What Is an Orbital Jigsaw?


With so many tools on the market, how are you supposed to know what’s right for you? If you ever work with wood, PVC, or metal and don’t own an orbital jigsaw, you might be wasting a lot of time.

In this guide, we’ll tell you all about the orbital jigsaw. By the end, you should know the uses of this tool and understand if it’s right for you. Let’s get started with some definitions.

What Is an Orbital Jigsaw?

This tool is simply a jigsaw that has an orbital function. It’s a subset of tool in the jigsaw category and has its own functions. If you have a jigsaw in your hand, look for a switch that lets you choose between a straight or orbital reciprocation.

What is a Jigsaw?

If you take a Sawzall and turn the blade 90 degrees up, you get a jigsaw. A jigsaw is a hand tool that rides along a surface and cuts it with its perpendicular blade.

Rather than sawing back and forth, the jigsaw has a little motor that quickly performs a sawing motion. The blades themselves can be changed out to accomplish different tasks, and the operator will drag their hand around the material to create the desired shape.

What Does an Orbital Function Do?

A typical jigsaw blade will go straight up and down. An orbital function adds an arc to every stroke, curving the motion. It makes a shallow C-shape every time the blade goes up or down.

This is a big deal because it lets you cut through material faster. The material chips and sawdust will get out of the blade’s way so the teeth can get to work.

How Does it Work?

A jigsaw works a lot like a sewing machine. In fact, that’s how the jigsaw was first invented – a guy in Switzerland took out the needle of his sewing machine and put in one of his saw blades.

A traditional orbital jigsaw today works in about the same way. The blade is affixed to a motor that has offset and orbital gears. The connection point between the blade and the motor follows the elliptical motion.

The blades have a series of teeth cut into the metal. They’re sharp and often patterned to work really well on wood or whatever material you’re cutting.

As the blade comes in contact with the material, the teeth cut into it. As you drag the orbital jigsaw along, you are left with a line of missing material behind you.

What Can an Orbital Jigsaw Do?

The tool is incredible when it comes to precision and cutting tight radii. In fact, jigsaw puzzles were historically cut using a traditional jigsaw. If you can imagine all the tough turns and intricate lines required to make one of these puzzles, you’ll understand the purpose of a jigsaw tool.

The orbital component takes this concept to the next level. At the expense of some of the precision, you get a tougher, harder-working tool. It can cut through thicker and harder material than a standard jigsaw without an orbital function.

You can use an orbital jigsaw to cut through some metals, woods, and PVC. One of the most common uses of an orbital jigsaw is in the world of construction.

Working on Countertops

Installing new countertop can be tricky. You need to cut holes for faucets and sprayer hoses, and the countertops might be too unwieldy to keep taking to your woodshop.

A lot of people reach for their orbital jigsaw in this scenario. You can buy blades that are specifically made to cut deep, hard countertops.

Cutting Ceramic Tile

Another trouble area is laying ceramic tile in an area. Any time you need to cut non-straight geometries, you’ll wish you had a jigsaw.

Many contractors and DIYers will use a jigsaw for the whole project – you can easily cut curves and semicircles to make sure the tile fits perfectly in the room.

Cutting Carpet

The alternative to cutting carpet is a utility knife or scissors. If you want to expedite the process and ensure a perfect fit, you can also use an orbital jigsaw.

This is where the orbital function comes in handy. The backing for carpet is sometimes thick and hard to manage. With this tool handy, the elliptical path of your blade will make it feel easy.

Fine Woodworking Projects

People who create wood projects with any level of detail will typically use an orbital jigsaw. It can achieve precision and cut intricate geometries unlike any other tool on the market.

Thanks to the level of precision you can achieve, you can easily design and put together wooden assemblies.

The Learning Curve of an Orbital Jigsaw

Since this saw isn’t a tabletop unit, there’s a bit of a learning curve. A lot of users will have trouble maintaining a straight cut when they first start out – this could be a nightmare if you’re using the saw to perform a field sobriety test.

Every blade performs differently within your jigsaw. Make sure you grab some scrap wood to learn your tool before committing to the project.

Once you learn the right way to guide the jigsaw, then everything will make sense. There’s a certain power and speed that you’ll need to use depending on the material, blade, and thickness.

If you are too quick or push too hard, the blade might snap. Don’t get discouraged, this is a very common occurrence (even amongst us tool pros). Pop in a new blade and keep going.

The Right Person for an Orbital Jigsaw

All this information might lead you to a single question: “is an orbital jigsaw right for me?”

In our professional opinion, almost everyone can benefit from owning an orbital jigsaw. They aren’t super expensive, and they offer versatility that not a lot of other tools do. You can cut in a straight line or create precise geometries all with a single tool.

With the orbital function, you can punch through stubborn material and get a cleaner, faster cut. If you’re a homeowner, DIYer, contractor, or repairman – you should definitely have an orbital jigsaw in your collection.


Now you know all about orbital jigsaws. They’re just like a standard jigsaw, but they give you the ability to flip it into “orbital mode”, giving you access to more strength and speed with the cut. Check out the rest of our blog to learn more about tooling.

Help us out by spreading the word!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *