Ryobi JS651L Variable Speed Jig Saw with SpeedMatch: Product Review

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The Hunt

We needed a jig saw.

That the jig saw of choice would ending up being a Ryobi JS651L variable speed jig saw with SpeedMatch™…remained an unknown as I headed to Home Depot. All I knew was that the instructions for installing the new kitchen sink called for a jig saw to cut the necessary hole in the Formica® counter top before dropping the sink into place.

Which made sense. That hole could be cut with a fine toothed handsaw, but why bother with the hand tool hassle?

Besides, I was pretty sure I hadn’t so much as touched a jig saw since high school shop class, more than half a century ago. This could be fun. (But don’t tell anybody. I’ve carefully groomed my rep as a guy who doesn’t much go in for “fun”. Wouldn’t want to ruin that image.)

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Home Depot turned out to be a problem. The Tool Corral section had to have jig saws, but those pesky puppies were hiding. In plain sight no doubt, a reminder of my growing-up days when the old man would tell me to go fetch a tool or a stray hunk of iron from our ranch machine shop, then shake his head in annoyance when I couldn’t find the needed item.

“If it was a snake, it woulda bit ya.” His favorite summary of the situation, back in the day. Except that it always came out sounding like, “If it was a snake, it woulda bitcha.”

The same was true of those sneaky jig saws. No doubt about it.

Fortunately, the third or fourth time down the appropriate aisle, surrounded by drill bits and saw blades and circular saws and reciprocating saws that were not jig saws and belt sanders and such…I came across a fellow who looked like he might have a clue. He was stocking the aisle, in fact.

“You know where they hide the jig saws?” I asked.

“I’m a vendor–”

“–Then you probably know more than the guys who work here.”

He chuckled. “Well, as it happens, I do know where the jig saws are.” He pointed off to his left. No more than six feet away–pretty much right next to where I was standing–there they were.

Although for a few moments, I still couldn’t see them. Those power tools are sneaky.

“If you were buying one…” I began, figuring the dude that sells ’em (and knows where they’re stocked) might have a thought or two about the quality of the various makes and models. There was one by DeWalt, a brand of tool I acquire as seldom as possible. Dang things are like Microsoft in the world of computers, unavoidable but really not my first choice if there is a choice.

There were also a couple of Black & Deckers, a brand I don’t mind at all in general, but these seemed like low-end versions, not at all what I was after for the touchy job of carving out a sink hole.

I mean, a hole for a sink.

The lip all the way around the sink we chose is just 1/2 inch wide, and Formica® can chip if you hit it with the wrong blade. Great stuff, but not something with which you play games when an eight foot section of counter top runs something like a hundred and fifty bucks a whack.

“Ryobi did a nice job on this green one,” he said, pointing…and I was in love.

Not with the tool dude. With the tool.

The box containing the new Ryobi variable speed jig saw with  SpeedMatch. This is the first LIME GREEN power tool I've ever owned.

The box containing the new Ryobi variable speed jig saw with SpeedMatch. This is the first LIME GREEN power tool I’ve ever owned.

The Ryobi brand and a Cordura case

Ryobi is a brand name I’ve grown to both like and trust. It’s not necessarily something that can be pinned down by pointing out specifics; I just feel comfortable with Ryobi power tools. Our current circular saw is a Ryobi, though blue and silver in color, not lime green.

Back at home, before tackling the cut in the counter top, I was reading the instructions while my wife gently harangued me about never reading instructions. It’s a wife thing.

The saw comes with a soft-side Cordura® carrying bag, also in lime green. That’s a bit different from all those hard plastic cases of dark and indeterminate color…and it fits nicely in one of our in-home steel storage cabinets, right between the supplies of toilet paper and paper towels.

Hey, you don’t leave Cordura® out in the open home air around here if you can help it. Dust, to be sure, but mostly cat hair.

The soft sided Cordura carry bag for the Ryobi jig saw.

The soft sided Cordura carry bag for the Ryobi jig saw.

The saw and its parts

The Ryobi feels “right” to the hand. Or rather, to the two hands. Before the project was finished, I’d cut the hole for the sink and also trimmed one of the build-up boards upon which the counter top sits. I kept both hands on the saw for much if not most of the time it was operating.

It’s easy enough to direct, but, you know, two hands for beginners and all that.

There’s a heavy wire safety guard in front of the blade. You could stick a finger in there if you wanted, but the act would almost have to be deliberate.

