Is it time again to buy a new reciprocating saw? They do wear out fast when you put them through their paces, so we’ve found some time in our busy tool-reviewing schedule to round up 10 of the best reciprocating saws that are on the market in 2020. We’ve tried to keep the selection balanced with cordless and corded saws that are well-suited both for light trimming work as well as heavy-duty cutting for professionals.
Whether you want to have a handy tool in the shed for the annual tree and bush trimming chores or you’re a busy professional who needs a saw that can make quick work of solid steel rebar or ceramic pipe, we’ve got a reciprocating saw in this year’s reviews that’ll fit the bill.
Let’s not beat around the bush any longer, and take a look at the line up!
An excellent reciprocating saw capable of cutting through a variety of things. Its motor has enough power to deal with whatever a homeowner might use it for, and it can hold its own for lighter work all day long for a professionalRead Our Review
A solid choice for a home DIY mechanic who’d like a cordless reciprocating saw that comes with a good warranty and versatile design. If you’ve got trees to trim and wood to cut down far away from electrical outlets, this saw could be a good choiceRead Our Review
Light reciprocating saw for outdoor trimming or cutting wood boards fast. However, it isn’t recommended for professional work that requires cutting tougher things like solid steel bars or concrete pillarsRead Our Review
This reciprocating saw is an affordable power tool for a home mechanic. Its comfortable design won’t aggravate hands that aren’t used to using this type of power tool very often. It’s also easy to swap out blades when you need to change jobsRead Our Review
If you like Black & Decker as a power tool brand, and you need a good saw for trimming trees and the odd wood-cutting project, this model will certainly fit the billRead Our Review
When you decide it’s time to shop for a new reciprocating saw, it’s best to take stock of what type of work you plan to use it for. Most reciprocating saws share a set of features that change from model to model based on the size and power needed to do the jobs they are designed to do.
Keep reading to make an informed choice!
What is a reciprocating saw?
When it comes to multipurpose power tools, reciprocating saws are one of the most versatile cutting tools you can find. Of course, it’s not as powerful as a professional chainsaw, for instance, but it’s suitable for a variety of cutting tasks at home and in construction work, these saws can cut through plastic, pallets, drywall, metal, and concrete. They’re also handy for odd jobs like trimming bushes and trees.
These saws are sometimes called oscillating saws, sawzalls, and sabre saws. The way reciprocating saws cut is by moving a blade back and forth at high speed with an electric motor.
Mimicking the motion of a hand saw, reciprocating saws move the blade a shorter distance at a much faster speed. This combined with special blades makes them efficient at cutting through hard materials like concrete and metals that a hand saw wouldn’t make much progress with.
Features to consider when choosing the best reciprocating saw
- Stroke length
This is how much distance the blade travels with each stroke as it moves back and forth. The longer the stroke length, the more work the blade is doing, though this is also a function of how fast the blade is moving.
- Motor power
The power of a saw’s motor is expressed in amps of electric power it consumes. The more amps a saw is rated at, the more power it has. More powerful saws will have an easier time cutting hard materials like steel, nails or concrete.
- Adjustable shoe
The shoe is the guide that stops the saw against the surface it is cutting. Adjustable shoes add versatility to the reciprocating saw.
- Strokes per minute
This is the measure of how fast the saw moves its blade. The higher this number is, the quicker it will cut through material.
- Variable speed control
This is another feature that will add versatility to a saw. Some materials cut easier at a lower speed than others, so variable speed saws are best if you want to cut a variety of materials.
- Orbital vs. straight cut
Orbital cut saws remove more material as they cut, which can make cutting through tough material faster. If you want a narrower line as you cut, a straight cut saw is what you’re looking for.
- Corded vs. Cordless
Corded saws have a larger power supply and don’t need to stop to recharge batteries. Cordless saws, on the other hand, let you take the saw to places without electrical outlets.
Types of reciprocating saws
These power tools have become fairly standardized, varying mainly in their size and power. There are a few features that distinguish one type of reciprocating saw compared to the next.
- Corded saws
Reciprocating saws are electric power tools. In the past, corded saws had the most powerful motors, but battery packs have advanced to the point that they can match corded saws in amperage. Still, a corded saw isn’t going to need to recharge or swap batteries out on long jobs.
- Battery-powered saws
If portability is important, battery-powered saws are cordless. They can be used outdoors and at remote locations where no power outlets are available. If you have a couple batteries, you can usually charge one battery while using the saw and have it ready when it’s time to swap them out.
- Straight-cutting saws
Straight cut reciprocating saws move their blades in a single plane of motion, making for a straighter cut along the line that the blade travels.
