Makita has three different models of jigsaws in their lineup. Each of these Makita 18V Cordless Jigsaws includes its own unique set of specs, so choosing the one that is right for you can be difficult. The Makita XVJ01 brushless barrel grip jigsaw is joined by the XVJ02 brushless D-handle and XVJ03 brushed D-handle jigsaws. All three have their place, and we tested all models to see where each excels.
Editor’s Note: Check out our best cordless jigsaw reviews article for our top recommendations.
- Barrel grip and D-handle options
- Soft-start for better control
- Excellent dust blower and LED light
- Brushless models lack slowest speed mode
- Rear of barrel grip handle may be less comfortable with larger hands
- Few or no kit options
Makita 18V Cordless Jigsaws Build Quality
Let’s get build quality out of the way because all three cordless jigsaws are up to Makita’s usual excellent standards. The only issue I had with any of them was that the splitter guard kept popping out. I finally gave up and stopped using it. I’ve yet to find a jigsaw where I did not lose the splitter guard, so this isn’t a big deal.
Ergonomics of Barrel Grip vs D-Handle
Visibility on all three Makita 18V cordless jigsaws is excellent. All three also include a bright LED light that works well. The two D-handle saws were extremely comfortable to use. Both brushless models have an electronic button lock. You have to press this before the trigger will engage. It takes some getting used to. The brushed Makita XVJ03 jigsaw has a physical lock. It mirrors the cordless drill lock switch most of us are used to.
The brushless barrel grip model XVJO1 is comfortable except for the area around the tail end where the battery is. Instead of continuing the roundness of the barrel, Makita chose to make this part rectangular and boxy to accommodate the variable speed dial. I have average size hands and the corners of the battery compartment dug into the heel of my hand. If you have small hands, you may not notice.
Look Ma, No Hands
Of the Three Makita 18V cordless jigsaws, only the brushless D-handle model XVJ02 has a lock-on switch. This lets you mount the saw to the underside of a board for a makeshift stationary tool that is a cross between a band saw and a scroll saw. Set this up on a job site, and you can cut small intricate parts like you would on a band saw. You just move the work through the saw instead of the saw through the work. You can even create a nice tabletop jig with quick-release clamps that you could keep in your van or truck and simply set the jig on sawhorses when you need it.
Keeping the Brushed XVJ03 in Makita’s Lineup
The two newest Makita cordless jigsaws use brushless motors. They go from 800-3,500 strokes per minute. This is fine for most work, but some woodworkers and plastic fabricators need to go slower than that. I work with 1/4″ material a lot and often prefer about 100 strokes per minute. When starting a cut, I like it to be about 2-10 cuts per minute. Both the Makita XVJ01 and XVJ02 cannot do this.
These saws do have a slow-start feature, however. The jigsaw starts slowly at 800 strokes per minute and then picks up speed when you push into the material. I found this very useful, but it still doesn’t offer the same control as the brushed motor on the XVJ03.
As a great case in point—if you cut too fast when cutting plastics, you may find that your material has melted itself back together on the other side of the blade! When I was young, I found out the hard way. You can cut all the way through a sheet of Plexiglas. However, when you pick it up, the Plexiglas will have become one solid piece again!
Cutting Dovetails – I Need a Few More Hands!
Frank Klausz is a master woodworker. After watching several of his videos on hand-cutting dovetails, I decided to give it a try. I performed the cuts using each of the three Makita cordless jigsaws to cut the pins and the tails. This let me test how much control each saw gave me. It also revealed whether I really got as much control as I always think I do with my brushed model.
First, I had to angle the base of the saws to 22 degrees. I chose this arbitrary amount because I thought it looked good. With each jigsaw, I practically needed four hands to adjust the saw’s base plate while holding a sliding bevel gauge and a hex wrench.
There is no easy way to make these adjustments. Fortunately, however, Makita provides a positive lock at 90 degrees for when I finished. Eventually, I got it tightened and at the correct angle. As I suspected, I could get more accurate cuts with the brushed motor of the Makita XVJ03 D-handle jigsaw. This was followed by the Makita XVJ02 brushless D-handle jigsaw. The variable-speed trigger let me slowly begin the cut and control it at any speed I wanted between 800–3,500 strokes per minute. If I started drifting, I could slow down my cut by letting off the trigger as I made corrections.
I could still make the cuts with the Makita XVJ01 brushless barrel grip jigsaw thanks to its slow start feature. The saw starts off at its slowest speed and then after the cut gets going, it ramps up. This is very helpful though not as precise as doing it yourself with the trigger on the D-handle models.
Dust Free Cut Line
All three Makita cordless jigsaws did a great job of blowing the dust off the cut line. They make it easy to see where you’re cutting. Visibility is good on all three thanks to good built-in LED lights that produce few shadows. They make it easy to see your work from either the left, right, or front of the cut.
Who is Each Jigsaw Model For?
I think the Makita XVJ01 brushless barrel grip jigsaw would be fine for anyone who prefers that type of grip. We just recommend you put your hands on it first. If you have very large hands, the shape of the battery compartment may make it uncomfortable—so test drive it first if at all possible.
The brushless D-handle Makita XVJ02 jigsaw would make a great tool for contractors or anyone in the field and carries a PTR Rating of 9.6 out of 10. Being brushless, the battery lasts much longer than the brushed model. If you need to rig it up to use your saw as a stationary tool, this is the only one giving you that option with its lock-on switch.
Finally, I think the brushed Makita XVJ03 is well-suited to cabinet and furniture makers. It works great for anyone who needs the control of extremely slow strokes per minute when cutting. He or she would not need to use the saw as a stationary tool because they are already in a shop full of equipment such as a band saw or scroll saw. Because this saw can go slower than the other two, it’s also the best choice for makers or plastics fabricators. They often need a slow speed to keep from melting through the cut.
Makita 18V Cordless Jigsaws Compared
|Price (bare tool)
Makita 18V Cordless Jigsaws Pricing
All three saws have something to offer. I bought the brushed D-handle jigsaw over a year ago, and it’s perfect for what I do as a sculptor. The brushless model just prioritizes certain applications and delivers a bit more runtime and that inverted mounting option. Retail pricing for bare tools falls around $159 for the brushed XVJ03Z and $269 for the XVJ02Z brushless D-handle. You pay a tad more—about $279 for the XVJ01Z brushless barrel grip jigsaw. Makita doesn’t advertise these as kits so hopefully, you already have a battery and charger handy.
Makita XVJ01, XVJ02, and XVJ03 Jigsaw Specs
- Battery platform: 18V LXT
- Stroke length: 1-in.
- Speed: 800–3,500 SPM (Brushless XVJ01/XVJ02) or 0-2,600 SPM (Brushed XVJ03)
- T-shank blade
- Cut Capacity at 90 Degrees in Wood: 5-5/16 in.
- Cut Capacity at 90 Degrees in Aluminum: 25/32 in.
- Max Cut Capacity at 90 Degrees in Mild Steel: 3/8 in.
- Weight (with battery): 5.5 lbs (XVJ01 barrel grip), 5.8 lbs (XVJ02 brushless), 6.4 lbs (XVJ03 brushed)
- Tool-less blade change
- Warranty: 3-year