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It seems to us that tool guys obsessed with the latest recip or computer-controlled cutting machine often overlook jigsaws, but jigsaws offer a cheap and effective way to cut curves for woodworking projects. Even we’d been infected with the craze. So when we got off our high horse and headed to the store to pick up a quality jigsaw, we were surprised how far the modern jigsaw has progressed.

Skil’s 4690 corded jigsaw delivers a few new features that weren’t available on the unit we cut with in high school shop class. Its six amp motor plows through wood a lot faster, too. For the testing process we decided to see how the 4690 faired against a real world project: the 18-1/2′ plywood dinosaur we built a few weeks ago.

Read on to see how it — the saw, not Bob the big-ass dino — performed.

Unboxing

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The 4690 includes a slim hard case the that doesn’t take up much more space than the saw and is easy to transport to the jobsite — or stuff in the back of a truck or toolbox. Lifting the saw out of the case, we noticed that the saw is reasonably light — just 5.7 pounds — which isn’t bad considering its six amp power plant.

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It’s comfortable to grip, and its smooth two-fingered trigger — right under the handle — controls the saw’s variable speed mechanism, delivering 800 to 3,200 strokes per minute.

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A four-position dial right above the trigger controls the laser and LED light located near the blade. The addition of lasers and LEDs to power tools is fairly common these days, and we’ve been known to make our share of “unnecessary laser” jokes. But if you don’t like ’em, you can turn ’em off with the dial — so it’s a plus all ’round.

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Moving down from the trigger on the side you’ll find a five-position switch that controls the orbital motion of the saw.

In this case “orbital motion” means that the saw moves the blade not only up and down, but also forward and backward slightly. (The blade mount moves in a slightly oval path.) That “orbital” motion provides the saw blade more opportunity to clear cutting debris, thus increasing cut speed. However, the orbital motion also makes for a rougher, less finished cut.

With the switch you can select orbital motion ranging from a fast, aggressive plywood setting (lots of orbit) to a scroll mode that virtually eliminates orbital motion.

Selecting the scroll setting also unlocks the blade’s 360-degree scrolling pivot motion.

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When in scroll mode (and with the right type of blade attached) the 4690 becomes a hand scroll saw capable of making super tight corners and complex shapes. The direction of the cut is controlled by a redesigned knob on the top of the saw sporting a large black arrow pointing the direction you’re cutting. It’s a small feature, but we appreciate the simple visual feedback.

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The 4690 also includes a built-in dust blower that feeds out the back and which you can, once again, turn on or off with a switch. If you feel the need to keep a tidy shop, you could also connect a hose and adapter to the rear port to act as a dust collection system. It’s a nice added feature but we didn’t wind up using it at all during our test, so were grateful it could be turned off.

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Loading a blade is pretty straight forward. Just press down on the large rubber collar to disengage the locking mechanism and insert the blade with the teeth facing towards the front of the saw, then release the collar. We gave the blade a stiff tug to make sure it was installed correctly, then started in with the testing.

Read on to page two for our in-use testing.

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7 Responses to Hands-On: Skil 4690 Corded Jigsaw

  1. berettaguy says:

    I bought one of these on sale from the Depot a couple of months ago to help with a new entertainment center project I was working on. I have to agree with your assessment, not only does it rock, but it does it at a great price too!

  2. M says:

    I have the older version of the same jigsaw. I hate it. The keyless holder has never been quite straight and the lever on the foot can’t be tightened, so it wiggles side to side. Lots of bad cuts and broken blades. It even caused a blade to catch and the jigsaw to jump up and hit me in the face once. Spend the extra dough and get the Bosh model.

  3. european says:

    Buy it now, it’s only 70 bucks. Consider yourself lucky, in Europe same specs model goes for 170 USD!!!

  4. Brau says:

    I really like the addition of a blower, but ever since owning a cordless one I feel *not* having a cord is the best feature a jigsaw can have.

  5. Old Coot says:

    I got a new Bosch 1587AVSK on eBay last month for $81.00 including shipping, no sales tax. Previous experience with Skil tools tells me I made the correct choice.

  6. ToolFreak says:

    I’ve got the cordless 14.4V Skil model, one of the few cordless jigsaws out there. It works great for what it is, but it sucks the life out of the battery incredibly fast, so is only useful for occasional use. I’ve used a Bosch corded model, and it was definitely a lot more solid and heavy duty than either Skil model.

  7. fred says:

    The Skil name used to be synonomous with high quality circular saws and the produced decent drills too. I think that when they were acquired by Bosch – that a decision was made that they would be to DIY’er line – like Black & Decker became to Dewalt and Porter Cable. I don’t see any more saws like the old super sawcat bearing the B&D name – whereas PC may offer a fairly decent product (although we will not trade in our old Skill 77’s just yet.). That probably makes good marketing sense – but it also means that the Skil Jigsaw offering will not compete with the Bosch (which was always the standard to judge others by.) If you make your living with using jigsaws to cope moldings etc. – buy a Bosch.

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