10 Best Reciprocating Saws [ 2020 Reviews & Guide ]

Buyers Guide Questions

What Is A Reciprocating Saw Used For?

When used properly, reciprocating saws can be a lot of fun to handle, and might just turn you into a demolition junkie. For instance, a tear-down project that would normally take a lot of hours of struggle and sweat to rip down and break apart with a crowbar will become so much easier with a reciprocating saw that just cuts through all the materials instead in a quarter of the time. Windows, walls, plumbing, doors, etc. – just cut away and toss. You will wonder where this magical little tool has been all of your life.

reciprocating-saw-image

Also referred to as a “gateway tool”, the reciprocating saw is what you will own when you finally graduate to a Serious DIY’er and have been around the hard knocks block a few times. This is the tool that sets you apart from the novice wannabes. A reciprocating saw is not for fine crafting. It is used for breaking down and tackling the bigger projects.

It is designed for getting into those tight areas with an exposed blade and different positioning for precision angle cutting. There are several types of blades that are used with a reciprocating saw, depending on the project and material being cut. For instance, a fine-tooth blade that resembles a hacksaw is used for cutting through metal pipe and nails; a coarse blade is for cutting wood; a super-coarse blade for plaster; and a “toothless” blade for cutting stone – these are specially coated with a tungsten carbide abrasive grit.

However, you don’t have to be uber-picky when choosing the best blade, either. You can certainly use a nail-cutting blade to slash through roof shingles and plywood, for example. The more you are familiar with what your saw can do, the more confident you will be when choosing a blade for a specific job. Most of the types of blades are in standard six-inch lengths, but smaller ones like the jig-saw types are available.

There are also 12-inch blades that are useful for getting into deep crevices or cutting through thick timber. Blades, although they are tough, are not indestructible. They are disposable and should be replaced when you notice that the work is slowing due to a dull blade. There are bimetal blades that are bonded with steel teeth that will remain flexible longer and outperform the standard carbon steel blades with faster cutting, but they cost more.

To extend the life of your blades, they can be hammered flat and reused if bent. You can also try a little trick by cutting off the tip at an angle with some tin snips – presenting a sharper blade (be sure to wear safety goggles for this).

There are also Several Techniques you can apply that will Further Extend the life of your Blades:

  • Be sure to apply the right pressure to your saw – and don’t worry, this is learned through experience. This is an intricate balance between knowing when to bear down and when to go light.
  • Make sure your reciprocating saw’s shoe is tight on the material’s surface – this reduces vibration and will increase the cutting speed.
  • If you apply a rocking up and down motion with your saw, this will definitely increase the cutting speed.
  • If you need to get close to cut nails that are beneath lapped siding, flip over the blade so the teeth are up in the clamp assembly, then cut away, making sure you don’t cut into the siding.
  • Although reciprocating saws are made to be relatively safe during use, these are still dangerous saws, and you still need to follow common safety rules (click to view the study on this):
  • Stay aware of where electrical wiring, heating vents, and plumbing pipes are in your area before cutting.
  • When changing out blades, always unplug the saw first.
  • Stay aware of “kickback” – when the blade’s tip comes into contact with the material and bucks violently – which could throw you off balance. Be especially aware of this when perched on a telescoping ladder. This could also happen when cutting through pipes or wood.
  • Blades will generate heat when cutting. Avoid touching the blade right after a saw – let it cool before changing the blade.

Are Reciprocating Saw Blades Universal?

The short answer is yes. Reciprocating saw blades will fit into any standard reciprocating saw on the market. The length of these saw blades ranges from three to 12 inches, dictating how deep the cut will be, while width and thickness determine how stable the blade is. Each saw blade for a reciprocating saw is designed for a specific task, and as such, vary in dimension, material, number of teeth, bevel, thickness, and angle. Let’s break this down:

  •  Carbon steel blades are the most common and inexpensive blade, suited for cutting softwoods but will dull quickly with hardwoods and other hard materials.
  • High-speed steel (HSS) blades are more expensive than carbon steel, but also much harder, allowing them to cut through hardwoods without dulling as quick. Makes a great choice as an all-purpose, long lasting blade, lasting five times longer than carbon steel.
  • Bi-metal blades are harder yet and last on average up to ten times longer than a carbon steel blade.
  • Carbide-tipped blades are the most common type of bi-metal saw blades and work best for particularly tough cuts.
  • Carbide-grit blades are more abrasive and made of harder materials like brick, marble, ceramic, and fiberglass. As the most common type of abrasive reciprocating blade, the coatings range from medium to heavy-duty.
  • Diamond blades have real diamonds embedded in the tips and are used to cut through glass, ceramic, and concrete. There are six types of blades that are made to do specific tasks:
  • A ripping blade has a larger gullet (the area between teeth) and few teeth which remove wood quickly and efficiently, producing a rough cut
  • A crosscutting blade has many teeth and a small gullet that produces a very smooth and concise cut.
  • A combination blade is more of a general-purpose blade that is in between ripping and crosscutting, for a wider range of tasks.
  • Plywood blades have more teeth than crosscutting, which helps to suppress the chipping and splintering common to plywood, creating a smoother, cleaner cut.
  • Thin kerf blades are for easier cutting without much waste. The kerf is the size of the slot the blade cuts in the material.
  • An abrasive blade is coated with a coarse material, allowing them to cut through tile, masonry, and steel. Each type of blade has distinct features that allow it to do its best with specific tasks:
  • A variable pitch blade has a different TPI (teeth per inch) at various points. for example, it could have a pitch rating of 10/14, which means that it varies from 10 to 14 TPI. This variable pitch reduces vibration and provides a faster cut, allowing for use on a wider variety of materials.
  • A tapered blade is for plunge cuts where the reciprocating saw starts cutting directly on the surface rather than on the edge of a material – so it is tapered to allow it plunge right in.
  • Specialty blades are designed for specific materials and are convenient for non-professionals to simply choose the best blade without a lot of knowledge.
  • Bi-directional blades have teeth that will cut in both directions, allowing the blade to cut in both the push and pull motions, resulting in faster cuts. This isn’t suitable for all jobs but works best for materials such as plaster, for instance.

Can I Use A Reciprocating Saw To Cut Through Tree Limbs?

 A reciprocating saw is comparable to a jigsaw (click to read and view for our full guide), designed not for finishing work but for demolition or quick cutting jobs that do not have to be pretty, but just have to be done fast and right. Besides being a demolition saw, it is also great as a tight-restricted area saw, a pipe cutter, a drywall saw, and a conduit cutter. There are many saws that can be used for pruning trees, but if you are tasked with the job of cutting several limbs or thicker branches, you will want a tool that is equipped specifically for this job – like a reciprocating saw.

The general advantages of using a reciprocating saw as opposed to other types of saws revolve around their overall flexibility. They are much more lightweight and safer to use than a circular saw for work that requires being perched on a ladder, they can work in tight, confined areas or behind fixed materials, where other reciprocating saws cannot fit, They do an excellent job at cutting holes or slots in the middle of drywall or sheets, and they will make flush cuts around adjacent materials like a breeze.

So, back to cutting through tree limbs — The answer to this question is yes. The reciprocating saw makes one of the best saws for pruning tree limbs or cutting small trees. You can actually use a standard reciprocating saw blade to cut tree branches, but a reciprocating saw will only work as good as the blade that is intended for a specific project – like a pruning blade. Most people do not realize that there are pruning blades specifically for these reciprocating saws!

There are many different reciprocating saws that will perform well for your needs, such as the DEWALT Bare-Tool DC385B Cordless reciprocating saw or the BLACK+DECKER BDCR20B 20V reciprocating saw. A good example of the correct blade to use would be a 12 inch 4/5 TPI pruning blade, made to provide a cleaner, faster cut through wood, with a thin kerf for more flexibility.

DEWALT Bare-Tool DC385B 18-Volt

All you have to do is put on your safety glasses, insert the pruning blade into your reciprocating saw (or saws-all), turn it on, and saw it off. That’s it! The job is done in mere seconds, and this cuts your tree limbs like they were butter.

Can A Reciprocating Saw Cut Trees?

When deciding what type of reciprocating saw to use for cutting down trees, there are a lot of variables to consider: One, what kind of tree (or trees) you want to fell; and Two: how experienced you are with reciprocating saws. Using a chainsaw is probably the best solution to felling large trees, especially hardwoods because that is what they are made to do. Make sure you have the right chainsaw chain here.

However you really should not attempt to operate a chainsaw to a huge tree unless you are pretty darn experienced— they are about the most dangerous power tool there is, and can maim or even kill you in seconds… So if you don’t know what you are doing, you are much better off finding someone who does.

That said, maybe they aren’t huge trees, but rather soft pines or smaller trees you want to clear. Now your job just became a lot safer and easier to handle. A reciprocating saw, used with the right blade for the task, can provide a safer and successful way to fell smaller trees with a little patience and know-how.

Much lighter and smaller than a chainsaw, using a reciprocating saw also makes it easier to saw off those higher branches. Also, make sure you use a blade that is made to cut through wood. A good example would be a 12 inch 4/5 TPI pruning blade, made to provide a cleaner, faster cut through wood, with a thin kerf for the best flexibility.

How To Use A Reciprocating Saw?

