Best Reciprocating Saws: How to Find the Best Reciprocating Saws

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One thing is for sure: remodeling and do it yourself projects are on the rise, and now even construction and demolition work isn’t off-limits when equipped with the best reciprocating saws.

In the previous calendar year, home improvement project expenditures accounted for three hundred and ninety-four billion dollars in the United States alone. Some of the most popular projects, including adding or improving upon insulation, switching out various appliances for increased energy saving, and optimizing heating and cooling systems.

But Americans are also eager to find new ways to update their homes by remodeling their kitchens, bedrooms, and bathrooms. Taking out tile, adding texture with concrete paint, and even making rooms more open concept are all ways consumers revitalize their homes.

But hiring professionals for a full scale or even smaller renovation projects can prove exceptionally costly. The average cost for an entire home remodel can cost from eighteen thousand to seventy-five thousand dollars.  For kitchens, that cost averages from twelve thousand to nearly thirty-five thousand dollars.

That’s where reciprocating saws come in. Reciprocating saws can be used for a wide range of projects, including demolition and construction projects that otherwise would not be possible. But just how easy is it to use reciprocating saws, and how do you find the best ones for your project?

What is a reciprocating saw?

Power saws, in general, are one of the most widely used home improvement tools, alongside other dives such and power sanders that can help you accomplish tasks, even without much expertise. Among those, reciprocating saws can be very powerful tools for larger-scale projects.

Some express it this way: in many ways, reciprocating saws are a more powerful form of a jigsaw. The term reciprocating refers to the way the blade moves, which is back and forth. While the blade does move backward and forward, the saw itself stays in place in the hands of the user. You can also saw up and down–all of which is part of the reasons why reciprocating saws are so versatile.

The original design of reciprocating saws came from hacksaws and the added power to the general design.

What is a Sawzall or Hog Nose? Both these terms are actually just other names that have been adopted for reciprocating saws. Hog Nose is a nickname of sorts, describing the basic design of reciprocating saws, while Sawzall refers to an actual brand of reciprocating saws that’s enormously popular, in the way that many say Nutella in place of chocolate hazelnut spread.

What are reciprocating saws used for?

Best Reciprocating Saws

A reciprocating saw is categorized in what some call the ‘wrecking crew’ class of saws, or, in other words, saws that are used in demolition. While reciprocating saws are used for demolition projects, they are used for a wide range of different purposes and are far more widely useful than you might think.

Not well suited for work requiring fine details, what reciprocating saws are useful for is large scale, ambitious projects. Sux of the most common uses for reciprocating saws show just how helpful tools they can be:

  1. Removing limbs: Of course, all saws can be used to saw through wood, but reciprocating saws can actually be used for outside projects, such as removing limbs. Though chainsaws are typically used for these tasks, reciprocating saws can also get the job done.
  2. Cutting through pipes: This requires a word of caution. Professionals do use reciprocating saws for cutting through pipes, but it requires a very steady hand. As you can imagine, with this kind of work, it’s essential to know exactly what you’re doing.
  3. Cutting through metal: You’ll notice a common theme here, and that’s that reciprocating saws are able to cut through very hard materials other saws have trouble with. With metal, though, you do need to have a model of reciprocating saws with extra fine teeth.
  4. Demolition: When we’re talking about demolition, we’re talking about taking down individual walls, which, as you can imagine, can be useful for a number of reasons. Reciprocating saws are most useful when it comes to taking down drywall, with the ability to cut both horizontally and vertically. While it’s possible to also uses reciprocating saws for the demolition of ceilings, that’s more fine work that can be quite dangerous.
  5. Cutting tile: This is one common use for reciprocating saws that we have to put a yellow light on. Many find that they can cut tile with a reciprocating saw and think of it as a way to save money so they won’t have to purchase a regular tile cutter or a wet tile saw. The problem is that reciprocating saws, though powerful, simply are not as precise, and you risk chipping tiles unless you’re quite skilled and exceptionally cautious.

Do I even need a reciprocating saw? 

Whether or not you need a reciprocating saw depends on what tools you already have on hand, as well as the scale of your intended projects and renovations. While on its face this question is about whether or not to purchase a reciprocating saw, it many ways it’s actually concerning whether you should purchase a reciprocating saw vs a jigsaw.

  • Both are within the same family of saws but have different purposes. A jigsaw, more compact and more affordable, can be used to make cuts at difficult angles. It can be used to make bevel cuts, compound cuts, and you can easily adjust speed as well as the types of cuts you’re making.
  • Jigsaws are best suited for a hardwood that’s up to three-quarters of an inch thick, or softer wood up to an inch and a half deep.
  • Reciprocating saws are more powerful and suited to larger projects. They’re better for demolition, but also projects such as cutting through pipes, framing windows and cutting through nails
  • In summary, reciprocating saws are much more powerful, but they are less used for fine detail work compared with jigsaws.

