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You may have heard of jigsaw blades being referred to as “universal,” but does that mean that every jigsaw blade fits every jigsaw?
The short answer is: no.
The term “universal” comes from a term that’s referring to the shank of the blade.
What is a Shank?
The shank is the part of the blade that fixes into the jigsaw, making sure that it doesn’t come out when you are using it.
You will commonly see two types of shank on jigsaw blades. These are U-shanks (“universal shanks”) and T-shanks (“tang shanks”).
When you are looking around and shopping for jigsaw blades, you will notice that tang shanks are generally far more common than universal shanks. A universal shank blade has a “U”-shaped top, and for many years it was the most common type of blade for use with a jigsaw. However, the emergence of the tang shank has led to the universal shank blades becoming less and less popular.
What is a “Tang”?
A “tang” can be thought of as an example of a knife. In a knife, the blade doesn’t just abruptly end at the handle (in most cases). If it did, then the blade could snap off with very little force – it would be brittle and weak at the join. Instead, the blade continues, sometimes all the way to the bottom of the handle. The handle wraps around it to give you a comfortable grip.
Extending the blade to this point means that it’s much stronger.
This same principle is used in tang shank jigsaw blades.
You should also note that the knife blade will not be sharp once it “goes into” the handle. You shouldn’t worry about the handle coming loose and cutting yourself accidentally. It’s just metal. Nothing sharp.
So, Jigsaw Blades Aren’t Universal?
In summary, there are two types of jigsaw blades that you might see in a shop: tang shank blades and universal shank blades. As we have explained, tang shank blades are much more common nowadays and are very strong. Universal shank blades are named as such because, in days gone by, they were the most common type of jigsaw blade. But they are not any longer.
You can’t just select any jigsaw blade, attach it, and work on your material. It depends on a variety of factors – factors that we will very briefly cover here for you.
What Affects What Type of Blade I Should Get?
A few different things will make a difference in the type of blade that you should select. These are:
- The material you are cutting – We will go into this in more detail in just a moment. Different blades will be more suited to cutting different materials without either being damaged or damaging the material. When you select a pack of blades, you should specifically look for ones that are designed by cutting the surfaces you will be working on.
- The power and cutting speed of your jigsaw – In general, bigger is better, but this is not always the case. Again, it depends on what you are cutting through and what blade you use with the jigsaw. Overdoing it could cause more brittle materials to shatter.
- How much durability you need from the blade – Is this something you’re just going to use once and be done with? If so, the quality of the structure and material of the blade is possibly not as important to you. If, however, this is something you are going to need to use again and again, you may want to consider getting a more high-quality piece of kit.
- The shank of the blade – Look at your jigsaw. If it’s a new model, it will almost certainly be compatible with a T-shank blade (tang shank) rather than a U-shank (universal) blade.
There are four main types of blades available, made from different materials. There are others available too, but these are by far the most common.
- High-speed steel – This material should be used for lighter materials – hardwood, plastic, or thin metals.
- Bi-metal – These blades are on the stronger side, and therefore are ideal for cutting slightly thicker pieces of metal and wood.
- High-carbon steel – Blades made of high-carbon steel are most commonly found in carpentry situations and are very effective in this field.
- Tungsten carbide – Blades with tungsten in them are ideal for cutting thick, heavy things, such as steel or tiles.
So there we have it! Jigsaw blades aren’t universal. In an ideal world, that would be great. It would save us all lots of time trying to figure what is best for what situation. Unfortunately, that doesn’t exist yet. You have to get the right thing for the right job. But who knows? In the future, we may see something like that come out.
We’ll just have to wait and see.
In the meantime, jigsaws are one of the most useful tools you can have, and it’s more than worth looking into getting your hands on one.