Cordless jigsaws eliminate the problem of keeping the cord out of the way, which is especially bothersome when cutting curves. The battery adds weight, but reviews note that extra weight tends to absorb vibration, so it's not a huge drawback. Lithium-ion batteries are lighter than NiCd and NiMH batteries. They're also better for the environment, and their longer life makes them more cost-effective in the long run (despite their higher initial price). Lithium-ion jigsaws are especially useful for homeowners who don't use a jigsaw often, because they hold their charge a long time between uses.
The 18-volt Makita LXT BJV180 (*Est. $390) comes with two batteries and a 25-minute charger. Even with the battery, this cordless jigsaw weighs only 6.1 pounds - just an ounce more than the top-ranked corded Bosch 1590EVSK (*Est. $145). That's a big price difference for cordless convenience, but most people buying the Makita will add it to other 18-volt Makita tools that use the same lithium-ion batteries and charger.
Reviews note that Makita lithium-ion tools use a newly designed motor that's especially efficient, so the 3-amp-hour (3Ah) batteries run a long time. The cooling system is in the charger, which saves weight and makes the batteries last through more charging cycles. Like the corded Makita jigsaw discussed earlier, the lithium-ion-powered Makita has an LED light plus the capacity to cut wood up to 5.3 inches thick (and steel 3/8 inch thick). Maximum speed is 2,600 strokes per minute. This is fast for a cordless jigsaw, but most corded jigsaws can run faster.
For more power and speed, the 36-volt lithium-ion DeWalt DC308K jigsaw kit (*Est. $400) weighs 7.5 pounds and runs at a maximum speed of 2,700 strokes per minute. Rob Johnstone, testing it for Woodworker's Journal, says it cut "like a corded tool and was very smooth ... a sure winner." A review at Builder News finds the saw's loud noise the only drawback. High-end features include tool-free blade and bevel adjustments, as well as an adjustable blower. A detachable baseplate cover protects fine finishes when needed. DeWalt claims that its lithium-ion batteries can recharge to 90 percent capacity in only five minutes and last through at least 2,000 charging cycles. There's a three-year warranty, with two years on the battery.
The less-expensive Ridgid R883 (*Est. $120 without batteries) has a lower maximum speed of 2,200 strokes per minute and weighs a lot more at 8.4 pounds, but it carries a lifetime warranty. You can buy the 24-volt lithium-ion battery separately. The jigsaw and battery are also available as the R937 kit (*Est. $200). The Ridgid lacks a dust blower, but the base can be moved back for flush cuts, and both blade changing and bevel adjustment require no tools. A review at Tools of the Trade finds it "very capable" but notes that the blade-changing system requires some practice, and dust often obscures the cutting line. The Rigid R883 also works with 18-volt Ni-Cad batteries, helpful if you have other Ridgid tools that use the same battery.
If you need versatility more than power, the new 12-volt lithium-ion Craftsman 11890 Nextec Multi-Saw (*Est. $150) is worth considering. The price includes a cordless drill and work light, and the saw converts from jigsaw to reciprocating saw. This innovative design earned it an award at Popular Mechanics as one of the top 10 tools for 2008. The handful of owners reviewing it at Sears.com like the versatility, but they find the drill weak at higher speeds and express some doubt about long-term durability.
While lithium-ion batteries have significant advantages, more reviews recommend the Bosch 52318 kit (*Est. $235) - a cordless jigsaw powered by 18-volt Ni-Cad batteries than any other cordless jigsaw. Reviews say it cuts smoothly, and at 6.4 pounds it's lighter than most cordless jigsaws (though the top-ranked lithium-ion jigsaw, the Makita LXT BJV180, weighs less and has a higher capacity). The Bosch 52318 jigsaw has a maximum speed of only 2,000 strokes per minute compared with 2,600 for the Makita. The Bosch runtime is shorter too, because it uses a 2.4-amp-hour battery compared with a 3-amp-hour battery for the Makita. For the price, however, reviews say the Bosch 52318 is a good value.
The Tools of the Trade review praises the Bosch cordless jigsaw for ease of blade changes. (It ejects hot blades so the user doesn't have to touch them.) Its "Constant Response" circuitry keeps the blade speed steady, no matter what density or thickness of wood is cut. Reviewers praise the variable-speed trigger's smooth control, and they find the dust blower effective in keeping the cutting line clear. The Bosch jigsaw carries a two-year warranty on the batteries, plus free tool replacement for the first year, followed by free repair the second and third years, with a promise to return the repaired tool within five days. The main drawback is the lack of dust collection, and a review of the Bosch 52318 at Builder's Square finds the dust blower ineffective as well.
The 18-volt Makita 4334DWD (*Est. $300) provides a dust port for a shop vac connection, plus higher capacity and runtime, but the tradeoffs are in cutting smoothness and overall comfort. Reviews say the Bosch 52318 jigsaw makes smoother cuts, and editors at Tools of the Trade Online find the handle uncomfortably small for most users. The Makita's maximum speed is 2,800 strokes per minute, and it can cut wood thicker than 5 inches - more than 2 inches more than the Bosch. The Makita's 2.6-amp-hour NiMH batteries are also better for the environment than Ni-Cad batteries.
Reviews and owners reported problems with the discontinued 18-volt DeWalt DW933K cordless jigsaw, but its replacement, the DeWalt DC330K (*Est. $230), gets perfect ratings from the two dozen owners reviewing it at Amazon.com. Owners say it makes nice perpendicular cuts, even on tight curves. This newer DeWalt jigsaw has a maximum speed of 3,000 strokes per minute that's comparable to corded jigsaws and better than its predecessor, which Tools of the Trade editors found slow.
The new DeWalt cordless jigsaw has an adjustable dust blower (but no shop vac attachment), and you can adjust the baseplate with a lever. Its main drawback is its 7.5-pound weight. Comparing it with the Bosch 52318 at a woodworking show, users found the DeWalt nice but just too heavy. Note that this 18-volt Ni-Cad DeWalt jigsaw weighs the same as the 36-volt lithium-ion-powered DeWalt DC308K (*Est. $400) discussed above, which provides more power for the same weight and carries a three-year warranty instead of just one.