What other equipment do you need when using reciprocating saws? 

Reciprocating Saws Safety Equipment

When using reciprocating saws, it’s essential you’re wearing the proper safety equipment to protect yourself. Here are some supplies that are essentials, no matter what project you’re taking on:

  • Eye protection. Anti-fog goggles meant for construction are your best option. They’re meant to protect your eyes from debris, and the anti-fog is an important protection against any condensation build-up. You’ll want to make sure they fit snugly and comfortably as well. For working in tight spaces you might even consider full-face shields, though this is normally only needed for something like a crawl space.
  • Protective gloves. Proper working gloves are also a must. Safety or working gloves protect your hands against burns, cuts, electric currents, temperatures, and chemicals and should be used for any heavy duty renovation projects. Rubbered grips on the fingers give you a firmer grasp.
  • Optional accessories. While optional, accessories such as scrapers, brushes, and clamp-on vises can all be helpful tools and extend the use of your reciprocating saw.

How do I find the best reciprocating saws?

how to find best reciprocating saws

Finding the best reciprocating saws is not terribly difficult, even if you’ve never used one before. Let’s take a look at the key features you need to know about in order to purchase the best possible reciprocating saw for your next project:

What is a miniature reciprocating saw?

Mini reciprocating saws are compact versions of reciprocating saws. They are far lighter, less expensive, and of course easier to store. But when it comes to finding the best reciprocating saw, this isn’t a great option. That’s because mini reciprocating saws are not nearly as powerful–though they can be helpful if you’re planning only to use the saw in a tight space. Overall, you’ll get much less use out of mini reciprocating saws.

What kind of blade should I look for?

Perhaps the better question here is can the blade be switched out. The best option here is a reciprocating saw that allows you to easily swap blades but still hold them securely. As far as this, some offer what is called a ‘tool-free’ blade change, which means you can swap out blades with a release button.

That’s because you’ll want different blades for different tasks. The blade also should have a slight downward angle for most efficient use. Choosing your saw blade for the task at hand hinges on a number of factors:

  1. Teeth: Teeth refer to the edges of the blade. The more teeth, the smoother the cut, and the less, the more coarse. For general difficult material, look for a blade with about six teeth per inch, and a metal blade that’s around 0.035 inches thick. However, for demolition purposes, you’ll need a blade that is resistant to heat, tooth damage, and general wear. A model like Bosch RDN9V is best. ? teeth per inch, with a large degree of flexibility and durability, is what you want.
  2. Gullets: The gullet refers to space in between each tooth. Gullets allow you to remove materials that get stuck during sewing projects. For demolition and other heavy-duty projects, you want fairly wide gullets.
  3. Quality: Quality is often overlooked when looking for the proper blade. You need C3 Grade teeth at least, more for a hard project like demolition. Don’t skimp on quality, or you will end up having to order replacements often.
  4. Compatibility: This is for the reciprocating saw itself, but if there’s a certain brand of blade you’re interested in, you might want to check if it’s compatible with the saw. Sawzall blades, for example, are popular enough that some reciprocating saws directly state they’re compatible.
  5. Clamp: The clamp, of course, is what holds your blade in place. While you can buy clamps separately, the ideal is to have a clamp that comes, well equipped, with the reciprocating saw. You have traditional and quick lock clamps. Quick-lock clamps are helpful for quick changeover if you don’t have a tool-free blade change.

What do I need to consider for the trigger?

The trigger, as the name implies, is the part of the reciprocating saw you clamp down on in order to start it.

For this, the best reciprocating saws have what is called a pressure-sensitive trigger, which means that the blade will react to the amount of pressure you apply. The reason you want a pressure-sensitive trigger is that it will provide a better degree of control, both for that initial cut and as you work and need to adjust speed.

As an alternative, you can select a variable speed trigger. These come with a speed dial that you can manually adjust if you prefer and has the same benefits.

What about the grip?

The grip on the reciprocating saw needs to be, first and foremost, comfortable and practical. Many of the best models offer what is called a comfort grip, normally made out of rubber with notches to improve overall comfort and reduce slipping but also blisters.

Should I go cordless?

You’ll also have the option for either a corded or cordless reciprocating saw. A corded saw is generally more powerful and might be helpful for powering through very difficult materials. A cordless saw, on the other hand, is obviously easier to maneuver and in many ways more convenient. Here’s when to pick which:

  1. Cordless saws are best for the beginning phases of a project, especially if you’re working with something like installing outlets.
  2. Corded saws are best for heavy work, and lengthy work that requires a great degree of power. You’ll want a corded saw likely if you’re working with something besides wood

reciprocating saws types

What about voltage?

