Circular Saw vs Reciprocating Saw
With the numerous types of saws available on the market, it can be quite confusing to know which is used for what job and which saw you actually need, especially if you have little or no carpentry experience.
After looking online, you might run into a few different types of saws. Table saws, miter saws (COMPOUND miter saws, SLIDING compound miter saws), circular saws, flush-cut circular saws, hacksaws, track saws, reciprocating saws, jigsaws, band saws, etc. etc. etc.
The latest confusion to arise when comparing two types of saws is how a circular saw and reciprocating saw differ? In all honesty, these are two completely different tools used for different jobs and in different circumstances. This article will explain the main uses of each tool and in what conditions each saw will benefit you more.
What is a circular saw?
A circular saw is a handheld power saw that uses a circular blade, ranging between 7-1/4 and 10 inches in diameter, for plunging into wood, crosscutting boards to the right length, and ripping boards to the right width. Basically, it’s a very versatile tool that’s easy to carry and easy to control.
Speaking about the blade for a minute; if you have the need to cut masonry, plastic, or even metal, you can swap out the wood-cutting blade for the correct blade/disc for cutting the other materials.
Circular saws are generally powered by electricity and gas; gas-powered models offering more power and deeper cutting capacities than their electric counterparts. There are even some cordless models, but their weaker motors are suited for powering smaller blades and producing shallower cuts.
The versatility of the circular saw is practically endless. For instance, some creative woodworkers have posted videos of them turning their circular saws upside down and mounting them under a table to use as a table saw.
When should I use a circular saw?
Due to the size and shape of a circular saw, the tool can be used anywhere and anytime. It’s not a stagnant tool that needs to be mounted so taking it to various job sites is entirely possible.
The circular saw is a popular tool for building furniture. Due to its design, the circular saw can be used to dimension boards of virtually any size, provided that you have the right supports for the job. The circular saw’s beveling blade also gives it the ability to cut on two different planes for more challenging, intricate tasks.
This saw is meant to produce straight cuts, unlike the jigsaw or reciprocating saw, so it’s better-suited for carpentry work than rough dimensioning.
What is a reciprocating saw?
The reciprocating saw, referred to as a recip saw for short, is a machine-powered tool that cuts through materials by using a push-and-pull motion (reciprocation). Unlike circular saws, table saws, and miter saws, the recip saw doesn’t have a circular blade. Instead, this saw uses a knife-shaped blade with serrated teeth on one edge.
The recip saw doesn’t have any mechanisms in place for making angled cuts since the user simply needs to tilt the tool to the left and right to do so. As you can imagine, this tool isn’t made for fine-carpentry projects.
Due to the reciprocating nature of the recip saw, the produced cuts will not be entirely clean. The blade hacks away at a material while producing a ton of vibrations, leading to unpredictable results. The recip saw is operated by using both hands to keep the unit as stable as possible.
This saw’s blade is designed to work on all materials. Wood, plastic, and metal are no match for the sheer power of a reciprocating saw. However, if finesse is what you’re looking for, the reciprocating saw is not what you need.
When should I use a reciprocating saw?
Most homeowners who purchase recip saws often use this tool to do a bit yard work. Trimming hedges, cutting unruly bushes, and pruning trees are all entirely possible to do with a recip saw. Not only would a circular saw an ineffective tool at doing so, but it would also put you and anyone else in the vicinity at great risk, even with the blade guard intact.
Another type of project where a recip saw’s unpredictability doesn’t harm performance is in demolishing tasks. Taking down wooden beams and demolishing old furniture can be done with a recip saw without fuss.
The reciprocating saw is also designed to make flush cuts. As long as you have steady hands, a clear line of vision (no guards to block your view), and have a surface to use as a guide, the reciprocating saw can actually be useful in the workshop. Just be sure to give the cut-edge a sanding before calling it a day.
Are they interchangeable in certain conditions?
We can’t imagine any scenario where a circular saw could replace a reciprocating saw other than in demolition projects (a circular saw can be used to chop wood, too). Given the nature of each saw, we can’t advise you use a circular saw where a reciprocating saw should be used, and vice versa.
However, there are several instances where a circular saw and reciprocating saw complement each other. When using a circular saw to cut off an end of a thick board (6 x 6s), make four passes with the circular saw. With each pass, the board needs to flipped to another side. After the fourth pass, since the circular saw’s blade can’t reach the center, all you need to do is make a final cut with the recip saw to fully detach the end of the board.
In conclusion, a circular saw and reciprocating saw are two entirely different tools used for entirely different purposes. A circular saw is better-suited for building, whereas a recip saw is used in renovation and demolition projects.
Essentially, a circular saw makes straight crosscuts and rip cuts. It’s a great tool to have for dimensioning boards. With a beveling blade, it becomes even more versatile and can replace many functions of a compound miter saw and table saw.
As for the recip saw, there aren’t any guides, fences, rails, or tracks for you to rely on. It’s basically a hack-and-slash tool that is used to remove as much material as possible without finesse. There’s also no guard protecting the blade so you need to exercise extreme caution when using this. The absence of a guard is to offer the user as much visibility as possible when maneuvering the serrated blade through virtually any material you need demolished.