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What Is A Reciprocating Saw?




What is a reciprocating saw

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A reciprocating saw is one of the most versatile tools for remodeling and demolishing and is a must-have in your toolbox. It has various blades, which you can use for cutting wood, metal, and even nail-embedded wood. Discover what is a reciprocating saw and how you can use it in your next home improvement project.


But since it is such a powerful and tough tool, you should know how to handle it properly for safety. This article is your guide to learning everything about reciprocating saws, from their ergonomic design and mechanism to their uses and safety precautions.


Reciprocating Saw: Design and Mechanism

Reciprocating saws were invented by Milwaukee Electronic Tool in 1951. Initially, it was called “Sawzall,” but now both terms are used interchangeably. Some people also refer to this tool as a reciprocating saw.


Let us break down its design and mechanism to understand this tool better:




Not all reciprocating saws are the same and have different parts. But they are all made of similar basic components, including the blade, shoe, front grip, etc. 


You can learn to operate all other models effortlessly if you understand the basics.


  • Blade


It would be best if you used the right blade depending on your work with the reciprocating saw and the material you need to cut. The blades can be as small as 2-4 inches or as long as 12 inches.


They all have a different teeth-per-inch (TPI) count. A blade with a low TPI count is perfect for a fast and rough cutting action. 


Related Article – Best Sawzall Blade Reviews


There is a blade clamp present in all saws with interchangeable blades. It holds the reciprocating saw blade securely in place. Some saws have a blade collet instead of a clamp, which lets you change the blade with less fuss.


  • Trigger and Trigger Lock


The trigger switch on the rear handle will turn the saw on. Releasing the switch will turn off the saw.


But, you can press the trigger lock, which is generally located right above the trigger, to keep the saw running at its current speed even after you have released it.


  • Front and Rear Grip


Most reciprocating saws come with a hand grip located behind the shoe and a protruding handle behind the primary mechanism, similar to a pistol grip. This design enables you to hold the saw securely with both hands.


You will not find the hand grip in some saws meant to be used with only one hand.


  • Shoe


The shoe, also known as the blade guard, protects the operator’s hands from the blade. You can also rest it on a surface to increase the leverage before thrusting the blade into action.


  • Orbital Setting


Many reciprocating saws can move in an orbital motion, i.e., upwards and downwards, in addition to moving back and forth. The orbital action of the blade will enable it to cut more ruthlessly and increase the stroke length.


  • Vents


There are vents on the saw to circulate heat and ensure that it doesn’t get damaged due to overheating. You should be careful not to cover the vents with your hands while operating the saw.


If you smell burning or see sparks inside the saw, it is time to change the motor.


The cordless models can slightly differ in design because they will have a battery pack. The corded reciprocating saw models will come with an electrical cord extending from their rear to be plugged into an outlet.




A reciprocating saw is a long-barreled saw, giving it better accuracy and muzzle velocity than a jigsaw saw. The precise cutting action is achieved as the blade moves back and forth.


The push-and-pull motion of the blade is why the saw was named “reciprocating.” The blade’s movement is similar to a handsaw, but a handsaw is operated manually, whereas an electronic motor operates a reciprocating saw.


Most newer models come with a variable speed trigger and power features. With higher speeds, the saw can vibrate uncontrollably. When you start the saw, use the shoe to steady it and cut back on vibration.


Due to the high speed, you will feel a recoil kick. Hold the saw tightly with both hands and apply pressure to keep it in control.


Handy Ways to Use a Reciprocating Saw

If you are remodeling, a reciprocating saw is your best friend. You can use it in all sorts of situations, such as slicing through nails and cutting out railings, doors, and window jams.


