Review By Dean Bielanowski  GMC Website - http://www.gmcompany.com

GMC LS950SPJ Scrolling Pendulum Jigsaw
Review
By Dean Bielanowski

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Please note: Since this review was published, Global Machinery Company (GMC) has gone into receivership and is no longer operating. As such, spare parts or technical support cannot be obtained directly through them. Their website at www.gmcompany.com appears to still be available online and offers some product information and manuals but contacting them will receive no reply. Note that OnlineToolReviews.com does not work for GMC, nor do we offer any support or spare parts for their products.

I must say that when I read about GMC's latest jigsaw, it certainly caught my attention. A number of innovative features not seen on jigsaws in the past is what had me reading more about it...

We had the opportunity to get our hands on one and we waited for it to arrive quite anxiously. We have used pendulum jigsaws before, no big deal, but the LS950SPJ is a scrolling pendulum jigsaw... and with a laser guide as standard. Now that is something different indeed. Let's take a closer look.

First Things First
The LS950SPJ ships in a moulded carry case, which is handy for transportation and to keep dust at bay in storage. A hex key, dust connector and standard blade is also supplied with the tool. Usually, the blades supplied with most new tools are sub-standard. It was interesting to note that the supplied blade was marked as "swiss-made" and certainly felt sharper than what you would expect from standard blades shipped with tools. This proved to be the case during the tests as well.

The manual supplied should be seen as a good example of what all manufacturers should supply as documentation. Full color on thick glossy paper with easy to read print and excellent photos. Layout and design also makes the grade. It's obvious some thought, planning and execution has gone into compiling the manual, rather than it being an after-thought for a product, or worse yet, a photocopied sheet of paper that you can't even read as found with some tools! Other manufacturers should take notes of this example. We did spot one small error in the manual in terms of the scroll function use. it mentions setting the pendulum lever to the "o" position, when in fact, this should be the "S" position. The manual isn't perfect, but it comes close!

The Specs

LS950SPJ Specifications

Voltage: 230-240V ~ 50Hz*
Power Input: 920W
No load speed: 800-3000 SPM
Stroke Length: 23mm
Cutting Angle Range: 0 - 45 degrees
Cutting Depth in:
Wood: 100mm
Steel: 6mm
 *Note - power rating is given for Australian product. Power rating for US/International version of product may vary.

The first specification one might notice is the power input. At a whopping 920W, it easily surpasses the majority of jigsaws sold by other manufacturers. In fact, I had a hard time finding jigsaws from even the leading brands that came even close to this mark. As a result of the large power specification, and the scrolling function we will look at later, the jigsaw itself is quite large. Certainly one of the largest jigsaws I have seen in recent times. Whether the size affects performance or ease of handling we will find out soon.

The no-load speed of 800-3000 strokes per minute is in line with many other models, however some other brand name models do drop down to 500 or lower strokes per minute which may be more suitable for cutting of specific metal compounds. 800 strokes is an acceptable lower range figure and you probably don't need to go much higher than 3000 spm for wood cutting.

Stroke length at 23mm is about average so no problems there. Cutting angle from 0-45 degrees is also somewhat standard in almost all jigsaws on the market and similarly, it is adjusted via a screw in the base of the machine that allows pivoting movement of the shoe plate in either direction. Fine woodworkers or cabinet makers would rarely consider cutting bevels with a jigsaw. It is simply not very accurate for fine work, no matter what brand of jigsaw you may have. For rough work however, the bevel cutting feature is appropriate and useful if no other means of producing accurate bevels are available. Obviously it is difficult to carry a tablesaw to a jobsite. The jigsaw allows bevel cutting with portability.

Cutting Depths in both wood and steel are within reasonable ranges, however, you may find higher priced brands claim depth capacities 10-20% greater than those listed here. This specification is, in my opinion, highly variable and not always accurate. Again, on the jobsite, cutting a 100mm thick piece of wood might be needed, but in the workshop, a bandsaw (for curved cuts) or a tablesaw (for straight cuts) can achieve this task much more easily.

What the jigsaw is very useful for is curve cutting in the middle of pieces and cutting in workpieces that are already insitu, i.e. already installed and not easily removed for the cutting process. Jigsaws like the GMC LS950SPJ are also great for quickly taking the edge off a corner of wood, or for cutting non-standard shapes or finishing a cut made by a circular saw blade. There are countless more applications of course.

Controls
Your standard wheel-type variable speed control sits up top on the handle and within the hand grip 'cavity' is your standard on/off power switch, which does feature a power-on hold button so you can keep the jigsaw running once going without having to depress the switch and hold it continuously. A useful feature for jigsaws as it allows you to free that hand up to grip  the jigsaw
somewhere else for better-controlled cuts.

Down on the lower right hand side of the LS950SPJ (when looking from the rear of the saw) is the pendulum lever. The lever has more than the 3 standard settings found on many other models. In fact, the LS950SPJ has 5 settings.

The first setting, and the most significant is marked as "S", presumably for the "Scrolling" setting. We will explore the scrolling feature shortly. The second setting marked "0" is for standard cutting action (no pendulum action). The next 3 settings enable pendulum action on the jigsaw. This pendulum movement with the saw blade "swinging" slightly allows for more efficient cutting. The settings 1, 2 and 3 control the amount of pendulum action during the cut. Different materials will require different settings for optimum cutting action. It is best to try cutting samples first to determine the best setting for the type of material you are working with. The pendulum lever moves relatively fluidly between the settings, however, for the scrolling setting, you must make sure the blade assembly is pointing forward before the lever will engage in that settings 'detent' position.

The last control option is a simple yellow on/off button on the front of the saw which turns the laser guide... you guessed it, on or off! And speaking of lasers...

Laser Guided Jigsaw!
Well, it's really user-guided, but with the aid of a laser. GMC have produced a number of woodworking tools with laser beams in recent times. The effectiveness, or usefulness of lasers on woodworking equipment is certainly a topic for hot debate. Some woodworkers love them, others don't see the point. Lasers are becoming more common on miter saws these days, and I know myself, the laser fitted to my Bosch miter saw certainly comes in very handy and saves time aligning workpieces before cutting.

The first jigsaw I owned was a very cheap home reno' model and I had difficulty seeing the cut line in front of the saw. There were obstructions near the cut line that limited visibility. This was quite frustrating and resulted in less than accurate cuts. While it is perceivable that a laser on a jigsaw might not be the most useful addition, I will say that after using the LS950SPJ, that the laser can help in following not only a straight cutting line, but can aid in sticking to a curved cut line as well.

The laser assembly can be removed from the front of the saw and this is necessary to do so to throw in 2 AAA batteries that power it. The removal/assembly procedure is documented well in the manual. Once powered-up and switched on (the little yellow button on the front of the jigsaw), the laser generates a thin red beam projecting out well in front of the saw (perhaps 10" as a rough estimate). Naturally it is a straight line beam (what else) and can assist in cutting straight lines quite well. While I would prefer to use a straight edge to make a straight cut, sometimes this option may just not be available, or possible if working on thin pieces of wood or steel. In these instances the laser beam may be useful. Outdoor work with laser beams in bright sunlight can make them difficult to see, so not in every situation will the beam work well. GMC does sell laser-enhancing glasses designed to improve visibility of the beam, however, I do not have a pair to give you an evaluation on those. Since the majority of my work is inside a workshop, there was no problems seeing the beam.

With curve cutting, the laser beam is less useful in principle. It does allow you to follow a curved line reasonably accurately, but you must be looking at the beam where it projects just in front of the blade or shoe plate for best effect. It is ok with larger radius curves but with tight curve work, you are probably better to turn it off and just use your eyesight on the cutting blade as your guide.

So with those things in mind, my conclusion on the inclusion of the laser on this product is that it is an added bonus with application in some instances, but not ideally suited to all jigsawing tasks. Caution must be taken with lasers as well in accordance with the instructions provided.

Parallel Guide
As an accessory, a parallel guide is included in the package. This is your standard run of the mill fence that attaches to the base plate and allows parallel cutting to an edge. Useful for the contractor or at the jobsite if you need to trim an edge of a piece or make parallel cuts for a project or task.

Switchblade Control
I love any tool that doesn't require its own tools to switch blades or cutting implements. I am forever misplacing the little spanners, hex keys and paraphernalia that come with machines these days, so the less of it the better in my opinion, although some tools you can't do without good fastening items for safety reasons (i.e. router, drill press etc).

The GMC LS950SPJ does indeed feature a tool-less blade change mechanism. Hoorah! To change blades, you must first pull the front clear blade guard forward and it pivots upward and out of the way. The switchblade mechanism is a small yellow spring-loaded latch-type assembly that can be pushed to an upward position to release the blade. Once released, simply pull the blade out. With the switchblade mechanism in the same up position, you can freely insert a new compatible blade (accepts T-shank blades) and then simply use two fingers to pull the switchblade latch back to the down position to lock the blade in place. Pretty simply procedure but you must be careful as your fingers are always only millimeters away from the blade and, naturally, ensure the power cord is disconnected before you go putting your hands anywhere near a sharp blade hooked to a powered-motor!

Evaluation of the GMC LS950SPJ in action
Ok so with the many features discussed above, here is my evaluation of the LS950SPJ after about 5 weeks of use. Firstly, I made sure the shop vac was connected to the dust port at the rear of the jigsaw. I find it amusing that my collection of vacuum attachments and adaptors built up over the years rivals even the biggest vacuum store in town! A small dust fitting is supplied that locks into the rear opening on the jigsaw giving a 40mm outside radius for hookup to the shop vac.

The blade guide, which provides support for the blade and prevents excessive twist during a cut can be adjusted underneath and is held in place via a hex screw. This allows you to position the guide in the best position for the blade you are using. When you switch to scroll mode, this action moves the blade forward out from the guide wheel so you can freely rotate the blade through 360 degrees without damaging the guide or having it impact on the cutting action. Proper blade guide position will ensure cleaner, more accurate cuts.

