Everything You Need To Know About Reciprocating Saws

Everything You Need To Know About Reciprocating Saws

A reciprocating saw is a type of saw used commonly in construction and demolition work. It achieves the cutting action through reciprocating movements of the blade i.e. the blades push and pull through the material.

The term reciprocating saw is fairly common and these types of saws are also known as hognose or SAWZELL. The later interestingly is a characteristic creation of MILWAUKEE and has a large, powerful blade that resembles a jigsaw. A SAWZELL uses a jigsaw blade and the convenient handle allows it to be used comfortably even on vertical surfaces.

You can find reciprocating saws in different designs. There are small, handheld models that look more like cordless drills. You would also come across high power and high speed corded reciprocating saws that are especially designed for heavy demolition and construction.

The reciprocal saw basically is a larger version of the electric saber saw. In addition to durable blades that can cut metal, plastic, plaster and wood, reciprocal saws also have a second handle so that you can hold the equipment steadily as it operates.

Most models use 4 to 12 inch blades which are securely held in place by the blade lock. You can find reciprocating saws that offer variable speed controls.

Another useful addition to hognose design is orbital action. Simply put, modern reciprocating saw blades can also move perpendicular to the cutting action, i.e. up and down along with the usual pull and push. This oval movement is an excellent feature if you want to cut wood quickly.

The Different Types Of Reciprocating Saws

Unlike traditional saws that are primarily used to make small, precise cuts, reciprocal saws are designed for making rough cuts and heavy duty demolition. These saws deliver a lot of power to the blade and can quickly slice through plaster, metal, wood, fiberglass and a variety of other materials.

Cordless Vs. Corded Reciprocating Saws

You can find reciprocating saws as cordless or corded models. Each model offers different power, run time and of course, convenience.

Reciprocating saws that are powered by electrical cords are more powerful. These models also offer unlimited run time and you can use them without having to worry about battery life. Most corded models are lighter because they don’t have a battery.

Man using reciprocating saw

The only downside is that the length of the power cord can hinder free movement. What’s worse is that if you don’t have a power supply near a harder to reach spot, your operation could possibly be cut off.

Cordless reciprocal saws offer greater freedom of movement however they are heavier and require charging between uses. If you want to invest in a cordless reciprocal saw, make sure you buy one that is powered by lithium ion batteries. Models with lithium ion batteries have extended battery life and their run time is also greater than standard models.

What Are The Best Uses For A Reciprocating Saw?

The SAWZELL has now become a popular electric saw that can be used for a variety of home projects. Perhaps the best thing about reciprocating saw is that it can replace several other tools that are needed for most repairs and DIY tasks.

As stated earlier, the primary goal of the saw is to cut through the desired material.

You can use reciprocating saws to reach the difficult spots – places where other saw types cannot fit.

Interestingly reciprocating saw is one of the best tools to be invented – after all, not many inventions can make your easier especially when it comes to DIY home projects.

Man using reciprocating saw

Like any other cutting device, it is recommended that you follow strict safety measures when using reciprocating saws. More details on safety gear and how you should use reciprocating saws is coming up later.

  • Reciprocating saws can be used to make an indentation on walls if you are trying to place new wiring.
  • These saws are ideal to changing PVC piping. Because reciprocating saws can be used at odd angles and reaches difficult spots, making any changes with PVC piping is easy.
  • ​There’s nothing more annoying than stubborn nails and pain that prove impossible to remove. If you want to work on a home project and there’s no way you can pull out a nail or pin, all you have to do is use the reciprocating saw to cut the head.
  • ​Taking down branches in your backyard or front garden is a breeze with this perfect tool. Thanks to the amazing power and durability of reciprocating saw blades, you no longer have to worry about using an axe to chop down wood.
  • Ask any professional and they would tell you how convenient it is to fit a window with reciprocating saw. This handy tool can easily reach the impossible spots and your work will be done quickly.
  • ​Since reciprocating saw is strong and durable, you can use the blades to cut down any material including metal, PVC and wood.

When Should You Use Orbital Action On A Reciprocating Saw?

The reciprocating saw is remarkably useful for cutting and demolition jobs. The right type of durable blades can cut metal, PVC, nails, pipes, wood and just about anything you want and you would hardly find a construction site without one.

It’s easy to guess that the reciprocating saw blades pull and push through the surface. But most new models have another exciting setting - orbital action. This out of the world feature is actually very useful and can help you take care of most cutting jobs in less time.

So the question is – what is orbital action anyway? Well, most basic reciprocating saws use a simple, straightforward back and forth stroke. This simply means the blade moves in and out of the saw. The basic stroke is good enough for most jobs including cutting wood and even hard materials like steel.

Man using reciprocating saw and doing orbital action

Orbital movement means the blades move in an orbit like fashion. This movement results in faster cuts especially in softer materials. It also assists in faster chip removal from the path of action.

