Boy, do I have saws. Sliding compound miter saws, reciprocating saws, circular saws, table saws, a variety of hand saws, a tile saw, a jigsaw, a band saw, oscillating multitools…alright, time to cut this off. Sorry. Some of these saws get a lot of use, others much less, but I’m a firm believer in “The right tool for the job.” The right tool for many jobs is the trusty old jigsaw; for certain types of cuts, there’s no better way to go. When you have some of these fancy schmancy cuts to make, you’ll want to schlep along a good-quality jigsaw that’s easy to operate, and fast to get into action. With the dramatic improvements in cordless tools over the past couple of years, more pros are turning to cordless models to cut their down time. We recently received a Bosch JS120BN cordless jigsaw to evaluate; keep reading and we’ll see if it makes the cut.
Here’s the lowdown from Bosch (take a deep breath):
• Compact, ergonomic barrel-grip body with upfront soft grip area for control and comfort
• High performance with a long runtime and fast cutting
• Variable-speed dial for matching speed to task, with no-load speed of 1,500-2,800 strokes/minute
• Weighs 3.3 lbs.
• Smallest grip diameter reduces user fatigue during extended use applications
• Multi-directional blade clamp provides superior grip of T-shank blades (does not accept U-shank blades)
• Counterbalanced low-vibration plunge mechanism ensures extremely smooth operation
• Toolless blade change with one-hand insertion and ejection, eliminating the need to touch a hot blade
• Switchable LED lighting for enhanced visibility of cutting area
• Three orbital-action settings provide different blade strokes for smooth to aggressive cuts
• Die-cast aluminum footplate with no-mar plastic overshoe for enhanced glide properties and protection of fine workpiece surface
• Footplate adjusts for bevel cuts up to 45°
• On-board bevel wrench storage for convenience
• On-off slide switch
• Includes no-mar plastic overshoe, anti-splinter insert, exact-fit insert tray, and blade (T144D)
• Battery and charger sold separately
The Bosch JS120BN has some great features. I love the tool-free blade insertion and ejection; it’s very fast and easy, and one less adjustment tool you have to worry about losing. It’s lightweight and compact, and infinitely adjustable through its range of 1,500 – 2,800 strokes per minute. The saw also allows you to choose from among three orbital actions, to match cutting aggressiveness to your application, not unlike the Festool Carvex jigsaw we reviewed.
One other design feature I like is the fact that the LED light doesn’t automatically turn on. It can be very handy to have a light, but in the real world, it isn’t used that often, and it’s nice to be able to manually control it. With a smallish battery, I’d rather save the juice to power the saw than light up something that doesn’t need it.
The Bosch JS120BN can handle cuts in wood up to 2” thick, and aluminum and steel up to 1/8” thick. Need to cut a bevel? Easy peasy. Popping the protective plate off the base takes about two seconds. Next, grab the Allen wrench, which is stowed securely onboard the top of the base. Loosen the bolt, rotate the base up to 45° left or right, tighten the bolt, and snap the protective plate back on. Insert the blade, and bevel away. It would be handy if this was tool free, but the process is still fast and simple, and I very seldom cut bevels with a jigsaw, so no biggie.
Think Inside The BOXX
The Bosch JS120BN is sold as a bare tool. When I popped open the shipping box, the saw was nestled snugly in its little L-BOXX Exact-Fit insert tray. The tool also comes with a no-mar plastic overshoe (skid plate), an anti-splinter insert, and a blade.
Most Bosch tools are now shipped with an Exact-Fit tray. The Exact-Fit trays are designed to provide, as you might surmise, an exact fit for these Bosch tools, and are designed to be used as part of the Bosch L-BOXX system. The Exact-Fit trays hold individual tools or parts in place, and provide extra compartments to store tool accessories. The L-BOXXES are available in various sizes, they’re stackable, and they click together quickly and securely. They have a monster handle on top, a normal handle on the front, and recessed handholds on the sides, to make schlepping them from point A to point B more EZ.
I got an L-BOXX 1, which had room for the Bosch JS120BN on one side, and another insert big enough to accommodate a charger and batteries. There’s still enough room for a compact drill, should I so choose, or a bunch of blades, which is what’s currently residing there.
