Table saws, circular saws, and miter saws are all great tools to have in the workshop. The only problem is that they require a ton of set up; not just for the tool but also for the workpieces. Of course, you need to go through a ton of steps in order to produce clean, accurate cuts. But what if a certain job doesn’t ask for exact cutsWhat if you’re looking to demolish rather than constructWell, there’s a saw that can do those things – the reciprocating saw.
A reciprocating saw, a.k.a. a recip saw or a Sawzall, is a type of handheld saw with a protruding forward-facing blade. The blade moves in a back and forth motion to cut through any material, including wood, plastic, metal, and even concrete. With the right attachments, you can turn this cutting tool into scraping and sanding tool. Versatility is something that a reciprocating saw is most known for.
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Reciprocating Saw Buying Guide
Like with any power tool, before purchasing a reciprocating saw, it’s always a good idea to do a bit of research to ensure that you’re getting the best model for your buck. In this section, we’ll go over the various factors that you need to consider when shopping for a reciprocating saw.
Electric vs Pneumatic Reciprocating Saw
There are both electric and air-powered reciprocating saws available. Both have their own pros and cons which we’ll discuss very briefly.
Electric Reciprocating Saw
Reciprocating saws that are fueled by electricity can fall into two categories – corded-electric and cordless.
Corded-electric reciprocating saws draw power from a power outlet, so you have a source of uninterrupted power. You don’t have to wait for batteries to charge; simply plug the tool into an outlet and let ‘er rip. Of course, portability is an issue since you’re dealing with a power cord. Corded models tie you down to the nearest power outlet, but you can extend your range of motion with a reliable extension cord.
Cordless reciprocating saws solve the problem of portability by bringing the storing electricity within a rechargeable battery. Sawing on top of ladders or outdoors is no problem since you don’t need to worry about cables and cords limiting your movement. Even though cordless reciprocating saws need a battery to function, they hardly weigh a thing so you can navigate freely through cramped spaces or work at awkward angles without struggling.
Pneumatic Reciprocating Saw
Air-powered tools are known for their awesome power, whether it’s a pneumatic impact wrench or impact driver, and a pneumatic reciprocating saw is no different. The power of compressed air produces long strokes for quicker cuts through hard materials. The only downside is that you need to hook it up to an air compressor in order for the tool to work. The good thing is that since compressed air is cold, the tool can’t overheat so you can work all day and night without rest. Another good thing is that pneumatic reciprocating saws can work with the PSI and CFM capacities provided by basic portable air compressors.
Cutting Speed and Variable Speed
The speed of the blade determines how long it’ll take to cut through your workpiece. Many electric reciprocating saws are capped at a speed of 3,000 SPM (strokes per minute), but many pneumatic models can go beyond that. In our opinion, for most cutting and sanding jobs, 3,000 SPM is more than enough without overkill.
However, when cutting through metal, you don’t want to push the tool to go at its maximum speed since it’ll dull the blade quicker. Instead, keep an eye out for a reciprocating saw with a variable speed feature, whether it’s a dial, a button to change gears, or a touch-sensitive trigger. This feature will let you cut through any material safely.
The reciprocating speed of a blade can only do so much to quicken the cutting speed. In order to make the most out of 3,000 SPM, you need to take a look at the stroke length or the distance at which the blade travels back and forth. In all honesty, many cutting jobs won’t be finished quicker with a 1-1/2-inch stroke compared to a ½-inch stroke, but when working with large-diameter or wide pipes and boards, a longer stroke will help you finish quicker without needing to rotate or move the workpiece as much.
Since reciprocating saws are handheld tools, you don’t want the tool weighing you down as you work in high places or cramped spaces. The good thing is that most reciprocating saws weigh less than 10 pounds, and there are even cordless models that weigh less than 5 pounds, even with the battery attached. Most reciprocating saws are lightweight, but since “lightweight” is relative, make sure that you feel comfortable holding and operating the tool in one or both hands.
There’s no denying that a recip saw is a rugged tool, but with ruggedness comes vibrations that can send tremors up the arm and shoulders, making using a recip saw an unenjoyable experience. There are ways to reduce how wildly the tool vibrates in your hands such as pressing the shoe – the metal apparatus that juts forward past the nose of the tool – against your material. This’ll also help in preventing the piece from jumping all over the place.
Something to keep an eye out for is a separation of the handle and the tool. This significantly reduces the ferocity of vibrations felt in the hand despite the tool itself producing localized earthquakes. Other things to look for are a rubber grip, an adjustable shoe, and proprietary anti-vibration technology.
Reciprocating saws are awesome, versatile tools for removing pieces of material quickly, albeit a bit dirtily. You can always go over the newly cut edge with a sheet of sandpaper to smooth out any roughness, or better yet, mount a sanding attachment to the tool’s nose and sand away. Looking for the right recip saw for the job requires understanding the benefits and drawbacks of the various reciprocating saw types (corded, cordless, and pneumatic).
You should also pay attention to the speed of the cut, the length of each stroke, and the weight of the tool. Comfort should be a high priority since reciprocating saws aren’t known for being delicate, quite tools. Anti-vibration features like adjustable shoes and a separated handle will also help in keeping vibrations down to a minimum and increasing the overall precision of the cut.