Barrel Jigsaw Vs. Handle Jigsaw

by Allison Horky
A jigsaw is a small blade that cuts intricate designs.

A jigsaw is a small blade that cuts intricate designs.

Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images

Jigsaws help cut curves and shapes not easily negotiated by traditional saws. Standard saws do well to cut straight edges and corners, but fall short when the cut has details that require unusual cuts. The barrel and handle jigsaws denote the two designs for holding and maneuvering the tool. The barrel-handle jigsaw is for you to steer the saw with a blunt, round cylinder where the motor is kept. The handle jigsaw requires that you grip the saw on a separate, smaller handle that protrudes out above the motor.


Invented in the mid-1900s for the purpose of cutting intricate designs in hard materials, like wood, jigsaws were originally called Lesto, meaning "easy to handle" in Latin. The company was later named Bosch, the leading manufacturer of jig saws. The word jig, meaning a quick up-and-down motion, describes how the saw itself moves. It is difficult to use a hand-operated saw to create small curves and designs accurately. The jigsaw used the invention of a motor powered by electricity to move the saw. This sawing technique gave jigsaw puzzles their name, indicating the cuts in each puzzle's piece.

Handle Jigsaw

The handle jigsaw was the first type of its kind designed and sold. The small saw blade drops down in the front of the saw, the motor extends back toward the person and a thinner handle loops up and over the motor. The trigger, depressed by a forefinger when you want to operate the saw, is located on the bottom side of the handle grip. This style of saw is ideal if you have smaller hands. This style is also called a top handle jigsaw.

Barrel Jigsaw

The barrel jigsaw design was conceptualized to make operating and maneuvering the jigsaw easier. Because there is less space between your hand and the material being cut, you have increased accuracy and control over your project. The on/off switch is usually on the left side to be operated by a thumb or forefinger. The barrel jigsaw might be harder to operate for those with smaller hands or weak grips because you rely heavily on the strength in your fingers to hold and steer the power tool.


The main differences between the handle and barrel jigsaws is in the handle design. The size of the handle and mode of operating the power source is different on the two models. Both designs, however, offer comparable speed, ease of changing the blades and durable plastic bodies. For the comparable Bosch models, the handle jigsaw is slightly heavier than the barrel jigsaw because of more plastic used in the design.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images