When working with something, there is always the possibility of needing curved cuts. Getting a clean curved cut is difficult, particularly with a tool that usually cuts straight. An excellent power tool for this would be the orbital jigsaw.
What is an Orbital Jigsaw?
An orbital jigsaw is like a regular jigsaw, but it has an orbital motion that helps cut the material in a curve, rather than in a straight line like usual jigsaws do.
This is also called pendulum action, at times, because as the name suggests, it is a swinging motion that makes the blade tilt forward as the jigsaw cuts.
An orbital jigsaw usually comes with a motor, and a blade that is attached perpendicular to the actual tool, as well as a handle to help you manage the position and make the cuts.
How Does An Orbital Jigsaw Work?
In an orbital jigsaw, the perpendicular blade has an up and down motion during cutting strokes, which makes an orbital jigsaw very similar to a reciprocating saw, though, jigsaws can make very intricate cuts in a variety of materials, unlike the reciprocating saw.
Plenty of orbital jigsaws you’d find come with cords and need an electric supply, but there are plenty others which come with Lithium-ion batteries and can be used cordless as well.
Differences Between Orbital Jigsaws and Regular Jigsaws
The difference between a standard jigsaw and an orbital jigsaw lies in the position of the blade. Like the standard jigsaw, the blade has the upward and downward motion with each cutting stroke to make the cuts. In a standard jigsaw, however, the jigsaw blades are completely straight and perpendicular to the tool itself.
On the other hand, an orbital jigsaw has a slightly angled blade. When the blade pulls up, it angles forward just a bit, and when it comes down, it angles backwards. This causes the path it follows to become elliptical, which results in a curved cut.
Orbital jigsaws are usually more aggressive with cuts than standard jigsaws, and as a result, they also tend to use up their motor more than standard jigsaws, which can be a point of concern for some. However, they are very efficient when it comes to their actual function and can cut through very tough materials as well.
Because of the aggressive cutting, you can also expect more vibrations in orbital jigsaws than standard ones. Their cuts are also rougher and coarser, which can be a deal breaker for some people. However, there is no better option for elliptical cuts than an orbital jigsaw, so this is a minor compromise.
Sometimes, jigsaws come with an orbital setting that lets you make an elliptical cut whenever you like, and a straight cut when you need that. This is usually with a dial or switch and can be very convenient.
Why You Would Want to Use an Orbital Jigsaw
There are plenty of advantages orbital jigsaws have, even over the standard jigsaw!
Speed & Efficiency
For one thing, an orbital jigsaw is a lot faster and efficient with its cuts than a regular jigsaw. Even a standard jigsaw with orbital settings on can do a lot better than its straight-cut version.
The swing pendulum motion of the orbital jigsaw also means that the blade is less likely to get stuck in the material. This also helps get rid of sawdust and debris, which keeps the blade’s path clear of any material that could hinder its movement.
Because of minimum debris, there is also very little friction generated while the blade is making the cut. With less friction, less heat is generated, so the blade does not get too hot and you don’t have to wait for it to cool down. With less sawdust and debris, there is also a reduced risk of the blade getting dulled. Since it remains sharp, its cutting life also remains longer.
Better With Thick Materials
Another advantage to orbital jigsaws is how well they can cut through thicker and tougher materials. Even a thicker piece of softwood can cause you trouble with your standard jigsaw. The chips of the wood don’t get the chance to get shaken off the blade and quickly build up, which results in the blade’s cutting power being reduced and friction making the jigsaw heat up.
Even the slightest orbital movement can help in such cases. For example, keeping your orbital at its lowest setting and adjusting your own movement to make a straight line. With this, the chips get cleared a lot faster, and the blade also stays cool.
However, orbital jigsaws are not the best at cutting thinner pieces, or at cutting harder material like metals.
Orbital Settings on Regular Jigsaws
As mentioned earlier, plenty of standard jigsaws come with orbital settings nowadays, and bring with it a variety of controls regarding speed, the curve, etc.
This means that you can use the standard jigsaw and the orbital with one machine. You can use the orbital setting for curved cuts, or for cruder and rougher cuts that need to be done faster, while the standard setting is used for more precise cuts.
Most jigsaws that come with orbital settings allow you to switch back and forth with a dial or a switch. There are usually four minimum levels, which includes a ‘no orbit’ level, at which the orbital motion is turned off.
At higher levels, the orbital action is a lot more aggressive, which makes the cut faster and rougher. At higher orbital levels, the amount of control a user has over the jigsaw is reduced. Depending on the kind of material you are cutting, you’d have to find the right setting to run at.
Most cheaper jigsaws don’t have orbital motion at all.
Our Final Thoughts
An orbital jigsaw has a number of benefits over the regular jigsaw, though it doesn’t necessarily have the best level of precision. Still, you’d find that when you want to get some crude cuts out of the way, an orbital jigsaw is your best option.