The Bosch JS120BN Shreds A Fence
To give the Bosch JS120BN cordless jigsaw a little endurance workout, I grabbed a broken 1X6” section of fence rail. I’m not sure what kind of wood it was, but it was pretty solid and dense. I inserted the included blade, an aggressive Bosch T144D wood cutting blade. The blade was super easy to install – just push it in, and it clicks into place.
I first made two rip cuts along the entire length of the board. On the second one, I weaved from side to side a bit, taking the Bosch JS120BN on a little free-range thrill ride. Okay, maybe not THAT thrilling, but hey, it doesn’t get out much…
The saw is very comfortable to hold. It feels solid and precise, and did an excellent job of tracking where I pointed it. The key to using any jigsaw is not to force it; just keep slow, steady pressure, and let the blade do the work. The Bosch JS120BN chugged along very smoothly, with almost no vibration, thanks to Bosch’s use of a counterbalanced low-vibration plunge mechanism.
After making the rip cuts, I attacked the 1X6” from the side, making crosscuts an inch or so apart. I worked my way along the board, and got about ¾ of the way through it before the battery decided it was nap time; total run time was about 12 – 15 minutes. I slapped in a fresh battery and quickly finished the job. The Bosch JS120BN has a built-in safety mechanism to shut it down if it overheats, but it got through its trial with no issues. Again, letting the saw work at its own pace, instead of trying to force it through the material, puts less strain on the tool, and keeps things cool. Our sponsor Rockler has more great tips for getting the most out of your jigsaw.
After gnawing through the 1X6”, I decided to see if the Bosch JS120BN could handle a 2X4”. This isn’t something you’d normally use a 12V battery-powered tool for, or any jigsaw, for that matter, but I wanted to see if it was up to the task. Using the same blade, I made a crosscut; the saw zipped right through.
I then made an incredibly intricate curved cut (I believe it’s known in woodworking terminology as a “semi-circle”). This cut was a bit slower going, since it was partially with the grain. Once again, though, by letting the saw set the speed, it powered through with no problem.
After making these cuts, I popped the blade out. Again, no tools required – just push the blade clamp lever over, and the blade drops right out. The Bosch T144D blade still looked and felt like it had plenty of cuts left in its little shank.
Ready To Cut Another Cord?
I was pretty impressed with this little saw. Given the small size of its 12V battery, I didn’t have high expectations for its power and utility. If you’re making non-stop scroll cuts all day long, obviously you’ll need something beefier. The saw has a very solid, well-made feel to it, though, has very good power, and operates very smoothly. This is a very capable little saw, and if you have realistic expectations, the Bosch JS120BN should be a great addition to your collection. The saw would be an excellent choice for coping base, shoe and crown molding, and as such, it would be very handy for trim and finish carpenters, along with cabinet makers and installers. It would also be ideal for kitchen installers who need to make sink cutouts.
I have only two quibbles with the Bosch JS120BN, both minor, and only one that actually relates to the saw’s functionality. Quibble one is the lack of a blower, to keep the blade path clear. The cut line fills up with sawdust pretty quickly, requiring you to puff it away. Not a huge deal, more a minor annoyance.
Side note: As an experiment, I tried cutting from below the material, with the blade pointing up. (Apparently, this is a popular method in Europe). Big difference! It takes some getting used to, but this method provides a nice, clean cut line, and it’s very easy to see exactly where you’re cutting, with almost no sawdust in your path. I’m going to have to give this method further study.
My only other complaint is that the saw doesn’t fit into the insert tray with a blade attached; you have to pop out the blade first. I know, it takes two seconds, Waaah… Hey, I said it was a minor quibble. One thing a couple of reviewers mentioned was that it would be nice to have a case included. I guess that’s the idea of a “bare” tool, though; it helps keep the cost down, and allows the user the option to go with the L-BOXX system, or to pick up an inexpensive tool bag at the home center.
The saw has excellent user reviews. We have one set aside for HomeFixated’s July 2016 giveaway. If your significant other (or your boss) prefers that you not sit around waiting to see if you win, zig or zag your way to the links below to snag one for yourself. The Bosch JS120BN comes with an unconditional one-year warranty, a 30-day money-back guarantee, and is eligible for the Bosch three-year ProVantage service protection plan.