Voltage, of course, tells you how powerful the reciprocating saw is; power, in turn, indicates how difficult tasks the reciprocating saw can take on. Corded saw typically ranges from five to fifteen amps. Cordless saws come with power ratings.

  1. Seven to ten amps are suitable for smaller tasks, such as short and easy drywall projects or dealing with small limbs.
  2. For anything other than wood, including metals, you need an amp rating of eleven and higher; the harder the material and task, the high the amps you’ll need.
  3. Power Ratings for cordless saws refer to the battery, in volts. Twelve volts tends to be the lowest, and the range goes up to thirty-six volts. The lower end works well enough for lighter jobs, but anything to do with demolition requires a voltage of eighteen or more
  4. Don’t short yourself of power for hard tasks; when in doubt, go up on power, but you also don’t need to spend on the very most powerful saws for regular tasks.

What about stroke length and speed?

The stroke length and speed also impact how your tasks are accomplished, and how quickly. In fact, the two are intrinsically linked.

  1. The average stroke length for a reciprocating saw is just over one inch, with a range of one and one-eighth inches to one and one-quarter inches.
  2. Cutting rates average a range of twenty-six hundred to thirty-three hundred strokes per minute.
  3. The minimum recommendation is one and one eighth stroke length and a speed of three thousand strokes per minute for the most versatility in tasks.

Is there such a thing as orbital action?

In fact, yes. Orbital action is available for some varieties of reciprocating saws. Saws equipped with orbital action can cover more linear inches, so they are quicker so cutting in general. In saws that have this feature, it’s normally a mode you can switch on or off.

  1. Orbital action is best for getting a job quickly when you don’t require much precision. Stripping material, and with wood, it’s perfectly fine.
  2. On the other hand, this setting should not be used on other materials, such as tile and metals. In general, it’s not the best option when you need more precise cutting.

Is there a way to reduce vibrations?

One concern when using a reciprocating saw, or any saw in general, is the number of vibrations you’ll experience. This is a problem for two reasons. For one, vibrations can wear you out; for another, it can reduce precision and control. There are some reciprocating saws that are specifically made with an ergonomic design, meant to address these potential issues.

  1. Some contain counterbalance weights to reduce vibrations
  2. Some models separate the body from the handle to reduce vibrations

best reciprocating saw

Can you make any recommendations for the best reciprocating saws? 

Luckily, there are many reciprocating saws available for purchase, no matter what projects you’re trying to take on.

  • SKILSAW 13A Reciprocating Saw Skilsaw 13Amp Recip Saw: This reciprocating saw is a good option if you’re most concerned about too many vibrations as you work. The 13 amp motor is not the most powerful, so it’s not suitable for the heaviest of tasks, but it is useful for general lighter tasks and shorter projects. One and one eighth inch strokes are ideal for smaller projects as well, and may actually be easier to deal with if you want to work a little more carefully.
  • DEWALT 20V MAX Cordless Reciprocating Saw Kit (DCS380P1): This reciprocating saw is more powerful, featuring four different positions for the clamp and an adjustable trigger speed that goes up to three thousand strokes per minute. A sealed shaft keeps things mess-free and safe, while the shoe pivots for the most in flexibility.
  • MPT MCRS2105 21V Cordless Li-ion Reciprocating Saw with Fast Charger, Tool-free Blade Change and Two Saw Blades Tool Bag: When it comes to overall good deals, this reciprocating blade is affordable and has a number of admirable features. The twenty-one-volt motor is capable of up to three thousand strokes per minute, while a tool-free blade change makes any task easy when you have to adjust to different materials or tasks. Featuring a compact design, this weighs a mere five pounds.
  • WEN 3630 10-Amp 8-Position Variable Speed Reciprocating Saw: If you’re on a budget, this reciprocating saw is one of your best bets. While not as powerful and without some of the features of more expensive models, it does offer eight different speeds, and is suitable for working with wood up to four and a half inches deep or metals up to three-fifths of an inch. There’s a pressure-sensitive trigger, which allows you to adjust for speeds up to twenty-eight hundred strokes per minute and a quick-release blade holder for easy use.

Erin Jamieson

Erin Jamieson is passionate about making the space you live in as comfortable, affordable, and personal as possible. With her vast nonprofit experience, including for organizations like Habit for Humanity, as well as experience writing for startups, she brings both financial, mechanical, and stylistic advice to make your home uniquely yours. Erin Jamieson holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Miami University of Ohio.

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