Tool Test: Ridgid's R3100 Jigsaw

You have to admit that the design of the newest jigsaw from Ridgid
is a bit unique. It is a barrel-grip jigsaw with an extreme flat front –
as it sits on the bench, it reminds me of a small scale locomotive
engine with an even smaller cow catcher at the front.

The Ridgid R3100 jigsaw
is a single speed tool that produces 3000 strokes per minute with a
stroke length of 1/2″. That sentence alone, to me, is enough information
to make me look to other manufacturers for my jigsaw. The 3000 strokes
per minute is on par with other similar jigsaws, but the 1/2″ stroke
length, well, it comes up short when compared to the Bosch JS260 and a
DeWALT DW317K – all three are corded and all three are priced near the
$99 level. However, the biggest eye-opener in that first sentence is
that this jigsaw is a single-speed tool, and not variable-speed.

To
have a jigsaw screaming at full speed is not what I’ve found to be the
best method of work. It’s fine for flat out buzzing through a cut, but
when you’re working toward a precision cut it’s best to dial down the
speed in favor of more control. Not having the ability to back off the
speed means this jigsaw is best used to whack away at your board.

Additionally,
the on/off switch on the R3100 is a slide switch. While I’m not opposed
to a slide switch on my power tools – I picked Ridgid’s random orbit
sander with it’s slide switch in a group review (from our October 2008 magazine)
– I’m not a fan of that switch design on a jigsaw. You would think it
would be too easy to turn on and off. That’s not the case with the
R3100. The Ridgid jigsaw’s slide switch is very thin, difficult to
activate and positioned poorly for easy access. That’s not too easy to
turn on or off, but it’s not the right switch for this tool.

The
base on this saw is wide and includes a no-mar plate that is affixed
with screws (not intended to be removed). The base adjusts with a hex
key to 45 degrees left and right, and there are small detents to help
hold the base positioned as you twist it tight. But with the amount of
play while set in the detents, you’ll want to check all your settings
before going to work.

It’s in working with the jigsaw that I got
a surprise. Using the saw was very nice. As you switch the jigsaw on,
the soft start keeps the tool from jumping wildly as it builds to the
constant 3000 strokes. The tool didn’t bounce all over as I expected it
might (that could be due to the short stroke) and the grip was extremely
comfortable in my hand. Turning through the cut was easy even with the
orbital switch set to aggressive.

As on all Ridgid’s hand-held,
corded power tools, I truly appreciate the extra cord length – at 12′
I’m certain that in most shops an extension cord would not be a
necessity – and I especially like the lighted plug that indicates power
to the tool. The R3100 does include tool-free blade change, but the
blade will not pop out as you depress the rapid change blade clamp. You
have to allow the dull blade to cool prior to changing it out. That, or
pick up a pair of heat-proof mitts.

The R3100 jigsaw accepts both
T and U shank blades and has an LED that does actually light your
cutting path. The jigsaw also has a switchable air flow to either blow
dust out of the cutting path or aid in dust collection via a 1 1/4″
vacuum port.

Variable speed on this jigsaw could have made it a
contender. A longer stroke length and a trigger-style switch would have
added to its appeal. Without those features, it’s not my pick for my
next jigsaw.

— Glen D. Huey

In the October 2006 issue of
Popular Woodworking Magazine, contributing editor Troy Sexton wrote a
great article on how to “Master Your Jigsaw.” To order a copy, click here.

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About Glen D. Huey

Glen Huey is editor of American Woodworker Magazine, and former managing editor of Popular Woodworking Magazine. He's an accomplished period furniture maker and author of numerous woodworking books and videos (as well as magazine articles).

5 thoughts on “Tool Test: Ridgid's R3100 Jigsaw

  1. rottenotto

    Thanks, DC……… it’s nice to see a review/response from someone who actually uses tools for a living onsite…. not someone who works in a shop and has the luxury of controlled conditions to make things. I’m also a trim carpenter, and , while I’ve always coped crown by hand, reality dictates that I consider joining the 21st century and start using a jigsaw.