Orbital action in reciprocating saws is most useful for making aggressive cuts in wood or when you want to remove material quickly. Ideally orbital action is not recommended when you have to make precise cuts or when you have to hold the blade perfectly perpendicular to the work surface.

Most professionals suggest that orbital action in reciprocating saws is quite helpful when doing demolition work. You can cut through the material faster with less effort. Most high quality advanced reciprocating saw models allow you to adjust the blade movement with a lever or knob. You can easily switch from basic, straight strokes to orbital movement and even a hybrid.

Now That I Have A Reciprocating Saw, What Else Do I Need?

A hognose is a powerful tool and you would love to own it. But buying a reciprocating saw is not the end of the story. If you want to get the most of your investment and maintain it in a great working condition, you will require a few extras.

If you have seen reciprocating saws in action, you would know that they can cut through just about everything except rock! Today SAWZELLS have become the most preferred tool for demolition and cutting tasks. Some pros have even used reciprocating saws to cut through lumber even if it is embedded with nails.

Generally reciprocal saws can cut all common metals including copper, cast iron, steel and aluminum. But to get the most of your tool, you need a few extras including safety gear.

Safety Gear

You should never use reciprocal saws without adequate eye protection. You can even use safety glasses with anti-fog coating so that you can see clearly in all kinds of weather conditions. Some professionals prefer to use safety glasses along with a full face shield especially when they’re using the reciprocal saws in a confined area.

Man using reciprocating saw

Light-weight, portable and cordless reciprocal saws can be carried out anywhere. As you can guess, it’s not safe to mess around with heavy duty, powerful corded reciprocal saws. Finally you can buy a pair of quality safety gloves. It’s best to buy gloves that are designed to withstand the impact of continuous cutting.

Choosing The Blade

The blade you choose makes all the difference in the performance of your reciprocal saw. If you want to cut through construction lumber that has a number of embedded nails, you need to use a thick demolition blade which is wide and thick. Remember, the blade you choose for cutting through lumber should be able to resist bending.

If you need to cut metals during the project, it is best to invest in a blade that can handle all sorts of materials. You can choose to work with a blade that has more teeth. Even though such blades do not cut the material aggressively, but they are much easier to control.

If you find that you will be working with metal or wood, you should choose a longer blade. The additional length allows you to bend the blade into a curved shape. Metal cutting requires blades with more specific ‘tooth’ configuration and hardness.

A reciprocating saw blade

It’s not difficult to guess that metal cutting blades should be able to cut through the material without bending. As a general rule, you can use coarse blades that have fewer teeth when cutting thick metals. If you want to run through thin metal surfaces and piping quickly, you can think about investing in a blade that has more teeth.

Some professionals prefer to apply bar lubricant on reciprocal saw blades before working on metal surfaces. This simple trick not only reduces the strain on your machine and hands, but you can also extend the shelf life of your investment.

Of course, there would be metal cutting projects where you require specialized blades. For example cutting through cast aluminum isn’t the easiest task and this is exactly where blades with carbide tip come in handy. These carbide blades also work for cutting through cement surfaces.

You can decide to go for a diamond grit blade when working on cast iron surfaces. If you have to work with fiber glass or some kind of clay material or bricks, you can use a reciprocal saw with carbide grit blade.

How You Should Choose A Reciprocating Saw

The good thing about reciprocating saws is that it has more uses than a Swiss Army Knife. Jokes apart, reciprocal saws are the only equipment you need for a variety of remodeling, construction and demolition tasks.

A reciprocating saw blade

If you’re working in a constricted area, there’s nothing more versatile than a reciprocating saw as it can work as pipe cutter, a saw and even a tree pruner all in one.

The fact is that reciprocating saws are a must have and it is up to you to decide the configuration that would work for you.

Sometimes it’s perfectly fine to have more than one reciprocal saw to take care of your home projects.

This includes choosing reciprocal saws of various sizes and models. For example, you can buy a compact, cordless SAWZELL for minor tasks and reserve your heavy duty, powerful corded models for more tedious construction and demolition tasks.

In addition to source of power supply and tool weight, other factors that you need to consider before choosing a reciprocal saw include:

  • 1. The type of blade – you need to look at the cutting options it provides. For example, does your blade have orbital movement?
  • 2. The type of handle – does the handle have a good grip and is it extendable or not?
  • 3. The size of the tool – is it compact enough to fit between the harder to reach areas?

Over the past few years, reciprocal saw manufacturers have made several improvements to their products. Now you can find reciprocal saws that offer faster cuts even with the smallest sizes. Yes, there are compact models that offer orbital movements and can be operated using one hand.

You can choose reciprocal saws after looking at the features offered such as orbital movement, anti-vibration technology and lighted plugs. Orbital action as stated earlier enables the blades of your equipment to move up and down in addition to routine back and forth movements.

