What Is the Difference Between a Jigsaw and a Sabre Saw?

Bosch jigsaw
Amazon.com

In recent years, the terms jigsaw and sabre saw have become almost interchangeable. And even today, manufacturers market tools under both names when to the consumer's eye they may look identical. So where did this confusion come from?

History of the Terms Jigsaws and Sabre Saws

Years ago, the small tabletop saw that we now know as a scroll saw (a tabletop model where the reciprocating blade is fastened at both ends) was often referred to as a jigsaw, while a similar tool model with the blade affixed on one side was referred to a scroll saw.

As this latter type of tool evolved into a portable model that quickly became very popular, some manufacturers placed a knob on top of the unit that could be used to turn the reciprocating blade. As these models continued to evolve, they were often referred to as sabre saws, while similar models without the turning knob were called jigsaws. 

If this wasn't confusing enough, the term sabre saw is also sometimes used for the reciprocating saw. These saws are available from a number of manufacturers and are commonly referred to as a "Sawzall," the trademarked term for this type of saw manufactured by the Milwaukee Electric Tool Company. This type of sabre saw is most often used in demolition and construction, but it has little use in fine woodworking.

Sabre Saws and Jigsaws Today

Today, however, the same type of handheld saws with a short reciprocating blade attached on one side only can be called either a sabre saw or jigsaw, with the choice of names really up to the manufacturer.

Either name may or may not include the rotating handle on top of the tool used to make fine turns with the blade.