Check out some of the most common uses of a reciprocating saw:


  • Remodeling, demolition, and construction


  • Cutting wood, nails, and studs


  • Pruning trees and shrubs


  • Cutting through PVC and cast-iron pipes for plumbing


  • Scrape things off your walls with a scraper blade


  • Cut through drywall and plaster


  • Cutting high-strength alloys


Safety Rules and Instructions for Using a Reciprocating Saw


You must be extremely careful when maneuvering a fast and powerful tool like the recip saw. Here are some safety tips you should keep in mind when using a saw:


  • Wear Protective Gear


It is crucial to have safety gear on, such as goggles, earbuds, and dirt masks, to shield yourself while using power tools. When a reciprocating saw cuts into a material, there is a chance that the dirt debris from sawing can get into your eyes.


If you are allergic to dirt or have asthma problems, you should keep a face mask on until you are done working and the dust settles. 


And it is a no-brainer that power tools make a lot of noise when turned on, so you should also wear earbuds if your ears are sensitive to loud sounds.


The blade in a reciprocating saw is not covered by a barrier, so make sure not to wear any loose clothing or jewelry that could get stuck in the blade.


  • Dealing with Varying Speeds


The different speed levels can be triggered by touch or a rotating dial. You can control the speed by how deep you press the trigger switch inwards. The more you press the saw’s switch, the faster its speed.


  • Secure the Blade


When you swap out the current blade for a different one, ensure the new blade is secure before turning on the saw. If the blade is loose, it could shoot out of the saw and seriously injure you or people nearby.


Unplug the corded saws or take out the batteries from the cordless saws before replacing the blade.


  • Proper Grip and Posture


You should have a tight grip on the saw and stand away from the blade to avoid injuring yourself.


You can use a clamp to secure the material you are cutting to your workstation for a better grip. This will free up your hand from holding down the material, and you can use it to hold the saw better.


When cutting through dense material, you apply pressure to the saw. And once the blade cuts through the material, it will swiftly come down. So, you should stand away from your station and ensure that the saw does not fall toward you.


Corded vs. Cordless Reciprocating Saw


There are essentially two types of reciprocating saws. Check out the main differences between them below:


Corded Reciprocating Saw Cordless Reciprocating Saw
  • Great for demolition and rough-cut work
  • Has more power
  • Can cut through wood, plastic, and metal
  • Portable
  • Great for detailed cuts and pruning
  • Safer and perfect for beginners
  • It needs an electrical outlet to work
  • Less powerful
  • It cannot cut through thick materials.

Types of Reciprocating Saw Blades


A saw is only as good as its blade; luckily, you can choose among various blades with a reciprocating saw. This is what makes this tool so versatile and popular.


Here are some blades and the tasks you should use for them.


  • Fine-Tooth Blade- It has more TPI count to cut through thick and dense materials. You will typically find blades with 10 to 24 teeth per inch. They are used for cutting wood and metal.


  • Carbide Grit Blade- These blades do not have teeth, so they grind instead of cutting through the material. Their grit surface is mainly used on tile and clay. 


  • Demolition Blade- This bi-metal blade is used for cutting nail-embedded wood, with a TPI count of 6 to 11.


  • Carbide-Tipped Blade- These blades are more rigid, durable, and heat-resistant. They are used for cutting tough materials, such as stainless steel and cast iron.


Frequently Asked Questions


Here, you will find the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about reciprocating saws.


  • What is the Difference Between Jigsaw and Reciprocating Saw?


Jigsaw blades are vertically fixed and compact, while reciprocating saws have a horizontal blade and are easily portable. Jigsaws are used for precise and detailed cuts, whereas reciprocating saws are used for rough cuts on harder materials.


  • What is the Difference Between a Reciprocating Saw and a Circular Saw?


A circular saw has a round blade, and a reciprocating saw has a straight blade. Circular saws are used on bigger objects, and they cut more evenly. Reciprocating saws are precise but leave rough edges.


Final Word


In conclusion, a reciprocating saw is a multi-faceted tool that can be used for multiple purposes, like cutting wood, metal, plastic, plaster, etc. But even a tool as good as this will be useless if you pick the wrong blade, so be careful when selecting the blade.


A reciprocating saw is quite durable, but if you start to feel its performance slow down, you should consider replacing the blade, as it might be dull.


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