- Orbital saws
Orbital saws move their blades in an elliptical or oval pattern, making for a more aggressive cutting motion. They will create a larger cut width and can make quicker work of difficult materials.
- Mini saws
These are small, one-handed reciprocating saws that are designed to handle small jobs in tight spaces, like under cabinets, in crawl spaces, or between walls.
How reciprocating saws are used
As we’ve already noted, reciprocating saws are great for cutting materials in many different situations. Here’s a list of a few common ways these power tools are put to work.
When you’re removing large portions of a structure, reciprocating saws are handy since they can cut through most construction materials quickly, and you won’t need to worry about measurements or the accuracy of the cuts.
Any remodeling to do?
These saws are also helpful during remodeling projects. They can be used to cut away PVC or metal pipes, removing excess sheathing on door or window frames, and cutting away the sole plates under doorframes, to name a few examples. You can also use special attachments for pulling up tile or stripping plaster off walls.
Also, the reciprocating saws are well-suited to taking apart pallets since they are handheld and cut through nails and wood without difficulty.
Plan to trim trees and bushes?
You can use reciprocating saws for trimming bushes and trees, especially when you want to quickly clear a space. A reciprocating saw can act as a pruning and sculpting tool in these situations in the same way hand shears can.
Benefits of a reciprocating saw
Reciprocating saws are versatile power tools that can be used to cut a variety of different materials that couldn’t be done by hand. Blades are available that can cut through concrete, steel, and aluminum. They can also make quick work of wood, drywall, and plastics like PVC.
If you’re tearing down wood walls or crates full of studs and nails, a reciprocating saw can cut through them without any trouble with the right blade. With a full set of blades, one reciprocating saw can be used to trim bushes one day and take down drywall the next day.
The biggest benefit you get from these power tools is time and labor savings when you need to cut through large amounts of material, such as in a demolition job. They typically weigh less than 10 pounds and are designed with enhanced grips that make repetitive strokes easy to do for hours.
When you factor their light weight and ergonomic design into the portability of a battery-powered saw, you get a power tool that can be used in many different settings to accomplish a wide range of tasks. Without one of these saws, you would have several different tools to do the same amount of work.
Blades used in reciprocating saws
Need to cut through something?
Chances are, there’s a blade for that. Reciprocating saws have become the go-to power tool for construction and demolition jobs, so over the years, blades have been designed for just about every material you might want to cut through.
High-carbon steel blades
|These blades are efficient for cutting through wood.|
Bimetal steel blades
|These blades have hardened steel teeth for cutting through wood with nails in it or other smaller metal objects like pipes and sheet metal.|
|When you need to cut through hardened steel or cast iron, diamond grit is applied to steel blades to make them harder than steel. They’re also suitable for cutting through stone and concrete.|
|Softer metals like aluminum can be cut with blades with carbide-tipped teeth. There are also carbide-tipped blades designed to cut bricks and masonry.|
|These blades are designed to cut through clay tile, ceramic pipes, concrete, and stone.|
|If you want to use a reciprocating saw to prune bushes and trees, these blades are designed for the job with a custom tooth pattern.|
|There blades that have teeth on both sides so you can bore into sheet metal or drywall and cut in either direction.|
Attachments and accessories
A major reason for the versatility of reciprocating saws is the ability to expand their uses with attachments and special purpose blades. Because these saws allow anything to be mounted in their blade slot, it’s even possible to use them for non-cutting purposes.
- Arm attachments
There are 90-degree arms that can be attached to the reciprocating saw so the blade can reach hard to reach spots or cut flush to a surface in tight spaces.
- Blade adapters
You can extend the length of a saw’s blade or mate a blade that doesn’t fit it with an adapter.
- Chisel blades
These attachments look more like flat chisels. They’re designed to get under a layer of plaster and quickly strip it off of a wall.
- Wire brush attachments
These attachments turn the saw into a power wire brush that can quickly remove paint and other coatings from a metal surface.
Top reciprocating saw brands
Here is the list of the best saw manufacturers on the market today: Dewalt, Makita, Ryobi, Milwaukee, Ridgid, Bosch, Black and Decker, Porter Cable, Kobalt, Hitachi
Voltage and battery
Power requirements for reciprocating saws vary widely depending on the type of power outlet or battery that they are designed to use. Corded saws are usually designed to use standard 110V or 120V AC wall outlets, but you can find some professional-grade saws that use 240V AC sources.
Battery-powered saws will vary as well, depending on the battery they are designed to accept, but most use 12V, 18V, or 20V batteries.