Known as the “swiss army knife” of saws, the reciprocating saw is designed to do a wide variety of cutting tasks around the home and in the construction site. If you currently don’t know how to operate a reciprocating saw, you should, because when you do, it will probably be all you ever need (view the study and instructions on use here). A reciprocating saw, or saws-all as many call it, wears many hats: It is a demolition saw, a fine-finishing saw, a tight-restricted area saw, a pipe cutter, a drywall saw, and a conduit cutter. It is even a great tree pruner and a small tree cutter. Click here to view the full study.

The fact is, once you have learned the secrets of what this reciprocating saw will do, you will want to have one. Now. Then it just becomes a matter of deciding which brand of reciprocating saw, then on to which blades you need to do your tasks at hand. From there, it includes choosing from a variety of sizes, models, whether you want corded or cordless, stroke, and tool weight. And then there are other considerations to weigh in, like, does the blade reverse to cut up or down?

Does the handle stick out? How comfortable is the grip? How big is the saw, or how lightweight is it? Modern technology from reciprocating saw manufacturers has fine tuned this tool over time, with huge advancements, especially in the last decade. Faster cuts, more power, variable speed, more compact size, lighter weight, better casing, even reciprocating saws that can be handled with one hand – all at a cost that is affordable, making this powerful little tool even more valuable.

For corded reciprocating saws, having a higher amp will suffice for most jobs, and anything over 12 amps will do the work well. If you prefer to have a cordless (or battery-powered) reciprocating saw, today’s models will impress you with their powerful, long-lasting lithium batteries, many of which deliver as much as 50 percent more work output and 50 percent more charges to the life of the battery. These are also better equipped to handle extreme heat and cold temperatures.

Another factor to consider is the stroke length or the distance the blade travels in one forward stroke, can vary according to the size of the saw. A long stroke reciprocating saw will cut faster but will need more clearance to do its job, and more amps to drive the blade. As a rule of thumb, use a long-stroke model for more demolition work, and a shorter stroke saw for more delicate, precise work.

  • Stroke Length ( 1-4-inch )

An orbital reciprocating saw adds oscillation, or back and forth movement, to the regular reciprocation adding a slight up and down motion to the cut, resulting in an oval-like cut, that is best for wood. A short-stroke reciprocating saw allows you to get into tighter places where other saws cannot reach. A heavier reciprocating saw will reduce vibration a little more than lightweight saws. However, you may prefer a lighter weight. It all depends on your own personal comfort.

Tip: When shopping for a reciprocating saw, lift the model above your head to see how comfortable it feels. If the vibration is an issue for you, take a look at the models with AVT – anti-vibration technology. Makita, for example, is known for its AVT models. Now that you have a little background in reciprocating saws, and know what you want, let’s learn how to handle it.

How to use a Reciprocating Saw?

Choose the Right Blade

Having a reciprocating saw for the job is the right tool, but if you don’t have the right blade, it instantly becomes the wrong tool. Choosing the correct blade for the specific project ensures the best experience. Of course, there is a multitude of different blades for a reciprocating saw, but doing your homework before you choose will make all the difference. If you’re not sure which blade to choose for the project, we recommend starting with a material-specific blade.

For instance, if you are working with steel, choose a blade that is specifically for working on steel projects. There will still be a lot of choices, but selecting in this category will narrow them way down.

Insert the Blade into the Chuck

Make sure the tool is unplugged first, or remove the battery in cordless models, then insert the blade. Just about all of today’s reciprocating saws on the market have a tool-free chuck system that works by simply quarter- or half-turning to release and insert the blade. Allowing the chuck to return to its original position secures the blade in place. It is always best to give the blade a little tug to make sure that it is secured in the chuck before operating. When removing a blade that was just used, use gloves to remove it because it will be hot.

Know How your cut will go Before you Begin

Once that reciprocating saw comes into contact with your material, your focus will be on how it is cutting – but the blade will extend far beyond the cut. Make sure your blade won’t be hitting anything else in its path when it quickly moves back and forth from its farthest point. This is especially important to consider when you are plunge-cutting into drywall where you cannot see what is on the other side of the drywall. It is important to check for electrical wiring, plumbing, etc. before you begin.

Know your Speed

Once you get a feel for the speed of your reciprocating saw, this will become more intuitive. Before doing the main cutting, create a small cut slowly to see how it reacts to the material in speed and in torque. This will help you gain more control over the bulk of the work. As the blade approaches the exit of the cut, you will want to slow down.

The Shoe is Good to Have

The shoe is more like the nose of the reciprocating saw – its flat surface acts as the base and serves several purposes for this saw. Some shoes can be adjusted to move forward or back to extend the blade life, but even a shoe that remains stationary is important. The shoe also works to stabilize the saw and the material. If you push the shoe all the way against the material you are cutting, you will find that the vibration of the saw will reduce dramatically.