The scrolling feature of the LS950SPJ is its most unique function. Using it allows to cut cut intricate patterns and curves in really tight spaces. You simply cannot cut tight curves easily with a standard non-scrolling jigsaw. This saw however makes cutting curves a simple affair. Be warned though that it does take a bit of practice to get a feel for the scrolling action and develop good control using it. I found after about an hour of practice with the scrolling function, I was able to follow tight curves and cut accurately with a good level of control over the saw. You might notice the last two photos in the right column. The second last photo shows how the scrolling function permits full 360 degree blade action without ever having to turn the jigsaw body. The last photos shows a bit of scrap MDF I cut some curves in using the scroll feature. The photo is a little deceiving. It is actually a close-up shot and those curves are tighter than you might think, probably only a 1/4" in diameter. When you have strayed from the line in a normal curve cut, using a combination of the scroll feature plus pivoting the base plate can quickly get you back on track. This combination worked very well and illustrates an advantage of the scrolling feature. All in all, while some may consider it a novelty, with use I found the feature to be quite intuitive in application, and it works great with the right blade. While it wont cut as intricately as a scroll saw, the LS950SPJ is certainly more portable and allows you to take the tool to the workpiece rather than bringing the workpiece to the tool.

In terms of power, the 920W motor has more than enough grunt for all applications. Admittedly, the bigger motor adds weight to the tool, but this is not such a bad thing. A 'heavier' jigsaw goes a long way in dampening vibrations that jigsaws tend to create. Since most use would be benefiting from gravity anyway, it is not such an issue. Whether we were scroll cutting 3mm ply or 2" hardwood, the LS950SPJ met the challenge, although you must naturally adjust feed rates to compensate for the material. Hardwood is slower going.

What I liked about this tool is that it is extremely comfortable to use. All control grips are rubber padded and in use, it feels like you have full control over the tool, rather than the tool controlling you! I have used several brand jigsaws in the past and while some are quite good, others have far too much vibration and they are difficult to keep the cut to the line. Not so with the LS950SPJ. Despite its price tag being well under some of the competitors, I will honestly say that in use, it felt just right. Smooth, controllable and little vibration. The end result is smoother, more accurate cuts, and that is a good thing. The low-friction plastic base-shoe allows easy pivoting of the saw, despite its heavier weight.

As mentioned above, the laser has some application, but is not practical for all tasks. I did find there were no visual obstructions restricting view of the blade in action, which allows you to sight your cutting line and the blade very well.

Of course, almost every tool has a weakness. With the LS950SPJ, it has to be dust collection. I used the saw several times outdoors with no dust hose connected. Very little dust was seen coming from the port and little dust residue after cutting stopped, even looking right down inside the dust channel on the base of the saw. Of course, the 'sucking action' of the vacuum will actually aid greatly in drawing dust up from the cut line, but with this attached, measurement of dust caught is difficult to achieve. The dust portal for collection sits underneath the blade guide. The guide itself probably blocks some of the dust getting into the dust channel which is a limiting factor. It's no surprise that by simple design of the jigsaw that dust collection is rarely good on any model or brand. This is no different here, however, I have used more expensive models which do seem to offer better extraction from the cutting line.

Conclusion
If we take into account the fact that the GMC LS950SPJ is priced at AUD$149, several ladder rungs cheaper than the 'brand name' competition, this saw offers excellent performance and value for money. Quite honestly, after having owned other budget jigsaws, I wasn't expecting too much from this saw. I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome. The tool feels solid, is finished well and incorporates not only a unique scrolling function, but a useful laser guide for freehand work and a pendulum cutting action which few budget model jigsaws have.

It is hard to judge durability after the short period of use I have given it so far, but if we assume the saw continues to perform well for at least 4-5 years, than I would recommend it to anyone. If it breaks down in less than 2 years, well, you can have it replaced free of charge with the standard GMC 2 year warranty (home use only). It is always hard to justify a tool purchaser to someone. I can only tell you of my experience and give my opinion on quality in relation to the price tag and given that I have tested other GMC products on this site, I have to so that this particular tool feels the most robust than any other and performs like you would expect an industrial model tool to perform.

If the laser and scroll feature is not important to you, than it might be a harder sell, but even then at AUD$149 I still think it offers good value for money.

The choice is yours!
 

GMC LS950SPJ Jigsaw Photos
All photos copyright onlinetoolreviews.com. Use without prior written permission prohibited


The LS950SPJ. Somewhat a combination barrel/D-grip design.


Your main ON/OFF and speed controls up top.


Pendulum lever to set desired cutting action. "S" is for scrolling!


Turning the scrolling knob actually rotates the blade below accordingly.


Clear safety cover flips out to access the switchblade assembly.


The tool-less assembly requires you to push up on the yellow, spring-loaded switchblade control, insert the blade and then release the control to lock the blade in place. Pretty easy!


The onboard laser guide is useful and projects very accurately in line with the cutting blade.


The 920W motor powers through almost anything. Operation feels very smooth and included blade cuts like butter. Quite impressive.


The included guide fence is nothing fancy. Very basic.


Scrolling at work. Notice the blade is actually cutting perpendicular to the direction of the saw.


I cut these tight radius curves using the scrolling feature without ever moving the actual direction of the big jigsaw itself. Fascinating...

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