These orbital movements generate a more aggressive cutting action and you can achieve faster cuts. An important thing to remember here is that the speed of your equipment does not slow down drastically if you are holding the equipment upside down.

A reciprocal saw that allows you to change the blades more frequently is preferred. These models are efficient and give you the chance to switch between tasks easily.

SAWZELLS with variable speed controls are also preferred as you can adjust the speed of the equipment to match the material as well as the task at hand.

Man using reciprocating saw

Speed dials offer greater accuracy and more importantly, greater consistency than a trigger control.

Models with a lighted plug are an excellent choice as you can know whether a tool is powered at a single glance. Most professionals suggest that you should go for a reciprocal saw with a cushion grip as it offers better comfort and control. Remember the grip of the handle can make all the difference if your projects involve hot, sweaty weather conditions.

Reciprocal saws that feature anti-vibration technology are preferred by users as they help reduce fatigue. This feature comes in handy if you are required to hold your equipment for a long period of time.

Blades And Stroke Length

Stroke length as the name suggests is the distance your reciprocating saw can cover in one single stroke or sweep. This number can help you determine how many moves you need to make to cut through different materials.

The distance reciprocating saw blades can travel in one stroke typically ranges from ½ to 1½ inches. When running at the same stroke per minute, longer blades cut faster than shorter blades.

Here’s a little tip.

You should use longer stroke models for heavy duty demolition tasks and use the smaller strokes for more delicate tasks that require precision.

Orbital movements allow the blade to move up and down as well as back and forth, and this is the exact reason why orbital blades produce faster cuts and are particularly useful for wood.

Man using reciprocating saw

A reciprocating saw with short stroke can be your best bet to get into tight spaces where conventional saws cannot reach. While most modern reciprocating saws have built in anti-vibration, you would still feel some movement in your hands.

If you have to work with the same saw every day, it’s best to choose a model with the weight that is most comfortable for you. Make sure you lift the equipment above your head to check whether or not you will be comfortable working this way.

What Makes Reciprocating Saw A Valuable Investment?

Most reciprocating saw models use 9A of powers, but you will find professional saws that use up to 15 Amps. If you are a DIY professional, you can get most jobs done easily with a reciprocating saw that uses about 9-10 Amps of powers.

It’s always useful to buy reciprocating saws with blade lock mechanisms. Simply put, you need to find out how easily you change the blade of your equipment without extra tools. Manufacturing giants like DEWALT are known for their reciprocating saws that allow you to change the blade quite easily.

Man using reciprocating saw

A corded model is a good choice if you will be working close to power outlets. Reciprocating saws with long power cords weigh less than cordless models and are easy to carry around. Cordless reciprocating saws are heavy because of the heavy battery pack.

However they are more convenient as you can continue to work anywhere you want, even if you don’t have access to power outlets.

Here’s a friendly reminder. You need to keep a close eye on battery time, i.e. how long your battery lasts between charges. You’d also want to ensure that the handle feels comfortable in your hand and more importantly, it shouldn’t slow you down as you move the reciprocating saw.

The amount of amps your reciprocating saw uses can produce a lot of vibrations. Sometimes the vibrations can be so strong that your arms can feel tired and you won’t be able to use the saw for a long time. Some reciprocating saw models come with protection against vibration especially if you intend to use them for a long period of time.

Does Saw Action Make A Difference?

Well traditional reciprocating saws use the good old forward and back motion. However some manufacturers have introduced reciprocating saws that use an orbital action. These modern tools allow the blade to move in different directions and this is why they are able to cut through the material quicker.

It is important that you look at the type of blade that comes with the reciprocating saw. Some blades are designed for metals while others are suitable for cutting wood.

Blades that are made for cutting wood are longer and have sharp teeth spread evenly across.

Man using reciprocating saw

Reciprocating saw blades designed for cutting metals have sharp teeth placed close together. If you need to switch between wood and metal cutting jobs frequently, it is recommended that you buy a reciprocating saw that allows you to change the blade easily.


Reciprocating saws are popular for construction, plumbing and electrical jobs. The highest amp rating for reciprocating saws is 15 amps but anything over 9, 10 amps will take care of most home projects. If you want to reach really tight or awkward spots, you can always keep a small 5 to 6 amps reciprocating saw at hand.

If you prefer a cordless saw, you would surely be impressed with the increased runtime and power lithium ion batteries provide. These batteries deliver up to 50% more power output and last longer than nickel cadmium batteries. The good thing about lithium ion batteries is that they can operate efficiently at both extremely low and high temperatures.

Top rated manufacturers like DEWALT, Bosch, Makita and Milwaukee have added several features to their devices which allow users to cut through a diversity of material. To know which kind of reciprocating saw would work for you, don’t forget to check out our buying guide.

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