If you are cutting the material too shallow, you will see an increase in the vibration of the saw and/or the material itself. Also, the shoe acts like a fulcrum for plunge cuts – by raising the back end of the saw and allowing the shoe to work as a pivotal point, this gives you more control to plunge into the material.

Slowly Work the Blade as a see-saw in a Thicker Material

If the blade is progressing slowly through the heavy or thick material and giving you quite the workout, it can mean a couple things: One, that the blade is dull and needs to be replaced; or Two, it could just mean that you are not letting the reciprocating saw do all the heavy lifting.

When working with the denser material, you will need to gently rock the blade back and forth like a see-saw and then you will find that the saw makes faster progress as this reduces the load and this allows the blade’s teeth to focus on a smaller section at a time. We hope you have enjoyed these tips!

What Types of Reciprocating Saws Blades Are There?

Depending on the type of project and the material that is being cut, there are several types of blades that can be used with a reciprocating saw. For example, there is a fine-tooth blade that resembles a hacksaw that is used for cutting through metal pipe and nails; a coarse blade is for cutting wood; a super-coarse blade for plaster; and a “toothless” blade for cutting stone and are coated with a special abrasive grit.

The longer you work with your reciprocating saw, the more familiar you will become with how it works and what you can accomplish with it. Then, you will have more confidence in choosing a blade that will do a specific task. You will find out that you can actually use one type of blade for several different projects, depending on how that particular blade functions. For example, you can certainly use a nail-cutting blade to work with shingles or plywood.

Most reciprocating saw blades sizes range from three to 12 inches in length but the standard size is six inches. There are the jig-saw types that are available as well. The 12-inch blades that are useful for getting into deeper crevices or even cutting through the thicker timber. Although they are tough, these blades are not indestructible. Rather, they are disposable and should be replaced when you notice that they are getting dull and slowing down the job.

Teeth: The number of teeth per inch (TPI), combined with the gullet size – which is the depth of the space between the teeth, and the kerf – the slit made by the blade, all determines the material the blade can cut.

  • Blades with a low TPI deliver faster cuts and rougher edges, ideal for wood.
  • Blades with a high TPI deliver smooth, slow cuts, ideal for metal – read through our guide for the perfect metal cutting tool.
  • The number of TPI ranges from 3-24.
  • To reduce snagging, try to have at least three teeth come into contact with the material at all times.

There are three Facets to a Reciprocating saw Blade to keep in mind: Length, width, and thickness.

  • The longer the blade, the deeper the cut.
  • Wider blades will reduce bending and wobbling.
  • Heavy-duty blades are typically 7/8-inches wide and 0.062-inches thick.
  • Blades that are 0.035-inches thick provide sufficient strength for standard cutting.
  • Blades that are 0.05-inches thick are for enhanced stability.
  • For plunge-cutting jobs, short blades with tapered backs do the best work.

To extend the life of your blades, you can try hammering out the blade flat, if it is bent. You can also try a little trick by cutting off the tip at an angle with some tin snips that presents a sharper blade. Make sure you wear safety goggles for this. Let’s look at the different types of reciprocating saw blades that are currently on the market:

  • Carbon steel As the most common blade, this is great for cutting softwood and plastic but will dull quickly with hardwoods and other hard materials. These are flexible to allow for bending without breaking.
  • Bimetal blades are bonded with tool steel teeth and will remain flexible longer, outperforming the standard carbon steel blades with faster cutting, but they are more expensive. Carbide-tipped blades are the most common bimetal reciprocating saw blade, working very well for the tougher cuts.
  • High-speed steel (HSS) blades are also more expensive than carbon steel, but they are also much harder and this allows them to cut through hardwoods without dulling as quick. Makes the best choice as an all-purpose, long lasting blade that lasts five times longer than carbon steel. These blades have durable teeth but are more prone to breakage.
  • Carbide-grit blades are a more abrasive blade that is made for harder materials like marble, ceramic, cement board, and fiberglass. This is the most common type of abrasive reciprocating blade and had a coating that ranges from medium to heavy-duty.
  • Diamond blades have real diamonds embedded in the tips and are used to cut through glass, ceramic, and concrete. There are six types of blades that are made to do specific tasks:
  •  A ripping blade has a larger gullet (the area between teeth) and few teeth which remove wood quickly and efficiently, producing a rough cut.
  • A crosscutting blade has many teeth and a small gullet that produces a very smooth and concise cut.
  • A combination blade is more of a general-purpose blade that is in between ripping and crosscutting, for a wider range of tasks.
  • Plywood blades have more teeth than crosscutting, which helps to suppress the chipping and splintering common to plywood, creating a smoother, cleaner cut.
  • Thin kerf blades are for easier cutting without much waste. The kerf is the size of the slot the blade cuts in the material.
  • An abrasive blade is coated with a coarse material, allowing them to cut through tile, masonry, and steel.

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