Reciprocating saw is a power tool used for heavy-duty cutting jobs such as demolition jobs, remodeling work, renovation, tree pruning etc. Also known as Sawzall, reciprocating saws with the right type of blades are workhorses that can chop through materials like wood, plastic, metal and even times and bricks.
If you look through most power tools in your garage, you will probably notice that most are meant for precision work. Jigsaws, circular saws, band saws, miter saws etc., are all meant for precision cuts. Now usually you want precision cuts, but sometimes you want a tool that does not make precision cuts, you want a tool that uses brute force to cut through difficult objects; for that purpose, you will want a reciprocating saw.
See, unlike most saws, which are used for precision cuts, reciprocating saws are meant specifically for making rough cuts. You may be asking, “why would you ever want to make rough cuts?” Well, if you do not care what the final product looks like, then reciprocating saws are useful.
For example, think of cutting lumber, or doing demolition work on a house, both are jobs where the final product does not have to look nice (unlike, cutting wood for furniture or other carpentry jobs); and thus, both jobs benefit from the brute power of a reciprocating saw.
Reciprocating Saw Buying Guide
If you are interested in buying a reciprocating saw, either for yourself as a gift, then you will probably be interested in this reciprocating saw buying guide; it will tell you everything you need to know about reciprocating saws.
What are reciprocating saws?
Reciprocating saws are very similar in appearance to jigsaws, and they work similarly as well. They are handheld and have a saw blade at the end. But, the saw blade on the reciprocating saw is much bigger than the saw blade on a jigsaw.
Pressing the trigger moves the saw blade up and down (the reason it is called a reciprocating saw) to quickly cut through materials. Reciprocating saws are powerful, and able to cut through tough materials like hardwood, masonry, fiberglass, drywall, metals, ceramics, and much more.
While reciprocating saws are not for everyone, they can still be a helpful tool to keep around the house. They also make great gifts for professional carpenters or power tool enthusiasts looking to add another tool to their collection.
Cordless vs Corded
When buying a reciprocating saw, the first choice you will need to make is between a corded reciprocating saw or a cordless reciprocating saw.
The two main advantages to corded saws are that they are more powerful and do not need to be recharged. This is fairly standard as far as power tools go; most corded power tools are more powerful than their cordless counterparts, and reciprocating saws are no exception. Also, because they do not need to keep a heavy battery within them, corded reciprocating saws are actually a bit lighter than cordless reciprocating saws.
The main negative for corded saws is that the cord can get caught very easily and reduces your mobility; in extreme cases, it can even get cut while you are using the reciprocating saw. The way to solve this is to try and get a reciprocating saw with a rubber cord, which is more flexible than the traditional plastic cords that are usually used on power tools. Another issue with corded saws is that they can only work near outlets, so you are limited in where you can use your reciprocating saw (unless you want to use an extension cord).
Cordless Reciprocating Saws
There are two main advantages to using a cordless saw. Firstly, because they run off battery power, cordless saws can be used anywhere, even if an outlet is nowhere in sight. Secondly, because they lack a messy cord, cordless reciprocating saws are easier to maneuver around with.
The downsides to a cordless saw are that they lack the power of their corded counterparts, and they have to be recharged regularly. If you do get a cordless saw, get one with a lithium-ion battery, as these take longer to die and less time to recharge.
Features to look for
A normal reciprocating saw blade moves up and down, with the orbital action the blades moves both up and down or side to side. This increases the cutting power of the saw by having it make more “aggressive” cuts. So, if you are facing a job that the reciprocating saw cannot finish on its own, then simply turn on the orbital action, and watch the reciprocating saw finish the job with ease.
Since reciprocating saws are used to cut through such a wide variety of materials, it is important that you have the ability to switch speeds on your saw. The reason being that certain materials cut better at certain speeds. So when cutting through something like wood, you want a very high speed on your saw, but when cutting through metal, you want a lower speed.
An adjustable shoe
The “shoe” on a reciprocating saw refers to the metal guard around the saw blade. Having an adjustable shoe allows you to make different kinds of cuts, as well as allowing you to have greater control and stability while using the saw.
Easy to use blade replacement
Look, it’s a fact of life that power tools are going to get worn out, and the blades on a reciprocating saw are no exception. No matter how well you take care of your saw, the blade is going to get dull and wear out; you will need to replace it when this happens.
To make your life easier, get a reciprocating saw that lets you quickly and easily change the blades; some saws require you to use tools to switch the saw blade, ignore these saws.
Stroke Length of Reciprocating Saw
As you can guess longer strokes result in faster cutting while shorter strokes will obviously take more time to finish the job. However shorter strokes are desirable for plunge cuts where you have no start hole to make pass the blade through.
Budget reciprocating saws generally come with stroke lengths anywhere from ¾ inches to 1-1/4 inches. Pick the one with stroke length according to your work requirement. The more expensive ones come with adjustable stroke length which is a good choice if you are doing remodeling work. For example, you may want to cut a square opening on your wooden floor where you can’t drill a through-hole. You should set your stroke short during the initial plunge cut and once the blade can move inside the cut freely, switch to longer strokes to increase the speed of cutting.
This is an important feature to look for because auto-stop brushes both increase the life of your reciprocating saw and make it safer. Auto-stop brushes stop the saw blade immediately after you cut power to the saw, as opposed to letting the blade slowly stop. And when the brushes wear out, they automatically stop the saw, preventing damage to your reciprocating saw’s motor.
Look for reciprocating saws with metal housing. Why exactly? Well, metal housing helps dissipate the heat better than plastic housing, which makes it easier to use the saw for long periods.
Type of Cord
In case you decided to go for a corded saw, get the one with rubber cord. They are safer than plastic cords since rubber cords provide more flexibility during work.
Type of Battery (Li-ion vs Ni-Cad)
On the other hand, if you opted for a cordless reciprocating saw get the one with a Lithium-Ion battery. Compared to Nickel-Cadmium batteries, the Li-ion cells can hold charges for longer periods and they are smaller and lighter which will reduce the overall weight of the Sawzall.
I recommend you to get the one with an 18Volt Lithium-Ion battery.
High-end models come with vibration reduction that will give you better control and less fatigue. You should look for this feature if you are going to use reciprocating saw continuously for long hours. You can make much smoother cuts with reduced vibration.
This is often an overlooked feature that can have a big impact if you are using the reciprocating saw for a longer period of time. A cushioned grip can be much more comfortable than a hard plastic or metal grip.
I suggest you go to your local hardware store and hold the Sawzall to get a better idea of how it feels in your hand.
A carrying case is handy when you have to transport your power tool to your workplace. Sawzall from most of the reputed brands comes with storage cases or a carrying bag.
Finally, check the availability of saw blades for the particular reciprocating saw you are buying. The bi-metal saw blades are normally available in different length and pitch. You need fine tooth blade to make a smooth cut as well for cutting metal. A course blades suitable for rough cuts and for cutting softer materials like wood.
See more detailed information on the reciprocating saw blades page.
Which is the best brand?
Nearly all the popular power tools brands make reciprocating saws. Personally, I have used Makita and Rigid which are both very good. Other reciprocating saw brands include,
Seriously you can’t go wrong with any of the big brands. The brand is not a big deciding factor here. I would suggest you go with your favorite brand.
Hope this buyers guide helped you to pick the best reciprocating saw for your next project. Read the safety instructions in the user manual and use your new Sawzall with caution.