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The Ryobi 18V jig saw kit includes the saw, case, charger, battery pack and two blades.
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Ryobi 18-Volt Cordless Orbital Jig Saw #OJ1802|

Take-It-Anywhere Versatility

Text & Photos by Tom Hintz

   Jig saws are valuable tools in the woodworking shop. Their ability to cut curved shapes, inside openings and more brings another dimension with which to enhance our projects. Being able to make these cuts without dragging an extension cord around is even handier.
   The folks at Ryobi had similar thoughts and designed their 18-volt Cordless Orbital Jig Saw (#OJ1802) to fit that need. While eliminating the cord, Ryobi did not lose sight of the features woodworkers like in hand-held power tools. The result is a capable jig saw that features an easy-to-take price tag – and no cord.

Initial Impressions

   The Ryobi Cordless Jig Saw comes packaged in a molded plastic carry case. Outward appearance, including fit and finish of the parts is good. There is even a nicely produced rubber overmold on the grip, a feature commonly found on higher priced tools.

The swept-back handle and battery make it look out of balance but the Ryobi 18V Jig saw actually feels good in the hand.
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   Because this is my first cordless jig saw, the rear-mounted battery pack looked like it would throw it out of balance. After using the Ryobi Cordless Jig Saw I found that while it does feel different than my corded versions, it is not out of balance and certainly not difficult to use.Handle
   At first glance, the top-mounted handle on the Ryobi Cordless Jig Saw looks to be a bit oversized but it is actually very comfortable and fits the hand well. The rubber overmold panel increases comfort and grip, both of which enhance control and accuracy.
   Though the handle appears swept slightly to the rear of the saw where the battery is located, it feels well balanced and natural when actually cutting wood.

Battery and Charger

The included charger takes an hour to fully charge a run-down battery and includes diagnostics.
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   The included 18-volt battery pack connects to the jig saw and charger with an indexed stalk-type plug that prevents inserting it backwards and the catastrophic results that could follow. The battery pack locks onto the jig saw with two finger-operated clips. While the battery pack is easy to remove and install, the locking system holds it securely when in use.
   The one-hour fast charger, also included in the kit, has built in diagnostic circuitry that evaluates the battery each time it is charged. Different combinations of the yellow, green and red lights on the charger face keep you informed of the charging state, plus can warn of a damaged or defective battery pack.

Tooless Blade Changing

   The Ryobi Cordless Jig Saw features a finger-operated blade changing system that is easy to use, very fast and holds the blade securely. Lift the blade release lever, slip the blade in or out and release the lever. That's it. The clamping mechanism along with the guide roller orients the blade correctly.

A simple lever makes changing blades fast and easy.
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   A nice design feature of this blade retention system is that it accepts both U-Shank and T-shank style blades. That capability means a wide range of blades is available at virtually any tool outlet to match the blade design to the cutting job.
   The Ryobi Cordless Jig Saw also has a blade storage compartment at the rear that lets you bring extra blades to the job. This is a simple but very handy feature. Since there is no distance-limiting cord, running back and forth for a new or different blade would be counter-productive.

Orbital Blade Control

The orbital feature has it's own easy-to-read dial.
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   A clearly marked four position orbit control knob on the lower left side of the saw makes tuning this feature for the job at hand simple. The four positions range from no orbit to three increasing levels of blade orbital movement.
   A roller guide, located behind the blade, helps reduce deflection during all types of cuts.

Variable Speed

   The variable speed trigger control is easy to use and effective. There is enough throw in the trigger switch to

The trigger lock-out button takes a little getting used to but works nicely.
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locate and maintain the strokes-per-minute (SPM) within the 0 to 2100 SPM (no load) that is right for the job.
   A lock-out button that prevents accidental operation of the saw is located just above the trigger and is accessible from either the left or right sides. The lock-out button must be depressed before the trigger will operate the motor. Expect to see more safety features like this on power tools in the near future.

Base

   The all-metal base plate can be adjusted from 0 to

The adjustable base has markings at common settings.
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45-degrees to the blade, left or right. A pair of Allen screws, accessible from the underside, locks the base securely. Because angled cuts with a jig saw are rare, removing the included Allen wrench from its holder on the base on those occasions does not pose a big problem.
   A stamped number scale indicates the angle of the base to the blade. We checked the indicated angle to the actual angle between the base and blade and found that the scale appears accurate.

In the Shop

   At 3.5 lbs, the Ryobi 18-volt Cordless Jig Saw is lighter than I anticipated. In use, this saw handles well and lacks noticeable influences of the battery weight. Even with the saw held at an angle, the battery weight does not seem to influence the feel or control, thanks to a well-designed handle. The grip and balance make following layout lines surprisingly easy.

A one-way-only battery plug prevents accidentally installing it backwards!
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   The variable speed trigger is not overly sensitive, offering solid control of the blade anywhere in the available 0 to 2100 SPM range.
   The trigger lock-out switch is located within easy reach but takes a little getting used to. After operating it a few times, using the lock-out button posed no problems.
    Battery powered woodworking tools usually lack some of the brute horsepower of their corded cousins, but used correctly they remain capable of handling virtually all of the same jobs. Throughout our testing, the Ryobi Cordless Jig Saw performed well.
   Using the included blades, cutting 7/8"-thick oak, and staying on the layout lines, presented no problems. Installing a high-quality Bosch blade improved performance even more, reducing the load on the motor and extending battery life accordingly.

Handling this saw is easy, making following lay out lines simple.
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   The only time the motor bogged down was when trying to force the blade through the wood or turning a radius too tight for the blade size. Proper technique and quality blades are important with any jig saw but even more so with battery operated versions. Let the blade do the work and battery life can be extended considerably.
   Not having a cord to catch on the edge of the wood is one of the obvious benefits of the Ryobi Cordless Jig Saw. Being able to make a quick cut, or work away from a wall outlet can be a real time and labor saver, a situation that occurred more often than I anticipated.
   While no one can say exactly how long the battery will work before needing recharging, I was surprised at how much wood I was able to cut on a single charge. For those anticipating heavy usage, additional battery packs are available.

Despite the 18V battery, balance feels very good.
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Conclusions

   The Ryobi 18-volt Cordless Jig Saw is a capable tool that brings the benefits of cord-free operation to the shop at a very good price. While battery-powered tools may not be suitable for production work, they are great for small jobs around the woodworking shop and the home.
   With a price of about $99 (8-21-04) the Ryobi Cordless Jig Saw represents an economical way to handle those tasks – and more.

Ryobi tools are available at your local Home Depot store or on line at www.homedepot.com.

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