The JS651L comes with three blades, two long and one short. The shorter blade works well for cuts up to an inch deep. Since the counter top is 5/8″, that’s the only blade that was used. I don’t much like the idea of having to use a reciprocating blade of any sort for really deep cuts, but the longer blades look like they’d work to whack a 2″ x 4″ (at least) if it absolutely had to be done.

On the side of the jg saw’s body, there’s a “picture dial” to tell you which setting (of 4) to use for what materials. Changing the dial moves a little roller that adjusts the cutting motion from straight up & down to oval, or orbital if you will. The English chap in the video (below) says that’s “absolutely essential” if you’re cutting different types of materials.

Which was scary enough…because with a counter top, you’ve got thin Formica® and thicker wood (particle board) to cut at the same time. So…which freaking setting do you use?

I scratched my bald head a while, cranked it back to “wood”, turned the variable speed dial (thumb controlled high forward on the handle) up as far as it would go…and that worked.

The Formica® did chip in one spot–just one, and only 1/16″ in size. No harm, no foul. The sink lip would (and did) cover that easily.

There’s also a guide that can be used for long straight cuts along the edge of a board. That didn’t apply to this project but could be useful where you need “even strips” of material removed.

The Ryobi feels "right" to the hand.

The Ryobi feels “right” to the hand.


With the blade removed, the jig saw can be "parked" safely on any surface without worrying about scratches, thanks to the non-mar surface on the saw bed.

With the blade removed, the jig saw can be “parked” safely on any surface without worrying about scratches, thanks to the non-mar surface on the saw bed.


The T-shank blades for the Ryobi JS651L are as easy to change out as they claim. A pleasant surprise! The Allen wrench is used to adjust the saw bed angle.

The T-shank blades for the Ryobi JS651L are as easy to change out as they claim. A pleasant surprise! The Allen wrench is used to adjust the saw bed angle.


The edge guide was not used for this project but would be helpful for long, straight cuts along the edge of a board.

The edge guide was not used for this project but would be helpful for long, straight cuts along the edge of a board.

How well did it work?

Making the “scary sink hole cut” involved the following steps:

1. Mark the line to follow when cutting. The manufacturer of the sink kindly included a template for that purpose–wimpy thin paper, so that kind of sucked, but way better than nothing.

2. Drill a pilot hole. This was done as close to one corner as possible in order to salvage as much of the removed piece of counter top as possible.

3. Get after it.

One thing above all when cutting nearly ten linear feet of counter top like this: Patience is definitely a virtue. The Ryobi JS651L, or most likely any jig saw for that matter, does best when it’s not pushed too hard.

So…how did we (the saw & me) do?

Perfecto!

The Fear Factor was considerable, the margin for error nonexistent…but the resulting hole fit the sink so precisely, lined up so well and “grabbed” the sink so snugly, that even without clamping the sink down to the counter top, you can’t move that sink in any lateral direction!

Not even if you try hard. It could be lifted back out, of course, but other than that, it’s not moving. Not even a millimeter.

That’s mighty precise cutting and a stellar debut for the Ryobi JS651L variable speed jig saw with SpeedMatch™. All in all, Pam and I have to agree with the tool vendor at Home Depot who said,

“Ryobi did a nice job on this green one.”

Product Rating for the Ryobi JS651L variable speed jig saw: FIVE STARS, all the way.

Ready to start: Cardboard protecting Formica from "low sawhorse" surfaces. The Ryobi jig saw is positioned with the blade in the just-drilled pilot hole, raring to go.

Ready to start: Cardboard protecting Formica from “low sawhorse” surfaces. The Ryobi jig saw is positioned with the blade in the just-drilled pilot hole, raring to go.


More than halfway done. A second pilot hole (center right) was drilled to facilitate the turns at the near corners. Going the way I'd started, the counter top lip blocked the turn of the saw.

More than halfway done. A second pilot hole (center right) was drilled to facilitate the turns at the near corners. Going the way I’d started, the counter top lip blocked the turn of the saw.


Done. The Ryobi saw did a fine, precise job. Now, will the sink fit the hole?

Done. The Ryobi saw did a fine, precise job. Now, will the sink fit the hole?


The counter top is installed (screwed down tight) and a bead of sealant in place, ready for the sink drop-in.

The counter top is installed (screwed down tight) and a bead of sealant in place, ready for the sink drop-in.


Well, I'll be. A perfect fit--thanks in no small part to the Ryobi JS651L variable speed jig saw with SpeedMatch.

Well, I’ll be. A perfect fit–thanks in no small part to the Ryobi JS651L variable speed jig saw with SpeedMatch.

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