I have been testing the barrel handle corded model of the new Festool Carvex Jig Saw for about two months now, and I can say that it is the best jigsaw I have ever used. The basic saw is priced around $350, but it can be tricked out with a host of accessories that can raise the take-home price much higher. This is a big deal because earlier this year I reviewed the Bosch JS572E jig saw and the Bosch JS572EB jig saw – both Swiss-made. I have always set Bosch as the benchmark for jigsaws because Albert Kaufmann invented the tool in 1946 while working for Scintilla AG (which Bosch acquired in 1954). The company subsequently developed the pendulum (orbit) action, tool-less blade change, the T-shank, and even the barrel grip. Today these are all traits of a commercially viable jigsaw. The Festool Carvex PS 420 EBQ jig saw is something entirely different, however. Something even more refined.
But, one thing that separates Festool from other power tool companies is they’re not afraid to think outside the box. In fact, with respect to the Carvex. the engineers in Wendlingen seemed to have taken out a blank sheet of paper. Next, they presumably threw away any preconceived ideas they had about jigsaws right out the fenster (that’s “window” in German). In doing so, they came up with quite a few innovations.
Instead of a fixed adjustable base, the new Carvex uses bases which are interchangeable. Jigsaw bases are like the fence on my jointer. Over the years I have spent a lot more time ensuring that it was square to the table than adjusting it to any angle. I have often said I should arc weld the fence in the 90º position. The same goes for jigsaw bases. As good as the new Bosch is I still double check the base often for squareness and never quite trust the 90º detent. Festool has eliminated this problem by making the base interchangeable. The tool is delivered with a fixed 90º base.
Standard 90º Base
The Standard 90º Base has a slip on plastic cover that becomes the sole of the base. The standard base is good for a wide variety of wood cutting tasks. There are four other base plates sold separately for $20 each:
- Phenolic Resin Base for low friction scratch free cutting of wood and plastic. Phenolic resin fiber board is slippery by nature.
- Low Friction Dimpled Base for free action on rough surfaces such as rough sawn lumber.
- Steel base for cutting metal, which would scratch any of the other bases.
- Velcro base with felt pad covers for zero scratching of prefinished surfaces, plastic, etc.
The angle base is very unique in that it scissors down the middle on the axis of the blade. This means that you can cut the same angle left or right with the same setting. There is no jockeying the base back and forth. It also scissors up or down allowing it to cut down the center of a plastic pipe or cut a piece of square stock on the diagonal. It was perfect for sawing the fascia boards for a Frank Lloyd Wright house. I also used it handily instead of a backsaw to cut through dovetails at a 1:6 angle (9.5º). My one complaint of this base is that it could extend in front of the blade further. There is not enough surface area to easily start at an angle as in photo 1. Extending the base further would make starting much more assured. The base costs $ 95.
90º Plastic Base
The 90º Plastic Base has channels at each edge for guiding the saw with a Festool track. It can also be used with the Carvex Circle Cutter, which is a nifty 151cm (59-1/2”) tape that attaches to the base and pins to the center of the circle you want to cut. This is nearly a 10’ circle. I could have used it to good effect to cut the curved nose of a balcony a few years ago. At $60 for the base and the circle jig it is reasonably priced.
Accessory Kit for Carvex Jigsaw (Part #497709)
The accessory kit comes with all of the above plus a pack of splinter guards and can be purchased in a fitted Systainer for $200. That saves $42 over buying all of these goodies à la carte—plus, you get the Systainer and its organization for free.
Four-LED Strobe Lights
The thing that makes these particular LED lights stand out is the fact that they blink in time with the blade to make it appear to stand still. I really like this feature as it makes it very easy to precisely follow a line. Since many Europeans use the saw upside down from the lower side of the workpiece (to follow the line better), the lights automatically go out any time the tool is inverted. Additionally, the Festool PS 420 can be adjusted from a low of 1500 to a high of 3800 strokes per minute. The lights only blink at speeds of 2100 strokes per minute and higher. By holding both the right and left on/of switch for ten seconds the lights can be programmed to strobe, stay on continuously, or not light at all in round robin fashion.
Some Notes on Cutting
A reason I have always preferred a top handle jigsaw is that you can do a slow, accurate start then speed up after the cut is under way. The new Carvex barrel grip has a speed dial like all barrel grip saws but it culminates in an A setting. When set to A, the saw starts slowly but automatically goes to full speed once the cut begins. This feature has removed any reservations I have about barrel grip saws. Festool also claims the Carvex corded jigsaws are the first to have brushless motors. This translates into more power at the blade and less maintenance.
Blade guidance is the best I have ever seen in a jigsaw. It requires setting it to each new style of blade used, much like the guides on a bandsaw. There are carbide pads that are adjusted to retard any lateral movement of the blade. Of course, this guidance system is also on previous Festool Jigsaws and so it’s not exactly new—but certainly worth mentioning.
As with previous Festool Jigsaws I’ve used, and even some products from Bosch, there is a disposable splinter guard that is pushed into the running blade to give splinter free cuts in plywood. It worked very well and was easily removable when needed, though visibility remained good with it installed.
Blade changes are quick—about the same as any professional jigsaw on the market today. The only difference is that you simply push the blade into the chuck and turn it slightly. Like the new Bosch jigsaws, the chuck is spring-loaded and a lever spits out a hot blade so you don’t have to touch it or reach for a rag. The Carvex epitomizes the Festool dust extraction policy with very good dust collection on the 90º bases but dust collection is not possible with the angle base because there is simply no room.
I have used the saw for everything from cutting dovetails to cross cutting rough-sawn boards and opening packing crates. It takes on all tasks and comes back smiling. I recommend it highly, however at $350 for the tool—combined with $200 for the #497709 Systainer of necessary accessories—and the true price becomes $550. This is twice the price of a Bosch. The new Carvex saws are incredible, with some unmatched features in the industry. You’re just going to have to be prepared to pay for them.