A couple of years ago my old jigsaw quit and couldn’t be repaired. Of course, that happened right in the middle of a project with a deadline. Never fails, right?
I used to hate it when that occurred, and maybe even say a few words that are generally considered unacceptable in polite company. But then I thought about it and I figured—when else would it happen? No tool would quit on you before you started a job; or just at the exact moment when you finished. And they’re certainly not going to give up the ghost while they’re sitting idle in your toolbox. Tools always quit right in the middle of the job—it’s the law!
Anyway, I soon found out, much to my chagrin, that my old dead jigsaw didn’t have replaceable brushes.
So here’s Rule #1: when you buy any tool powered by electrons, make sure it has replaceable brushes—and buy an extra set of brushes when you purchase the tool. That way, when the electric motor that drives the tool runs out of said electrons, you can fix it. Cheap tools without replaceable brushes never last very long, and when they wear out you have no option but to toss the tool and go buy another one. This would be the equivalent of buying a car that you have to replace when it comes time for an oil change.
Anyway, there I am in the middle of my project, on a Sunday evening, with no jigsaw. Hmmm. I checked around to find out what stores were open, and had to settle for the big-box home improvement store across town—not always the best tool-buying option. They were out of their best jigsaws, probably because guys smarter than me had bought them, so in desperation I settled for the Skil Jigsaw 4490 (which has since been superseded by the very similar Skil Jigsaw 4395) and continued work on my project that night. The 4490—which you can still buy from several places, including big box retailers like Home Depot—costs about $50. The newer 4395 retails for around $90, but you can also get it from Amazon for $45.
At first, this little jigsaw didn’t do too badly. It has a powerful 5.0 amp motor, decent controls and a variable speed trigger, along with four different orbital speeds for cutting different materials.
I didn’t like the cheap, stamped-metal foot, though. It looked flimsy and lightweight, especially for any work that required anything more than a straight cut. And since the whole purpose of a jigsaw involves the ability to make curved cuts, I had some immediate reservations.
My reservations proved prescient. After about two days of cutting the curves my project required, the Skil “tool-less” foot adjustment—a simple, cheaply-made lever-and-cam arrangement under the base of the saw--would no longer tighten down sufficiently to hold its position. Instead, no matter how much I tightened and re-tightened, the foot of the saw flopped around and changed angles while the blade did its cutting. That maddening feature made for sawn edges that looked like the Pacific Ocean after a storm: wavy, choppy, and downright frightening.
On top of all that, cutting anything besides the flattest wood meant the edges of that cheap stamped foot would catch on whatever I was cutting.
So I took the floppy, unrepairable and useless new saw back to my not-so-friendly big-box store. “Nope,” the manager informed me. “We can’t take it back—you’ve used it.” Duh.
Since my 4490 performed so badly, I tried out the newer model, the 4935. It’s basically the same saw, with a 5.5 amp motor and a redesigned foot and adjuster—obviously, Skil had a lot of complaints about the 4490. The new model has a longer, side-mounted lever to adjust the angle of the foot, and a set of detents to hold it at zero, 30 and 45 degrees. That works a little better than the funky old design of the 4490, but the foot is still cheap stamped metal, and if you want to cut at any other angles besides those three, you’re out of luck.
The Skil 4490 Jigsaw gets a very low Contractors.com rating: 1 out of 5 Stars, definitely not recommended. Its replacement, the Skil Saw 4395 Jigsaw, gets a below-average rating of 2 out of 5 stars.
Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars (1 out of 5 Stars for the discontinued Skil 4490)
- Variable speed trigger
- Decent controls
- Powerful motor
- Floppy, hard-to-adjust, unstable foot design
- Cheap stamped metal foot with edges that catch on what you’re cutting
- Those two factors = lousy jigsaw cuts