The alternatives to the reciprocating saws
|Reciprocating saw/Sawzall||Circular saw||Sabre saw/Jigsaw|
Weight, grip and vibration
Do you expect to use a reciprocating saw for all-day jobs?
How a power tool is designed makes a difference in how practical it is to use for all-day work. Most handheld reciprocating saws are not heavier than 15 pounds, and many range between 5 and 10 pounds. This makes them easy to use for extended periods without too much fatigue.
Given the nature of the work you do with a reciprocating saw, standing upright as you cut downwards or sideways, weight is less of an issue than the ergonomics of the tool’s grip.
A source of fatigue when you use a reciprocating saw is the convenience (or inconvenience) of its grip design. It’s best to handle a saw before buying it to be sure it will be a good fit for your hand and arm size, not the mention the type of work you plan to do with it.
Another issue that can make using a reciprocating saw for long periods tiresome is the amount of vibration that is transmitted through its grip to your hands. Rubberized grips and saws that dampen the amount of vibration they generate will give less trouble when working on construction or demolition projects.
Power tools like a reciprocating saw are inherently dangerous because of their exposed cutting blades as well as being powered by electricity. By following a number of common sense precautions, you can avoid accidents and unpleasant surprises.
- Wear the appropriate personal protection gear. Reciprocating saws cut through hard materials like metal, wood, and concrete. Protect your eyes against flying debris and your ears against hearing loss if you’ll be using the saw for long periods.
- Dress safely. When using any machinery with exposed moving parts, you should avoid loose-fitting clothes and secure hair and jewelry that may dangle. With reciprocating saws, you need to keep anything attached to your body away from the blade.
- Don’t work in wet conditions. Unless your power tool is specifically designed to be waterproof, you should never use electric motors in situations where they could get wet. Not only will it destroy the power tool, but you could be fatally shocked.
- Turn off and unplug your saw for maintenance. The best way to ensure the saw isn’t accidentally turned on is to remove its source of power. If your saw is battery powered, remove the batteries as well.
- Handle reciprocating saws with care. When you’re cutting, don’t apply excessive force or overreach. Maintain good footing and avoid holding the saw at awkward angles. This will avoid slips, falls, and drops that could bring the saw’s blade in contact with your body while it’s running.
Care and maintenance
Want your reciprocating saw to last as long as it can?
There are a few maintenance and care practices you can follow to keep them in good condition.
When you clean your saw, pay particular attention to the trigger switch. If you cut roof-shingles, for example, the tar can gum up the switch. Keep it clean and clear of debris that could jam it.
The head of the saw also should be cleaned out carefully after each use. Debris like sawdust and tar can make it difficult to change blades or cause drag when the saw is running.
Like most tools that take a beating every day and are likely to break at some point, warranty length and coverage can be an important consideration when comparing models and manufacturers.
Many warranties are limited to faulty workmanship or materials, meaning that repairs and replacements are covered only when breakage happens while the tool is being used as intended. You won’t usually get a replacement saw if you let it get wet and its motor is shorted out, for example.
The main difference you’ll find between manufacturers is the length of warranties. A one-year limited warranty is the standard minimum, but you can sometimes find warranties that are much longer. There are manufacturers who’ll stand behind their tools for as a long as you own them.
Yes. You can use a standard steel blade to cut tree limbs, but a pruning blade will make quicker work of tree limbs of any size. A reciprocating saw won’t be as efficient as a chainsaw, but it’s great for trimming smaller limbs and branches.
A jigsaw uses the same back and forth blade action as a reciprocating saw, so, yes, broadly speaking they are the same type of tool.
However, most jigsaws are designed to be set on a horizontal surface and pushed as they cut through material. Reciprocating saws are designed to be held upright to make vertical or elevated cuts.
The blades used by these saws vary in length depending on the work they’re designed to do. They range from 3 to 12 inches in length. The length of the blade determines the maximum depth of its cut, so a long blade is not necessary if you’re not cutting through extremely thick material.
We tried our best to be objective when we sat down to tally up this year’s winner. It can be difficult to pick a generic winner, when a power tool category like this has clear subcategories, like light-duty cordless saws vs heavy-duty corded saws. Which of them is the best reciprocating saw for you depends as much on your own needs as it does on the quality of the saw.
Still, with all things being equal, we scored each saw based on how it compared to its closest competitors in terms of price, comfort, and raw performance.
Which one takes home the blue ribbon this year?
DeWalt takes the ribbon with their excellent DC385B cordless saw. It’s a great addition to any DIY homeowner’s tool shed, making short work of trimming tree limbs and shaping overgrown bushes. Its versatility both in ease of use and ability to cut through tougher things like steel or aluminum conduit is more than we’d expected for the price this tool sells at.