Bosch 18V Barrel Grip Jig Saw

By ralph mroz on Tool and Product Reviews

New Bosch 18V Barrel Grip Jig Saw GST18V-50B

Bosch recently introduced several new cordless tools, including a new brushless 18V barrel grip jig saw, model GST18V-50B.  (A sister jig saw with a standard top, or “D”, handle, the model GST18V-50 was also introduced.)  This saw, with its brushless motor, and leveraging the ever-increasing output of cordless tools, delivers plenty of power for any jig saw-appropriate task.

Bosch invented the jig saw

There’s a reason that Bosch has so often been associated with jig saws (sometimes called sabre saws).  It’s because Bosch actually invented the jig saw.  Technically Scintilla AG, which was later acquired by Bosch, invented the tool, and the patent was filed in 1944.  The scroll saw, with the blade held at both ends, was already in existence but the inspiration for the jig saw, with the blade held only at the top, came from the inventor watching his wife use a sewing machine.  Read the entire story at the link – it’s fascinating to understand how many of the tools we use every day wound their way through the inventor’s imagination, the needs of the market, the structure of the industry, and the technologies of the times.  In any case, Bosch has been making jig saws for longer than anyone else.

Top Handle vs. Barrel Grip Jig Saws

Both top handle jig saws and barrel grip ones have their proponents.  The arguments for a top handle jig saw are:

  • They can incorporate variable speed triggers.
  • They can be operated one handed.
  • Better line of sight is sometimes possible if they are operated one handed.
  • You can hold the work piece in your other hand as you saw through it.
  • They are easier to use upside down.

The disadvantages of a top handle jig saw are:

  • You are basically pulling the saw into the work at an angle, so they can be harder to control (see photo below).
  • Some models can’t lock the power on.

The arguments for barrel grip jig saws are:

  • You are pushing the saw into the work from directly behind the blade, providing greater control and precision (see photo below). This is probably the main reason many people prefer a barrel grip jig saw.

The disadvantages of barrel grip jig saws are:

  • They have to be operated two handed.
  • Most of the controls cannot be manipulated as you operate the saw.
  • Your work piece has to be held in place by a clamp or its own weight because you don’t have a hand available to hold it.

Suffice it to say that the kind of work you do and your personal preference will be the main determinants of which camp you’re in.  That’s why Bosch has two new models, differing mostly in the grip configuration.

The Specs

The Bosch 18V Barrel Grip Jig Saw sports the following specs and features:

  • Engineered for curve cuts
  • Corded performance
  • Large die-cast aluminum footplate with a no-mar plastic overshoe
  • Variable-speed dial and four orbital-action settings
  • $160 (bare tool) at Amazon
  • Bevel angle: 45 degrees left and right, hex key adjustable
  • Dust blower
  • Blade type: T-Shank, tool free change
  • Cut capacity: 4-59/64 inch
  • No load SPM: 500-3500
  • Stroke length: 1 inch
  • Weight: 4.2 pounds
  • Length: 9.5 inches (w/out battery)
  • Width: 3.1 inches
  • LED light
  • Includes (1) GST18V-50B 18V Brushless Barrel-Grip Jig Saw, (1) Anti-Splinter Insert, (1) Plastic Overshoe, (1) Dust Hood, (1) Dust Extraction Outlet
  • Compatible with guide rail and circle adapter

The Controls

The Bosch 18V Barrel Grip Jig Saw has controls placed on the left hand side, except the speed control dial which is at the bottom rear of the barrel.  The blade change clamp lever operates smoothly and crisply.  The power switch is operable by the operator’s right thumb when the right hand is holding the barrel.  The orbit selector and dust blower switch, and of course the speed selector, have to be manipulated without a working hold on the tool.  This is typical of barrel grip jig saws, as mentioned above.

Sawing Stuff

The cutting ability, and even more so the cut quality, of any saw has more to do with the blade employed than the actual saw.  The Bosch 18V Barrel Grip Jig Saw is no exception.  There are thousands of different T-Shank jig saw blades made for cutting every conceivable material and  Bosch alone must offer a couple hundred of them.  Of course, the anti-splinter insert will improve many blades’ performance too.  In my evaluation, I didn’t concern myself with cut quality because that can always be improved with a more appropriate blade.  Rather I looked at the things about the saw itself that affect performance.

Line of sight.  You have to lean your head over the front of the saw to see the blade position.  In this regard, the Bosch 18V Barrel Grip Jig Saw was no worse or better than most jig saws.  That’s because the reciprocating arm and its associated bits and bobs have to be directly over the blade; at this time that’s just the way jig saws are.

T-Shank blades.  T-Shank blades have been around for some time now.  But because jig saws aren’t high duty-cycle tools for even most Type 3 contractors, there’s a chance that some are still using the older U-shank blades which require a set screw to hold them in place.  T-Shank blades are tool-free changeable and a world better than older designs.  The clamp lever on this saw works easily and holds the blade securely.

Cutting Speed.  A jig saw is not a production cutting machine – it’s meant for detailed, fine work that you should take your time with.  Nonetheless, I wanted to see how fast the Bosch 18V Barrel Grip Jig Saw could cut.  Using a Bosch T144D (speed cutting) blade, and with the saw on high speed and full orbit, the saw cut through 2X KD stock as fast as I could hold a line.  This wasn’t as fast as I could cut with a circular saw through the same material because a circular saw tracks better, but it was as fast as I could control a jig saw.  So this saw has plenty of power to cut through even framing materials at speed.

Ease of following a curve.  Switching to a scroll blade (the Bosch T119BO), and turning the orbit off, I could see the blade and control the saw well enough that it was very easy to follow a winding curve through ½-inch plywood.  In fact, I found that I could easily push the saw faster than I could hold the line.

Cutting steel.  I grabbed a piece of approximately 3/16-inch thick scrap steel (sorry, I don’t know the composition) and switched to a Bosch T118B metal-cutting blade.  With the orbit off and the speed at medium, I easily cut through the bar.  It didn’t go as fast as cutting wood of course, but the saw never bogged down if I just took my time and respected the material under the blade.

Bevel accuracy.  I installed one of the thicker Bosch blades that I had (for rigidity) and checked the 90-degree and 45-degree alignment to the shoe.  It was dead on.  I then cross cut a piece of 2X and checked the angle of the cut to see if the blade deflected during its traverse through the wood.  You can see the result in the photo below – it did not.

Tilting the shoe to 45-degrees, I repeated the cross cut.  You can see the perfect 45-degree exit cut below.

Dust blower.  I was pleasantly surprised that the dust blower worked pretty well!  Dust blowers can be anemic on jig saws, but this one did in fact clear the path in front of the blade and I never had to blow the sawdust away myself.

Bottom Line

The Bosch 18V Barrel Grip Jig Saw is a great example of a barrel grip jig saw.  It’s powerful, easy to use, and delivers performance.  Until someone figures out a way to get around the inherent limitations of the barrel-grip design, you’ll be as well served as possible by this saw.

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About the author

ralph mroz

Ralph Mroz grew up in an extended family of tradesmen, and worked at the trades summers and weekends through school. He put those skills to good use in renovating the five houses he and his wife have owned. Even while working in the white-collar and law enforcement worlds, he's always had one foot in the construction trades.

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