    I’ve got a Ridgid table saw that I rarely take to the job ( my partner has a pretty good Makita setup .), the motor on it took a dive 3 years after I bought it. I took it to the local "factory authorized" service center here in NC and they tried to tell me that the "lifetime" warranty was limited, and no longer in effect. After some argument, they agreed that it was under warranty . 9 months later ( a very long 9 months……..) , they called me and said it was ready. They presented it to me without the fence…….. I said "call me when you find the fence…….." and walked out. A week later, they called me and said it was ready……. I got there , and they had ordered a brand new fence.

    While I can’t hold Ridgid responsible for a local authorized service center, it left a bad taste in my mouth. Nice to see someone point out the reality of job-related tools. I won’t discount Ridgid offhand when I make my decision………. assuming that by then, I have work!

    Otto

  2. Dreamcatcher

    I disagree with the points of this article and some of those left by previous commenters.

    As a professional cabinetmaker and trim carpenter, I have rarely if ever used the variable speed on my jigsaw. Aside from a drill or a router, I don’t often feel a need to vary the speed on any tool. Which is ironic because I always seem to buy tools with variable speed… just in case.

    The short stroke length seems like a good feature. This isn’t a Sawzall, I don’t expect super speed when chopping through a 2×4 wall panel. This is a jigsaw. It should cut square and smooth curves, right? That’s the layman’s thought anyway and yes, it should do those those things but in professional use, my #1 need for a jigsaw is to cope crown and base. For this, I need a light weight tool that is easy to hold upside down and backwards and has a switch – not a trigger. My #2 need is to chop out electrical outlets in the backs of cabinets. For this, I need a jigsaw that has a switch since a trigger would be difficult to keep depressed as I spin around the square hole being cut on a vertical plane. More importantly, a short stroke is required for the plunge cut lest a long stroke could cause a blade tip strike and bend the blade (happens more often than you would think).

    Now, there was an earlier comment on sales and service. As a professional tool user I generally could care less about the advice of a professional tool seller when deciding on a tool. More often than not, even tool salesmen in a tool store don’t know jack about newly introduced tools. I can think of several times I called all around looking for a specific new tool only to get lot of "Hmm, never heard of that model. Where did you say you saw that? I could probably order it in for you." Yeah, I can get on the internet and order it for 20% less AND have it delivered right to my front door. Thanks, No thanks.

    Rigid in particular usually has very good service. It’s along the lines of ‘send us the bill’ or at least was on my Rigid planer when I fried the motor and had a new one installed FOR FREE —6 years after I bought it too. When I initially called them they even said that I didn’t even need to call. The repair shop took care of everything, I didn’t pay a dime. Great service if you ask me. On most other tools (tools I would have to pay for repair) I just order the repair parts and fix it myself. Tools are not complicated to repair and as a bonus you will learn a little more about how the tool works. Whenever I buy used tools (ebay/CL) I usually pop them apart as soon as I get them home. This allows me to clean the internals, diagnose potential problems, and find out how it works. Being a master of your tools often means knowing everything about how they work.

    DC

  3. Michael DeWald

    I would have to agree that the design flaws seem obvious. It’s really too bad, as there are some features that seem to be very good. The barrel grip design looks very comfortable, and the saw seems to be uniquely close to the work, making it almost like you are drawing on the wood. Higher saws have always seemed tippy and slightly awkward to me. Why no one else has done this, I don’t know. It seems obvious now that some one has.

  4. Jason

    Great Review. I still remember the 2006 article. It helped me so much. To this day when I make a cut that looks like I did it using only "the force," I ask myself, what I am forgetting from that article?

    The one thing almost all reviews seem omit in regards to tools made and sold solely for the big box stores are. 1. Customer Service, and ACTUAL tool knowledge. 2. Repair issues, and replacement parts. Those two factors alone have kept me from buying a single tool at a box store in 5 years. I prefer to find a local retailer in my area and support them. I may pay 5% to 10% more, but $5-$10 on a tool for a quality sales experience, knowledgeable staff and a place that offers assistance and parts for repair. In my mind, that’s a no brainer.

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