this power tool boasts a unique cutting action.
In this guide, we'll explore what it is, how you can use it, and why it’s such a popular choice among DIYers and experts alike.
What Is an Orbital Jigsaw?
As mentioned, an orbital jigsaw has a particular cutting action that might also be referred to as a pendulum cutting action.
The blade has a swaying movement that allows the user to saw in a straight line much faster than its counterparts.
Then again, while you'll have more aggressive cutting power in your hands, it can also compromise accuracy.
Often, users find the less orbital action they use, the more precise their cuts are.
Still, there are certain circumstances where cutting speed far outweighs the pristine finish of a material.
The simplest way to understand orbital action is to imagine how a jigsaw blade works.
When cutting, a jigsaw blade traditionally goes up and down to penetrate a surface. With orbital action, the blade also moves back and forth, similar to a traditional saw.
Instead of a standard reciprocating saw, jigsaws allow you to make curved edges, much like scroll saws.
What Is the Difference Between an Orbital Jigsaw and a Regular Jigsaw?
There aren't many significant differences between these two, as you will likely find most jigsaws have orbital action.
Where they differ the most is in how they make their cuts.
When cutting, jigsaws lift and lower their blade at incredible speeds at a backward angle. Alternatively, orbital jigsaws follow an elliptical path.
What makes them convenient is this cutting action boasts an impossible level of power.
Fortunately, you likely have the choice between standard and elliptical cutting with the flip of a switch.
As orbital jigsaws are more aggressive, they will also require more power from the motor.
This is why most of these tools are corded, as a battery could run out too quickly under such demand.
However, if you'll only be making a few short cuts, cordless or battery-powered models can be beneficial.
Is an Orbital Jigsaw Better?
The power behind an orbital jigsaw is what sets it apart from the competition.
It is highly versatile for working through an assortment of materials, including countertop laminate and thick wood.
With its efficiency, you will need to know how to wield the tool properly to avoid as much vibration as possible.
The cutting action can lead to significant imperfections along with the cut, especially at the edges.
Often, you'll have to use a manual or electric sander to get the perfect finish.
What Do You Use a Jigsaw For?
So, what do you use a jigsaw for?
The answer is the same as the tasks you would use an orbital jigsaw for.
As long as you're interested in cutting through materials faster, it's a great tool to have available.
Many of the more aggressive settings are recommended for wood and thick slabs.
Orbital jigsaws indeed offer their power when working with softwood.
The blade's edge will slice through different wood types like butter, allowing more efficient cuts.
If you were using a standard jigsaw, you might worry about blades getting stuck and overheating.
Another massive advantage of using this tool with wood is that it helps to clear chips faster than other tools.
This means you will have less stoppage while cutting and will be able to follow your marked guides easily.
Often, wood will have one of the best finishes out of other materials you can cut with this tool.
Cutting Laminate and Plastic
Orbital jigsaws can also be preferred for working with hardened materials, such as plastic and laminate.
They are also popular among contractors who frequently install drywall.
The most important thing to remember when working with plastic is its likelihood of cracking.
It would help if you always opted for lower cutting settings to make sure you avoid splintering.
Overall, orbital jigsaws are beneficial for making straight, curved, or scroll cuts at lower speeds.
Apart from wood, cutting metal with an orbital jigsaw is very simple.
Again, you'll want to pay close attention to your speed, as lower speed settings can cut faster.
It's a good idea to practice using your tool on scrap metal, especially materials like aluminum.
This will give you a good idea of the speed you should aim for with thicker metals.
What Does Orbital Action Mean?
When shopping for a jigsaw, you'll find that some come with an orbital setting.
This means you can either use the standard or elliptical cutting pattern of the jigsaw.
Depending on preference and experience, some settings can be chosen for specific materials.
In addition to variable speed control, you'll find that orbital settings boost the versatility of your tool.
You can make precise straight up-and-down cuts or faster rough-cutting for practical applications.
It should be easy to find the orbital setting on your device, as it's either a switch, lever, or dial.
Adjustable Cutting Action
Using the dial, you can adjust the amount of orbital action you want to use depending on the material.
Most of these tools will have up to four levels—four being the most powerful, and zero meaning no orbital action.
The higher the orbital action, the more aggressive the tool will be, which means you'll have a rougher cut.
Challenges With Control
Beginners might also find that too much orbital action can be challenging to control and thus dangerous.
Lower settings can be used, as it will still be faster than traditional cutting but with fewer mishaps.
Straight cuts will benefit the most from orbital settings, as they don't have to be accurate.
Where this cutting action becomes most challenging is if you want to begin making plunge cuts.
Plunge cuts require you to slowly start the jigsaw, which is nearly impossible with orbital action engaged.
Curved cuts are also more challenging with this setting, as it makes the tool harder to control.
Less Precise Finishes
Cutting can be faster with this feature, but your overall project might take longer than expected.
There's no doubt that orbital action jigsaws leave a rough edge that will require many finishing touches.
You'll need to sand away any imperfections and ensure the edges are cleaned for more aesthetic projects.
Depending on the finishing you need, it could take longer than using other tools, like hybrid table saws.
So, now that you know what is an orbital jigsaw and what it’s used for, have you decided on getting one yet?
It's ideal for practical projects where perfection isn't essential. You can also use it as a standalone device for aggressive rips through materials.
If you have a mid- to high-tier jigsaw, it's a good idea to test out the orbital cutting feature to see if it's useful for you.