Reciprocating saws and jigsaws work quite similarly; utilizing the reciprocating movement of the blade. However, blade movement aside they fulfill different functions within a workshop.
The key difference between a reciprocating saw vs a jig is in the purpose for which they are used. A jigsaw is used to cut intricate shapes on wood, sheet materials, ceramic tiles, table tops etc to get desired shape and size. Whereas, a reciprocating saw which is a much more powerful tool is used for demolition, remodeling work and for pruning trees.
There are many more differences and similarities between the two power saws. Let me explain detail.
What is a reciprocating saw?
A reciprocating saw (also called Sawzall) is a powerful cutting tool used for demolition work, renovation & remodeling jobs, for pruning trees and plants etc. It is a heavy-duty tool with a comparatively large reciprocating blade protruding straight out.
Reciprocating saws and jigsaws are both handheld saws that rely on a trigger mechanism to actually activate the saw. What sets them apart is the position of the saw. You can always tell it is a reciprocating saw if the saw blade is sticking out of the front of the saw. Likewise, whereas jigsaws can be held with one hand, you will never see a professional worth his/her salt using a reciprocating saw with one hand. Because of this, reciprocating saws often have grips in both the front and at the back of the saw. In terms of how it cuts, a reciprocating saw will use a blade that pushes and pulls to maximize cutting power (this is why it is referred to as a “reciprocating” blade).
Reciprocating saws come in both corded and cordless models, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages (corded models don’t run out of power, cordless models offer more mobility). A reciprocating saw which is also known as demolition saw is a brutally powerful tool. With the right blade, it can cut through some of the toughest materials including hardwood, metal, bricks, tiles, and masonry.
Jigsaw vs Sawzall vs Hackzall
Sawzall is a branded reciprocating saw by Milwaukee power tools. They are the same tool. Hence if you are looking for the comparison between jigsaw vs Sawzall, understand that everything I discuss here applies Sawzall too.
A hackzall is a compact reciprocating saw which you can operate with one hand. The smaller size and stroke length enable the Hackzall to used in tight working spaces.
What is a jigsaw?
A jigsaw is a handheld power tool with a reciprocating blade perpendicular to its blade. It is used for cutting various materials including wood, plywood, plastic and even metal to the required size and shape.
The jigsaw is, in a way, a type of reciprocating saw. Jigsaws, much like the reciprocating saws I just described, use a blade that pushes and pulls to cut through surfaces. However, there are few key differences.
Firstly, you can cut curves with a jig. That means with a jig and the right jigsaw blade you can cut very complex shapes, patterns and templates.
Secondly, with a jigsaw, the blade protrudes downwards from the saw, not straight out like with a reciprocating saw.
Also, a jigsaw is designed to be used one-handed, as such; there is no extra grip like with other reciprocating saws. Much like with reciprocating saws, jigsaws come in both corded and cordless models, with roughly the same advantages and disadvantages that I discussed in the reciprocating saw section.
Differences between a Reciprocating Saw and Jigsaw
I have already gone over some of the differences in appearance and functionality, so in this section, I will go over how each saw is meant to be used.
Reciprocating saws are essentially meant for rough and heavy-duty cuts. They are not accurate and hence not meant for precision jobs. If you need to cut through something and you do not care about what it looks like afterward (think of demolition), then that is when the reciprocating saw comes in handy. Reciprocating saws also have a lot of raw power, especially the higher end models which tend to have more amps. Because of this, reciprocating saws can be used to cut through not only wood, but also metal, plaster, concrete, and much more.
On the other hand, a jigsaw is meant for relatively precise, accurate cuts. You can make a variety of cuts with a jigsaw, including bevel cuts and compound cuts. With just a bit of practice, basically, anyone can use a jigsaw to make very accurate curved, circular, or parallel cuts. With some more practice, you can even make accurate bevel cuts of up to 45 degrees (for those who do not know, bevel cuts are cuts that are angled). Jigsaws can also be used to cut through tough materials like sheet metal etc. However, they lack the brute power of reciprocating saw and hence cannot cut through tough materials. Therefore jigsaws are not good for demolition work.
