As a handyman or contractor, there will be times when you need to cut some kind of material that your hand saw is not going to cut through. For these situations, you’re going to need a tool that can cut through just about anything that you may encounter.
This tool is the reciprocating saw. These saws are also known as a Sawzall, although the actual “sawzall” term is a Milwaukee tool.
These tools are generally popular among construction work, plumbing, HVAC, and electrical projects. These tools can be found in a few different designs, which will determine how the tool is used. You can find some saws that are small, handheld devices that resemble a cordless drill.
These smaller units are great for home DIY projects where you’re not cutting through heavy materials. For larger jobs that require heavy-duty tools, you can find reciprocating saws that are designed specifically for construction and demolition. These saws are going to be high powered and the blade will move at much higher speeds than the average unit.
In this guide, we are going to uncover everything you could possibly want to know about these utilitarian tools.
What Is A Reciprocating Saw And What Is it Used For
A reciprocating saw is an electric saw that can be used for a variety of projects. Instead of having multiple tools, this saw can cut through just about everything you put in front of it. This tool is probably the first tool you should pick up if you are going to do any repairs or remodeling around the home.
These saws will feature durable blades that can cut through metal, plastic, wood, plaster, and wiring very easily. The saw will also have a second handle that will give you better control of the tool while you work.
The blades on these saws can range between 4 inches and go up to 12 inches. The blades are going to be held in place by a tool-less locking mechanism; be it a lever mechanism or a clamp. Newer reciprocating saws will move the blade in an orbital motion, rather than just an up and down motion.
This orbital movement will make the cutting process much quicker, allowing you to get the job done much sooner. So, what can these little powerhouses do? Well, the right question, we think, should be what can’t the tool do?
We want to point out that while a reciprocating saw and a jig saw may look alike, they are not the same thing. A jig saw is capable of making straight and curved cuts, along with crosscuts, ripping, beveling, and creating plunge cuts.
They can cut through a selection of materials like light metal, plastic, wood, drywall, and tile. Basically, these saws are best suited for precision cutting, whereas a reciprocating saw is intended for making quick and rough cuts.
Types Of Reciprocating Saws
There are two types of reciprocating saws currently available on the market: a cordless version and a corded version. The question many people have is which version is best. Well, that all depends on your needs and what you are willing to spend.
A corded saw is going to have more power than it’s cordless counterpart. These tools will not need any batteries to operate because they are plugged into the wall. Also, since they have a continuous power supply, not only do you not have to worry about the tool running out of power mid-project, but you’re going to work at a steady pace.
The drawback to these saws is that you’re going to have to plan your projects around the outlet or extension cord. Even then, you always have to be mindful of the cord while working so you don’t trip over the cord or worse, cut it on accident.
With a cordless saw, you’re not at the mercy of an outlet or extension cord. You’ll be able to go wherever you need to so you can complete the task at hand. However, the downside of these tools is that you will have to use a battery for power.
The battery pack is going to make the tool heavier to hold, but it is also going to limit how long you can work at a time because the battery will lose charge. And unless you have numerous battery packs fully charged at the ready, you’re going to experience some wait time at some point.
Types Of Blades
We know that the saw is capable of cutting through almost any kind of material, but it really depends on what kind of blade you’re using. When you choose the right blade for the job, you’ll find that everything will go so much smoother.
Here are some of the most popular reciprocating saw blades and what they are used for:
For cutting wood, you’ll want a high-carbon steel blade. The number of teeth on these blades will run between 3 to 18 TPI (teeth per inch). If you need to prune some trees, you’ll want to go for a blade with a lower TPI, roughly between 8 to 14 TPI.
If you have to cut through wood with nails, we recommend going for bimetal (spring steel back with high-speed steel teeth) with anywhere between 8 to 14 TPI as well.
For cutting metal, you’re going to want a diamond-grit blade for cutting cast iron, or a carbide tip for cutting aluminum. You’ll want to use a bimetal or high-speed steel type blade if you need to cut through steel pipe, bars, or sheets of metal. The TPI of these blades will range between 14-18, but they can go as high as 24 TPI.
For cutting masonry like bricks, concrete, clay, and terra cotta, you’re going to want to use a carbide grit blade. These blades don’t have teeth, but instead have an edge that is rough and covered in carbide grit.
Reciprocating Saw Specs
When you’re looking for a reciprocating saw, there are some key factors that should go into your decision making:
This is usually denoted in amps or volts and the higher the number, the more powerful the tool will be. For general use, an 11 amp saw is more than enough for the average home DIYer.
It’s very useful to have a way to control the speed at which your saw blade moves. Depending on the angle and the material you’re working with, you’ll want to control the speed so that you get a good cut, but so the blade doesn’t break.
This may not be a problem if you have several backups, but it can be quite the nuisance if you only have the single blade.
The speed at which the blade moves is denoted by SPM (strokes per minute) measurements. This typically runs between 2,300 to 3,000 strokes per minute. The more power your tool has, the higher the SPM will be.
Orbital Cutting Action
The reciprocating saw with an orbital action is going to be able to cut things a lot quicker than one without. This orbital action is where the blade moves in an elliptical movement.
This technology is a must have—especially if you’re going to be using your saw a lot. The technology is key for reducing the amount of vibrations created by the saw, thus allowing you to work for longer periods of time without getting fatigued.
Popular Reciprocating Saw Manufacturers
There a lot of saws available on the market today, but there’s no guarantee that they are going to be quality tools. Instead of picking up any old tool, you’ll want to go with a trusted brand like the following companies:
The Makita company has been around since 1915, but they started off making electric motors. Today, they are making everything homeowners need to keep their homes in tip-top shape.