Jigsaw Vs Reciprocating Saw Comparison, Pros & Cons.
|Power||Moderate||Very powerful and Heavy-duty|
|Accuracy||Moderately accurate.||Rough tool.|
|Blade||Blades with T shank or U shank||Relatively larger blades|
|Design||Blade perpendicular to the base.||Blade protruding straight-out|
|Safety||Should handle with care.||Dangerous. Require extreme caution.|
|Pros||Ability to cut curves and complex shapes.||Ability to cut things above the head. A powerful tool for demolition work.|
|Cons||Cannot be to make flush cuts.|
Require somewhat even surface for the base.
|Inability to cut complex shapes.|
Cannot cut accurate curves.
|Uses||Jigsaw can be used to cut intricate shapes on plastic, wood, plywood and metal sheets.|
To cut and round edges of table tops
You can cut ceramic tiles to size and shape
Cut templates and artwork.
|For cutting through drywall, metal, and masonry.|
Used for pruning trees.
To cut door and window frames.
Useful for plumbers and handyman.
When to go for a reciprocating saw
A reciprocating saw has a very specific set of uses. Because it is bad at making accurate cuts, most DIYers and other non-professionals probably will not find much use for it. A reciprocating saw is great for demolition work where all that matters is the ability to rapidly cut through materials. Likewise, it is useful for plumbing and electrical jobs because of its ability to rapidly cut through sections of plaster, wood, etc.
However, there are certain situations where non-professionals will find a reciprocating saw useful. For example, reciprocating saws are great for cutting in high-up places because they are easy to use on ladders. They are also great for jobs dealing with window and door frames.
In summary, go for a reciprocating saw in the following cases.
- It is an excellent tool for pruning trees and plants.
- Reciprocating saws are the go-to tool for demolition and remodeling work.
- It can cut through a wide variety of materials including wood, plywood, drywall, plastic, metal, fiberglass, tiles and brick.
When to go for a jigsaw
If you have to do a job or project that requires you to cut on flat surfaces (like say a table top), then a jigsaw is your best option. Likewise, if you need to accurately cut through tough material like say tile or a sheet of metal, then a jigsaw is against the best option.
Jigs saws are useful to cut large-sized boards and sheets that you cannot load on a band saw or a table saw. Of course, you could use a handheld circular saw, if you just want to make cuts along a straight line. However, jigsaws can cut complex shapes and inside profiles that a circular saw cannot do.
One uncommon, but an important situation where jigsaws really shine is when working with inexperienced people. Jigsaws are easy to use, so if you working with say a trainee or someone not familiar with power tools, a jigsaw can be a great tool to help teach them how to use power tools properly.
Buy a jigsaw if your work involves the following.
- Installing countertop. Jigsaw is very useful to make a variety of cuts and holes to fit faucets.
- You can cut large sheets of metal, plastic, plywood, wooden planks and ceramic tiles into size.
- You can use a jigsaw to cut along a straight-line, angle and even bevels.
- Jigsaws are perhaps the only handheld power saw that cut curves accurately.
- You can use a jigsaw to cut complex profiles such as for making templates, although a band saw or scroll saw can perform this job better.
- It is comparatively safe for novice users. It could be the first power saw you want to teach your kid.
Who should buy what?
Professionals will get the most use out of a reciprocating saw, so unless you are buying one as a gift for a carpenter, electrician, plumber, etc., then amateurs should probably hold off on buying one. However, there is an exception to this. If you are doing a home improvement project, and you know for certain that you are going to need a reciprocating saw (for example because you know you will have to cut something while standing on a ladder) then you should definitely invest in a quality reciprocating saw as it will make your life much easier.
On the other hand, pretty much everyone, from amateur DIYers to professionals can benefit from a quality jigsaw. They are great portable tools that allow you to make somewhat accurate cuts through a wide variety of materials. Most jobs out there can benefit from the accuracy and portability of a jigsaw.