Other than the Makita reciprocating saw, you can find everything kind of power tool in their product line up. This includes items like batteries, chargers, drills, saws, chainsaws and so much more.
The DeWalt company is one of the most well-known and easily recognizable brands currently on the market. You can’t miss that vibrant yellow color on every DeWalt tool. Along with the DeWalt reciprocating saw, you’ll find things like power drills, nailers, saws, hand saws, measuring tools, outdoor equipment, radios for the workplace and so much more.
If you’re a general contractor, you’ll be able to find everything you need to complete a contract successfully here.
The Bosch company was formed in 2003 and ever since they have been creating power tools and power tool accessories for North American handymen and DIYers. In their product line up, you’ll find a wide variety of cordless power tools, benchtop saws, hammers, and oscillating power tools—as well we the Bosch reciprocating saw.
Porter-Cable reciprocating saws are just one type of power tool you’ll find in the Porter-Cable line up. The company has been creating essential tools for professional woodworkers and tradesmen for over 100 years.
When it comes to high quality tools at an affordable price, you can find things like fastening tools and compressors, fasteners, corded and cordless power tools!
Milwaukee isn’t just a city in Wisconsin! This company has been creating power and hand tools for more than 90 years. When you have a project that needs a particular tool, you can bet you’ll find it in their product line up. Along with the Milwaukee reciprocating saw, you’ll find saws, drills, accessories, measuring gear, and imaging tools.
How To Use A Reciprocating Saw
To use your reciprocating saw, you’re going to want to know how to use it safely.
Safety Tips For Using A Reciprocating Saw
A reciprocating saw is one of those tools that can do a lot of damage if you aren’t careful. When you’re using one of these tools, you should always follow these 10 safety tips:
- Always buy the right tool for your needs. You might think you need a heavy-duty saw that contractors would use, but if you’re just doing general repairs around your home, you may want to stick with an 11 amp unit.
- Always make sure your workspace is clear of any obstructions. This includes keeping the wire (if using a corded tool) is out of the way and your workspace is lit well. Also, make sure any children and pets are away from you and your workspace while working.
- Always wear safety gear when you’re working with the saw. This includes safety goggles, ear covers, gloves, dust mask, and slip-resistant shoes. Also, you should make sure your hair is tied back and you aren’t wearing any loose fitting clothing or jewelry.
- Always maintain proper balance while using the saw. This means have a firm grip on your saw and plant your feet firmly on the ground. You also want to make sure that the blades are sharp and you know exactly what is on the other side of that cut.
- If you are working with a corded saw, make sure there isn’t any water on or around the outlet, the cord, and your work space. You should never pull the cord from the socket, but instead disconnect the cord by holding onto the base of the plug.
- Use your saw according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- When you are working on the saw, make sure it is unplugged or the battery is disconnected from the saw. Also, just for safety’s sake, make sure the tool is on the “OFF” position.
- Always make sure you are in top shape when you are going to use the saw. You don’t want to be tired, sick, or aggravated because that will hinder your ability to use the saw properly and that is when an accident can happen.
- Never work near any flammable materials—especially if you are cutting metal. The sparks could fly and cause a very disastrous accident.
- Always be mindful of where your hands are when working with the saw. You never want to reach in front of the saw while it is on. It’s best to keep both hands on the saw while it is operating.
How To Maintain And Clean Your Reciprocating Saw
To make sure that your saw is going to last a long time, you’re going to want to make sure you keep the tool clean and well maintained. The best and safest way to do this is by taking it to a service center at least 3 times a year—depending on how frequently you use the tool.
At the service center, they will clean your tool, lubricate it, and inspect all the working parts to make sure everything is alright.
You can clean the tool yourself in between service appointments. To do this, you will want to make sure the tool is on the off position and it is disconnected completely from the power source. Then, you will want to use an can of air to clear away any dust or debris from the trigger and other moving parts.
As a homeowner, there are going to be times when you’re going to need to perform repairs around the home, be they repairing some drywall, replacing PVC pipe in the bathroom, or just trimming some hedges or limbs in the yard. Instead of having multiple tools for these tasks, there is one tool that can do it all—the reciprocating saw.
With one of these tools, you’ll be able to cut through wood, plaster, drywall, metal, PVC, and even ceramic tiling—as long as you have the right blade attached! When you have the right blade installed on your saw, you’ll find that the saw will make every job a little easier.
There are two types of reciprocating saws that you could choose from: a corded saw or a cordless one. There is no clear winner as to which one is best because they both have their pros and cons.
If you want to the ability to be able to move from place to place with your saw without worrying about tripping over a cord, then you’ll appreciate the cordless option. Do keep in mind that the cordless saws are not going to be as powerful as a corded option!
Like any other power tool, it’s always important to be mindful of your surroundings when working. Not only that, but you also want to be careful when using the tool because it could cause serious damage to you or your project if you aren’t careful.
With that said, every handyman or DIYer should have a reciprocating saw in their tool case because it can do so many tasks. Now, it’s understandable that it can be confusing trying to decide which saw is best because there are many great products available on the market.
We recommend that you stick with the top five companies who are known for producing high quality products. We’ve even created a buying guide to help you find the best reciprocating saw that meets your budget, but also can perform the tasks you need it for.
Choosing a reciprocating saw isn’t something that you can do on the fly. We recommend that you consider the tasks that you will be using the saw for and do a bit of research before making that decision. While these tools aren’t super expensive, you don’t want to waste money on a subpar product.
Leave us a comment below and let us know what is the first project you’ll tackle with your new reciprocating saw!